How to Make a Canoe Mold

How to Make a Canoe Mold

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Before you can make a fiberglass, cedar-epoxy or composite canoe, you have to have a canoe mold. Unless you are a proficient marine designer or have a good design to work from, you may not want to just “eyeball” your mold design. Too much or too little freeboard, rocker, width, length or tumble-home can leave you with a canoe that’s unstable and tipsy. Having a good design specification to work from, however, can help you build your mold.

Items you will need

  • Sheets of 5/8-inch plywood

    2 16-foot-long 2-by-6’s

    2 10-foot-long 2-by-4's

    2 sawhorse clamps

    Sabre saw

    Canoe Mold Station templates (order on-line)

    1 box of 3-inch wood screws

    1 box of 1 1/2-inch wood screws

    50 thin (1/8-inch) 2-inch-wide plywood strips, 10 feet long

    Power sander

    16-foot-long 1-by-1 wood strip

    Wood filler

    Putty knife

Turn a 16-foot 2-by-6 on edge and clamp a sawhorse leg 5 feet from each end. Cut four 2-foot-long 2-by-4’s and nail them into the sawhorse clamps. Set the assembly up on the legs, and nail the other 2-by-6 flat on top. This is the strongback to which the stations will be attached like the skeleton of a prehistoric beast.

Trace the shapes of the canoe mold station templates onto the plywood sheets, and cut them out. Cut a notch the width of the 2-by-6 and 7 inches deep into the flat side of each station mold. Set the stations in place along the strongback, spaced according to the plans that came with the templates.

Cut 5-inch-long 2-by-4 blocks, and screw to the top of the strongback on either side of each station mold. Screw the station molds to the 2-by-4 supports.

Mark the pattern of the bow and stern templates onto plywood. Cut them out with the saber saw. Screw the templates perpendicularly to the last station mold on each end. Cut 2-by-4 keeper blocks to hold the base of the end templates in place. Screw everything in place. This is enough of a canoe mold to make an epoxy cedar strip canoe. If you are planning a fiberglass, Kevlar, wood canvas or traditional ribbed cedar strip canoe, you’ll have to cover the mold by adding plywood strips to form a more complete outside shape.

Screw thin plywood strips longitudinally starting at the bow and working toward the stern. Screw row after row in place. Stagger the strips so the ends don’t line up. Pre-drill all the screws so the heads are level with the surface. Glue a 1-by-1 strip down the length of the bottom, and then sand it down to the keel shape desired. Pre-drill screw holes, and screw the keel in place for extra strength.

Fill gaps between the strips with wood filler, and smooth it with a putty knife. When dry, sand the hull smooth. Paint the mold with a thick layer of epoxy varnish. When building a fiberglass or Kevlar canoe, you will have to cover the mold with wax so it will release the boat when you are through.


  • Wear safety glasses when working with power tools.
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