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Thread: Basic Plywood Canoe 🛶

  1. #1

    Smile Basic Plywood Canoe 🛶

    Hi All!

    I have a few kayaks and have Kayaked for years, however recently I have decided I would like to try my hand at Canoeing as well as Kayaking, as I know the 2 have a fair few differences. The only problem is that I am on a pretty strict budget (especially with Christmas around the corner) and a new (or even second hand canoe) is going to set me back well over £400.
    I am pretty crafty and would like to build a canoe, however those gorgeous cedar strip Canoes are also well out of budget to make. I have seen afew videos online of people paddling simple plywood canoes, and theyíve grabbed my attention.
    I would love to hear from some people who have built plywood Canoes! are they easy to make? How good are they to paddle? Have you any tips or tricks? Do you have any plans you could send me?
    Look forward to hearing back from you all!
    Tom

  2. #2
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    I'm pretty sure you'll spend more then £400 on materials to build even the smallest canoe. 5mm marine ply runs to £60/sheet. Then add epoxy resin, glassfibre tape and or cloth, fillers and fairing compounds, paint and fittings. Then add way more time than you'd ever have thought.

    Here's the one I built

    http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...stich-and-glue

    I might be easily convinced to sell it :-)

  3. #3
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    Hello and Welcome!

    Can't help on the build stuff, not my kind of thing. BYT above might be right, you may not save as much as you hope, but you will end up with something to be proud of I'm sure. Good luck!

    Or you could sell the kayaks Now you've seen the light you won't be needing them....

  4. #4
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    A very long time ago I built a stitch and glue canoe.Generally it was a pretty easy build, presentable when finished and capable of gentle white water descents. But I think today you would spend more than buying used. Having said that I see that there are kits on ebay for less than £300 and ex hire boats for less than £500. So I'm with Mal, sell the odd kayak.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    Hello and Welcome!

    Can't help on the build stuff, not my kind of thing. BYT above might be right, you may not save as much as you hope, but you will end up with something to be proud of I'm sure. Good luck!

    Or you could sell the kayaks Now you've seen the light you won't be needing them....
    I have 4 Kayaks at the minute so I could definitely get rid of 1 or 2 now that my 2 brothers and Dad arn't on the water much anymore haha. Thanks for the advise everyone.

  6. #6
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    How about checking out some local canoe clubs? That way you could possibly get out for a paddle in their canoes. This would confirm that you are doing the right thing (which you are) and make it easier to part with some of the kayaks.
    Big Al.

    Only when the last tree has died
    and the last river been poisoned
    and the last fish been caught
    will we realise we cannot eat money.
    ~Cree Indian Proverb

  7. #7
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    Over the last years (15?) there has arisen an almost universal recommendation to clad the outside (and the inside sometimes) of a ply canoe with Glass fibre cloth and resin. In the past, the use of glass (and polyurethane resin!) was restricted to just the seams.

    Of course, "full coverage" makes the boat stiffer, tougher, but also heavier and much more expensive to build. Epoxy resin is very expensive.

    If you were predominantly looking at flat water paddling, and accepted that you might get the odd "ding" from pebbles or rocks at launch and take out, you could save time, money and weight by just taping the seams.....

    So - Robbins (Bristol; other timber merchants are available), "Elite" Marine ply 1088 spec - 4mm 2500 x 1220 3 ply £44.34 per sheet (2 /3 depending on the design)

    - Robbins (ditto) Ash -12mm x 25mm £1.33 per running metre (gunwhales / seat frames?)

    - East Coast Fibreglass supplies - (ditto) Fibreglass tape 200g x 50m £9.30

    - West system epoxy resin A pack (personal preference, others like MAS, "generic" resins are also available) 1.2kg £30.75

    - paint / varnish (you COULD get away with good quality external house paint) (say) £30

    - O & S (say £50)

    Total £245 ish

    I may have missed something but, given all the time that you will have to devote to the project, and the (relative) fragility of the finished project, £400 - £500 for a pre-loved "plastic" boat doesn't seem so bad. Unless of course you're addicted to boat building.....

    Me - 4x Selway Fisher new builds, 1x Cedar canvas re-build, Vaguely thinking about a gored ply build........
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

  8. #8

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    Have a look at my post "Questions from a self build virgin.."
    Total cost was about £300, only glassed the inside of the seams, weighs around 17kg.
    It now has a few knocks and scrapes, but it was no worse to build than a big Airfix kit.
    Satisfaction of build vs cost....
    Cheers
    Paul
    Looking for the end of the rainbow

  9. #9

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    My recommendation is to self-build because you enjoy building or because you want something that you cannot buy. Build the canoe you want to end up with (I built a practice canoe - http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...and-a-question - and wish I'd had the confidence to build something more sophisticated). I didn't keep an eye on costs, but recently, I retrospectively costed everything at current prices and was somewhat shocked to see that it came to £400, including consumables, but not including new tools.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panda View Post
    My recommendation is to self-build because you enjoy building or because you want something that you cannot buy. Build the canoe you want to end up with (I built a practice canoe - http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...and-a-question - and wish I'd had the confidence to build something more sophisticated). I didn't keep an eye on costs, but recently, I retrospectively costed everything at current prices and was somewhat shocked to see that it came to £400, including consumables, but not including new tools.
    For me the cost of materials can be balanced against the amount of enjoyment you get from building the boat. For me, the building process is as enjoyable as the paddling.

    Sam
    For me so far: 2 wooden kayaks, 5 wooden canoes and a coracle built; and 4 wooden restorations. And that's not including what I've done for other people.
    Last edited by samB; 30th-November-2018 at 09:57 AM. Reason: just remembered another !

  11. #11
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    Look at some plans and do your own costing. Something like a Selway Fisher Beaver is really simple to build and designed to use a minimum number of sheets of ply specifically to keep costs down.

    Canoes are not in the water all the time, they don't need to be marine ply, WBP grade is good enough because you are going to coat it, and will only have it wet for a few hours at a time. The biggest issue with cheaper grades is voids in the layers so do take care picking your sheets, and definitely do not use shuttering or interior grades.

    For many canoes Selway Fisher list typical weights using different thicknesses of ply, anything between 4mm and 6mm is normal, you could even use thinner ply in low strength areas and thicker in high strength, but that might not work out for minimising sheets, also thin ply can sometimes cost a little more. You can apply the principles to plans from any designer, it is just useful that SF someties have notes about different thicknesses their customers have actually use and found successful.

    Epoxy resins are nice to work with and have high strength but are expensive. As a kid my scouts had some very nice lightweight stitch and glue canoes which had regular polyester/glass seams which is much cheaper, and were varnished over the rest of the area. They lasted for years with a little maintenance, they may still be going although they had mostly been retired in favour of PE boats 20 years ago Another advantage with polyester is that as long as you stay within the recommended range of catalyst ratios, you can speed the cure up considerably, so you could get the bulk of construction done in a day. With Epoxy you will have to allow to cure overnight before you can turn over and do the other side...

    Another thing, for your first canoe on a budget, you don't need to use hardwood for the thwarts, just make them a bit oversized in cheap pine - fix them so you can replace them later if you like everything else about the boat and want to upgrade it. Gunwales will be the most problematic to find straight grained pine for so it may be as well to do directly for a hardwood there, but if you can find some suitable pine (oversize compared to ash) you might be able to save there too.

    Get something built, get on the water, get bitten by the bug, and then you will find you have a bigger budget for your next boat... and if you are still building your own, then you can go for high quality materials and fancy finishes.
    A lot of people will get more use out of a more utilitarian canoe that they don't mind scratching and repairing than one which is a work of art, it doesn't make sense to me to build something exquisite before you have learned to avoid the basic mistakes which are going to scuff/damage it...

    How hard can it be?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimW View Post
    . . . . it doesn't make sense to me to build something exquisite before you have learned to avoid the basic mistakes which are going to scuff/damage it...
    Unless you enjoy fixing things! (But in truth I agree with all Jim says)

  13. #13
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    Time for a little heresy!

    I've built a number of boats in ply, some stitch and tape, others in lapstrake. 3 canoes, 2 kayaks and several sailing dinghys. Also built in glassfibre when I was younger.

    The first canoe I built (20 years ago?) was a Selway Fisher stitch and tape design. I used exterior grade ply and ordinary softwood from the local builders' merchants. Most expensive ingredient was the West Epoxy and some colloidal silica, though I could have just used sawdust instead of the silica. Glass tape was from East Coast Fibreglass. The canoe was not sheathed, just painted with left over household exterior gloss paint. Took 4 weekends to build (the deadline was a trip down the Thames with my son, outside hull paint was still tacky when we launched.)

    We used the canoe for another 6 years. I then gave it to friends who had a place on Hickling Broad in Norfolk where it still lives and gets regular use. Think it did get a fresh coat of paint about 9 years after it's first.

    I admit it's survived a lot longer than I thought it would. But I'm suggesting that it's OK to use cheaper materials for your first build (beware that it can be addictive. The first is rarely the last.) You can work without fearing that a mistake will be expensive. The canoe you end up with will be perfectly useable, possibly more fun since it might be less 'precious'.

    Since that build I have moved on to using marine ply and can also recommend Robbins of Bristol. Their website is one of the best around for helping you work out what you need and costing it. Check your order thoroughly when it arrives though. I've had occasional rogue sheets of marine ply with delaminated patches. Always sorted by Robbins with no fuss.
    Last edited by Timoc; 3rd-December-2018 at 07:50 AM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timoc View Post
    Time for a little heresy!

    The first canoe I built (20 years ago?) was a Selway Fisher stitch and tape design. I used exterior grade ply and ordinary softwood from the local builders' merchants. Most expensive ingredient was the West Epoxy and some colloidal silica, though I could have just used sawdust instead of the silica. Glass tape was from East Coast Fibreglass. The canoe was not sheathed, just painted with left over household exterior gloss paint. Took 4 weekends to build (the deadline was a trip down the Thames with my son, outside hull paint was still tacky when we launched.)

    We used the canoe for another 6 years. I then gave it to friends who had a place on Hickling Broad in Norfolk where it still lives and gets regular use. Think it did get a fresh coat of paint about 9 years after it's first.

    I admit it's survived a lot longer than I thought it would. But I'm suggesting that it's OK to use cheaper materials for your first build (beware that it can be addictive. The first is rarely the last.) You can work without fearing that a mistake will be expensive. The canoe you end up with will be perfectly useable, possibly more fun since it might be less 'precious'.
    Doesn't sound remotely heretical to me. It is very easy - especially over winter - massively to over-think these things. The plan is just to get on the water!
    G

    'Adventure is relative. My adventure is another's commonplace.'

  15. #15

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    Hi,
    we have a SF prospector that started life around 2001 and finally got finished about 3 years (and two house moves) later. Ours was built from a kit which really cut down the build time.....

    I don't recall the cost, but it is glassed outside on the bottom and taped inside and the top two planks outside and was finished inside in international deck paint. Over the years it's been down lots of scrapey rivers, hit some rocks, collided with punts and had the odd patch in the finish here and there but still going OK. The winter before last I refurbished it inside and out. I think it's made of WPB from memory, and the inside ply had shrunk across the grain leaving what looked like microcracks. I guess this is a downside of not epoxying the inside and keeping it too dry.

    One thing about ply boats is that they typically have low re-sale value. One option you might consider is looking out for a second hand one and re-furbishing it. My re-furb cost less than £100 (varnish, paint, sandpaper) not including any tools that I obviously was forced to buy much against my will.

    In terms of paddling, it is an utter delight unless it's windy and the boat is lightly loaded. It is highly maneuverable. Also, I think, though I have not got any data, that it is a good deal lighter than a standard equivalent plastic boat. I portage mine on my own and can lift it from the water without dragging.

    HTH

  16. #16

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    Oh I forgot to say:
    Don't forget that what you get out of the exercise is largely a result of what you put into it, so you could build a simple three panel flatbottomed canoe or spend a little longer and build something with more shape which will paddle better.
    also
    Depending on your storage and finances, I often find a good way to budget this sort of thing is to buy the bits over a period of time. I have been acquiring tools and timber for the next one for 10 years now, (better get on with it as I'm not going to live forever)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timoc View Post
    Time for a little heresy!

    I've built a number of boats in ply, some stitch and tape, others in lapstrake. 3 canoes, 2 kayaks and several sailing dinghys. Also built in glassfibre when I was younger.

    The first canoe I built (20 years ago?) was a Selway Fisher stitch and tape design. I used exterior grade ply and ordinary softwood from the local builders' merchants. Most expensive ingredient was the West Epoxy and some colloidal silica, though I could have just used sawdust instead of the silica. Glass tape was from East Coast Fibreglass. The canoe was not sheathed, just painted with left over household exterior gloss paint. Took 4 weekends to build (the deadline was a trip down the Thames with my son, outside hull paint was still tacky when we launched.)

    We used the canoe for another 6 years. I then gave it to friends who had a place on Hickling Broad in Norfolk where it still lives and gets regular use. Think it did get a fresh coat of paint about 9 years after it's first.

    I admit it's survived a lot longer than I thought it would. But I'm suggesting that it's OK to use cheaper materials for your first build (beware that it can be addictive. The first is rarely the last.) You can work without fearing that a mistake will be expensive. The canoe you end up with will be perfectly useable, possibly more fun since it might be less 'precious'.

    Since that build I have moved on to using marine ply and can also recommend Robbins of Bristol. Their website is one of the best around for helping you work out what you need and costing it. Check your order thoroughly when it arrives though. I've had occasional rogue sheets of marine ply with delaminated patches. Always sorted by Robbins with no fuss.
    I'll second all of that, My first stitch tape boat was a 16ft 4 plank per side SF Pete, I used the best exterior 6mm ply I could find at the time, and used polyester (no epoxy involved) and 2" taped seams inside and out. It was finished with standard oil based primer, undercoat, with gloss on the out side and interdeck on the inside. I've also built a small tender using taped only joints but with epoxy rather than polyester and this lasted for many years of being stored outside and towed behind a bigger boat, before being sold on.
    Just goin with the flow

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