Not long ago I finished a journey I started some forty or more years ago. As a young kid my buddies and I were always trying to build a boat so we could get up or down the creek and later farther up or down a river to whatever adventure our imagination could come up with. I can't begin to remember all the rafts, thrown together wannabe canoes and kayaks we sunk in creeks and ponds around the country. The canoe, pirogue, drift boat and kayak were prominent in all the exploration adventures I read about in History class and I spent many an hour day dreaming of paddling along side Mountain Men, Indians and Explorers off to make some new discovery. This last year I finally got to take a weekend boat building class and build a small wooden dory or canoe. I am still in the process of finishing a cedar strip three panel river boat for fishing the rivers here in Central Texas. It has been a learning process as the whole boat is being built out of one inch wide cedar strips and has no nails or metal at all to help hold it together. The reason I am giving you this background is now that I have built one boat and I am getting close to finishing a second, people seem to think I know a lot about boat building. I don’t, I know a little about boat building and I am learning more all the time. I already have plans for a third boat and ideas for all the things I will do different. I want to change the amount of rocker, the width of the cedar strips and angle of the bow and stern. The front deck will be a foot longer, I may change the flair to 80 degrees and .....
I really didn't finish a journey I just finally started one that I had wanted to begin all those years ago. I have a feeling that I will be building these things for as long as I am able.
Many have contacted me with emails asking questions so I want to point those in the right direction that would like to try their hand at building their very own pirogue, canoe or kayak by hand. I am going to list some websites that have an abundance of boat building experts that you can ask questions about what you think you want to do. I will warn you that you will most likely want something different than you think and mostly likely will want a different kind of boat than the first one you build. Read past posts and all that you can glean from these sites, then re-read the important stuff and file it away as you will need as much knowledge as possible when you start your boat. Pay attention to the mistakes builders tell you they made and do not repeat them.
The first three sites are forums. You can go and just read but to ask questions you must sign up and become a member. They are free and unbelievable amount of information is there. You will find the members helpful to newbies as they all love boat building and were once in the same state of knowledge as you are now no matter where you are along the way. I list them in the order they come out of my favorites not in preference as I would not want to slight any of them. I am grateful for all the knowledge they have passed to me.
The next sites are those of some boat builders that have helped me learn so much. They have a wealth of how to information. The first site will even give you a set of three panel boat plans if you ask. These guys are experts so pay attention to what they have written. I would have loved to have read all this before I started my boats. Be sure and check out any links that they provide on their sites. I highly recommend the Ranger boat series from Texaspaddler.com as a first boat build. I wish I had known that those plans were available for my first boat.
The rest of the links I am giving you are some I have found over the last year and keep going back to for information and supplies. What you get out of these is up to you.
PS: All of the following were learned the hard way, Wild Ed
Your first boat will be overbuilt and too heavy.
Wood glue will not sand off easily so keep the glue wiped off your boat.
Always be careful and try not to split your cedar strips as they are hard to cut out and replace.
Anytime you mix epoxy the phone will ring or people will stop by wanting to talk.
Cedar with knots is beautiful but it is not for boat building.
Have a place to build a boat so that you do not have to move the parts into the garage at night or in bad weather before they are dry.
You can never have enough clamps.
The wind always blows dust, leaves and dirt when you have to fiberglass outside.
Your first boat will be overbuilt and too heavy.
Do not lay your tools, tool box, sander, pocket knife, tape, cap, coffee cup or any other item you want to use again on a fresh coat of epoxy.
Do not lay your epoxy stir stick or epoxy brush anywhere you do not want them to be permanently.
Random Orbital Sanders will remove several layers of skin or complete knuckles in an instant.
Belt sanders are even faster.
Table saws, circular saws, Japanese pull saws, routers, planes, chisels, knives and all other boat building tools cut. They cut quick and cut deep so never get careless.
When you get a bad splinter, notice I did not say IF, spread a thin coat of wood glue on it and allow to dry. When dry peel off the wood glue and it will often take the splinter with it.
Don’t glue your wood boat to the wood table you are working on. A plastic drop cloth between the boat and wood work surface will save a lot of heartache.
Did I mention your first boat will be overbuilt and too heavy. Remember you have to load these things on your vehicle or trailer and carry them to and from the river. Cut the weight out and learn to build light.