Building a Canoe Mold

Bracing the stations on the mold

Yesterday I started working on the canoe mold I’ve been thinking and talking about for years under the expert tutelage and in the shop of Don Merchant of Pole and Paddle Canoe. When canoe builders switched to using canvas to cover their boats instead of birch bark, and as the process became industrialized, people started building canoe molds so that boats could be made the exact shape and size. The canoe is build directly on the mold; ribs are bent, then the planks are added. When the planks are all on, the hull is removed from the mold for finishing and canvasing. Thus the mold dictates the shape of the finished canoe.

I had some plans for a 20 foot freight canoe and Don drew out and cut the stations and got all the other materials ready. Yesterday we put the stations on the strongback, braced them, put the two wide planks on the top and began fastening the battens to the stations. Today we’ll continue fastening the battens to the stations, and when we’re finished we’ll fair the entire thing. Fairing is the process of sanding and shaping in order to take out any bumps or flat spots so as to give the form its shape.

I’ve started a photo album recording the process at

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