Fine Wood Water Craft Designer, Boat Builder Canoes and Kayaks


Wooden Boat Design Service

Plans and design of modern canoes and kayaks for double paddle and sail.
Designs and plans for modern canoes and kayaks and more

Custom Plans Design

Ideally you accurately describe for me what you have in mind. How much weight you expect the boat to float (you, the gear and the dog), how long and how wide you want your boat to be.

You share with me what kind of paddling experience you have.

Rules of Thumb for Small Boats

The joy of a boat is inversely proportional to size.

  • It starts declining at the point you can't carry it in one hand and a paddle in the other and continues to decline until your docking fee rivals your mortgage
  • Lighter boats are easier to carry than heavy boats
  • Large boats hold more than a small boats
  • Wider boats are perceived to be more stable than narrower boats of a given length
  • Less experienced paddlers will feel safer in a stable boat
  • Experienced paddlers tend to prefer a faster boat
  • Longer boats tend to be faster than shorter boats of a given beam or width
  • Decked boats take on less water in rough conditions than un-decked boat
  • Bigger boats require more material and weigh more
  • Given the same design, sturdy construction will withstand more punishment than lightweight construction.

Follow the link here to learn more about canoe and kayak hull design essentials.


Double Paddle Sailing Canoe Design

"It is my opinion that the double-paddle canoe gives the most fun for the money of any type of boat a person can possess, and I must say that it is my favorite form of aquatic sport" L. Francis Herreshoff, Sensible Cruising Designs

I am constantly studying the work of Rushton, WP Stevens, and their contemporaries from the late 1800's. They continue to inspire me and the work I create for others.

Stitch and Glue Work

The bulk of my design and build work is in stitch and glue. Design services for wood strip water craft is avilable.

Plans consist of detailed scaled plank measurements to complete the hull for stitch and glue designs.

Plans for wood strip boats consist of full size outlines for cutting out stations placed every 12" on the strongback or building table.

"Two Sheet" Stitch & Glue Design Limitations

Most designs existing featured here are cut from two sheets of 4' x 8' marine plywood.

There are maximum beam and length limitations.

The largest canoe or kayak possible within the two sheet limation is roughly 15 and half feet by 29 inches.

Longer or wider craft simply requires more sheets of plywood.

Working six or seven planks per side in an attempt to get sweeter lines, one might consider glued lap construction exchanging all the drilling and wiring for building a form and clamping.

Stitch and glue designs naturally have "chines," apparent creases along its length. The smooth hulls of strip construction is not feasible.

Primer for Single or Double Paddle Design

Following is a brief overview of elements involved in canoe or kayak hull design.

Boat design and construction is a delicate balancing act influenced and often dictated by the essential laws of physics and finances.

The fact you are here considering a canoe or kayak means you've already settled on some variables. Ideally it will be light and portable, yet strong and some what seaworthy; it must be of the smallest dimensions possible to good paddling and possibly sailing qualities yet roomy enough to serve as transportation for you and all your gear.

“You can never have too many boats,” my buddy Chris once noted. There’s plenty of truth to that statement, especially if you enjoy boating on a variety of levels.

In order to extract performance in one area, performance in another area will have to be sacrificed.

Each element implies a specific behavior and often these features conflict with each other. When it comes to selecting a boat, the ideal solution is a design that will meet a majority of your needs most of the time.

No boat can successfully meet every requirement all the time. When your requirements change, you would do well to consider a different solution.

I enjoy whitewater paddling however my designs are not suited for whitewater. I don't take my boats down fast, rocky rivers. I have no qualms about renting the right canoe for when I’m going whitewater which I don't do often.

A majority of my paddling consists of throwing a boat on the truck after work and taking a quick paddle after work. My next priority is camping so I want my boats to hold a comfortable amount of gear.

However understanding some fundamental design elements affecting a boats performance can help you narrow the range of alternatives. Here we are addressing primarily canoes and kayaks.

Kanoe or Cayak?

There are so many hybrid designs today, that features historically distinguishing a canoe from a kayak blur.

Canoes generally refer to wide stable, double-ended, open boats allowing easy entry and exit of people and gear. Seats in a canoe tend to be elevated off the floor up near the gunwales. They are ideal for inland lakes and rivers.

Kayaks tend to be long narrow decked boats with a cockpit where one sits on the floor. They handle large open water, big waves and wind with ease.

Large wilderness tripping canoes hold lots of gear and expedition kayaks will do the same. Racing canoes in the Olympics look like open kayaks and there are wide open kayaks with tiny decks which look more like canoes. There are decked canoes used for sailing and you sit on the floor to paddle it with a double blade paddle, and un-decked kayaks so you can tan your legs.

A Broad Distinction

In the BWCA (the Boundary Waters Canoe Area), where I expect to load and unload gear frequently for portaging, my preference is a canoe. In the big water like Lake Superior, I feel safer in a kayak. Portaging a kayak is difficult because gear is packed in small sacks to fit through the hatch. It’s difficult to see the trail ahead of you with your head in a kayak cockpit. Loading and unloading a kayak for portaging can be time consuming.

The deck hole in a kayak makes a handy portage yolk but the problem of many small sacks of gear to upstow and re-stow at each portage is bothersome. Kayaks are ideal for camping in situations like big water which have potential for large wave action due to wind or where you plan to go long distances but stay at one camp site, perhaps on an island. Campsites on Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail, Voyager's National Park and anywhere on the Great Lakes are good examples.

Canoes are generally wider than kayaks. People sit elevated above the floor in canoes, much less so in kayaks. Sitting higher increases the center of gravity and to compensate, a canoe is necessarily wider. The added width allows increased stability in a canoe where the paddler’s center of gravity is significantly higher than someone sitting on the floor of a kayak. The wider hull has more surface area compared to a slender hull of the same length. More surface area translates to added frictional skin resistance and means either a slower boat or one that requires more work to go faster.

Both canoe and kayak are ideal for occasional or frequent use. For many day trips, I take the wood kayak; it’s fast, responsive and lighter than my Kevlar tandem canoe. My composite wood solo canoe is ideal for BWCA trips where there is one more person in the party than seats in available tandem canoes. It’s fast enough to keep up with the longer boats, especially when using the kayak double paddle. Canoes tend to be much easier to portage and go fishing with than a kayak.

Tandem or Solo?

Many couples buy a tandem fully expecting both to use it. More often than not, one person paddles more frequently and a partner is not always available, so the tandem boat is used infrequently. If the budget allows, consider two solo boats for two people. This applies to canoes and kayaks.

Solo boats give owners the freedom to paddle whenever one wants. Two solo boats give each person a degree of freedom and control on the water unmatched in a tandem. Frustration between paddlers evaporates. Given a crew of paddlers in the BWCA with mixed tandems and solo boats, the solo boats will be in the highest demand. Once other paddlers try the solo it’s difficult to get it back. Finally, you can't pull alongside your sweetie and give him or her a kiss in a tandem. If your honey doesn't rate a kiss you'll be glad you have solos.

Larger tandems are ideal for small families as children and pets can sit in the middle and they hold plenty of gear for extended wilderness trips. Tandems are ideal where one paddler is less experienced than the other. A small tandem which can be paddled solo is a fair compromise for occasional use by one or two people, but less than ideal for two adults on an extended trip with lots of gear.

If you only plan to paddle with two people all the time and your budget is small then a tandem, which holds two will suffice. Tandems typically will need 3-4 sheets. Even if the hull is only 15 feet long, more material is required for the added width of a tandem design.

Material Strength

It is conceivable that your life may depend on the strength of your boat. Cutting material cost is the wrong place to save money. When you add up all the time and materials used to build your boat, and you put a realistic value on your time say $16.50 hour, you will find that even the best plywood represents a small fraction of the total cost. Get the good stuff (British Standard 1088, 4MM), you’re worth it.

Given the cost of materials and your time, you may as well build a boat that will last, and subsituting Luan plywood is not economical in the long run.

In thin 3MM and 4MM widths, quality marine plywood is stronger than conventional planking of the same thickness. This is due to the cross wise lamination of veneers and thickness can be proportionally reduced. Plywood thickness has limitations with respect to the minimum bending radius.

Five planks per side for a total of ten on a canoe is not unreasonable for stitch and glue. However when attempting to get a more rounded shape by doubling the number of planks, complexity of the process increases as the amount of cutting, drilling, gluing and filling holes is increased significantly making the stitch and glue method less attractive or appropriate.

CAD Friendly Files

CAD DFX files are not available.

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