Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

So I am building my first wooden boat and I figured I wanted to build everything rather than just buying a kit and assembling it. I was hoping to get some advice seeing as how I really don't know much about what I am about to dive into. 

        My first question is when it comes to wood selection I'd like my canoe to have depth and different colors. Is this best achived through staining the wood or buying different species of woods? I'd like to make it look something simliar like this. 

       I am assuming I should also source a better quality cedar rather than just going to lowes that way I can get something with less knots and as long as possible. 

      Please if you any any adivce feel free to leave a comment I really don't know what I'm doing when it comes to boat building.


Thank you

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RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

I would buy the cedar strip plans from CLC for the boat you want to build and study it heavily first. 

  If you don't want the strips precut for you you can buy cedar strips through CLC:



RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   That canoe page also references a book you should read:  Building Strip-Planked Boats by Nick Schade

CLC sells the strongbacks precut, I'm not sure if the plans include those or not but I'm guessing they do if you want to cut them yourself.

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

 Or will the cedar just give it a natural color difference?


RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   I plan on cutting all the strips myself and using my router to bead and cove them. But my big question is the color differences in the wood, will the wood naturally have color differences or do I need to use different species of woods to do this?

I bought the plans and a couple books but I can't find anything that really references this. 

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

Did you look at the purchase page?  It shows color options right there


RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   Thank you I did not look at that since I wasn't really looking to purchase strips. 

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   The page explains the wood options, how they get the colors and even links another page about staining. Super useful I think for you.


RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

A couple of thoughts:

Your understanding regarding what a kit is, especially with a strip build is wrong.  A kit for a strip build is mostly a collections of supplies.  Yes, the forms and strips are precut but, you do not assemble it, you build it.

For a first build, I would submit that buying the forms precut is a really good idea because they are critical.  Starting with CNC cut forms and a good straight strongback sets you on the path to success.

The quality of your strips is also important.  If you can find good lumber and can cut good strips with consistant width and depth, then by means do it because you will save yourself some money.  If you have any doubts, then save yourself a world of grief and buy from CLC.  I have built four boats using their strips, and they are of the highest quality.  

There is no way to be certain, but it appears that the wood used in the canoe in the link is mostly Western Red Cedar.  WRC comes in about four different colors and sometimes even varies in the length of a strip.  The lightest color strips in that canoe could be Alaskan Yellow Cedar but they could be something else.  Below is my most recent completion.  It is all WRC with Alaskan Yellow accents.  Good luck and have fun.

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

ditto what mark said....

the 'kits' for strip built boats is not something you's just the material you would have to buy in a single package at, typically, a better price than you could purchase it yourself ... especially if you assign any value to your time.

so its basically a box of wood and some plans.

as mark mentioned, some of the wood is already cut into strips, and they do things like cut your forms too.   so they have taken some of the work out, but it is no way i would describe as an 'assembly process'

if you are really into cutting your own strips and forms, CLC can also sell you the raw lumber.....and you may save some money.   if you have and enjoy setting up saws and routers and all that stuff, then that is something you can do.

the lumber for boat building is not something that you can typically get locally.  its typically very carefully selected and you won't find it at lowes.   so if i want straight lumber, i use CLC as well becuase i know they know what quality material is and have it on hand.

on color, everthing you see on the canoe you posted is within the color range of western red cedar....individual boards can range from pretty dark to to pretty light.  and there are other species like alaskan yellow which can also be used for light pieces.  when i build, i take advantage of being close to CLC and just hand-pick the boards i want them to use and have them cut the strips for me so i get exactly what i want.

hope that helpds





RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   You can build your own boat without buying a kit or precut strips, forms or strongback. I know, I did. A little over 20 years ago I bought a magazine with detailed plans for a 15' Bob Special canoe. From that magazine I was able to build a strongback, make the forms by lofting point on paper and transfer to plywood, cut the cedar strips and steam the stems. For the cedar strips I went down to the local lumber yard and select five 1x6x16' WRC boards, all different shades from dark to light. I selected the best I could find with the fewest knots. I dragged my bandsaw out of the basement up to the driveway to cut the strips because I needed over 32' of room to push the 16' boards through.I then ran each one through the router twice to put a bead and cove. I made an accent strip by lamining white pine and black walnut together and then cut in strips.I made the gunnels and yoke out of white ash (too heavy).  I made a steamer for the stems out of a piece of 4" PVC. I wove my own reed seats using plastic cane from HH Perkins. With the five shades of WRC, I ended up with a bueatiful boat all from that magazine article.

So my advice to you, buy a kit and save your self a whole lot of work because of what you are buying is the same thing that I spent all that time making.



RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   My second piece of advice if you want to build without a kit, buy 

Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction Paperback – November 15, 2007

by Ted Moores 

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   I kind of get what I think you're saying: there's a little bit of a pride thing in being able to say I built this from scratch, vs I built this from a kit. I think it's mostly because people who don't know think that "assembling" a boat from a kit somehow less craftsman-like. Maybe it is? But who cares?  I'll take that argument a step further: if you're concerned about the impression that you're the most craftsman-like as possible, then go full-purist and make sure you also draw your own canoe design and fell and process your own trees for lumber, and make your own glue and varnish because anything else means you have actually bought something that someone else has already done. This kind of thinking can lead you down a rabbit hole: I've actually contemplated the extreme idea of building a boat using 100% local wood that I gave felled, seasoned and milled using only hand tools that I have made myself, using hardware that I have hand-forged in my own shop, and rigging where I have made the rope and sails using starting with only raw materials like hemp, flax and wool that I have actually harvested myself. I'm still contemplating as I don't haveenough courage to attempt. 

I have built from a kit (CLC) and built from scratch using purchased plans (Welsford Navigator). I am equally proud of both builds. But I will say the kit involves no less craftsmanship than the scratch-build. Milling your own lumber is just a different set of skills and tools. In my experience, I ended up destroying an awful lot of otherwise good lumber. And the scratch built boat took a very very long time to complete. 

I don't know what your wood-working experience is, or what your shop set-up is, but I'd argue that if, like me, experience and shop are modest at best, then maybe I'd recommend, as this is your first boat build, that you get the kit and profit from the experience of others. You will learn a lot about what you don't know. You will save time and money. After that, like most of us here, you will have been bitten by the boat building bug and you can go down the crazy rabbit hole as far as your courage will take you. 



RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   People are going to ask these things........

"Did you build that boat?"

" How long did it take you?" 

"It sure is pretty." 

..........over and over and over and over.  I was stopped on the interstate traffic jam by a truck asking me those things about my boat on the rack abvove the truck. It happens. BUT no one asks if it was a kit. 

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

   Speaking of rabbit holes:  I'm sure my posting here will be missed by most due to being so far down in this forum thread, but the discussion above concerning sourcing local materials, seasoning and milling wood, casting hardware, etc. reminded me of this.  Reminds us how much of our technology, and technical knowledge, we take for granted.  If you're bored at a backyard cookout, start asking folks if they can explain how a radio works. (And study in advance yourself if you feel the need to have superior knowledge before asking!) 

Review this link to see what it might take to make your own toaster! 

And even though I might say some words I don't understand about molecular binding, I really have no idea how epoxy works, or where I'd even start if asked to make a batch out of raw materials!  If I had to glue something, I'd be right back to the level of pine pitch and soot, or cow hooves and rabbit skin - and even then (in absence of researching books) I'd bet it would take years of experimentation to come up with some decent (not very waterproof) glue.

RE: Selecting Wood Mystic River Canoe

I thought I'd add an important fact - How did I hear about this Toaster Project?  By listening to NPR while out in the garage building boats!  I one of my favorite activities is to be out in the garage listening to the radio with a boat part in hand.  I sometimes come to regret the times when I feel the need to run the sander, and in fact have been known to work on some other part for a while so I didn't have to start the sander or router or whatever while a good program was coming over NPR.

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