How to Make an Indian Canoe

How to Make an Indian Canoe
Building your own canoe is almost a spiritual experience, allowing you to feel closer to the Earth. Making a canoe like the Native Americans did years ago takes patience, expertise and caring. With the right supplies, woodworking expertise and familiarity with tools, you will end up with an adaptation of the bark canoes built by Native Americans long ago.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • A canoe form (this can be an empty canoe shell, or an original form made by you.)
  • 1X1-inch cedar planks
  • 1X4-inch cedar strips
  • Jig saw
  • Metal bands
  • 4 yards of canvas
  • Varnish
  • Wood glue
  • Sawhorses
  • Clamps (woodworking)
  • Sealant
  • Finishing paint
  • Approximately 2,000 brass tacks
Step 1
Secure the canoe form between two sawhorses. Create the keel (horizontal frame) from the 1X1-inch cedar planks, and use the woodworking clamps to attach them to the form.
Step 2
Create the canoe ribs by taking the 1X1-inch cedar planks and conforming them to the form. To make them bend easier, you may want to steam them first (this is what the Native Americans did).
Attach the ribs to the form, gluing them to the keel 1 foot apart from each other. Use a clamp to hold them in place until they are dry.
Step 3
Use brass tacks to attach the 1X4-inch cedar strips to the outer part of the canoe. They should attach to the canoe ribs, using three or four tacks per rib. Place the metal bands on the inside of the canoe. The tacks should cut into the metal bands. Expect this to be the longest task in canoe construction.
Once most of the wood strips have been added, you may remove the canoe from the form.
Step 4
Some of the ribs or other pieces of wood may be too long, and may stick out beyond the canoe shape. Cut these off so they are the appropriate length. Sand all rough areas of the canoe, but be careful not to sand it down too much. Add a protective layer of varnish to the canoe. Let it dry completely, and then repeat the process several more times.
Step 5
Fold your canvas lengthwise, stretch it out and put it on the ground. Put the canoe in the middle of the canvas. Attach the canvas to the top of each canoe rib using brass tacks. At both ends of the canoe, very carefully cut a slit into the canvas, pull the material tightly and use tacks to fasten it. The canvas should be taut on the canoe.
Step 6
Add a coat of sealant to the canvas and allow it to dry. Paint with waterproof paint and allow to dry.

Article Written By Kelsey Childress

Kelsey Childress runs a freelance creative business called Awen Creative that specializes in SEO Web content, social media marketing and blogging. She has been writing for online and in-print publications for over six years, and has a bachelor's degree in English literature and creative writing from Kansas State University.

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