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Build Your Own Solo/Tandem Double-paddle Canoe

Simple skin-on-frame construction of a graceful, 13½′ sturdy craft.

Solo tandem canoe

Tuition: $875  (partner: $425)

Materials: $870

Note: This is a six-day course ending Saturday afternoon.

Hilary Russell has been studying, designing, and building skin-on-frame rowing craft for a number of years. Roger McKee has been building boats, including many skin-on-frame solo designs, for over 15 years. Together, they have designed an exciting course for students to build their very own skin-on-frame double-paddle canoe. This craft is an excellent choice for beginning boatbuilders as well as experienced ones who want to learn skin-on-frame construction. This classic 23-lb ultralight is perfect for simple cartopping and portaging, and it will carry a 350-lb load. Also known as a pack boat or low-seat canoe, this boat is lighter than most kayaks and the more common high-seat canoes. It handles well on the water and is surprisingly fast. A roomy solo vessel, it is also rigged with the clever “Rines Reversible backrest” to accommodate two paddlers.

This beautiful canoe will be built with spruce gunwales, northern white cedar ribs, white pine stringers, a spruce keelson, and contrasting solid hardwood decks, backrests, seats, and rubrails. The skin, a rugged 8-oz polyester, is waterproofed and toughened with a polyurethane coating. Brass stembands protect the ends of the boat.

In building their boats, students will perform virtually every operation involved in building a wooden canoe except fitting planks. After setting up five plywood forms on a strongback and soaking gunwales and stringers, you will fit the gunwale-deck-stem-keelson assembly. The soaked stringers will be bent across the forms, and then you’ll steam-bend ribs to fit inside the “cage” created by the stringers. Next, students will use Inuit technology to lash the stringers to the ribs, a simple operation that results in strength and flexibility. After installing inwales and backrests, and dry-fitting the rubrails and stembands, you will stretch on, then shrink and seal the skin. Lastly, you will permanently install the rubrails and stembands.

Students will refine, sand, and varnish the various pieces at appropriate times in the building process. Each individual will also make their own paddle. By the end of this fun and rewarding week with Hilary and Roger, you will have built your first boat and be ready for countless hours of enjoyment on your local waters.

Hilary Russell and Roger McKee are extremely dedicated and I’ve never seen such hard-working, focused, committed, and passionate instructors. They truly went above and beyond and helped me build my dream canoe and finish it in a week which I never imagined possible.”
M.F., London, United Kingdom
Everything was incredible! You all do a fantastic job! Thank you.”
E.P., Dunedin, Florida
My weeks here with all of you have been wonderful. The courses, instructors, entire staff, and beautiful setting are all first-class. I’ll spread the word about WoodenBoat School back home in Australia and hope to return again one day. Thank you for everything!”
R.W., Gladesville, New South Wales, Australia