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  • Alick Burt

Building a Wood Canvas Canoe - Part 5

The next part of the build is one of the more exciting aspects, canvassing. For some time I have paddled with friends in the W.C.H.A who own old wood canvas canoes so have heard about their amazing sustainability which is down to the simplicity of canvassing. Some people canvas with the boat upright whilst others turn the boat upside down. I am in the upright camp and for this you need a pair of walls or a part of your building between which you can suspend the canvas and put your canoe inside it.

There are some items of equipment to be made that will help with the process. At both ends you will need clamps and giant clothes pegs and a way to fit these to your walls and tighten them up. I used webbing straps for my tightening and here is a picture of my home made canvas clamps and pegs etc.

Home made canvassing tools for wood canvas canoe
Canvassing equipment, clamps and pegs plus strainer.

Then I fixed two old Gate hinge pins to the wall one end.

Strong fixing to support the weight of canoe and canvas envelope.
Gate hinge fixed to wall to suspend canvas clamps from.with canoe inside.

A couple of bits of oak with a slot cut in them were screwed to an upright beam of the workshop at the other. I hope it doesn’t pull the building down!

U shaped pieces of hardwood support the far end.
Oak block with slot cut in it to support the other end.

Next the canvas is draped over the hull which is on trestles between the two walls. Unlike with glass cloth one doesn’t have to worry about touching it, just be sure the hull and cloth is clean and clear of any debris.

Canvas draped over the canoe ready for fixing with tacks or stainless steelstaples
Cotton duck canvas is used to cover the hull.

Next I put a couple of spring clamps on the gunwales to stop the canvas falling off and carefully turned the hull over. Once again I was careful not to get anything trapped between the hull and cloth.

Setting up for canvas stretching on a wood canvas canoe,
Hull turned on its side with large pegs holding the ends together.

Next stage is to fit the clamps to the canvas with your tensioning straps and then remove the trestles. The hull is now inside the canvas envelope.


Tightening up canvas on a wood canvas canoe
Tensioning the canvas envelope.

I made up some props to push against the ceiling. In my case the ceiling is on a slope so I also had to make some cheese like wedges at the top so my props would stay vertical. You could use heavy weights instead and some people like to actually climb in and walk in the hull to weight it down but I don’t think I would have good enough balance for that!


Next the straps at the ends are tightened. It needs to be tight but you don’t want it so tight that the canvas rips.

Removing waste canvas at each end.
Cutting off excess at the ends of the canvas.

I adjusted and tightened it loosening off then re tightening. Then I trimmed the excess canvas from each end.


With the canoe still in the envelope under tension and over size clothes pegs in place

Bow and stern clamps to pinch the cnvas tight at the ends
Clothes pegs in place holding bow and stern canvas together.

the canvas can then be tacked or stapled in place. I made my own home made stretching device looks a bit like a medieval weapon but its quite effective. As an alternative you can buy metal canvas stretching pliers and some make their own by adding small metal plates to mole grip jaws.


Wooden canvas pulling device for canoe making and canvas replacement.
Home made canvas stretching tool.

The canvas is tacked or stapled in place working from the centre towards the bow and stern. It doesn’t matter which method you use but if staples are used it is best to use stainless steel ones.


Fitting canvas to gunwale edge with stainless steel staples or copper / brass tacks
Canvas stapled to hull edges at each rib.

Once you reach the start of the stem it the whole canoe and canvas are removed and put on trestles and that is where I leave it for now and in the next section I will be closing the ends.

Hull turned bottom up ready for tacking and sealing of the end canvas.
Hull inverted awaiting closure of the bow and stern canvas

Thank you for reading! Alick.


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