In the early stages of teaching myself how to build a canoe, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to build a canoe seat for my boat or take the easy route, and buy one already made. I had looked ahead in my canoe building book and seen the instructions for building a seat. “Was learning how to build a canoe seat something I could do?”, I asked myself. It looked a little complicated compared to building a canoe.
How to Build a Canoe Seat – My Reasons for Going For It
I thought to myself, “I learned how to build a canoe without prior knowledge, so why couldn’t I learn how to build a canoe seat, too?” Besides, I built my canoe from scratch. And I learned how to build a canoe paddle. They were completed and turned out fine. Building my own canoe seats would complete the ensemble and I could then say I built every part of my canoe from scratch! Not only is it cool to be able to say that, but I had this unexplainable feeling of satisfaction, knowing in my heart that I built my canoe in its entirety!
The Steps Involved In How to Build a Canoe Seat
One of the first things you need to do before building a canoe seat, is to find the cane. As I was teaching myself how to build a canoe, I discovered that the materials necessary for building a canoe were not always readily available, even in a larger city, like Portland.
Finding the cane material proved even more difficult that locating the wood, fiberglass cloth, or resin. You might get lucky and find caning supplies at a craft or fabric store.
I ended up ordering my cane online (hurray for Google!). Just make sure you shop around. I discovered a wide variety of prices for cane. Also make sure you get enough. Your book or plans should tell you how much cane to buy for each seat. I think I ended up buying a 1000 foot roll for under $20.00.
A Word About Cane
Keep in mind there are two types of cane. There is natural cane and the synthetic variety. Natural cane sounds cool and earthy, but my “How to Build a Canoe” book recommended synthetic. One of the reasons was synthetic cane springs back to its original shape after the weight of a human body has depressed it. Another reason to use synthetic cane is it’s more resistant to water and moisture. And what canoe isn’t around water and moisture!
Once the seat is complete, the human eye cannot distinguish between natural and synthetic cane, so my recommendation is to use the synthetic.
How to Build a Canoe Seat – The Frame
In the process of teaching yourself how to build a canoe, you’ll find that your book will sometimes leave decisions to your discretion. Choices like what type of wood to use for specific elements of your canoe are up to you. Most good books will make it more of a multiple choice question.
For example, my “How to Build a Canoe” book let me choose between cedar and spruce for building the hull. I chose cedar because it’s lighter and more readily available in my area. When it came to the seat frame, my book suggested either oak or ash. I had the same choices for the gunwales and the thwarts. I selected oak for those because, even though I could find ash in my locale, I couldn’t find it long enough to run the full length of my canoe. Once I chose oak for the gunwales, I decided to use oak on the rest of my boat, just to keep it uniform.
Let me just point out that when choosing the wood for your seat, make sure you don’t stray from the wood types recommended in your book. Your canoe seat might need to support 200 pounds or more (not you women, of course!), so it needs to be made of strong wood. Oak and ash are hardwoods and can therefore handle higher loads. If the “how to build a canoe” book recommends hardwood, stick with hardwood!
How to Build a Canoe Seat – Joint Choices
When it came to how to build a canoe seat, my “How to build a canoe” book again gave me several options. Because a canoe seat is made up of four separate pieces of wood, they need to be joined together. I had three options for joining the wood. A lap joint, a doweled joint, and a mortise and tenon joint.
A lap joint is probably the easiest. You remove material from each piece of wood being joined and glue them together using a clamp. It’s an “okay” joint method, but I wasn’t convinced it would be strong enough. I thought,” I’m spending all this time building a canoe, why not spend a few more minutes and make my seats as strong as possible.
The second option is a doweled joint. I’ve done these before, but found them to be tricky without a drill press. It’s almost impossible to drill the holes perfectly parallel with the wood using a hand drill. Unless you own a drill press, don’t attempt this one. It might look easy on paper but if you’re off a hair, your seat will look bad.
The last joint type shown in my “How to build a canoe” book was the old school joint known as a mortise and tenon joint. This joint, I believe, is the strongest. It involves removing some wood on one piece (called the tenon), and creating a square hole in the other piece to receive the tenon. “How do you drill a square hole”, you ask? With a square drill bit, of course! (Just kidding!)
Really, you just drill several holes and square out the corners using a shark 1/4″ chisel. It’s not really difficult and is just another skill you’ll gain while learning how to build a canoe seat.