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How to Build a Plywood Canoe

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How to Build a Plywood Canoe

You can build your son or daughter a plywood canoe in a weekend. The simplest canoes are made of just 3 pieces of plywood: the two sides, and the base. More complex shapes can be created, but these instructions are for a simple canoe.


Cut out two strips of plywood 10 inches (25.4cm) wide by 8 feet (243.8cm) long. Put a slight slope onto each end, if you like. Put the two strips on top of one another, and drill a series of 4 holes through both, at each end. Use small cable ties to fasten them together.
Get your child to sit on the remaining sheet of plywood, and pull open the two strips of plywood, lifting them over the child's head and onto the plywood. The child can then decide what shape the canoe should be, by pushing the sides out. The wider the canoe, the more stable it will be on the water.
3. A canoe that took 50 hours over 3 weeks to build

Hold the sides carefully, and get someone to draw around the shape on the bottom sheet of plywood. Cut out the bottom of the canoe, and fasten it to the sides with the cable ties. Put the "tails" of the cable ties on the outside of the boat.

Use polyester resin and 2 inch (50.8mm) wide glass fiber tape to seal the seams, starting on the inside.
When the resin has dried, turn the boat over and cut off all the cable ties. Use an electric planer to tidy up the outside before using the resin and tape on the outside seams. A small deck can be added at each end, or simply a "stick" across between the gunwales to keep the sides apart.
Put edging strips along the top (gunwale) of the canoe.
Treat the whole boat with exterior varnish.
Work fast. You can complete the whole job in a weekend, and be on the water on the Sunday afternoon.


When cutting the 2 pieces of plywood (in step 1) you may add a slope to them if you wish.

Always insist every passenger wears a buoyancy aid (Life Jacket/ Life Vest) when using the canoe.
Make sure children never canoe alone.
Inspect the craft for proper operation before allowing inexperienced persons to use it.
Always use polyester resin in well ventilated areas!!!
Use vinyl gloves when handling resin!

Things You'll Need

2 sheets of 1/8in (3.2mm) Exterior WBP birch plywood (more environmentally friendly than marine ply, but perhaps not so durable)
Up to 1.5 gallons (4.7L) of polyester resin, plus catalyst
About 100 feet (30.4m) of glass fibre tape 2 inch (50.8mm) wide.
About 0.25 gallons (1L) of exterior varnish, for example, yacht varnish or exterior stain