French Canoe
(or Freedom Canoe, if you prefer)
by Rodolphe Clauteaux

Dear Chuck:

I had a very brave accident of my heart three years ago. My aorta artery exploded. Then I reduced the speed. And, because I cannot anymore pilot an aircraft, I decided to build one. But because I have a small house in a forest close to a lake, I began to be interested by boats. Then, I began a long long long research on the Net.

Nothing in French pages, a lot, in English ones !!! I was looking for small boat plans. But how to decide between so many offers ?

Then, I bought several books: "The Canoe Shop" by Chris Kulczycki ; Canoes and Kayaks for the Backyard Builder" by Skip Snaith ; "Ultralight boatbuilding" by Thomas J. Hill ; "Devlin's boat building", by Samual Devlin ; "The art of the Canoe with Joe Seliga", by Jerry Stelmok and D. Sussex. This last one is the best one. It does not explain how to build one canoe. It shows how a man of the art builds the ones he sells and gives a lot of wonderful pictures of these state of the art canoes.

In the book by Kulczycki, and in the one by Devlin, the reader could find some plans and the way to build canoes. I didn't do it. I didn't find it. I didn't understood the methods.
The glued lapstrake methods for example. I tried it THREE TIMES !!!, with and without jigs, molds and strongback (yes, with AND without).

I tried also to build the Redwood canoe which can be found at this address. I did not get results. I am maybe too stupid to understand the way THEY build it.

Suddenly I discovered Duckworks Magazine !!!

And my life changed. My doctor found me more healthy, my wife more affectionate, and my backyard more busy. Yes, all that because I found in your fabulous www monthly this article :

Build Your Own Canoe, Excerpted from : "How to build your own boat from scratch" by John Traister, an article which may be a version of the Canoe "Glide Easy".

Everything that was lacking in the Svenson reproduction of Science Magazine article, was in the Duckworks one !

I found America, that the hearth globe is round, and an egg can stand up on its tip. After that, it has been only a question of ply, saw, glue and so on. My Canoe, French or Freedom Canoe, as you want, was born.

your friend,
Rodolphe Clauteaux

This is the first step. Which arrives:

Image A - cutting the ply

AFTER : Cutting the ply which comes in 8 by 4 foot, (see Image A Cutting the PLY) in four halves -

Image B - cutting the ply holes

AFTER : Making the holes (see Image B Cutting the PLY - Holes). Holes destined to make the sewing with plastic ties (for electric cables) -

Image C - cutting the ply - curbs

BUT BEFORE :Gluing the rounded planks cut in six millimeter ply (see Image C Cutting the PLY - Curbs).

To glue the rounded planks, we have to sew through the ply planks cut as it is more or less shown in the Image "A Cutting the PLY". It's for this reason that we dont have to make holes in the straight borders of the halves, borders which will become the bottom of the canoe. This part of the canoe will be glued by the planks (the rounded and longitudinal ones, and the transversal one).

NOTE : I have, HERE (rounded planks and so on) begun to change the process of the Duckworks article. And it is may be the reason I could finish her.

IMPORTANT NOTE : all the measures have to be taken from the picture (figure9-8.gif) in the Duckworks article.

Canoe A bis

Image CANOE A bis - shows approximately the forms of the "rounded planks", and the place where they have to be glued.

Canoe A bis bis

Image CANOE A bis bis - Shows the same things as A bis but also the transversal planks which will join FIRST the FOUR halves.

Canoe B

Image CANOE B - Shows the installation of the outer gunwales.

First lesson of this construction: WE DON'T have to install the out gunwales FIRST. But instead, install first the in gunwales! Because when comes the time to cover the hull with fabric (as I did), It would be more effective to use this piece of wood to glue better (wihtout or with fewer wrinkles) the red piece of fabric.

Canoe C

Image CANOE C - Shows again the installation of the OUT gunwales.

Canoe C bis

Image CANOE C bis - Shows the part of the primitive hull which I cut

Error !!! Second lesson of this construction. In the next canoe (if my wife let me do one, I will cut off these tips (spikes?) and have less shear. It would be a nicer designed canoe, (more "native") with them, though, and I guess, in white waters, more effective, but more sensitive to lateral winds.

Canoe C bis bis

Image CANOE C bis bis - Shows the hull with the tips cut and the OUT gunwales glued

Canoe D

Image CANOE D - Shows the OUT gunwales installed and the first thwart I designed (I made FOUR!!! till the last one which I installed upside down!!!)

Canoe E

Image CANOE E - Shows another point of view, and the step just after CANOE D Because at this time (D), I was thinking my canoe had a good form. But studying better, it appears that it was too narrow. It's THEN only, (CANOE D) I thought to fix and glue the famous "rounded planks" along the bottom of the canoe.

This image shows also the installation of one of the breasthooks. I had difficulties gluing the triangular pieces of wood. I made a special wooden form which has a cavity in the form of the breasthook, and that can help to clamp it.

Canoe F

Image CANOE F - Shows the result of all that work which cost three monthes of week-end in this spring. I added the ribs which gave rigidity and allowed the IN gunwale to be glued, leaving spaces which are not artificial (with blocks of wood) as they are too often are in the plans of ply boat construction.

Canoe G

Image CANOE G - Shows her belly. The keel which is not indispensable, it adds weight, is made of several pieces of ply, screwed and glued. The curved parts are made of the same pieces of ply, same measures, but with a longitudinal cut in the center, to be curved. The ends, which are very narrowly curved, are cut appart, in two pieces for each end, and glued.

Canoe H

Image CANOE H - She is making love for the first time with her spouse, lake water. Note she is well balanced. A fact which astonished me !!!

Canoe I

Image CANOE I - She is not too bad. Very quick to the paddle. Very sensitive, may be too much (see the next image).

Canoe J

Image CANOE J - Yes, first naufragium, first shipwreck, when my elder son goes up with me.

Canoe K

Image CANOE K - But the solution exists. Pontoons. I made the same that are described in the article in Duckworks Magazine. For a sailing canoe, it seems useful to build them. And this canoe has to become a sailing canoe. But that an other tale.

Canoe L

Image CANOE L - She is like that today. You can notice a small block just on the center twarth. It is the system to hold the centerboard. But it is, again, an other tale.

Canoe M

Image CANOE M - Just because you build at home on part time basis, doesn't mean that you can't try to finish your creation. This blazon has been in my family for four centuries.

REMARKS : My seats are not very good. The final weight 40 pounds, is too high. And the rounded bottom, the "belly", is not flat enough.