Wooden canoe buying guide
Decide if a wooden canoe is for you
Do you want to buy a wooden canoe? Is a wooden canoe right for you? They are not small investments, and there’s more maintenance required than for canoes from more modern materials. The payoff is a beautiful craft that will score you points among the traditional paddling crowd. Channel your inner Bill Mason as you venture out into the boreal forest with your cherry-red wood-canvas canoe, or cruise around the lake with your morning cup of coffee.
Are you the type of person who is willing to carry a bit of extra weight? Wooden canoes are not as light as Kevlar or other composite materials. They are less durable than plastic boats and not meant for intense or shallow and rocky whitewater.
Build it, or buy it?
There are different types of wooden canoes. For a learning experience, you can buy a kit and build the canoe yourself. These are most often cedarstrip canoes, but you can undertake a cedar canvas if you’d like. Search for workshops where mentors will guide you through the process.
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If you’re just looking to paddle, ready-made wooden canoes are also available for purchase from a range of builders.
Decide on the shape
Wooden canoes are available in nearly any canoe design you can imagine. Use standard canoe buying knowledge here. Shorter boats will turn more easily, while longer canoes track straight. The classic Prospector shape is ideal for tripping on rivers and lakes, while shallow “cruiser” canoes paddle exceptionally well when empty.
Try it out
You can read everything ever written about a canoe, but you won’t really know how you like it until you get it on the water. If you have a chance to try paddling different canoes, jump on the option. You’ll start to get a sense of what styles of boats work for you, and which ones don’t.
Hang on to the manual
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It seems repetitive, but wooden canoes do require work. It would be a shame for your beautiful craft to fall into disrepair. Read the maintenance instructions thoroughly and don’t be afraid to call the shop if you have any questions down the road.
Are wooden canoes good?
Wooden canoes are good for paddlers who appreciate the warm aesthetic of natural materials. They must be willing to sacrifice some durability, and wood canvas canoes weigh more than canoes made with modern materials.
Are cedarstrip canoes good?
Cedarstrip canoes look beautiful and paddle well. They cannot withstand the same impacts as some other canoes, but many are actually quite light, helping them ride high in the water.
What are wooden canoes made of?
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Wooden canoes are typically made from cedar, although other wood can be used. Cedar is a preferred material because it resists rot and is fairly lightweight. The gunwales of wooden canoes are often ash or other stiff hardwoods to help hold the shape. As the name suggests, cedar canvas canoes also have a canvas cloth stretched over the hull. This is then painted with marine-grade paint or fillers.
Who makes wooden canoes?
Many companies make wooden canoes like Bear Mountain, Langford and Sanborn.
Types of wooden canoes
The two main types of wooden canoes are cedarstrip and wood-canvas canoes. Cedarstrips are more popular as DIY projects and can be very lightweight. Wood-canvas canoes were some of the first commercially-produced canoes and have been long used for wilderness travel. These canoes are heavy and hardy.