The Stems

The stems are cut out of 1 1⁄2″- thick material. For the bow stem, start with a 2″ x 1 1⁄2″ blank.

Adjust your tablesaw to a 69-degree angle for the bow stem, and 65 degrees for the sternpost.

When cutting parts like this on a tablesaw, use a substantial push-stick and stand outside of the firing line of the blade, in case the saw kicks back.

Reinforcing the Bottom Panel

The bottom panel is reinforced with two layers of 1⁄4″ plywood, forming a keel. The butt joints in the keel should be staggered as shown here.

Align the keel down the center of the bottom panel and mark around it with a pencil to guide your glue application.

In the previous issue of Getting Started in Boats (which was bound into WoodenBoat magazine No. 195), John C. Harris introduced the Peace Canoe. This sleek 18′ boat goes together quickly, looks good, and paddles well. In short, it’s an ideal boat for introducing beginning boatbuilders (and paddlers) to the joys of being afloat in their own creation. We asked designer/author Harris to provide us with an exceptional level of detail in the building instructions, and he obliged. In fact, he sent us so much detail that we’ve had to spread it over two installments of Getting Started. In this installment, we put the final touches on the boat.

Spread a really generous amount of glue between the layers of the keel.

Nails are driven through the keel into the bottom. If necessary, turn the keel over and bend over any nailheads that protrude.

Throughout construction, aggressively police any squeezed-out glue.

Fastening the Chine Logs and Sheer Clamps

Unlike many plywood hulls, the chine logs and sheer clamps are fastened to the side panels while the parts are still flat. Both chine logs and sheer clamps are fastened to the outside of the side panel. Spread plenty of adhesive along the chine log before you join up the parts.

Be careful with the orientation of the chine log and sheer clamp; it’s easy to get turned around while you’re fastening them to the sides. Keep this drawing handy to remind you of the correct layout.

The chine logs are fastened in place with nails driven from the inside face of the side panels. Space the nails on 3″ centers.

Spread glue along the length of the sheer clamp, in preparation for fastening. The sheer clamp has a pretty good bend in it, so I recommend a helper for the next stage.

Start nailing in the center of the sheer clamp, letting it swing free of the bow and stern as shown.

Work out from the center, and have a helper bend the sheer clamp at the ends of the panel. This curve, which gives the Peace Canoe its distinctive, handsome, and functional sheerline, was selected by testing how much curve spruce, pine, or fir in a 3⁄4″ x 1″ dimension would take reliably.

The Seats

The seats are assembled with nails and glue.

A 3″ spacing for the nails will turn the seat assemblies into stiff girders that will span the hull and provide stiffness.

Where the seat supports meet the hull they will need to be beveled to sit flat. The seat itself will  show you the correct angle to cut into the ends of the seat supports. A sharp block plane is essential for this cross-grain planing. Plane toward the seat to avoid splitting out the lower edge of the seat support.

If you don’t have a sharp block plane, an aggressive wood rasp will make quick work of it. I’ve used a disc grinder to cut these bevels with fast results.

Preparing to Join the Sides Together

Trim the excess length from the sheer clamps and chine logs with a handsaw.

Early in the process you marked the tops of the seats on the side panels. Hold the seat assemblies up to the marks and trace around the seat supports.

The marks you just made will guide you in drilling pilot holes for the screws that will hold the seats in place. Three holes per support are required.

The stems are fastened to one side at this stage. Begin this process by spreading a generous amount of glue on the stem.

To fasten the stems, I used No. 8 1 1⁄2″ bronze screws driven through the chine logs and sheer clamps, and No. 8 1″ bronze screws through the plywood sides. Predrill carefully to avoid splitting rails or stems, and counter-sink all of the screws slightly so you can later fill their holes before painting.

Apply glue to the ends of the seat supports.

Then fasten the middle seat support with No. 8 1 1⁄2″ bronze screws.

Fasten all three seats to one side of the hull first.

Joining the Sides Together

Fasten the opposite side in place.

With all three seats screwed to the sides, something that looks a little like a boat begins to appear on the saw-horses.

At last you can bring the sides together at bow and stern, fastening them with screws and glue. I recommend a helper for this stage. Solo, I found that odd yogic combinations of elbows and knees were required to hold the stem in place while I drove the screws. Pay attention as you align the sides on the stems; this is when undesirable twist is usually introduced into the hull. Sight down the hull and make sure both stems are plumb to the floor. Make sure your sawhorses are square to the centerline of the boat.

If everything is lined up right, the Peace Canoe’s fine shape presents itself. Skeptical neighbors become believers.

Positive Flotation

For a moment we must grow solemn and consider that, while the Peace Canoe is wooden and will float if swamped, it will sit low in the water. Gluing foam to the bottoms of the seats will improve your prospects of bailing out and getting home. If you don’t install the foam, please don’t go paddling in anything colder than bath-water or deeper than knee-high on a toddler.

I used the pink or blue foam found at home centers. Fancier foams are available but as the foam is protected from the sun, the cheap stuff will do the job. I used three layers of the 1 1⁄2″-thick foam. Taper the foam as necessary to fit beneath the seats and use plenty of adhesive.

Installing the Bottom Panel

Trim the stems with a saw.

The bevels you cut on the tablesaw got you most of the way there, but you’ll still need to clean up the chine logs in preparation for the bottom.

Use a sharp plane and a straightedge to make sure that the chine logs are flat across.

Keeping the water out requires lots of glue.

The shape of the bottom has been tested on about three dozen of the Peace Canoes thus far, and it fits well. There’ll be some minor variation based upon the stiffness of your chine logs. You’ll find that you can push the sides in or out a little bit to improve the fit as you drive the
nails. One alternate approach to bottom installation would be to wait to cut out your bottom panel until the sides are assembled, then trace the exact shape off of the hull assembly onto your plywood sheets.

Space the nails about 3″ apart and make sure they’re centered on the chine log.

Finishing Touches

When everything has cured, sand the tops of the sheer clamps smooth. I used a grinder, but planes and rasps work, too.

Smooth up the chine and give that edge a pleasing round-over.

I used a rasp to dress the bow and stern into a clean, round shape.

I’ve seen all kinds of treatments for the stem protrusion. Carved dragon-heads, anyone?

Apply a bead of adhesive around all of the interior seams. This is as much for extra strength as it is to seal up any potential water traps where rot could take root.

Fill the screw heads with putty or caulk in preparation for paint.

When all screw holes and surface imperfections have been filled and sanded, it’s time to apply the finish. There’s no need to get carried away here. Choose a color scheme and a marine enamel or high-quality house paint. Apply the paint according to the directions on the can. Then go paddling.

John C. Harris designs, builds, and writes about wooden boats. He owns Chesapeake Light Craft, purveyors of boat kits and plans, in Annapolis, Maryland.