As a paddler living in Red Wing, Minnesota, I have spent many enjoyable hours cruising the beautiful rivers and lakes located just a few miles from my home. Last winter, while the ice thickened and the snowflakes flew, I found myself once again dreaming of summer. Nothing unusual about that, but I wasn’t just thinking about getting back on the water. I was looking forward to paddling a boat that I had built myself.

Before I got started, I learned that there are many different techniques for building wooden boats. Eventually, I decided on wood-strip construction. I was going to build a stripper.

With the wood-strip technique, thin strips of wood, usually cedar, are temporarily attached to a series of plywood forms to create the shape of the hull. Once the stripping is completed and the glue dries, the hull is removed from the forms and epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth are used to seal and strengthen it.

Admittedly, wood-strip construction is not the quickest way to build a boat. It typically takes somewhere between 150 and 200 hours. According to Nick Schade, author of The Strip-Built Sea Kayak, the finished result is worth the extra investment in time and money. In my estimation, the aesthetic appeal of a wood-strip boat cannot be beat. Boatbuilding is both science and art. The strip technique lets one’s artistic side shine through.

Because I had no boatbuilding experience, I decided to enroll in a class taught by Al Gustaveson of Northwest Canoe Company. He teaches a class on building cedar-strip canoes several times a year at his shop in St. Paul. His Web site ( indicates that class participants work in small groups and gain hands-on experience and exper-tise while completing a canoe in 10 sessions. It’s one thing to decipher instructions on the written page or get support over the phone or on the Web. But nothing beats having an expert looking over your shoulder and giving you advice. The class sounded like the perfect fit for a novice boatbuilder like me.

At our first class, Gustaveson showed us the plans for his Northwest Cruiser, which he designed along with Bruce Kunz. He described the 17-footer as a “two-moose” wilderness tripper designed to handle big lakes and big loads.

After reviewing the plans, Gustaveson pointed to a pile of 17-foot-long strips of western red cedar and a bucket of hand tools. “Everything you need to build your canoe is right there,” he said. I looked at the bucket and pile of wood skeptically.

Wood Strip Resources

The Newfound Woodworks
67 Danforth Brook Road
Bristol, NH 03222-9418
(603) 744-6872
Fax (603) 744-6892

Northwest Canoe Company
308 Prince Street, Saint Paul, MN 55101
(651) 229-0192
Fax (651) 224-6834

Ray’s White Salmon Boat Works
230 E. Jewett Blvd.
PO Box 578
White Salmon, WA 98672
(509) 493-4766

Laughing Loon Canoes and Kayaks
833 N. Colrain Road
Greenfield, MA 01301
(413) 773-5375
Fax (413) 772-3771

Bear Mountain Boat Shop
PO Box 191
Peterborough, ON
CanadaK9J 6Y8
(705) 740-0470
Fax (705) 742-8258

Noahs Marine Supplies
54 Six Point Road
Toronto, ON M8Z 2X2
(416) 232-0522
Fax (800) 894-1783

Lee Valley Tools Ltd.
814 Proctor Avenue
Ogdensburg, NY 13669-2005
(800) 871-8158