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Submitted: 01-03-2011 by canunut

I opened the hefty canoe building book with enthusiasm. Robust, color photos on nearly every page, with a sealed, thick envelope inside the back cover containing 8 full size plans. I couldn't wait to go through it, having read the authors credentials of building 500+ cedar strip boats over 30 years.

I've built 8 strippers, 2 of them 18' kayaks. After my first one in 1996 that I modified the plans to narrow the bow like an arrow to increase the speed, I learned that accuracy and precision in all aspects of stripper building are important. That first boat was light and fast, but it had a quirk- the faster you paddled, the more it would turn to the right. At full speed, it was 10 strokes on the right and only 2 on the left to go straight. That’s hard to keep up for long. The boat was not true- it bulged outward on the left and right sides in different places.

When I got to the section on making the stations and looked at the plans, I was disappointed. While the plans are full size, each is only 1/2 of the hull station. The text does not address how to do a mirror image for the other side of the hull accurately. I thought maybe the pattern could be traced from the back side of the paper, but was stymied- it is heavy, gloss paper so you would need a light box to trace it, and not be confused by the plans for the different boat on the reverse side.

A method I've used on half-plans is to copy one side, carefully trace on the back side of the copy, tape together, and have a copy shop reproduce enough copies for all the full sized stations. This takes precision, careful marking of the centerline on paper, taping together, and marking the centerline on the wood stations once traced out.

The author discusses maintaining the centerline, saying " will be handy later on." Here's when it's handy: doing the string check for critical alignment of the hull before starting the stripping process, setting the base of the stations in a straight line on the strongback, and if the floor is not level and the strongback might be twisted, truing the stations with a vertical level, all of which I have experienced. The next printing should address this better.

I put the book down, and picked it up frequently over the last 4 weeks, being obligated to review it. The Eureka! moment occurred today – this is a book of dreams in color– you CAN build your own cedar strip boat, and here is a good way to do it, well illustrated, and it will produce a fine, functional boat. It does not provide every single step with every possible outcome. There are another hundred ways to build a stripper, but it leaves the reader with strong basics, and the reader has to do the thinking to stay out of problems, or to get out of a jam gracefully. That's part of the stripper process- working through the small problems that turn into bragging rights and good stories later.

I learned a few more tricks as I read, and I have 4 stripper books already. His bow and stern joining is functional and easy. He provides good detail on glassing the bow and stern with extra strips cut on the bias. I wish I had known about buttering the bow inside with thickened epoxy on my previous boats, this being much easier and functional than cramming wet glass in there with a stick. I’ve used 2 ounce glass on a kayak deck and interior, but never considered it on the inside of a light duty canoe; I will on my next boat.

The book covers other bonus items: caning seats -16 pages, paddle making -16 pages, deck plates - 4 pages, gunwales - 2 pages, and boat repairs - 5 pages. The paddle section provides directions on an internally reinforced paddle with light cedar external and hard wood interior cross section, a nicely engineered paddle with great looks. Well done caning always looks nice and sits well. Repairs are for after you’ve paddled challenging rivers or twisty streams. Rocks just scrape the bottom, an easy repair once you have enough scratches. The repair example matches many of mine, side swipes against hard rocks, tree stumps, all above-the-waterline heavy hits. His repair methods work well, although these badges of honor can always be found if you look closely.

I enjoyed reading the book and studying the photographs. I'll use some of his methods and refer back when I get into another boat building jam. It may even keep me out of trouble. And I will pick it up many more times just to look and think about my next stripper.

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