"What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on."- Jacques Cousteau.

Overview of Building Process and Approximate Building Time.

In the process of building canoes, I have developed improvements in the techniques as well as the materials used. Switching to cedar, using a lighter epoxy based cloth, and trimming out with a combination redwood-ash, has enabled a lighter, more durable craft. I am always looking for ways that can better improve on the construction of my canoes.

After meeting with you to determine the specific canoe that will fit all your needs, I will take a trip to my local cedar distributor for hand picked lengths. I then rip the boards down to ¼” widths. Afterwards, the strips are run through a router to put a bead on one side and the matching cove on the opposite side. Next is gluing the strips edge to edge around your custom form to flesh out the shape. Staples are used to hold the strips firmly against the forms during the construction process. After pulling the staples, and doing some shaping, and clean up, a coat of epoxy is applied and the fiberglass cloth is bonded to the cedar skin. I then flip the canoe and repeat the process to the inside. I do a little shaping to the sheer line (where the gunnels are attached) and then mount the inner and outer gunnels. After some more prep work, four coats of a high-grade UV protection varnish is applied. At this point the whole canoe has been encapsulated with epoxy and four coats of varnish. The seats individually constructed from an ash frame to white-oak cane for the actual seat. I will then carve and sand the portage yoke and mini end thwarts. They will each receive four coats of varnish then be mounted to the canoe. A variety of tools used for the construction include: small hand scrapers, planes, chisels, hand saws, band saw, table saw, router, orbital sander, drill, and various hand made specialty tools. Two hundred hours later - I’m waiting for you to pick up your handcrafted wood strip canoe and head out on that adventure you’ve been planning.


Canoe structure-illustration
Outside through inside in layers.
1. bead and cove assembled cedar
2. sealing epoxy coat and cloth
3. epoxy
4. varnish x 4 coats inside and out
5. sealing epoxy coat and cloth
6. epoxy
7. outwale
8. inwale
9. mini thwart
10. Air Chamber

Canoe Definitions

Keel: You will find no keel on the higher quality canoes. They were one time installed to stiffen up the poorly engineered hulls. A keel will help tracking but that can be designed into the hull itself by shaping the whole hull from bow to stern for that application. Tracking is the ability of the canoe to hold a straight line while traveling through the water.

Stems: Stems are the tips of the canoe, made up of the bow and stern of the canoe. There are the modern straight stemmed canoes–shown below. Then there are the stems that catch less wind as shown below, they give the canoe a different, more streamlined look . There is also the traditional stems which falls between the two shown. We would go over your choice during the decision building process.


Depth: Depth is measured at three points on the canoe. If you were to have an imaginary straight line parallel to the bottom of the canoe you could measure the bow and stern depth by going from the tallest point to the line. This is the height of the bow and stern even though part of that measurement will be in the air if the canoe has any rocker. The center depth is the other measurement and it is measured from the center gunnels to the bottom of the canoe.

Rocker: No or little rocker will help the canoe track straight. Extreme rocker allows the canoe to turn easily in white water circumstances with much maneuverability. Low rocker allows the canoe to track very straight in a
long distance canoeing situation. A good compromise often lends itself to a good lake and river canoe.

Width: Beam or width is the widest part of the canoe. The wider the beam, the more stable and slower. The more width, the less distance above the water-line. The narrower the beam, the faster and less stable. This is called “tumblehome.” It is the narrowing of a canoe’s hull with greater distance above the water-line.

Length: Length is the longest point from stern to bow. The longer the canoe, the better that it will track across the water. So conversely, the shorter the canoe, the easier it can be turned.

Hull capacity: Hull capacity is the amount of weight in pounds that it will take to push the canoe down into the water leaving 6” from top of water to top of gunwale.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Canoe

It would be best to store your canoe under roof. The UV rays, wind, and adverse weather are your enemies here. There are three of them hanging in my garage right now. Under normal use the provided coatings of varnish will last three years depending on care and use. At this time you can take care of minor scratches with a light sanding of 100 grit sandpaper. Brush on a layer of varnish containing UV protector and watch those little scratches dissapear. I can show you how it is done. When you hang it up simply attach to each one of the painter loops or the mini thwarts at the ends. It is a good idea to have an eyebolt to put a safety third bungee line to the middle yoke. If your damage is worse than a scratch or two then a little more attention may need to be done. Accidents happen but do not despair, most likely the blemish can easily be repaired. If the damage has gotten into the cloth fabric it will need to be cleaned and smoothed out. I then mix up a special batch of epoxy with fiberglass shavings called micro balloons in it. It should also cure clear and it’ll be good as new before you know it. Higher end canoes like these wood strip models need to be supported by water when loaded. This method is easier on your back and the canoe.


Canoe Diagram
1. inwale (1 and 2 make up the gunwale)
2. outwale
3. hull
4. center thwart or carrying yoke
5. yoke carrying pads
6. front mini thwart or possible bow deck
7. rear mini thwart or possible stern deck
8. bow
9. stern
10. seat
11. third seat option
12. painter hole, with loop.

Included features:

1. Handsome slotted inwales for easier draining when flipping it up on your shoulders and for tying gear down.
2. Painter tubes installed in the bow and stern for hooking painter ropes. The painter ropes work well for tying your canoe down on your vehicle or walk-guiding the canoe down a tough section of river. I place the painter tubes closer to the water line to enable better control of the canoe for such a situation.
3. Carrying yoke instead of plain thwart
4. Air pockets in the stern and bow
5. Oak caned seats
6. Added bow and stern protection 4 layers of cloth and epoxy instead of 1.

Optional features:

1. Removable third seat matching the provided seats. $90.00.
2. Decks instead of mini thwarts.* No charge
3. Shock cord installed in strategic spots. No charge
4. Painter loop of rope to tie your painter to. No charge
5. Plain thwart instead of carrying yoke. $10.00 credit towards total
6. Choice of streamlined or straight stems No charge

*Using a Thwart will cut down on weight and are easier to use for handholds. A deck plate can be crafted into any of the models shown.

A Fully refundable $1000.00 will put you in line for your canoe. All canoes are fully warranted against any craftsmanship failure for one year. If you are unsatisfied with your canoe upon completion, prior to pick-up, all funds will be refunded. Free Delivery within a 70 mile radius of Mooresville, IN 46158. Call for other options.

Van Hal canoes carry a one year warranty against defects in materials or workmanship. If any canoe is proved defective we will replace, or repair at our discretion, the defective part or the whole product at no charge to you. To obtain warranty service, you must return the canoe to our shop at your expense.

Customer’s responsibility to keep the warranty valid:
This would include but not limited to maintaining a good cover of varnish and repairing any scratches that may occur. Warranty does not cover defects caused by modification, alteration, physical abuse or misuse of the product. This is not limited to but would include storage away from the elements being sun, wind, freezing water. The loading of the canoe must be done with the canoe freely floating in the water so the water can support the spine. Storage of items in the canoe on land can damage the spine as well. When you hang the canoe also provide a center hanging support for safety and to take some weight off the ends.