Dug out canoe

anyone have any experience with dug out canoes? i’m planning on starting one soon. i live near a place called the great swamp and i plan to bring my canoe there so i can explore and forage and watch and listen to all the awsome birds that live there. i decided that i’m going to make it out of spruce.

We have a Great Swamp here in RI, which was the site of a grisly massacre of natives by colonists. Would this happen to be the same great swamp?

One of my old high school teachers had one of his classes make a dug out one year, and although my class didn’t he gave us instructions for doing it. Most of the material inside is removed by fire, then by chopping it into the right shape. Treating the outside with something like pitch might be good, too.

hey dan, thanks for the input. the great swamp i live near is in the hudson valley (new york state) part of it is in putnam county which is where i live and part of it is in dutchess county, to the north. i have actually heard of the one you are talking about though now that i think about it, i’ve taken a couple of bike trips in the north east and it rings a bell. of all the research i’ve done so far i havent found anything explaining the controlled burning process in any kind of detail. i was planning on using a chainsaw for the initial cuts and then sticking to some basic woodworking tools. however if you still have those directions or know of some other resource, it would be appreciated.

I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard of making a canoe with a log and large scale coal-burning. It’s supposed to be just like making a bowl or spoon, only bigger.

I met this guy Joe Martin once. He’s a friend of a friend and they came over to visit a couple times.
click on the canoe link at the top of the page

He lives on the west coast of Vancouver Island. From what he told me, he goes up the coast in his fishing boat and looks for suitable trees. Then falls it and roughs it out there on the spot. He camps out there until it’s done enough to tow back home with his fishing boat. He uses a chainsaw for the rough work. I think the steaming part is what’s really interesting though.


thanks for the input jasen and heyvictor, very helpful.

I went to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum today, and they had a small exhibit about canoe making; I picked up a couple of tips.

-Make sure the bottom is thicker than the sides
-Build a small fire at the front and rear to harden them.
-Build a fire inside to harden and smooth it out, and put it out when you can feel the heat coming through the side.

Also, build it close to where you’re going to use it, because they’re really heavy.

I found this cool video of some folks steaming a dugout canoe: click on the photo under “photo galleries” on the right, Canoe Steaming, Skidegate

You can find more detail (measurements before/after steaming, etc.) if you click on the Haida Laas newsletter link and look on page 12 of the February 2008 issue.

Awesome! Just the thread I needed to see! :slight_smile: I felled a large sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) the other day by our river. I am planning on making a dugout canoe with one of the trunk lengths. I was going to do it all with fire, unless I can get my hands on an adze, in which case I’ll probably do a little of both methods working together. I feel that sycamore is a very good wood to use for a canoe because it is lightweight when it dries, and it is “pithy,” meaning it doesn’t split so easily like other woods would. For this reason people use sycamores for things like butcher’s blocks.