Small-Boat-Building Books

And canoe and kayak books. An annotated list (in progress). (page 1 of 1 page)

Bradshaw, Todd. (2001) Canoe Rig: The Essence and the Art : Sailpower for Antique and Traditional Canoes. Wooden Boat Publications. (Hardcover) ISBN: 0937822574. Sail rigs for canoes? Although this is pretty much a coffee-table book, the book has chapters on spars, leeboards, sails, mast support, and rigging, with an appendix featuring measured plans for sails and leeboards. It is a very nice graphic production and makes a great gift for the canoe- or sail-inclined friend. It also is a neat overview of many different sail rigs and configurations. From my perspective, it looks like the drawings were created in Freehand, Illustrator or a similar 2-D rendering program. (Thanks to Kevin J. for lending me the book for a week or so!)

Freeman, Zu. 1999 (revised ed. 1989). Building a Jawbone Kayak. Tamal Vista Publications, Larkspur, CA. ISBN: 0917436032 (about $8.95).
This boat is much closer to the wood and canvas duck skiffs that I grew up with around the marshlands of Central Wisconsin. It is a very simple craft, and would make a good boat for a little waterfowling or some fishing. The dust jacket states that the boat can be built in less than 20-hours for less than $20. That makes sense to me, --it could easily be built from scrounged dumpster wood waste or some ripped 2x4 stock and some canvas. Personally, I would rather put my time and effort into a more elegant craft... this boat really looks home-made in the negative sense. Also, these boats are far more susceptable to environmental degradation and neglect than a wood and fiberglass boat. This book is, however, a great book on a lost art... many of our 19th-century and early 20th-century skiffs were built using these techniques. Everything is here, including some full-size construction jig plans, should you you decide to build one of these "duck skiffs" using the information provided.

Gilpatrick, Gil. 1996 (revised ed. 1999). Building a Strip Canoe. DeLome Publishing, Yarmouth, ME. (128 pages) ISBN: 0899331181 (about 11.95.) This is an outstanding book for the price. It has 1/2-scale plans for eight different canoes and very detailed and well-illustrated descriptions of the strip-construction process. The book includes paddle plans, cane seat plans and canning instructions, and many outstanding wood-working tips. Also, the book is pretty much the users manual for West System Epoxy. Every builder or person faced with wood-canoe repair should grab a copy of this book.

Hazen, David. 1976 (third ed.1999). Stripper's Guide to Canoe-Building with Drawings. Tamal Vista Publications, Larkspur, CA, ISBN: 0917436008 (about $17.95).
This was an early book on the subject and quite influential. However, almost all of the adhesives information is badly dated. Also, some of the designs are pretty crude and would result in finished boats that would test the skills of the most experienced paddlers. This is a good book to look over to increase your general understanding of the subject, but please do not consider using it as a building manual.

Jennings, John 2002. The Canoe. Firefly Boolks Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, Canada.(272 pages) ISBN: 1-55209-509-6 (about $49.95). Produced in collaboration with the Canadian Canoe Museum, this book is a comprehensive study of North American canoes, kayaks, umiaks, and dug-out watercraft. The book covers aboriginal boats as well as those of the fur trade era (voyageur canoes) and the "golden age" wood-planked and canvas boats. This is a medium-format (11 x 11 -inch) coffee table book that is heavy with excellent photography, painting reproductions, drawings and other artwork. There are several photoessays that offer somewhat abbreviated step-by-step documentation of various construction processes. The text is very good, although I frequently find that I would like to have a more detailed description of some of the subject matter... But that's me the boat-builder and history nut talking, most folks will find the text perfectly informative. Please note that in the section on Pacific-Northwest dug-out canoes, there is a photo of the Makah Nation's 37-foot whaling canoe Hummingbird used in their succcessful and highly controversial 1999 whale hunt. Please check out: A Whale Hunt: How a Native-American Village Did What No One Thought It Could by Robert Sullivan, to find out more about how these people created this boat and reaffirmed their spiritual and hunting heritage in spite of active legal and physical challenges by GreenPeace, the commercial news media, and other outsiders (I have A Whale Hunt and intend to get a review of it up on the site as soon as I finish the book.). I especially like the sections of Jennings' book on birch-bark canoes, skin kayaks and the golden-age planked canoes. All-in-all, Canoe is a great work and a tribute to the ageless beauty of fine craftsmanship.

McCarthy, Henry (Mac). 1996. Featherweight Boatbuilding : A Woodenboat Book, Brooklin, ME, ISBN: 0937822396 94 pages. (about $19.95) This deals with building one design, the single-person canoe the Wee Lassie. It is a marvelous little canoe, perfect for bass fishing on ponds or hunting trout on secluded pools. The boat is a great car-topper and would look fine on a sub-compact! This is a great book on strip building and, for this particular boat, is a complete building manual with full drawings, offsets, references and complete instruction. It is a fine Wooden Boat Magazine publication and is used as a manual in some of the boat-building courses that they sponsor.

Moores Ted. (2nd ed. 2000). Canoecraft. ISBN: 1552093425. A very good and popular treatment. The illustrations and photographs are ourstanding, but the lack of information on reading the tables of offsets seems juvenile (they want to sell you their full-size plans). I find a number of details in the book relatively needless and somewhat (dare I say) anal retentive. But, being a true kludge artisan, I tend to bull-ahead through most of my construction and artistic endeavors. Still, this and Kayakcraft are must-have books on strip building.

Moores Ted. (1999) Kayakcraft. 171 pages. ISBN: 0937822566. Notes: (see preceeding entry).

Morris, Robert. (2000) Building Skin-On-Frame Boats. ISBN: 0881791911 (about $19.96). One of the most prized books in my collection. This is a great book to own, even if you don't plan to build a boat by this technique. It is a comprehensive treatment of skin-on-frame construction and material-working, with very nice treatments of aboriginal (from Irish to Inuit) boatbuilding. (See also annotations for the book by George Putz.) It is particularly interesting for its use of "traditional" measurement systems.... i.e., if you use your own body as the "yardstick" for the measurements of your boat, the finished boat will fit you like a glove! The aboriginal historical treatments include interviews, photos and drawings. The book contains full plans for several boats, and covers every aspect of their construction.

The real thing! Nice skin-on-frame kayaks. A picture postcard attributed to St. Johns, Newfoundland, (about 1925) printed by Ayre & Sons, Ltd., printed in Germany.

Putz, George. (1990) Wood and Canvas Kayak Building ISBN: 0071559396. If you have little money, a few tools, and want a really traditional skin-on-frame boat, Putz is THE MAN! A friend of mine used this book and about $60 to produce one of the lightest and neatest kayaks that I have ever seen. True kludge artistry-- fun and fast construction that is very forgiving. However, these boats are very delicate compared to a stitch-n-glue fiberglass-plywood boat or a stripper. But then, it seems that people that have these animals get as much enjoyment out of patching and rehabilitating wrecked and dinged-up boats as they do from paddling. I may never build a boat this way, but I purchased George's book because it is such a complete, relaxed and enjoyable treatment of this technique.

Shade, Nick. (1998) The Strip-Built Sea Kayak: Three Rugged, Beautiful Boats You Can Build. 178 pages. ISBN: 007057989X (about $15.96) Perhaps the most prized book in my collection. This book is one of the best treatments on strip-built boat building. It covers everything from boat design to reading offset tables, to innovative deck and hatch fittings. It includes the Shade brothers popular boat designs with offset tables and an explanation on how to read them. Additionally, there is a great deal of information on tooling and many helpful hints on strip fitting, etc. As for icing on the cake, there is a great section on paddle design and construction. This one should be in the library of every small boat builder.

Vaitses, Allen. (1999) Lofting. ISBN: 0937822558 150 page (spiral-bound edition) (about $15.96) Boat builder ---sailboater, canoist, or kayaker--- this is the book on lofting. Lofting is the taking of measurements from existing boats and transfering them to paper, and vice verse. It also will give you what you need to read offset tables when you come across them with no explanation on how to deal with the things.

Warren, Graham, and David Gidmark. (2001) Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to making Your Own. Firefly Books. (Trade paperback, 144 pages) ISBN: 1552095258 (about $17.50). I don't have this one yet, but it is on my wish list. From most reviews, it seems to be the catch-all, and end-all in wood paddle making, although Nick Shade's book also does a very good job explaining the subject.

Next (to the next book page)

Back (to home page)

Back (to the boat construction page: shears)

Back (to the boat construction page: deck stripping)