Sunburst.gif (1637 bytes)

Pirogue Building

Home ] Weekender ] MiniCup Misadventures ] One Sheet Skiff ] [ Pirogue Building ] CSD Pirogue ] Mouse Boat ] Suppliers ] Jigs and Things ] WebCam ] Site Navigation ]

In order to enjoy the Saugeen River that flows near my home, I've decided to build a variation of the Cheap Canoe.  I strongly encourage anyone who is thinking of building this boat to check out their web site as well as their stitch and glue primer.

Of course I can't leave well enough alone and stretched the design out to 14' 8" by changing the station lines to 14 3/4" from 12" to get the absolute most boat out of 2 sheets of plywood.  I also widened the beam at the spreader points indicated by 2" to create more rocker and am building the boat using external chines, 3 frames, and solid stem pieces.  This modification has not been approved by the designer - if you choose to build according to these dimensions, you are as much on your own as I am.  mind you, it does look like it made a pretty nice hull.

With the permission of I have saved my CAD drawings for the reference of others.

  1. Stem profile pdf file Turbo Cad
  2. Panel Layout and Frame Layout pdf file Turbo Cad

Please note the bottom panels are drawn as if the boat were being built stitch & glue or with internal chine logs.  I built using external chine logs but the drawings worked well for my paper and tape models.   The actual size of your hull bottom may vary so do not cut it out in advance.  I recommend drawing a centre line down the plywood and aligning it to the centre of the stem pieces and frames.  Trace the outside and you'll have a mostly perfectly fitting hull bottom.

Construction Log



Time Used

23-Mar-02 Rip out 1 1/2" pieces from spruce 2X4s.  Then, laying out the dimensions of the frames on a scrap piece of board, determine where to cut lap joints to join the pieces together.  The forward and aft frames have had their sides beveled to match the angle of the side at that point.   Another lesson that I learned from my One Sheet Skiff.  Fasten the frame pieces using PL Premium construction adhesive.

Cut the stem pieces out of another 2X4 according to the dimensions on my modified drawings.  This stem is a bit different than what I used on my first One Sheet Skiff.  In order to avoid problems with sealing the plywood, I've recessed the sides of the stem to inset the side panels.  The resulting shape is much like a Christmas tree.  If this works well, I do the same thing for the next OSS that I want to build for auction.


27-Mar-02 At lunch - gotta love working from home - lay out and cut out the sides.  Make sure to draw a centre line on the panels and to have the same colour up on the wood.  Interestingly, my assembly area is just a touch over 16 feet long which is whay I needed for this.  I made the sides slightly shorter than the drawings, allowing for the solid wood part of the stem that will extend beyond the plywood sides.


27-Mar-02 Before and after supper, attach the stem pieces to the sides.  Unfortunately, my lack of patience has hurt me again.  With the long stem piece attached to one set of sides, I turned the assembly on it's side and tried to saw off the excess.  The vibration and stress pulled the side off the stem leaving the screws embedded in the stem and glue everywhere.  Using a hammer, I flattened the damaged plywood down, re-applied more glue and after cutting off the excess stem I re-attached the side using several extra screws.   I believe that I will end up having to paint that part of the boat at least - it looks a mess.


30-Mar-02 Using PL Premium, assemble the sides to the frames.  This actually went pretty smoothly and made the hole unit a lot stiffer..
A Bottomless Boat
I think something's missing


1-Apr-02 Rip 4 - 1X 5/8" pieces from a 2X4, bevel them to the angle required and scarf them together to make 2 16' long chine logs.  This is my first attempt at a scarf joint.  I milled the angle using my stationary belt sander and glued them using PL Premium.  We'll see how they turn out in a couple of days.


3-Apr-02 Attach the chine logs to the sides of the boat using PL Premium and 3/4" galvanised screws.  I put the screws in about every 10" or so.


5-Apr-02 Fair the chine logs and sides, lay the bottom on using the centre line to align it and finishing nails to hold it in place.  Scribe the actual size of the bottom pieces, cut them out and fasten them with PL Premium and screws.


6-Apr-02 Spend some time fairing the chines using my surform shaper.


7-Apr-02 New blades for the surform shaper


10-Apr-02 Cut out sheer clamps out of 2 spruce 2X4s and bevel the ends for scarfing.


11-Apr-02 Install sheer clamps.   Note to self glue scarf joints first on bent pieces, don't trust that they'll fit with clamping.


12-Apr-02 Install keel - use some scrap 1X2 fir left over from renovating the living room.  Since the piece wasn't quite long enough, I but-jointed to get the complete length.  The bulk of construction is now complete.  On to the fairing and filling.
A Floatable Boat
It's a boat!


14-Apr-02 Fill the screw holes and fillet the inside of the chines with auto-body putty.


19-Apr-02 Sand the hull, fill the screw-holes on the sides with epoxy thickened with wood flour (sanding dust) and coat the bottom of the hull with epoxy.


8-May-02 Coat one side of the outside of the hull with epoxy.


9-May-02 Coat the other side of the outside of the hull with epoxy.


10-May-02 Coat the inside of the hull with epoxy.
Note:  To do the inside I tried something different.  For the outside, I used foam brushes and threw them away after they shredded.  I ended up with lots of little bits of foam brush embedded in the coating.  On the inside, I used a brush to do the inside corners, not worrying too much about drips, just putting it on thick.   Then I poured epoxy onto the surface and used an auto-body filler squeegee to spread it up the sides and along the bottom.  I think I ended up with a smoother coating with less sags and drips and used less epoxy than I would have otherwise.


11-May-02 Carry the pirogue outside and store it in the garage for the 3 weeks for the epoxy to finish curing and blush.  Use a surform plane to knock off drips that were created from over-enthusiastic epoxying of the sheer clamp.


Coated with epoxy
In the garage
It fits on the rack
It fits on the roof rack
Another shot of the inside
View of the inside
Close-up of stem
Close-up of stem
Showing rocker
Showing Rocker
29-May-02 Sanding the outside of the hull


31-May-02 Sand the inside of the hull and prime.


2-Jun-02 Lightly sand the primer and paint the outside of the hull.


3-Jun-02 - 7-Jun-02 More painting


15-Jun-02 Add the internal rails for holding the seat and cut a seat out of a 12" pine board.


Ready for launch
Ready for Launch
Happy Builder
Happy Builder
Loyal Crew
Loyal Crew
27-Jun-02 Finally launched.  Take the pirogue down to Laurel Creek Conservation Authority in Waterloo.  Unfortunately, being alone, I was unable to take any pictures of the boat under weigh.  The lake is fairly shallow with lots of weed beds so it seemed like an ideal place for this design.  The low seat that I installed worked well.  I didn't feel any need for a back rest for the 1 1/2 hour or so that I was out.  A stiff breeze caused the aft end of the boat to be blown about which made for some tricky navigation.
At 230lbs, I'm probably the maximum size for this design and it did feel a bit "tippy" but after all, it's a canoe.  I paddled from one end of the lake to the other and back and other than getting a bit tired - it's been 25 years since I've been in a canoe - things were fine.  When I got back to the dock, I did some stability tests.  I found that I could heel the canoe over to the gunwales and it stayed pretty stable.  In fact, it took a bit of effort to get it that far.  I think it will work out just fine.

Ready for launch
Ready for launch


2003 Modifications

Aft Floatation Chamber Aft Deck Hatch Skeg Profile Skeg Forward Floatation Compartment
Over the winter of 2002/2003 I did some modifications to improve the performance and safety of the pirogue.  I added a small skeg about 3" deep to improve tracking, and added fore and aft floatation chambers.   The size of the chambers was determined by the availability of scrap lumber to build them.  I used PL Premium to glue thin stringers along the top of the sides 1/4" down from the top of the gunwales.  To make sure of this, I clamped a piece of 1/4" plywood to a metre-stick and used that as a guide to position the stringers.   A 1/2" square piece of wood was used to beef up the joint where the deck meets the bulkhead.  The bulkhead is just glued in place to the sides and glued and nailed with finishing nails to the deck stringer.  The deck is held on with glue and finishing nails.  The chambers are sealed using polyester resin and will be painted.   The forward deck plate is waterproof making for a handy place to store my wallet etc.  The aft deck plate is made out of plywood following these steps:
Measure out the size of hatch covering you want.  An tapered hatch was picked to make it easier to know which way it is supposed to be placed.
To make the curves on the corners, a handy plastic tub was used to mark the radius.
With my jig saw angled up, I turned it on and then slowly tilted it into the wood to make a smooth cut without having to pre-drill a hole.
Once the hatch cover is removed, I found a piece of scrap slightly larger then the  hatch cover.  Placing the hatch on the scrap, I used my compass to mark a line 1/2" out from the sides of the hatch as well as around the hatch itself.  Then removing the hatch and placing the deck piece on the scrap, I was able to mark out 1/2" inside the hatch opening.  This gave me a 1" wide backer plate that will support the hatch.

To fasten the hatch, it is my intention to put a screw eye in the hull in the centre.  A bungee will stretch up from there through a hole in the centre of the deck plate.  A string clip like the ones used on jackets will be used to put a stopper below the hatch.  Another stopper will be above the hatch.  To remove the hatch, just lift up on the bungee, retrieve your frosty beverage and then snap the hatch back in place.  To loosen the hatch, move the upper stopper.  I plan to use standard foam tape weatherstripping to seal the opening.


Date Location Crew
July 14, 2002 Connestoga Lake Trueman - aged 7
What a great day for a paddle.  Trueman and I went out to the lake for our first father/son paddle.  I didn't have a forward seat built at this point, so he ended up sitting on an old drywall mud/bailing bucket which worked quite well.  He used the short paddle that I keep as an emergency paddle on the MiniCup with pretty good effectiveness given that this is his first time ever in a canoe.
The lake was well populated by power boaters and PWC users as expected and the canoe handled the wakes quite well.  My version has a fair bit of rocker so I think that helped quite a bit.  There were only two times that the waves came in over the bow and while we were bobbing around quite a bit, we felt pretty safe.
The only down side is that when we got home, I noticed a crack in the centre frame piece.   I opened it a bit and tried to push in some 5 minute epoxy and then put a screw in to hold it closed.  This piece shouldn't be very structural anyway, but it never hurts to keep things in repair.  I also added some bottom supports to the seat and built a second seat.  The seats will now sit on the hull bottom rather than the side rails.
Date Location Crew
July 23, 2002 Port Elgin Trueman - aged 7, Emma - aged 10, Katherine - aged more than 19
One of the (few) advantages of working for yourself is that when things are slow, you can occasionally play hookey and take off.
With high humdex readings and nothing to do in the office, my wife Katherine suggested that we take off for the beach for the afternoon.  Quickly after that, I had the pirogue on the top of the jeep, the external trunk for the Jeep mounted  and loaded with beach stuff, plus PFDs, paddles, and the inflatable row-boat.
A fairly quick drive in high winds got us to Port Elgin and the beach.  Eventually everyone else was set up and I could take the pirogue out onto the lake.  For a flat bottomed boat that is supposed to only be used on calm water, it was a hoot out in 2' + swells on the lake.  Katherine tried it out but found it awkward for her to paddle and my daughter Emma wasn't too comfortable with how the boat would bounce around on the waves especially when they would hit us on the beam or when they would wash over the bow.  My son Trueman on the other hand had quite a good time.  We even did some - ahem - stability tests.  We found that Trueman - about 50lbs - could stand up in the bow and jump off into the lake without causing the boat to even come close to tipping over.  I was also able to pull him back on board although we came close to capsizing with that.  I also did an intentional capsize.  In order to do that, I ended up having to lean quite far over until the gunwales were awash.  Once water started coming in over the gunwales, the boat went down quickly.  With the boat full of water and me in it, water covered the gunwales which means that it would not be possible to self-rescue in deep water without additional floatation in the boat.  Once I dumped the water out I was able to fairly easily get back in standing in about 3 feet of water though.
I also did a fairly long paddle along the coastline for about an hour.  The boat handled well and it was quite neat to be able to see bottom down 10' + below me.  I have determined though that for a longer paddle, I will need a padded seat or firmer hind end.
Over-all, an excellent day out.  It was amazing the amount of attention and favourable comments I recieved on my little home-made plywood boat though.  I am very please with how it handles rough water and am looking forward to getting it out on the river soon.
Since July 24rd, I have taken the pirogue out in a variety of locations and conditions and it has performed quite well.  I am planning on adding sealed floatation to it and a skeg to improve tracking, but am quite happy with the craft.

2009 Update

Well after sitting outside - mostly under a tarp or plastic sheet, suffering from tree fungus in 2007 and being poorly repaired, the time has come to say goodbye.   The delamination in 2007 that was poorly fixed then has gotten worse.  After spending the part of a Saturday repairing the bottom only to turn the boat over to fine the inside badly delaminated too, the choice was made to put it on the side of the road with a sign saying "Free".  It took about 15 minutes for someone to stop and take it off to it's new life as a flower bed.  I suppose if I had kept the boat under cover more and kept up on maintenance better it would have lasted.  Another small can of Bondo and a bit of work would have made it usable again, but with everything else that's been happening I haven't used it in 2 years so I think the right choice was to let it go.

This hull delamination is below similar delamination on the bottom The rot goes all the way up the side.  There's probably 2 veneers of original wood left. Un unrelated problem - the crack that was here came free to show a void in the original plywood.

DISCLAIMER: Because the construction of any boat is dependent on factors of materials and craftsmanship that are beyond my control, I can accept no responsibility for any item constructed based on information found on this web-site.

For more information, contact Last Updated July 26, 2009