Build Your Own Canoe

by Dennis Davis

Review by Mike Connelly

Another excellent addition to the how-to-build category of canoe books, Build Your Own Canoe by Dennis Davis is far more than a set of lines, a table of offsets, a bill of material and some sketchy instructions written by a second rate writer.  In this, the author's third book about boats, he devotes the first two chapters to a good, if brief, history of the canoe, and goes into the basics of canoe design.  Of interest to the novice and enthusiast alike, this background serves to set the tone for the book and puts everything which follows in proper context. 

The next three chapters lay out, clearly and appropriately illustrated, the construction of the canoe along with an explanation of why things are being done. By the time a builder is finished with the basic hull and its fittings, he or she will not
only know how everything went together, but what all the bits do and how they act together to serve the overall purpose.     

The author doesn't stop there, however, but goes on for an additional four chapters, discussing paddles and how to make them, as well as spars and sail for sailing, construction of the leeboard and it's use, and then following with good solid instruction on how and where to use a canoe, how to transport and store it, and how to maintain and fix it.  This is a comprehensive book, the soup-to-nuts version.     

The author is British, so the measurements are metric, and some of the discussion of rules and clubs is of no relevance to a North American reader, but the two and a half pages of Further Reading is an excellent bibliography, and the book is well-indexed, always a good sign. 

The design itself is not the very simplest- considerable scarphing is required, and although built from just two sheets of plywood, twelve distinct pieces must be cut out and stuck together to complete the hull.  Her designer says of the shape, that "a general purpose canoe such as the Bliss is a compromise in most respects: it has a flat-V bottom, it is fairly beamy to give good initial stability but with a relatively narrow waterline to aid paddling, and a shape that still retains good final stability.  It also has fairly full ends to maintain good carrying capacity for its length." 

Even for the would-be builder intent on constructing a different canoe, a good read though of this book would certainly help to make sure that a better canoe emerged from the process.  And for one who is not daunted by the medium level complexity of the hull, my guess is that building this particular boat would be very rewarding.