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First canoe build

Discussion in 'Birchbarks, Dugouts and Primitive Craft' started by Basilsbro, May 21, 2013.

  1. Basilsbro

    Basilsbro New Member

    I have a few questions which I hope someone can answer. I want to build a birch bark canoe but this will be my first build of any form of canoe so advice would be great. Firstly I live in England so I realise I am going to have to import at least the Birch bark so does anyone know of the best route to do this? I have had a look at who has a stock of birchbark and also says that he would be able to do a kit with everything needed to make the canoe. Does this sound like a good option? I would prefer to get all the materials other than the bark in the uk to save on the shipping. I do however want the canoe to be as correct to the originals as possible so do not want to substitute materials even if it means paying for shipping.
    Also on the birch they supply seems to come from siberia and only in smallish sheets, will this provide an authentic finish? Does anyone know of any other suppliers who would be willing to ship to the uk or how much the shipping would cost?
    On they have the home build pack which looks very good and the owner has been very helpful so I am thinking I will get one of them first if you agree that it is a good idea. I saw the thread on this site discussing this topic which also looked very good. Would this be the best start?
    Thanks and sorry for so many questions I hope I have not asked questions that have already been answered.
  2. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    First I must say how impressed I am with your desire to build a bark canoe. It seems there's much information on-line, which you've undoubtedly found. Use of these forums is another good step, because you will have questions along the way. I'd like to recommend that you contact one of our WCHA members who builds bark canoes. There are several who are masters of the art, but the one I know personally is Ferdy Goode. One of his canoes is shown on the main page of the WCHA website... and if you look at his website, there are other beautiful canoes there.

    I looked at the website of, and it seems to me that the birch bark they sell might give you a bark canoe, but not the sort that Ferdy or some of the other bark-builders make. I could be wrong, but it seems they sell bark in small pieces, and what you'd have to do is sew them together to get a piece large enough for a canoe. This is possible to do, but if what you want is a canoe that looks like the one pictured on this website, a patchwork canoe won't look like that. I'd contact Ferdy or another of the bark builders and see what he thinks about the type of bark (from a different type of birch) too... as well as the other elements you'd need.

    Here's Ferdy's website:

    It's wonderful that you are in the UK and have taken-on this project!

  3. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    I spoke to a bark builder a few years ago who mentioned he got his bark from Russia and it was good bark. I think Siberia had some good trees over there. He mentioned that the bark was good stuff and cost around $1,000. U.S. Then there's root and cedar to acquire. You'll need a crooked knife and awls. Good luck. Maybe Ferd will chime in....
  4. OP

    Basilsbro New Member

    Thank you both for your replies. I have been looking on the internet and found some useful information and I have taken 'The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America' out of the library and intend to read that to get some more information.
    That was my issue as the bark only comes in small peices which seems unlike the other canoes that I have looked at and I feel may this may disrupt the lines of the canoe and not be 'correct'. However I have not been able to find an alternative source.
    I would also like to build a crooked knife and I have found which sells the blades, does anyone have experience of these? And does anyone have a good link for a guide to their construction?
    It would be great if one of the builders could give some of their knowledge on these and my original questions.
  5. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I may be wrong (I don't have it in front of me), but I think the Warren Graham/David Gidmark book on building paddles includes instructions for making a crooked knife. Maybe someone who has immediate access to it can confirm?
  6. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

  7. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    I hope your are familiar with these books:

    The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, Edwin Tappan Adney and Howard I. Chapelle, Smithsonian Institution Press 1964

    Building a Birchbark Canoe, David Gidmark, Stackpole Books, 1994

    The Canoe, A Living Tradition, John Jennings in collaboration with the Canadian Canoe Museum, Firefly Books Ltd., 2002

    As to the crooked knife, the basic tool for birch bark canoe building, see:


    Among those who make crooked knives (and whose web sites have good information on them) are:

    Henri Vaillancourt


    Moose River Handcrafts
  8. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

  9. OP

    Basilsbro New Member

    Thank you for your help. I have emailed Ferdy with my original questions so hopefully he will be able to help. I am still interested in anyones views on th homebuild kit as I am unsure whether it would be cheaper to assemble the materials myself and then research the methods if that is possible/sensible. The links for the crooked knife where very helpful, is the best bet for a blade as I do not have the skills to make one?
  10. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Ferdy might have some crooked knives available too. I have one of his and love it.

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