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I Was Born to Build Canoes by Jim Dodd, Humboldt, IA, USA

Posted on February 13 2014

By Jim Dodd

I was born to build canoes.  Raised in a small Iowa town, surrounded by corn fields, and a river running through it. I spent a lot of time on the river bank.

As a very young child, Mother said my favorite bathtub toy was a red plastic canoe.

Every time we had a summer rain, I could be found at the curb of our corner lot, weaving sticks and twigs to make a raft. Darn gutters drained My river too fast !

The movie Davy Crockett provided my first look at a real canoe. My  heroes were the Indians that pursued Davy in their Birchbark canoes. Boy if I could only get my hands on one of those!

When I was 13 my Dad passed away. That Summer the Boy Scout Troop, I belonged to, paid my way so that I could join them at camp. Here I was given the chance of a lifetime!

I paddled my first canoe ! WOW ! I was on my way to a life long dream! No longer need I be confined to the river bank.

Being I was the only one left at home, the answer was always "No, they are too tippy!" I guess Mom didn't want to lose me.

By the time I was a senior in High School, I had earned enough money to buy a kit, to build a fiberglass canoe. I found an ad in a magazine, and sent my money.

The kit came in a box. Plywood stems, 1"x 1" stringers, plywood to be cut into ribs, and rolled sheet glass, that resembled Plexiglass.

I assembled the frame and stapled on the glass, it had a lot of wrinkles. They sent a roll of 6"wide mat fiberglass,  along with a quart of Polyester resin, to seal the seams.

It seemed too flimsy to me, so I enlisted the help of my older cousin to fully cover the canoe with another layer of mat fiberglass. A couple of days, and three gallons of resin later. I had a 14ft canoe that weighed 85#

I had a lot of fun with that OLD BARGE ! I was freed from the rivers edge! 10yrs later, I ran across a copy of "Canoecraft" in the library. I checked it out and read it. If only I could find someone to help me get started ? The fire was building inside me!

Another 10yrs later found me at a canoe building demonstration in Minnesota. A cedar strip canoe was being built right before my eyes. I couldn't hardly eat or sleep without thinking about that cedar strip canoe!

With a lot of help of the Minnesota Canoe Asc., and it's wonderful members, I was on my way. I ran a terrible phone bill according to my Wife !

My Passion for building was raging ! That was when Canoecraft stepped back into my life ! I lofted most of Teds plans. The Prospector, the English 20, the Peterborough, and my favorite, The Hiawatha.

In his book, Ted showed how to bead and cove strips ! What a revelation ! Bead and Cove changed the ball game big time ! No more  gaps in my planking to be filled with putty, Sanding was a fraction of the time it took  before, Splicing strips, And the all important, decorative strip, was a breeze!

With this new found technic, I shared it with every builder and anyone I knew, including small children ! This Spring I'm retiring from my real job. But the plan to keep building will be ramped up a notch! I've bought a garage to turn into my canoe shop. The passion continues, and Canoecraft, and the Bear Mountain boats will be by my side!

Thanks Ted and Joan for helping me with my life altering passion of building canoes!

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