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Builder Stories: Bob's Special by George Vandermolen

A wooden canoe with an alternating light-dark strip pattern sits outside in a cradle with two handmade paddles leaned against it

The nuances of wood and wood choice are a constant source of fascination to the canoe-building community. George Vandemolen's recently completed Bob's Special incorporates a variety of woods to striking visual effect - with handmade wooden paddles thrown in to boot. George writes:

The canoe has not yet been in the water as some of the lakes here are still iced over but it shouldn’t be long now.

I used all western red cedar from Vancouver Island. The gunwales were supposed to be ash but when I received them they were already rounded over and only 3/4  x 3/4 so I used maple purchased locally instead. Inner stems are white cedar while the outers are ash. Cherry yoke and decks. I incorporated a strip of walnut into the decks. I made the seats from walnut using mortice and tenon joinery and wove the cane (not a fun job). I added grab/tie down handles made from solid walnut at either end. All the bolting is recessed and plugged with walnut plugs. The paddles are laminated cherry, maple and walnut with 2.5oz fiber glassed blades with epoxied shafts and grips as well as 4 coats varnish. I enjoyed making them so much that I made 1 additional voyageur paddle using walnut, maple and purple heart (see attached pics).

This canoe build fulfilled a 35 plus year dream of mine and it may not be the last one I build. 



A view down the length of a wooden canoe, with two paddles laid across it in opposite directions
A wooden Bob's Special canoe, seen in profile outside a building from a low angle
A wooden canoe with an alternating light-dark strip pattern sits outside in a cradle with two handmade paddles leaned against it
Detail shot of the handle of a handmade wooden paddle
A handmade paddle clamped to a workbench in preparation for fibreglassing
A handmade wooden paddle with large alternating strips of light and dark wood on a workbench

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