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How to Build a Wooden Canoe Cradle

Posted on January 22 2013

Example of a Bear Mountain Boats canoe cradle

For home wooden canoe builders producing only one boat, a fixed height "horse" fitted with a carpet sling for the wooden canoe or kayak is a good solution. Horses are easily and quickly built and can be used for display or storage.

The wooden horses Bear Mountain Boats built nearly 20 years ago are still in use. The basic wooden horse can be built to your specific height and space requirements.The canoe sits upright in the sling for fairing, sheathing and sanding the interior. To work on the canoe in the inverted position, attach a 1-by-4 inch board across the top of the wooden canoe horse. An excellent alternative is a fitted cradle mold, which is attached to the strong back. It keeps the hull from sliding around during sanding and supports the hull in the desired position for glassing.

How to build a wooden canoe cradle

  1. Remove the hull and set is aside, then remove all the individual stations
  2. Use the center station and a station from about 1/4 of the way in from each end as the patterns for form fitting cradles
  3. Trace the outline of these moods onto 3 pieces of plywood or particleboard on which you've drawn a centerline reference mark
  4. Add another 3/8" to the station line to account for the plank thickness and padding
  5. Cut out the forms, pad them, then attach them to the strongback in the same position as their corresponding station moods
  6. Set your hull into its cradle
Building materials for one wooden canoe horse
  • 12 to 14 linear feet 1-by4- inch clear softwood (or 3/4-inch plywood, milled to size)
  • Eighteen 1 1/4-inch #8 flathead screws
  • 4-by-36-inch strip carpet or folded canvas
  • Stabilizing blocks

This tip is from Ted Moores’ bestselling book, Canoecraft. Published by Firefly Books 2000, Canoecraft, first published in 1983, is known as the standard textbook on woodstrip epoxy construction. With over 200,000 copies sold, thousands of builders from around the world have discovered that their first canoe can exceed their greatest expectations by using Canoecraft to guide them. Completely revised and expanded in 2000, the book includes five new designs, a chapter on carving a paddle, building without staples and a series of insider tips.

You can buy Canoecraft here on our Bear Mountain Boats website. Learn more tips to building your own woodstrip canoe by joining the Bear Mountain Boats Builder’s Forum.