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Why You Should Build a Stapleless Canoe

Posted on December 11 2012

Why You Should Build A Stapleless Canoe 

It is possible to build an entire canoe without using any staples at all. It takes a bit more time if you want the most traditional looking boat possible. What's more, the techniques we have developed for building in this way have proven useful even if staples are being used to plank the hull. The clamping tricks and jigs come in handy for situations (such as the compound curve at the turn of the bilge) where a single staple isn't enough and two staples are too many.

We began developing this system in the early 1980s, at about the time we built a boat for The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada, as his personal wedding gift to His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Since that time we have built all our Bear Mountain recreational canoes without stapling the planks to the molds.

Experienced builders, in particular, find this an interesting method. We find that most people, after building one canoe, are challenged by the prospect of avoiding the holes altogether in their second hull. Building this way is a matter of both aesthetics and structure. An unperforated hull is, of course, that much closer to visual perfection. After all, which question would you rather answer: "What are all those little holes for?" or "How on earth did you hold all those pieces together at once?"

In theory, the stapleless system should also produce a stronger hull. Jigs and clamps can secure the planks much more tightly to one another than staples can. This should reduce the chance of improperly fitted bead-and-cove joints and eliminated the possibility of voids between the planks. Controlling the planking in both directions makes for a tighter fitting, more complete and solid core. This is not to say, of course, that building with staples will produce an inferior boat. The staple holes do not comprise the integrity of the hull, and as a system for a first-time builder, it is reliable and admirable in its simplicity and effectiveness. But for someone looking for a challenge, stapleless hulls are worth.

Admittedly, building without staples does take a little longer. The jigs we use can handle three new planks at a time. This shouldn't matter, however, to those building in their spare time, since installing three planks on each side of the hull is a good evening's work. At this rate, most hulls can be completed in about 10 sessions.

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.