Sunday, November 16, 2008

Alternative Bark Canoes

One of the most interesting canoe projects I've seen is the construction of a replica birchbark canoe without the all-important birchbark. Two builders in Germany have overcome the shortage of appropriate bark in their area and have instead resorted to using 3mm (1/8" thick) birch plywood which apparently can be shaped like bark around a canoe building frame. Hans-Georg Wagner has a page that documents his construction process, including authenthic spruce root lashings, cedar gunwales, ribs, and pitch for sealant. The plywood on his replica 2-1/2 fathom Tetes de Boules (Attikamek) boat is eventually stained to look like a bark canoe. Fascinating stuff although the final weight of the canoe is a whopping 72 pounds, pretty hefty for a 15 footer. Here are some shots from his site:


Soaking the plywood sheets


Folding up the plywood panels


Lashed up plywood hull


Wagner's Canoe


Another site I found was Wolfram Kaukars' Pantarhei Canoe which similarly uses plywood for the hull. Kaukars' son has uploaded a YouTube video of photo stills that documents his dad's work. This 14 foot Abnaki Hunter's replica is around 64 pounds.


Gunwales clamped and pegged


Kaukar's Plywood Canoe Replica


The plywood adds quite a lot of weight to the craft, in addition to needing a sealant varnish coat for protection, but it's great to see traditional bark canoe techniques being adapted to modern materials.



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