The Sawdust Factory Presents


Or, Finally, A Canoe After Several Sea Kayaks

Yes, a canoe. Don't ask me why, it's not like I ever know what's going on around here. Let's just say that, here at the Sawdust Factory, we are always looking for exciting new schemes to make your web surfing/slacking off time even more unproductive than ever. It's just one more way of making sure you get your money's worth when you come to visit us.

Later Update: the above was written at the outset of this project back in 2007, before I had ever really spent any meaningful time in canoes. It was a strange feeling to be building a boat on speculation, as it were; a boat I wasn't even sure I wanted or would like. But I quickly came to love the canoe for a variety of reasons. It has become my winter mode for paddling since they keep me dry . . . said the most pathetic cold weather weenie who ever lived . . . and are just the thing for fishing. I now own several canoes, but the Merlin remains my only homemade one.


First thing I'm gonna mention is the plans...

When you order a set of plans from Northwest Canoe for the Merlin, this is what you get: A 24"x24" piece of paper.*

But it is all you need. It's all right there. I think it's way cool that you can build a canoe from just this; sort of spells out the magic that is boat building.


* Later Update: Please note that the Merlin is now offered for FREE



Here's my strongback. It's the nicest one I've ever built, by golly, and I'm awfully proud of it. Why, I almost hate to cover it up with a bunch of cedar strips.

Each form sports 3/4" mounting holes, whereas each cleat offers tight little 9/32" holes for the 1/4-20 machine screws to pass through. Fender washers complete the picture, and the overall scheme yields killer adjustability. Rock-solid, too.

Those with sharp eyes will notice that I found it necessary to take a Shinto rasp to the end of the box beam to clear the strips as they taper in on the stem. How embarrassing. But not half as bad as finding out later in the project. I curse myself for being a dumbass and pat myself on the back for having foresight at the same time. It's the Sawdust Factory version of multi-tasking.

Got a bunch more on, boy we're moving right along.

I like green tape, as you see. It's just like blue tape, except it stretches. I have never been able to figure out why blue tape is so popular, and nobody even knows green tape exists.

Get it at paint stores. Home Depot carried it for a while, but everyone passed it up and got blue instead, so they discontinued it. This kind of stuff makes me nuts.


Got a couple things going on here.

The football and the side strips are meeting at the chines, and the lack of continuity spells big trouble. The problem is sort of like a strip that breaks where it needs to make a graceful bend, leaving an unsightly hump.

Whoa. I got to use the word 'unsightly,' at last! You have no idea how long I've been waiting for that to happen.

Anyway, the strap and jug arrangement, plus the 1"x1" stick under the main point of interest, is applying "pressure from nowhere," as it were. Or maybe it's a "one-sided clamp?" Whatever, it keeps everything pressed securely to the forms, works like a champ.

I've always used Raka epoxy for this sort of work before, but this time I'm trying US Composites. Seems to be working okay so far. I was a little worried if it would behave the same...

Down by the jug in the photo are a couple of spring clamps. They're mashing a scarf joint together in the latest strip. The joint itself is sandwiched between a couple short pieces of scrap strip with green tape on them as a release agent.

Dang, I hope some of this made sense.


Behold the world famous Little Square Thingies that I love, really come in handy.

Cut a mess o' 4" square pieces of doorskin plywood, stack 'em up and drill a 1/2" hole, cut slots. Super easy to make a dozen. Then cut a bunch of wedges, I'll show you the patented Wedge-O-Matic later.

Note the thin kerf rip saw blade: 7 1/4" diameter 24-tooth Freud Diablo, about $12. "Sub-size" blades run way smoother, and are legal in all fifty states and most European countries. Try it, you'll like it.

Oh, and treat yourself to a zero-clearance insert, too. I make mine out of scrap 1/2" baltic birch plywood, and use allen type set screws from the hardware store as levelers.


Here's a freshly installed strip getting a wedgie.

I was going to say "Here's a freshly installed strip getting a patented Sawdust Factory Wedgie," except it isn't an original idea. But I can't remember where I stole it, so there goes the credit. Sigh. I just can't wait for Alzheimer's to really kick in, it's gonna be great.

Anyway, I love using these things, they work so well. Position the holder-downer thingy in place like you want it, pop a spring clamp on to hold 'er there, then apply the c-clamp to make it stay till the cows come home.

They're also great for temporarily holding strips in place as you work 'em, with just a spring clamp. Did I mention that I use 'em all time?



Here's another shop- made tool I get tons of mileage out of...

Here I must fit a strip that's coming in at an angle. But it can get iffy trying to work accurately at the very tip since it wants to flex away from the plane or sanding block. And holding the strip in your fingers while working the taper isn't a lot of fun either. So...

...Behold the patented Sawdust Factory Strip Tapering Tool. Take a piece of scrap off the floor, cut a chunk about six inches long, and two more at about one and a half. A dab of glue to each shorty, and a couple small nails if you want it now, and it's ready for rock 'n' roll..
Makes working those tapers a breeze.


This little jewel is one of those I wonder how I ever got along without it? things.

The Shinto rasp.

Got mine from CLC. In fact, I get lots of my stuff from CLC. I love that outfit, and recommend 'em to noobs and veterans alike.


The Project Continues...

Page Two Working up the hull.

Page Three Finishing out the boat.

Page 4 Using the Merlin.



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