A pair of six-hour canoes

Canoe1

I still remember a PBS show called Cottage Country where I saw an episode over 25 years ago that demonstrated how to build what was known as the “Six Hour Canoe” from one sheet of 4×16 marine plywood (or a pair of 8-foot sheets).

Eventually, in 2003 I built one. It was at a two-day workshop at what was then the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mt. Lake (now the Adirondack Experience). That workshop was presided over by Richard Butz, a professor at SUNY Buffalo who published a book on the subject.

My buddy Lenny and I each came home with a fully assembled, 15-foot wooden canoe. Finishing them would require paint and epoxy, and when it was all said and done I had about 18 hours in the project.

But I also had a fine, solo canoe, which I’m guessing weighs around 50 pounds and to this day is a pleasure to paddle and fish out of. I keep it stored under cover and try to take it out a few times a year. When I do, it’s always an interesting conversation piece, as it looks like a miniature Adirondack guide-boat, although there is no otherwise comparison.

Canoe2Fast forward, maybe 10 years or so when a local Scout leader informed me he was moving to Florida. We’d discussed the six-hour canoe before, as I wrote about my project in my column in The Chronicle newspaper, in Glens Falls and he built them with the Scouts. He had most of the materials for a canoe. If I wanted them, I just had to come and get them before he moved. So I did.

The side panels and the floor for the boat were all cut out, and marked, and the bow and stern stems were also cut to spec. The floor panel, however, was damaged and would need repairing. Storing the parts took up little space, and I put the materials away and forgot about them, until this winter.

With a major kitchen remodeling project ahead, my wife and I were having coffee one January Sunday morning in the upstairs loft of our modest-size log cabin. The entire loft and ceiling are open with red pine collar ties extending throughout the structure. Moving and replacing lights and ceiling fans would be part of the kitchen project and the idea bounced into my head to perhaps try something with the canoe and wire some lights into it while the electrician was here.

I got to work on the project that day, first hauling out the materials and cleaning them up a bit. Then, I sat down with Butz’s book and refreshed my memory a bit. By mid-February I was working on the boat in my garage. At first, it involved a lot sanding but otherwise it came together nicely. I had to get creative with patching the hole and finding material for the braces and gunnels, but that turned out to be only a small problem that would’ve been bigger if this thing was intended to float.

By the time the kitchen project got under way in March, the boat was painted and ready. The biggest question was if we could fit it above and rest on the ceiling collar ties or if we’d have to hang it underneath them. Fortunately, with some help from the electricians, we got it to fit above and on them. They wired in some old globe lights we repurposed and now the canoe sits perfectly in the loft.

Our home has always had a sporting theme to it, made greater now by this six-hour canoe, which by comparison, has about eight hours of work in it. But it was worth it, as my wife says, “how many people have a canoe in their house?”

Categories: Dan Ladd

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