lake temagami at sunsetWooden canoe  


Construction Methods

We take building your canoe very seriously. We urge you to read this section thoroughly. It explains in detail how we build our canoes and perhaps even more importantly the quality of materials and workmanship put forth into each and every canoe we build.

Materials and Workmanship

We adhere to traditional methods and materials to build wood and canvas canoes. These are time proven techniques that have been used for well over a century in producing the long lasting and resilient wood and canvas canoe.

We take our craftsmanship very seriously employing only the best skills, methods, and techniques. Whether it's how a butt joint in the planking scheme is cut, the mortise and tenon joinery used for seat frames, or hand fairing the exterior of the hull, we never opt for short cuts. We take our time to do each and every task properly so your canoe will last longer, perform better, and look better.

Using top quality traditional materials is paramount to us. Hardware and fasteners like stem bands, screws, tacks, and carriage bolts are custom made for us to our specifications. We mix our canvas filler, personally select all the lumber ourselves at the mill, and only use marine paints, varnishes, and other products specifically designed for traditional wooden boat use. These are just some of the steps taken to ensure we have control over the quality of materials that go into our canoes.


building the hull shaping a thwart

Canoe building on a solid form


Hand shaping a thwart


Selection of Wood

Before building any canoe the wood to be used is meticulously chosen for structural strength, grain patterns, and color tone. This allows us to build a strong canoe with a well balanced look and feel.

Eastern spruce is used for the inner gunwales for its high strength to weight ratio, its ability to hold a fair curve, and for its long standing choice as a traditional canoe building material. Stems are solid hardwood steam bent on a form for the proper curve.  

We only use quarter sawn (vertical grain) stock for both ribs and planking. Quarter sawn stock has lower rates of expansion and contraction and is less prone to cupping. It is far superior to flat sawn stock in strength. Northern White Cedar and Western Red Cedar are the preferred choices.

Seats, decks, thwarts, outer gunwales, and other trim members are made from Mahogany or Cherry. Other woods such as Ash, Maple, Walnut, or Elm may be used upon request.


birds eye maple quarter sawn cedar

Birds eye maple trim


Vertical grain white cedar ribs and planking


Building the Hull
canoe form
Ribs steam bent around form
fairing the hull
Fairing the ribs
fitting planking
Fitting the planking
butt joint
Mitered butt joint with extra tack

Ribs are first milled and shaped to their appropriate sizes and sanded smooth. As they are bent over the form, they are fastened to the spruce gunwales and hardwood stems with bronze ring nails.

The ribs are left to dry overnight before they are faired. The act of fairing creates a smooth and even surface for the planking to lie on.

Before we lay down the first plank, all the planking is separated into color tones and a planking scheme is determined. This gives the cedar interior an even appearance and will create a nice rich glow when varnished.

The planking is shaped and fitted by eye and hand and fastened to the ribs using  brass clinching tacks special to canoe building. 

In an ideal world we would use full length planking stock for each course, but this is unrealistic today. Though we use longest stock we can obtain, butt joints are just a fact of life. Butt joints are perfectly acceptable as long as a few guidelines are followed. We always locate butt joints behind a rib and they are spaced a minimum of 8 ribs apart on adjoining rows. Butt joints are also mitered and receive an extra tack.

When planking is nearly completed, the hull is lifted off the form and the remaining strakes are attached. Decks, cant ribs, and thwarts are installed to hold the shape. The planked hull is then clinched by hand, then fared smooth with wood planes and rasps. 

A special treatment of warm oil preservative is applied to the exterior of the hull for added protection and resiliency.

Canvas & Painting

Seamless mid-west duck canvas, treated with a mildew resistant agent, is stretched around the hull and filled with a special Salmon Falls Canoe propriety canvas filler.  The filler does not adhere the canvas to the hull, but instead fills the weave of the canvas making it waterproof and resistant to abrasion. We mix our filler at the shop to insure we have control over the quality of products that goes into it.

When the filler has been allowed to cure, it is sanded smooth and painted by hand.  Each coat of paint is subsequently sanded until a uniformly mirror-like surface is achieved.  Your canoe may be painted any color or combinations of colors.

finishing room filled with canoes
finished canoe
Canvassing the hull
Canoes filled and drying
Marking tape for pin striping


Trim & Varnish

Thwarts, decks, outer gunwales, and the hand caned seats are made from selected hardwoods.  Each piece of wood used for the trim is specially chosen for its grain patterns to provide strength and accentuate appearance.  Seat frames are made in the shop with mortise and tenon joinery and hand caned with a double weave pattern for added durability.  Thwarts and decks are shaped by hand with beautiful curves and undercuts.

The cedar hull interior and hardwood trim is finished bright with a durable marine varnish.  The varnish is applied by hand and sanded between each coat. 

Seats and thwarts are fastened to the inner gunwales with silicon bronze 3/16 carriage bolts providing a handsome and finished look. The outer gunwales are attached using a traditional silicon bronze slotted flat head wood screw. 

Both the bow and stern ends are trimmed with 3/8 wide polished brass bang plates that protect against wear.  The final touch is our brass engraved deck plate.



mortise and tennon
long decked canoe
hand caned seat
Mortise and tenon seat frame
Trimming a long decked canoe
Hand caned seats






Salmon Falls Canoe - Shelburne, Massachusetts 413-625-8555

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