Dugout Canoe

by Bob Gillis


This canoe was first carved as a model from a section of a willow. Then an actual full size canoe was created from a 30" by 8' redwood log. Choose spruce, pine, cedar, cottonwood or redwood.

Tools used: Chain saw, ax and adze to remove the material. It can be done with a bucksaw or even without steel tools by using wooden or stone wedges, fire and stone tools. You will need a great deal more time with this method.

1) Make drawings of what you want your canoe to look like. If you are looking for reference on indigenous traditional canoes, do a search online for making a dugout canoe.

2) Make a small model of your canoe to see what it will look like in 3-dimension.

3) For the full size canoe, remove the bark and draw an outline on the top and side of your chosen wood.

4) Cut away, with a saw, ax and adze, the bulk of your unwanted material. Start by creating a flat bottom. We made saw cuts perpendicular to the length of the log about every 6" and then used an ax to split out the sections.

5) We shaped the ends again using a saw.

6) We cut the top of the canoe off as well as the bottom.

7) We made cuts across the grain in the center of the canoe being very careful not to cut too deep. Then we split out this wood with an adze and ax.

8) The finish work was all done with the adze.


The dugout canoe is a natural and useful form of water transportation. It was also a fun project.

See a short video of the dugout canoe construction.



The dugout canoe was created for the Hayward Area Historical Society Museum. The canoe is part of the exhibition from the California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA). Visit the museum at 22701 Main Street in Hayward, California to view the dugout canoe and see the exhibit entitled, "Lewis and Clark Revisited: A Trail in Modern Day". Admission is free. The Hayward Area Historical Society Museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday. The hours are 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. The exhibit is from March 3, 2007 to June 2, 2007. Contact the museum at (510) 581-0223 for more informatiuon.


E-mail your comments to "Bob Gillis" at bob@shelter-systems.com
More information on dugout canoes used by the Lewis & Clark Expedition: http://www.lewis-clark.org/content/content-channel.asp?ChannelID=337

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