Cedar-Canvas Canoes

A few decades before the start of the twentieth century, woodsmen in the heart of the Maine forest region began developing and building a new type of canoe with a hull made of cedar and a waterproof sheathing of canvas. The cedar-canvas canoe is the direct descendant of the native birch bark canoe, with several improvements that made it easier to build and more durable.

A wood-canvas canoe consists of a frame of light, flexible cedar ribs running across the shape of the canoe to which thin cedar planking is attached, running along the length of the canoe. A covering of canvas cloth is stretched around the wooden hull and fastened along the sheer line. The canvas is filled with a thick, paint-like compound, which makes the boat waterproof and abrasion resistant. The result is a strong, flexible, very functional design that is also exceedingly beautiful to look at and a pleasure to use.

The interior of the canoe is covered in several coats of clear varnish, which accentuate the natural wood grain and protect the weather-resistant cedar. The outside of the canoe is coated with a tough, wear-resistant paint available in many different colors and designs. Because every canoe is made individually by hand, a high level of personal customization is possible. From extra seats or special trim pieces to custom paint jobs, a customer purchasing a hand-built wooden boat has a wider array of options than the buyer of a commercially produced synthetic canoe.

Even though this style of design is over a century old, the cedar-canvas canoe still performs as well as it did years ago, and its rich tradition of grace and beauty will continue to grow in the future.

Besides the obvious aesthetic advantages of a wood-canvas canoe are the often overlooked functional advantages. A cedar canoe is much quieter and smoother in the water than a synthetic canoe and the strong canvas covering and flexible wooden hull are more damage resistant than most people believe, bouncing back into shape after sustaining a hit from a rock or other obstruction, rather than becoming dented or bent out of shape. A wooden canoe is perfectly suited to its environment, and is the perfect companion for exploring a remote waterway or for a quiet evening of fishing on a favorite pond.

Available Models


     For the past few years, the shop has been largely focused on restoring antique wooden canoes and other small craft.  New models are in the works, so check back here for updates.

      Thanks to the lack of complicated and expensive production plugs and molds, wooden boats can be built fairly easily in a one-off fashion.  If you have a classic canoe you would like replicated in a new craft, or a less classic design you would like to see created in wood canvas style construction, contact the shop for options regarding measuring and reproducing your ideal canoe.


Custom Options

Every canoe is handbuilt individually for the owner. Because of this, there are endless options for personal customization. The Housatonic Canoe Shop wants to help every paddler create their ideal canoe, and no design variation will be turned down without consideration. Some options include; custom paint designs, placement of seats, extra seats, special trim woodworking, half-ribs for extra support, addition of a keel, oarlocks, sailing rigs, and much more. The customer should not hesitate to ask about special customization if he desires his canoe to be truly unique and well suited to their needs.

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