Building Tip - More on Miniatures by Ted Behne
Unrolling and Raising the Bark

This article outlines the process for setting up the bark and beginning the process of assembly. The assembly process constitutes about 50 percent of the work in making a canoe, so at this point you are about half way home. Previous articles outlined other basic steps: Selecting a canoe to model; making a quarter-scale "blueprint"; constructing a reusable building platform; making a gunwale frame; making and installing thwarts; making ribs, splitting cedar, splitting spruce roots for lashings and making sheathing to line the interior of the hull. To review previous articles, go to Scroll down to see the tips on "Building Miniature Canoes."

Begin by laying out the gunwale frame onto the " thick or more building platform. Center the frame using centerlines on both the thwarts and the platform. Place heavy weights (I find that bricks work nicely) on the thwarts to hold the frame in place. Use a felt-tip marker pen to draw the outline of the frame onto the platform. Next, mark positions for stake holes every two to three inches along the outer edges of the frame outline, being careful to avoid positioning stakes and thwarts together. At each end of the gunwale frame, mark positions for three pairs of stakes, each pair extending an inch or so farther from the gunwale frame tip, tightly spaced on opposite sides of the centerline.

Next, remove the bricks and the gunwale frame. Using a 7/16" drill bit, drill vertical stake holes to a depth of about ", being careful not to drill through the platform. To ensure uniform depth, attach a strip of masking tape to your drill bit, " up from the tip.

Cut enough 3/8" diameter dowels to fill all the stake holes, noting that the dowels in the center will be shorter than the ones at the ends. The height of each dowel must be at least an inch above the gunwale line of the canoe. Test fit all dowels. Re-drill any holes that bind. Remove the stakes and set them aside in like-size groups, held together with rubber bands.

Next, make wooden support planks for the bricks that will hold the gunwale frame in place during construction. Using the gunwale frame as a template, trace the outline of the frame onto a piece of " plywood. Cut out the outline, then cut it into smaller sections spanning from gunwale to gunwale.

Now it is time to roll out the bark. To make the bark friendly and pliable, apply very hot water to the roll, saturating all surfaces, inside and out. I boil water and pour it onto and into the bark roll while it is standing upright in a sink. The hot water warms the natural resins in the bark, making it temporarily pliable, minimizing the danger of splitting or cracking. Carefully unroll the warmed bark onto the building platform, white side up. Mark the centerline at both ends, then draw a line connecting the two ends. Trim the length of the bark to make it no more than three inches longer than the gunwale frame at each end. Line up the centerline of the bark with the centerline of the building platform. Next, lay the gunwale frame onto the bark, lining up the centerlines of the bark and the frame tips. Place wooden support planks onto the gunwales, making sure they are well supported by the gunwales at each side. Put bricks or other heavy weights onto the support planks to hold the gunwales and the bark firmly in place.

Next, we will cut gores in the bark, lift the sides of the bark to form a rough canoe shape, trim the gores to create a smooth, fair hull and crimp the bark at the ends to form the bows. That process will be described in next month's newsletter.

If you have questions about any of the above, just send an email to

You can view Ted's work here.

Next Page

509-327-7902 voice        509-327-7989 facsimile e-mail

Home    Canoes    Classes    Materials    Accessories    News and Stuff   Links   Consignment Canoes