Building Tip - More on Miniatures by Ted Behne
Pegging and Lashing the Gunwales

This article continues the assembly process by permanently setting the sheerline of the canoe with hardwood pegs and lashings along the length of the gunwales.

Previous articles outlined other basic steps. These include: 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; making sheathing to line the interior of the hull; unrolling and raising the bark and setting the sheerline. To review previous articles, go to Then select "Tips," then "Building Miniature Canoes." Required tools for pegging and lashing the gunwales: about 50 standard-size clothespins; a hand drill with a 5/64" drill bit; one box of round toothpicks; one pair of needle-nose pliers; one 1/8" diameter awl to punch holes in the bark; one razor knife.

After the sheerline has been established, with the sheering posts under each thwart and the gunwales held in position by a series of clothespins, you are ready to begin locking the sheerline in place permanently. Double check to be sure the bark is pulled up tightly and evenly on both sides and that all gores form smooth joints with no gaps.

Begin by drilling holes through the outwale/bark/inwale assembly, each hole centered between each marked lashing interval. Then force tapered hardwood pegs into the holes. The holes should be made with a 5/64" drill bit. The hardwood pegs can be easily made by breaking a round toothpick into two halves, each with tapered ends. Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, force the tapered end of the toothpick into the pre-drilled hole until you feel strong resistance. Slice off both ends of the peg flush with the gunwales. Repeat the process until all the spaces between lashing intervals have been pegged. The sheerline of the canoe is now permanently set. The sheering posts can now be removed from beneath the thwarts and the two halves of the building frame can now be removed. The rough, canoe-shaped hull also can be removed from the building bed for more convenient access while lashing the gunwales.

Next comes the tedious, time-consuming but important process of lashing the gunwales. The lashings are both functional and decorative. They hold the inwale-bark-outwale assembly together and they are also pleasing to the eye as they march in regular intervals along the sheerline from stem to stem. Begin near the center thwart and work toward each end, covering each marked lashing interval with spiraled loops of spruce root. A typical canoe model will have about 80+ lashings, with each lashing taking up to five minutes to complete. Do the math and you will find that the entire process can take 7-8 hours.

There are as many different styles of lashings as there are canoe makers. One basic method follows. Begin by making three holes in the bark under the outwale, one under each edge of the marked lashing interval and one centered between the other two. Wedge a knife blade into the small gap between the outwale and the bark just large enough to force the end of a root into the space, flat side facing away from the bark. Bend the root around the outwale, flat side down, and put the sharpened opposite end of the root through the left hole in the bark. Pull lightly until the root is tightly wrapped around both the inwale and outwale, flat side down. Then, maintaining tension with one hand, put the end of the root through the same hole again, enlarging it if necessary with the awl. Wrap the root around the inwale as before, but on the second turn only, position the second wrapping to the left of the first. Continue by inserting the root tip into the second hole in the bark and positioning the root to the right of the first wrapping. Continue until each hole has been filled at least twice and the marked lashing interval has been covered completely with root lashings. End the lashing by running the tip of the root under the last right hand wrapping toward the center of the lashing. Tighten the lashing and pull back toward the middle of the canoe to lock the root in place. To fit the tip of the root under the last wrapping, you will need to delay tightening the last wrapping until the root tip is fitted underneath. After the root tip has been positioned and pulled tight, carefully trim the root end with a razor knife.

Continue the lashings until all marked intervals on the gunwales have been filled with root lashings.

Next, we will make the stem pieces and lash them in place. That process will be described in the next newsletter. If you have questions about any of the above, just send an email to

You can view Ted's work here.

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