How to Make a Birch Bark Canoe

Posted by Author David Lee
How to Make a Birch Bark Canoe

it’s not a very exciting building outside, kind of a disused warehouse in the middle of an industrial estate but inside that building is one of the greatest treasures of bushcraft. This is a real Aladdin’s cave. it’s the collection Center for the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough. These are the canoes not yet on show and there are over 500 of them from all over the world ranging from dugout canoes to pleasure craft from the 1930s.

birch bark canoes

These are birch bark canoes, the hull is made from the skin of the tree itself spread with a frame of cedar and the whole thing lashed together with roots, they are icons of bushcraft and they reflect their manufacturers into it and detailed knowledge of the natural world. For me, these are the finest craft people have ever created and I’m going to learn how to make one.

canoe I’d be building follows a traditional design of the Algonquin people, made from birch and cedar. I’d be building it with one of the few people left who knows how to make them, who comes from a family of canoe builders. He lives and works on a reservation to the north of Ottawa.

By the way, Canada is 25 percent water and its network of lakes and rivers mean that for thousands of years that canoe was the most important way to get around.

Most birch bark canoes built today are showpieces designed for museums, but our boat was to be different, it was going to be a working canoe made using only traditional methods.

When you’re building the canoe do you work to any dimensions? answer is no, the canoes are not exact things. I had never seen that my uncle or anybody used a tape to measure each thing, he just worked with the wood and fit. I think that’s the lovely thing about all these sorts of projects is that you have to actually listen to what the wood is telling you and just go with the flow, very different to modern carpentry…

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