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Welcome to Boat Building with the MCA!


The MCA has a 40 year tradition of building canoes and kayaks with wood strips and fiberglass.

Hundreds to thousands of canoes and kayaks have been built via this inexpensive method. The method was pioneered by MCA long distance canoe racers in the 50's and early 60's. Karl Neal Ketter (son of Karl L. Ketter) first set down the method as a High School writing assignment. He later expanded that paper into the MCA's first book on how to build a strip canoe (about 1966). The book has been modified and improved several times by our skilled builders of boats for recreation and competition.

We publish this comprehensive book on woodstrip canoe building to both members and non-members of the MCA. Members receive a discount. Detailed plans for several different canoes and kayaks can be purchased by contacting our Building Coordinater (email address here).


Canoe Building 101


The boat is constructed "upside down". Plywood cross-section forms are set up on a long beam (the strongback). Then wood strips are tacked onto the forms and glued edge to edge. The strips are held to each other by staples while the glue dries. When all stripping is done, the staples are removed as well as the tacks holding the strips to the forms (sufficient glue remains to hold the strips to the forms). The hull is then sanded smooth.

Next a layer of fiberglass (sometimes Kevlar) cloth is laid over the bottom of the hull and impregnated with resin (usually polyester, sometimes epoxy). Additional layers of resin are applied. Then the hardened resin is sanded smooth. Next the hull is removed from the forms and turned right side up. The inside is sanded and again a layer of fiberglass and resin is applied. The boat then has a "sandwich structure" which is very strong given the light weight.

Finally the top edges of the boat are trimmed to shape and it is fitted out with gunwales, decks, thwarts, seats and perhaps a portage yoke. Experienced craftsmen have made boats so beautiful they might be hung up as décor rather than used on a waterway. Most builders are quite happy to use their very own boat in long service on rivers, lakes or in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota.