Prospector Canoe


The Prospector canoe is a time-proven canoe design intended for general purpose river tripping -- maneuverable with a high carrying capacity.  Originally designed and built by the Chestnut Canoe Company, today several canoe manufacturers sell a version of this design.  

This canoe is 16 feet long, 35" wide with a waterline width of 33".  The bottom has a symmetrical shallow arch shape with moderate rocker.    

I am building my Prospector during the winter of 2005-2006.   Click any photo below to see a larger image.

The 24"  waterline was the foundation of all forms.

I lofted the forms from dimensions in Ted Moores' book "Canoe Craft" 2nd ed.  The form outline was transferred to 1/2" plywood using carbon paper.

The forms were cut with a jig saw, with the final shaping done with a belt sander.  Forms were aligned on the strongback with drywall screws. 

Drywall screws are great for attaching forms.

The forms were aligned on the strongback using a chalk line on the strongback and a string on top.  

A sacrificial strip along the keel line and 18" water line confirmed the spacing of the forms and fairness of the curves. 

The inner stems were constructed from laminations of 1/8" thick western red cedar up to a thickness of 1/2".   I did not pre-form outer stems.

Plastic kitchen wrap keeps the feature stripe from sticking to the strongback.

Feature Stripe
I wanted a design feature on the sides of the canoe that hinted of a native American design.  After browsing the internet for American art, I chose a simple design of diamonds that was relatively easy to construct in wood.


The edges were sanded smooth before cutting slices off.

The feature stripe was sliced off this 1.5" wide board.  I constructed the feature stripe on the strongback before attaching the forms, as I don't have a good long work surface in my garage (other than the floor). 

The dark colored wood is from a very dark board of western red cedar.  The light-colored wood is basswood.   


I'm a big fan of using 1.5" masking tape to hold strips together until the glue holds.

The feature stripe is on the boat!  Masking tape holds the strips tightly together.

The pre-glued halves of the feature stripe were 1" wide, which turned out to be TOO WIDE to bend easily towards the ends of the boat.  I wanted the feature stripe to mirror the shape/rocker of the hull.   Additionally, the part of the design that needed to bend with a larger radius was noticeably off symmetry with the other half of the feature stripe, so I had to do a little fixing there.  Lesson learned!

A sharp plane, a pencil and a sanding block make quick work of this.

Stripping the Hull
Closing up the bottom of the hull.

The canoe is constructed from 1/4" thick western red cedar strips left over from several kayak projects.  My cedar color choices were limited, so when changing boards, I inserted a dark strip for definition.

Shock cord does a better job of holding the stem down, but I didn't have any handy.

The outer stems were constructed by laminating Mahogany strips.  

My nose suffered from the sanding - even with the mask.

Fairing and sanding the hull exterior took a few evenings and half a Saturday.  A few of the strips I used were slightly narrower than the others, and I paid for that sloppiness here.

A sealing coat of epoxy was applied after fairing and sanding with 100 grit paper.  

Gaps were then filled with a putty mixed from epoxy thickened with a mix of sanding dust, silica dust (to improve spreadable texture) and white baking flour (to lighten the putty so it would be closer to the wood color).

I learned the masking tape trick from Vaclav's One Ocean Kayak website.

The exterior of the canoe was covered completely with one layer of 6 ounce e-fiberglass, with the second layer covering the bottom approximately up to the intended waterline.  A third layer was added as a keel strip at high wear area at each end.

Timing is everything.

To keep things neat and ease the task of feathering in the second layer of fiberglass, the part of the canoe that did not receive a second fiberglass layer was covered with plastic kitchen wrap and masked off.  When the epoxy on the second layer of fiberglass was in the soft leathery stage, it was trimmed off neatly at the masking tape  line.   

Wow!  I had to stand back and look for a while.

Filling the weave
Two fill coats and then the high spots were sanded off.  Another fill coat and the only places that need any more are the edges of the keel patch and the line where the second fiberglass layers feathers into the first.  I'll let it rest and do that tomorrow.

I tend to over-engineer things needing strength, but want a light weight canoe.

Seats and Thwart
While the epoxy cures, I cut and laminated the seat frames and center thwart.  The laminations consist of a 0.3" slice of mahogany sandwiched between two 0.25" pieces of ash.

Still waiting for the epoxy to cure.  Time to create a web page!

Forward to Prospector Page 2 


John Caldeira

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Created December 27, 2005