Johncanoe - the design

Rendered image of Cheap Canoe from plans

The Cheap Canoe was designed by Jacques Mertens. The design is the kind of simple elegance that speaks of inspired engineering. It is light, strong, shallow draft, stable and capacious. It looks good with its clean lines and elegant sheer. It is easy to build, even single-handedly, and is tolerant of beginners' mistakes. It is also quick to build (not always the same as easy), consisting of only 14 pieces of wood and 4 taped seams. The design is resilient enough to handle modifications, even some that are pretty ill-considered.

The boat is a monocoque, stitch and glue design. This means there is no internal framing (resulting in a lighter hull) and no fasteners (resulting in stronger joints). Most of the structural strength comes from the opposing curves of the sides and bottom. The stress of maintaining those curves opposes the forces that try to change the boat's shape. This is possible only in plywood or other materials that can only bend in one direction at at time (so forget about frameless, thin-skinned aluminum canoes). Additional stiffening is provided by the rubrail, the breasthooks and the buttblocks. The buttblocks not only join the front and back halves of the boat, but also provide structural support for the paddler's seat, as well as a stiff point in the center of the boat that acts as the fulcrum for the bend in the sides and the bottom. This is a pretty consistent philosophy in Mertens' designs - each piece performs at least 2 functions.

This is an epoxy encapsulated wooden boat held together with fiberglass tape and epoxy glue. There is no composite construction. Even the optional fiberglass sheath for the bottom only adds abrasion resistance, not stiffness or structural strength.

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Copyright © 2002, 2003 László I. Mórocz. All Rights Reserved. Cheap Canoe plans excerpts copyright ©, used by permission.