Questions about building a traditional Adirondack Guide Boat

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by Rick Goodwell, Dec 1, 2021.

  1. Rick Goodwell
    Joined: Dec 2021
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    Location: Altadena, CA (LA County)

    Rick Goodwell New Member

    I love canoes and I love row boats, so I have decided to build an Adirondack Guide Boat. My starting reference is Dr. Gordon L. Fisher's book, Historic Adirondack Guideboat and How to Build One. I have no idea how it will do on the ocean, but I would like to use it for fishing in both ocean and fresh waters. But that's not my first question.

    The recommendation for planking is Eastern White Pine. Could I substitute it with poplar? Eastern White Pine is not easy to get here in southern California. There is some information about using poplar on a glassed boat, but I don't want a fiberglass boat.
  2. DCockey
    Joined: Oct 2009
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    DCockey Senior Member

    I have not heard of anyone planking a boat with poplar. 4 or 6 mm marine plywood would be a good substitute. Usually when plywood is used in place of lumber for planking the thickness can be reduced. You may want to also ask on the WoodenBoat Forum.
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  3. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell WOT

    Hi Rick,

    Welcome to the Forum.

    As DCockey says and ask around your neighbourhood.
    All wood questions are local questions because local is what is available to you.
    So ask around at boat building clubs or societies, lumberyards, local surveyors, chandleries, etc.
  4. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    Western Red Cedar, Alaska Yellow Cedar, Douglas Fir can all be substituted. Adjust the scantlings as needed.
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  5. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: East Anglia,England

    wet feet Senior Member

    It wouldn't be my choice for fishing on the ocean due to the narrow beam,which may be a good thing when a guide is portaging between lakes and appreciates not having an ounce of surplus weight.In any kind of waves the resulting modest stability would not be a good thing if you were focusing on landing a fish.The boat was refined for use on lakes and both the shape and the traditional materials worked as intended for that rather specialised purpose.If you don't need to carry the boat it might not hurt to use a slightly heavier planking material,but again traditional nailed construction might be more prone to planks splitting in a climate that is markedly different to the Adirondack lakes.A careful choice of wood might be necessary.The traditional and unique planking technique demands workmanship of a very high order and is part of the reason why these boats are so highly regarded.Good luck with the boat.
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  6. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    fallguy Senior Member

    Most people building these today sheath them in invisible layer or two of 6 oz flass and epoxy. I don't know if you are talking about strip building or lapstrake, guessing the latter, but if so and no epoxy encapsulating even, then I'd only use a highly rot resistant wood. Okume is quite lovely, but you'd need to make seams. And I don't trust open ply edges unless they are epoxy sealed and never sun means not leaving her upside down by my standards or glassing each plank.

    I don't want to argue with Rumars, who I have great respect for, but the only way I'd use red cedar is sheathed in glass. It is really hard to find it in good quality clears these days and the sapwood can be so soft, so you'll have some loose knots to deal with almost sure. And I'd add southern yellow pine to his list.
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  7. hoytedow
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    Flass. I like that abbreviation for fiberglass.
    I would add: Southern yellow pine is heavy at 45 lbs. per cubic foot. I would choose Douglas fir, having used it in the past both as planks and in plywood form, with good results.
    Douglas-Fir | The Wood Database - Lumber Identification (Softwood)
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  8. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Fallguy, traditional guideboats are buildt with 3/16" thick planking, the edges are feathered and overlapped essentially creating a rolling bevel scarf joint, wich is then nailed with clenched copper tacks. The outside appearance is smooth like carvel. All planking was quartersawn stock, framing from grown stock.
    An all pine 16ft boat weighs ~55lbs. EWP is 25lb/cuft, so there are just over 2cuft of timber in the boat.

    WRC weighs 23lbs/cuft and is slightly weaker then the pine, so one needs to increase the scantlings slightly (let's say to 1/4", a traditional canoe planking thickness) wich one can do without increasing weight. Yes one needs high quality stock for planking, all clear quartersawn heart, not fence boards.

    Another planking wood is spanish cedar (cedrela odorata), 29lbs/cuft, I understand there are even historical examples using it, and certainly modern ones. Weight increase would be 8lbs, plain sawn has been used to plank.

    AYC is 31lb/cuft an increase of maybe 12lbs keeping the original scantlings. The big advantage of this wood beside it beeing available in the needed quality is keeping the blond wood appearance of pine. The durability and greater strenght are free bonuses.

    DF is 32lbs/cuft.

    Frames, stem and sternpost will need to be laminated, or you go hunting in the woods for suitable crooks. While I would not use WRC for framing, I would use AYC or spanish cedar.
    fallguy likes this.
  9. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    So, if weight is an issue, ditch the rot resistant SYP. But can you get wrc clears auf Deutschland? We have a hard time finding them here. Maybe from a better yard, but I spent 8 hours finding clear enough lumber for 6' strips for my canoe 20 years ago, and I know it has gotten worse.

    And thanks for fixing my brain on what traditional means. I have seen a bunch of these that look strip built.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2021
  10. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    The OP's location is given as Altadena, California, so I suppose he will find a local yard carrying WRC in "standard & better" (#2). If not there is always Edensaw and they carry every exchange wood I mentioned and ship.

    As for finding it in Europe it's no problem as long as you are willing to pay, #2 is commonly imported (~9-10 USD/bdft), sometimes #4 (that's because of architects who want a "rustic" look, cheaper). While most wood is imported, there are also some very small plantations over here and it's possible (but very difficult) to obtain european WRC.
    fallguy likes this.

  11. Jhomer
    Joined: Jan 2010
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    Location: Adirondacks, NY

    Jhomer Boat Builder

    Hello Rick,
    I have built and raced guideboats for a while now in all settings both ocean and flat water. Your choice of design is a great boat (Chase) by Gordon Fisher. Gordon is a friend of mine and he actually gifted one of his boats to me the Francis C. He has available patterns on his web site for the ribs and stems if your interested? He also has a blog with a lot of great information as you may know.

    Blog- Dr. Gordon Fisher, Author at Adirondack-Guideboat

    Patterns- Books + Plans - Adirondack-Guideboat

    My first boat was strip built in WRC with tamarack stems and spruce laminated ribs. I built it in 2009 and raced it in the Adirondack 90 Miler. It was glassed on the outside only (6 OZ). The boat over the years has been in salt water and fresh water, mostly fresh water. I wouldn't recommend poplar for sure. If your going to try using marine ply and using it in the ocean I would beef it up quite a bit and stay close to shore. Guideboats are mostly flat water boats so be careful. I have built guideboats with no ribs and glassed them on the inside and out which works well.

    If you have any questions let me know I would be glad to help. I also produce guideboat hardware if you need some in the future.

    Adirondack Rowboats Paddle & Oar

    Enjoy the build...
    hoytedow likes this.
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