How To Make Native American Canoes

Want to learn how to make Native American canoes? Native American canoes, sometimes called dugout canoes or logboats, are typically made from a single tree that has been shaped and hallowed out. Making a Native American canoe takes time and dedication, but it is a great project for someone who would like to try making their own natural canoe.

  1. Find a suitable tree. You may be able to use a freshly fallen tree or may need to chop one down. Records suggest that pine, oak, chestnut and cedar were all common trees used to make Native American canoes. The canoes were built in all different sizes to accommodate anywhere from one to forty people.  One account describes a finished canoe as being twenty feet long and two feet wide.
  2. Scrape off the bark. Once the log is the right length, the next step is to remove all the bark from the outside of the tree and scrape it smooth. This was sometimes done with clam shells, but you can use modern tools for many of the steps.
  3. Mark the shape of the canoe. Take a look at the log and start to conceptualize how this will become a Native American canoe. Draw some guide marks on the log where you intend to cut away the wood. 
  4. Hallow the tree. The tree will need to be light in order to float. Native Americans typically burned out the inside of the log using a well-controlled fire. The burnt wood was then scraped out with a knife or stone adze.
  5. Smooth out the canoe. This can also be done with the knife, adze or a more modern metal tool in order to speed up the process. You will want to smooth the interior of the Native American canoe, as well as shape the ends of the log to improve its aerodynamics. The log should now resemble a Native American canoe and be light and smooth enough to float.
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