DIY: A Canoe Seat

Canoe Grouping image by Brandon Hildebrand from

Building your own canoe seat produces a custom-made seat designed to fit your body and your needs. When doing it yourself, you select the type of hardwood frame, the finish and the seat material. You can dimension the seat to your specifications, which means you don't need to rely on the universal fit of a commercial canoe seat. A canoe seat is a moderately difficult project that requires only a few tools.

Cut two 10-inch pieces of hardwood to act as the seat's sides. If you want a wider seat from front to back, cut these pieces bigger. Both ash and cherry are good choices for hardwood frames.

Cut two 36-inch pieces of hardwood to act as the seat's front and back pieces. The 36-inch length is generous and should fit most canoes. If you know the distance between your gunwales, then you can cut these pieces to that length, which saves wood.

Mark two lines on each side of the centre of the front and back pieces. The distance from the line determines the seat's width from side to side. When you add the 1-1/2-inch width of each side piece, a seven-inch distance from centre on each side gives you a 17-inch wide seat.

Align the front and back piece on your workbench parallel to each other. Align the inside edge of one of the side pieces with the left-side marks on the front and back piece. Repeat for the right side. When looking down onto your alignment, it should look like a canoe seat.

Use a 3/8-inch drill bit to drill two holes into each end of the seat's side pieces. With the same drill bit, drill corresponding holes into the seat's front and back pieces. Drill the holes 3/4 inch deep.

Cut eight pieces of 3/8-inch wood dowel 1-1/2 inches long.

Fill all the drilled holes with a waterproof glue.

Insert the wooden dowels into the ends of the side pieces and then join the side pieces to the front and back pieces by pushing the dowels into the holes. When finished, your frame is done. Use bar clamps to hold the seat together until the glue dries.

Sand the frame with 80-grit sandpaper. Round any sharp edges. Sand the surface further using 120-grit and then 220-grit sandpaper until it feels smooth.

Varnish or oil the frame. If you varnish, use at least three coats and sand with 220-grit sandpaper between each coat. Because each type of oil is different, you should follow the oil's directions.

Choose a covering for your seat. Both cane surfaces and wove webbing surfaces are popular, but you could use wood slats or plywood.

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