wooden boat kit
The Classic Cajun Pirogue

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This page is continuously updated to be as helpful as possible.

materials needed tools needed different lengths finished weight
wider bottom thicker plywood   taller sides adding a transom
seats capacity stability motor
plywood  joining plywood glue, and fasteners paint and stain
fiberglassing building time sail plans
cost support    

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materials needed

  • 1/4" x 48" x 96" exterior plywood 2 sheets

  • 7/16" x 1 1/8" x the length of your boat plus 6" clear lumber

  • #8 - 1" screws - 16

  • glue, waterproof 16 oz.

  • woven fiberglass cloth 4" x four times the length of your boat

  • resin

  • paint,  primer and color

 The amount of paint, resin and fiberglass cloth will vary with the size boat you build and the amount of area you choose to cloth. To cloth the seams on a 15'7" boat you will need sixty four feet of cloth 4 to 6 inches wide. . If you  choose to cloth the bottom on the outside you will need a piece thirty two to thirty six inches wide and sixteen feet long. The amount of fiber glass resin will be determined by the area you plan to cover. I normally cloth the bottom on the outside, running four to six inches up the side boards and the inside seams. Then paint the entire boat with resin. If you only tape the seams and don't paint the entire boat you can get by on a quart of resin. If you cloth the bottom, inside and out, and paint the entire boat you will use one to one and a half gallons of resin. On your first trip to the lumber yard, pick up two sheets of plywood, lumber for the rub rails, glue, and a few one inch screws. Don't worry about getting everything on the first trip. With this basic set of materials you will assemble your boat. Then comes the finishing step. By picking up the finishing materials, fiberglass cloth, resin and paint on a separate trip you will have the benefit of giving thought as to how  you want to finish your boat as you build it. I always change my mind several times. If you can't find 3/4" lumber for in the length you need, look in the molding department for suitable lumber. Molding is generally fir, straight and clear. You will pay a bit more than ripping your on but it's an area you can be creative. One builder ripped full round (closet rod) in half and had a rounded rub rail.

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tools needed

Because the stems and rib sets are precut to the proper angles, the boat can be built with the minimum of tools. It is possible to build the boat using only hand tools. You will need to rip the plywood, (table saw, skill saw, jig saw or hand saw). You will need a sander (a random orbit sander like the DeWalt is very handy, a belt sander or pad sander works well). A jig saw is the tool to use cutting the bottom.

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does the same kit build different lengths

Yes. The length of the finished boat is determined by the length of the sideboards. Using two sheets of 4' x 8' x 1/4" plywood  a boat can be built from 12' to 15'- 8". We do not recommend less than 12'.  Building the boat less than 12' will compromise the stability. The "best" size will differ with the individual and usage. A 12' will offer a small, light, easy to carry boat for one adult or two children. A 15' - 8" will offer the greatest capacity. A 14' - 6" offers the best of both. Make your decision based on your needs, the amount of weight you want to carry. The longer your boat is the greater the capacity.

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making the boat wider

You can widen the boat by using a fourth rib set. Check here to see a "four rib boat". Using a fourth rib set will increase both the stability and the capacity. You can copy the center rib contained in the kit or we sell the extra set for $15.50 (including shipping).  The fourth rib set is shipped separately.

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thicker plywood

To build the toughest boat possible, you can use
3/8" for the bottom and 1/4" for the side boards.

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making the sides taller

The sides can be raised an inch or the bottom may be made wider but not both without purchasing additional plywood. A sheet of plywood is forty eight inches wide. When you rip two ten inch pieces you are left with twenty seven and three quarters for the bottom. You loose a the width of the saw blade on each cut. If you raise the side boards by one inch, you will be cutting two eleven inch pieces, leaving just under twenty six inches for the bottom. The stem will be short, however you can hide this when you bring the rubrails together on the stem and deck over the end to cover the top of the stem. The center of gravity has a profound effect on the stability of a boat. I normally discourage individuals from raising the side boards for this reason.

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adding a transom

First, build the kit and then fit a 3/4" plywood transom where you want it. Cut off the end of the boat flush with the transom. Caution should be exercised when using a motor. An electric trolling motor is more than adequate to propel a craft of this size.

To check out the photos and comments of a builder who added a transom click here  

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Click here to see a folding seat designed for our Pirogue.

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My Pirogue is 14' long and according to the USCG formula will safely carry a load of 336 pounds. The Coast Guard formula to compute the safe load of a home built boat is as follows. Determine the amount of weight it takes to "sink" your boat. Put the boat in the water and fill it with water counting the number of gallons it takes for the gunwales to be even with the water.  Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. Multiply the number of gallons by eight and you will know the total amount of weight it takes to "sink" your boat. The boat will not actually sink because wood is buoyant. The Coast Guard then recommends multiplying the total weight by a factor of .3 to determine the "maximum safe load". My boat is 14' long, it takes 140 gallons of water to reach the gunwales, 140 gallons x 8 (pounds per gallon) = 1120 pounds x .3 = 336 pounds "safe load". The safe load of your boat will be determined by the length you build. 

Click here to read a  builder's comments.

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The stability of a pirogue is somewhere between a canoe and a kayak. My best suggestion is to read the comments made by builders  which range from "Hey the boat works great, it took some getting use to, but I haven't tipped it over. (yet). " to "We didn't sink at 470lbs. It's comfortable with 350lbs. I built the 16ft version. ", "I am 6'1" and weigh about 235 lbs and the boat carries me without any difficulty. ", and, "My kids and their friends have been out in the boat many times now and they have never tipped it over". A lot of the feeling of stability comes with experience and depends upon the individual. The longer the boat the more stable it will be. Increasing length does not greatly increase weight, the boat shown on the main pirogue page is mine. It is 14' long and weighs 38 pounds, increasing the length to the maximum of 15'6" will only add a few pounds and still should be well under 50 pounds. You can also increase the width.

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A twelve foot model without paint or fiberglass weighs approximately thirty pounds, a maximum length model, approximately 40 pounds.  The actual weight will vary with the amount of fiberglass and the number of coats of paint used. One builder reported that he clothed the entire boat with generous amounts of resin and paint. He has a fiberglass boat with a plywood core that weighs just over sixty pounds. Another builder went for as light as he could build it, one eighth inch plywood with three ounce cloth on both sides. His boat weighs in at twenty eight pounds. A hunter that is going to be putting his boat through rough usage may choose to use three eights plywood on the bottom. This will add a lot of strength with only the amount of weight of the extra one eighth inch. The boat on the top of the main page is fourteen feet long, the outside bottom is clothed and the inside seams are taped, the entire boat was painted with resin and then with polyurethane. It weighs thirty eight pounds.

The ultimate weight of your boat will vary with your needs.

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The pirogue by design is a very fast boat, easily propelled through the water. Double bladed kayak paddles that breakdown are ideal. One of our builders sent us photos of his boat and a discussion of trolling motor performance. This builder offers not only photos on attaching the motor but discusses electric trolling motors in depth. If you are thinking about using an electric trolling motor click here to check out his comments.

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The basic difference between marine plywood and exterior plywood: marine plywood does not contain voids (edge voids are easily filled with wood putty). Taping the seams and edges with fiberglass will effectively seal exposed edge voids.  Both marine and exterior plywood contain essentially the same glues.  Because boats of this nature are not left in the water for extended periods of time and the difficulty in obtaining marine plywood, we feel that exterior plywood offers distinct advantages. Exterior plywood is considerably more economical and is a standard stock item at most lumber yards.  We have had good results with both fir and pine. The choice is determined by comparing quality and local availability. Many small boat builders use Lauan Mahogany plywood Lauan is which is actually five millimeters.. Lauan is pretty, easy to work with and very economical.

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How is plywood joined to make longer lengths?

Plywood is easily joined using a scarf joint, overlapping the separate pieces. Scarfing plywood is easily accomplished using a belt-sander or a sharp hand plane. An electric plane, or  sandpaper wrapped around a piece of 2x4 may also be used. 

Getting the angles (proper beveling) to match is very easy, stack all four sideboard pieces on top of each other with a scrap piece on top. By doing them all at the same time, they will all have the same angle. Each piece is offset from the one below by 2". The formula for scarfing is 8 to 1. If the material is 1" thick, the scarf would be 8" long. Using this formula will result in a joint as strong as the rest of the material. scarf 3.jpg (47104 bytes)I tack them to my work table, a solid core door, with brads so they will stay flat. Then I use a random orbit sander with 60 grit sand paper and grind them down. One of the biggest mistakes people make is when gluing up the joints they apply too much pressure which can squeeze all of the glue out resulting in aglue 1.jpg (38887 bytes) weak joint. When I glue up, I put wax paper on the work table, put the first piece down add glue and put the top piece in place, more wax paper and then put a 2 or 3" wide piece of scrap plywood over the joint and shoot it down with a brad gun. Come back the next day and pull the brads and sand off the excess glue. What about using a "butt joint". Some individuals prefer to use a butt joint. Quicker and easer but not a pretty and more difficult to hide. To use a butt joint, simply butt the two ends together and fiberglass both sides with four to five inches of cloth. The strength of a butt joint is more than adequate. It is not necessary to use a 'plate' when you glass both sides.

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There are numerous waterproof and water resistant glues on the market.  For the most part, glues, nails and screws hold the pieces  together prior to fiberglassing. Once the seams are taped, the fiberglass will provide a strong waterproof joint. For this reason, the type of glue is of less importance than fiberglassing the seams. The glue we use is Titebond II, a one part waterproof woodworking glue. It says "not for marine applications" on the label. But after the seams are fiberglassed the glue will be incidental. It's not necessary to purchase expensive exotic glues. I've found that sometimes the 'exotic' glues are exotic only in price.

screws and fasteners

We have used both brass and stainless steel with good results.  Both are rust and corrosion resistant. Stainless is harder and is usually somewhat more economical than brass. However, I routinely pull the screws after the glue dries and fill the holes prior to finishing. I use utility screws, or as they are more commonly known, "sheet rock screws". If you do not have enough clamps to glue the rub rail in place, you may very well consider brass or stainless and leave the screws in place.

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paint and stain

Epoxy resin needs to be protected from sunlight or it will degrade. Paint is easy and durable. Common exterior house paint works best, 100% acrylic exterior latex (water based) paint, found at any building supplies store.  Water based paints adhere well to epoxy where some solvent and oil based paints have adhesion problems.

Polyester resin contains a wax that rises to the surface as the resin cures. It is necessary to remove this wax prior to painting. This will prepare the surface for painting with either oil or water based paints.

Stain, if you wish to stain your boat for a natural wood finish, you should use a water or alcohol based stain and not an oil based product.   Allow the stain to dry thoroughly  before applying the resin. A good marine varnish will protect the resin and show the beauty of the wood. This method requires more careful selection of wood and greater attention to detail, everything will show through a clear finish. Because varnishes and polyurethanes may have problems adhering to resin  Wipe the surface with acetone and then sand with 180 to 220 grit paper  before applying the clear finish.

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Fiberglassing is an  intimidating process for the novice builder. There are two types of resin, epoxy and polyester.  Epoxy resin is the best, polyester is the most economical and the easiest to obtain. Polyester resin can be found lumberyards and auto parts stores. Simply put, you mix two liquids, put the cloth where you want it and saturate the cloth with resin. At a minimum, you need to cloth the seams on both sides. The next level would be to cloth the outside bottom running up the side boards six to eight inches. Stepping up to the next level you would cloth the floor inside running up the side boards. If you cloth the entire boat you will have a fiberglass boat with a plywood core. The final decision can only be made by you based on your needs and your budget.

If you use polyester you will typically spend thirty five to fifty dollars and with epoxy it will be one hundred to one twenty five. Although epoxy is somewhat more expensive than polyester it is more forgiving to use,  is stronger and more stable.

A good source for epoxy may be found from www.raka.com. Larry Steeves, owner of RAKA INC, a supplier of Epoxy, Fiberglass and associated products has built our pirogue kit. He recommends:

(1) 1.5 gallons of epoxy, this should be enough epoxy for all gluing, filleting and epoxy coating and saturation of the fiberglass.

  (2) 1 pound of maple wood flour, this is more than enough for all gluing and filleting the seams etc. 

(3) 8 yards of our 3.25 oz. x 60" wide fiberglass cloth. This material is very light, thin and strong.  We recommend glassing the entire outside and the inside bottom and 4" up the insides.   With fiberglass on the inside and outside there is no need for fiberglass tape.

The cost of these materials is about $200.00. Extra materials, you might consider are mixing pots, a squeegee spreader and latex gloves."

RAKA has a very good product at a reasonable price and provide excellent support. If you give them a call (772-489-4070) and tell them you're building out pirogue they will know just what you need.

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building time

Actual assembly time in general is 10 to 12 hours for the average novice. As a weekend project, on Friday the ribs would be glued and the sideboards and bottom would be sized and scarfed.  On Saturday the boat would be assembled and the seams fiberglassed. On Sunday the assembled boat would be sanded and painted. The time required is determined as much by the time necessary for the glue, fiberglass, and paint to dry between steps. Although it's possible to build the boat in a weekend, two weekends and the evenings between is a more realistic time frame. More often than not individuals will choose to add extras like breast hooks or small decks or gun rails and take a longer period of time building their boat.

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The pirogue is easily rigged for sail. There are several rigs shown on my website. Without question, the best sailing rig is Chucks click here. For a copy of the plans for Chuck's rig, click here

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The kit plans do not include the information necessary to make any of the items contained in the kit. The full building plans contain all of the information necessary to build the parts contained in the kit. You do not need both.


You will open a copy of the plans that are contained in the kit. The full image is 24" x 18". When viewing in Acrobat you can zoom to read details. If you choose to print a copy of these plans, in the printer dialogue box select "print as image", "Shrink oversized pages to paper size" and "Auto-rotate and center pages".  The image will be sized  to fit on an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet. click here to open kit the plans

Full building

Our full building plans are formatted for a standard 8 1/5" x 11" sheet of paper. The measurements have been omitted from these plans for obvious reasons. However you will be able to "see" how easy it is to build our boat from scratch. When printing, select "Print as image" and "Auto-rotate and center pages". click here to open the building plans

 If you need to download Acrobat, it is free from Adobe.

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cost of building the Pirogue

Your total cost including the kit will range from $125.00 to $200.00. The actual cost will be determined by the the quality and amount of paint and fiberglass used. We recommend tapeing the seams inside and out, some builders choose to glass the entire bottom, some the entire boat. The type of fiberglass resin used will have the greatest impact on cost.

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We are happy to provide support

  Additional questions or suggestions?

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