Child’s pirogue

Prizl tha chizl

New Member
Apr 6, 2022
4
0
44
Hi, I’m new here, a Carpenter and homeschooling dad, and have never built a boat. Exploring our Cajun ancestry, my 8 year old told me she wanted to build a small pirogue she could handle. I found a used copy of Poret’s Pirogue book and looked at a bunch of online stuff, (Louisiana folk life, uncle John’s, this forum and woodenboat,) and still need some guidance. Here’s my first few stupid questions, I’m sure if you answer them I’ll be happy to come up with a few more.

first is, how small can we build a pirogue? I’m hoping for 8-10 feet to hold a 45+pound kid (Uncle John’s says no less than 12 feet for stability, is this really the limit? I’d like it to be light enough to be easy to use for her and then her little brother later on, don’t care if we’ve got to build a bigger one in a few years. Poret’s pirogue is 13’6” but if I build an 8-10’ pirogue, scaling the width down proportionately leaves me with something in the neighborhood of 15-16”, which seems too narrow. Are there rules of thumb for this dimension, (minimums, length-to-width ratios?)

Second is, after dugouts and before plywood, it looks like plank bottoms were traditional. Where can I find info on old school bottoms like these, (sealed with cotton caulking etc, not toxic epoxies or fiberglass.) any recommendations on the minimum thickness?

Thanks in advance for your help!
 

oldbuffpilot

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
624
34
80
Central Kansas and Central Texas
Welcome, Here are some rambling thoughts…. I agree with Bee Keeper on the size for youth. Over the years I’ve built numerous pirogues with youngsters in youth groups and then with my own kids and Grandkids, You really can’t go wrong, from the kids viewpoint it’s always good.
We stuck with Uncle John's “type of build” or plans of some sort. Then these outlaws sucked me in–just like a shop vac! Being a carpenter you probably can hands on teach about any type of build. I’ve stayed with Strip Stitch and Glue probably because it’s simple and lightweight. I think 10’ would work fine. Here is a picture of a short fat SS&G the kids use a lot, and I also occasionally use it
_cUoSZOlEiBHrIJXHenMv28A_czzuk43t939jeE44RFokhebGDfAB0iAbiZVBgReLHoESIHVd-18lX7iBD5MaSCVocGcBN3Sp-C8JO5PSF7buP_w9A8oqgPub1b3oA48vR9OzCUN

Water Mocassin 1st Copy
Andy Hutter 2020
Length 8' 9" Width 31.5"
Weight 14.8#
Flare approx 27⁰
Rocker bow 2.25" Rocker stern 2"
I would not be much help about between dug out and plywood, I did have the opportunity to visit with these students in the early 80’s. when they were doing interviews for history.There is some build info in the two books.
The link didn't work, new link


wish you well with the project,
Andy
 
Last edited:

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,900
58
Rushed my post this AM. These are food for thought, not the final answers.
Plank thickness would be influenced by floor width, how many ribs and their spacing, species of wood used, load, and usage of the boat. Most cypress plank pirogues I have seen used 3/4" planks, at least in the bottom. Probably over built for recreational use.
Not pretty to some builders, but outside chine logs can reduce the overall beam width while retaining the side angle flair. This will make it easier to reach over the sides but not reduce the stability.
I don't know the rocker of the Poret"s pirogue but I would consider using 1" to 2" to aid in tracking. Young paddlers sometimes have trouble paddling straight, less rocker will help.
An 8' pirogue may work. I would search and study plans for "one sheet" building. May not be a pirogue but it could let you know if your ideas will work.
 

Prizl tha chizl

New Member
Apr 6, 2022
4
0
44
Thanks for the ideas, folks, it looks like I’ve got some more reading to do.
I realize that plank and light might not belong in the same sentence, but so long as I can get it loaded up and into the water I’ll be happy. I’m not just being cheap here, it’s just that we’ve got a pile of homesawn pine from our woods, so it feels awfull backwards to then go out and buy some marine plywood ($130 a sheet, you could say that I’m ALSO being cheap!

Plus, the seed was planted in my head after looking at a Dan Beard reprint, (remember him? Founder of the boy scouts/ The Handy Book For Boys/ back when they used to actually let kids make stuff?) he says go no less than 3/4”, fit your boards tight, then drive cotton thread in and seal them with pitch.

anyways after going through a lot of old threads on here, I’m not any closer to sorting out a plank bottom, but have some good design guidelines, a lot ofinspiration, and I’m sure I’m in the right place- feels like front porch visiting here. I’m sure well get around to building something that floats by the time the catfish are biting good, (even if that means t year’s bite!)
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,324
40
South Louisiana
I would recommend against marine ply, especially fir marine ply. Fir is heavy and splits like the dickens. I've built a few pirogues with sanded pine ply from Lowes. Works better than fir. Plenty resistant to rot and water intrusion. The highest I've paid ( just a couple days ago ) was $39.00 per sheet.

Plank bottom: For a 50# kid, even 1/2" pine with a couple of ribs would probably work. 10 foot x 22 inch bottom should be plenty big enough. I'm 170# and have used 22" bottoms on 3 of my boats and it is plenty enough for me.
 

oldbuffpilot

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
624
34
80
Central Kansas and Central Texas
If you search for "Building a Caddo Lake Bataeu, "there is pretty good information that covers building boats between before plywood. The link I posted to a book has a section on building.There is also an online video that is basically building pictures from the book. Also a source for plans..
 

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,900
58
Questions: What are your priorities and goals?
Do you want to build a "plank" boat? Does it have to use just tight joints an cotton thread or would glued joints be OK for you?
How heavy is too heavy for your usage? Do you only want a plank bottom or the whole boat?

Food for thought. 3/4" planks may be too stiff to bend easily for the sides of a short pirogue. Anything thinner will be hard to edge nail and would require chine logs. If using your lumber is a priority consider another design for the short/small boat, maybe a punt or skiff. They would be easier to build with planks.

A suggestion (only a suggestion) based on what you have shared and my understanding. I would build a 10' X 22" (bottom) X 28' to 30' (beam) pirogue. Buy a couple sheets of 1/4' exterior plywood, Titebond 3 glue,some exterior screws, and the pine lumber you already have and you are set to go. You will have a serviceable boat, gained some boat building experience, and will know what you want the next time.
 

Prizl tha chizl

New Member
Apr 6, 2022
4
0
44
Thanks for the advice everyone. So it sounds like a 22” bottom is recommended even on a short boat like that. Sounds like she’ll have a lot of room for fishing tackle!

To answer a few of your questions, beekeeper. 40 or 50 pounds would be nice. I’m pretty well set on using our wood for the whole thing if we can. And to keep it as non toxic as possible. I’ve got my own sensitivities to that stuff and see here that I’m not alone. But it doesn’t have to be glue-free. I think it’s cool to try and do stuff the old fashioned way and keep those skills alive, but our goal is to build a boat with an 8 year old, so I’m willing to cut out some steps that seem fussy. However, she’s patient and a good worker, so I won’t be surprised if we head down that road- mostly right now I’m just trying to learnwhat that might entail so I can decide what makes sense.

to that end I did order a used copy of the Caddo lake book. Also found this info on a muzzleloading forum:

Pirogue

SOME old LA boats had what they called "candlewick" (beeswax-soaked linen or cotton cord) "sandwiched" between the planks at stem/stern/bottom edges. Other old boats relied on "good fits" between the planks & the natural swelling of the planks from immersion to seal out the water.
(White cypress not only swells when immersed but "sops up water like a sponge", even when heavily coated with paint. = A 100 pound boat, launched in the Spring, will weigh about 200 pounds at Fall haul-out.)

Actually there is an old trick to forming a sealed seam using a solid plank. A good bet if your boat has 1/2" or 3/8" planks and no sort of caulking like beeswax and fiber, or pitch, or pitch and oakum is found

What they did was to take a piece of wire and place it along the edge of the plank in the center of the edge. They would use a mallet and rap on the wire, forcing it down into the edge of the plank. They would do this the length of the edge of the plank, and when done there would be a tiny groove formed from compressing the wood. Then they would plane the edge until it was right at flush with the groove. Now..., they would assemble the item be it a boat (or a water tight box), and then soak the item. That compressed portion of the edge would then expand due to the moisture, back toward it's natural level, forming a wooden gasket against the joining piece. One might need a little sealing at the corners, but otherwise this works very well.

other than that I haven’t found much else out, any thoughts on these techniques?
 

Prizl tha chizl

New Member
Apr 6, 2022
4
0
44
A question about plank construction that comes up for me has to do with wood movement and checking/cracking. In my other woodworking experiences, a wide glued up piece like that will eventually check if it’s nailed to a board perpendicular like it would be in a boat, one of the reasons plywood is used for case construction nowadays. Is this a problem I should be worried about? Ripping wide boards into smaller strips and gluing them back together can help prevent this, but I’ve been seeing reports of single plank bottoms from back when trees grew that big, and no talk about them cracking up...

however, we live a five mile drive from lake, river, or backwater, and even the neighbor’s pond wouldn’t likely see use more than once a week, so this boat would likely see a lot more wetting and drying than one that only got pulled out of the bayou once a year for maintenance.
 

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,900
58
We need seedtick our plank builder to wade in on your questions. I have only built two pirogues that could be considered plank constructed. Both were painted and had glued joints. Both have been used lightly (maybe 3 to 5 times per year) and are reasonably stored when not in use. In that context I will propose these ideas. (my thoughts/not facts/nor advice).
I would use Titebond 3 or some other water proof wood glue. Building with caulking or other traditional techniques (harder) could be mastered latter Painted or varnish finished, stored off the ground and out of direct sun light, with dings and scratches repaired in a timely manner, once a week or so usage will not be a problem. I doubt if a painted boat would absorb enough water in a day trip to cause any swelling. With the information you have shared with us, I suggest a slightly different approach to consider. I always say "You have to go to know.". Build a 12' long X 30 to 32" beam X 24" bottom pirogue for you first. This will give you a boat to tag along wit your daughter. You may discover she can handle it or she will grow into it after hers gets to be too small. You will gain experience building and any problems, mistakes or changes you want will be in your boat and corrected/changed in hers.
3/4" cypress planks was the norm probably because that was the size cut at the mill. Most builders probable had no easy way to reduce it. Your pine may be a little stronger. I doubt without reducing the thickness you will make your weight goal. Gather the boards needed and weigh them for an estimate.
If less than 3/4" boards I would not edge glue especially in the floor.There may not be enough surface area for a strong enough bond.
 

oldbuffpilot

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
624
34
80
Central Kansas and Central Texas
We need seedtick our plank builder to wade in on your questions. I have only built two pirogues that could be considered plank constructed. Both were painted and had glued joints. Both have been used lightly (maybe 3 to 5 times per year) and are reasonably stored when not in use. In that context I will propose these ideas. (my thoughts/not facts/nor advice).
I would use Titebond 3 or some other water proof wood glue. Building with caulking or other traditional techniques (harder) could be mastered latter Painted or varnish finished, stored off the ground and out of direct sun light, with dings and scratches repaired in a timely manner, once a week or so usage will not be a problem. I doubt if a painted boat would absorb enough water in a day trip to cause any swelling. With the information you have shared with us, I suggest a slightly different approach to consider. I always say "You have to go to know.". Build a 12' long X 30 to 32" beam X 24" bottom pirogue for you first. This will give you a boat to tag along wit your daughter. You may discover she can handle it or she will grow into it after hers gets to be too small. You will gain experience building and any problems, mistakes or changes you want will be in your boat and corrected/changed in hers.
3/4" cypress planks was the norm probably because that was the size cut at the mill. Most builders probable had no easy way to reduce it. Your pine may be a little stronger. I doubt without reducing the thickness you will make your weight goal. Gather the boards needed and weigh them for an estimate.
If less than 3/4" boards I would not edge glue especially in the floor.There may not be enough surface area for a strong enough bond.
I agree with it might be better to build a simple plywood glue and screw boat first. The chine logs, ribs, outwhaie, etc could be built from your lumber. That would give both of you "boat experience" just my 2 cents. I'm sure you could manage a plank build. Simple might be a better first time experience
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,324
40
South Louisiana
I'd say all of those probably work. It really depends on how you use the boat. If it stays outside or in the water, some ways work better. If you don't mind a little bailing of little water now and then, close fitted, non glued joints will work. I'm sure all of us here had a bailing can in our boats growing up. It was just part of using a boat. If you absolutely cannot put up with seeping water, glued joints are probably the way to go.