The Dugout Canoe Dream...

May 10 2017 0 Comments

Two years ago one of our customers purchased from us a Two Cherries Hollow Adze and a Scorp as part of the hand tools needed to make a dugout canoe. A few weeks ago he sent me a letter and the link of the video describing and showing the making process.

His name is Josh Lotz and this is his story...

From Wikipedia: A dugout canoe or simply dugout is a boat made from a hollowed tree trunk. Other names for this type of boat are logboat and monoxylon.




“It has always been a dream of mine to make a dugout. I think it has been a little like the saying - "the sculpture is already in the wood, it is the carvers job to find it".  I grew up in Bolivia on the banks of a tributary to the Amazon and much of my formative childhood was spent paddling around on wooden dugouts. 

When I came to New Zealand in 2003 as a 12 year old, the cultural shift I experienced was for me quite devastating, and for a long time I felt a great disconnect. I think some of the symbolism of the dugout was about bringing those two halves together. Growing up to fully exist in the context of where I had come from, and where I am now.

Overall I think the process was much easier than I had first expected setting out. Then again, I would find it impossible to write step by step instructions. I spent a lot of time guessing, and much longer second guessing. One of the greatest lessons I got out of making the dugout is that you can spend a lot of time hypothesising, but until you make that first cut, you haven't done any work. 

I would never claim thinking is not worthwhile, often it saves tremendous effort to foresee complications early on. But it's important to remember that your hands can figure out problems nearly as well as your mind. There were many situations in which I would get very despondent about how much work a certain stage was likely to take. Only to find after a 15 minute trial that the process in fact was much more rapid than I anticipated. 

Three things I would do differently next time. I would have a set of adzes. In the interest of saving money I bought only one Zwei Kirschen curved adze from Piranha Tools. This served me well while taking while roughly hollowing, by taking huge chunks out with each swing. Later on though it was no use for the finer work with the danger of travelling cracks. Ideally I would have two more short handled Pfeil adzes, curved and semi curved. A lot of time goes into removing material in the finishing stage. I unfortunately removed about 2 inches in the finishing stage. Next time I would be braver and keep rough until much closer to the ideal thickness of 1' sides and 1 1/2' bottom before starting on the smoothing. Finally, the finished boat was much more robust than I expected, I really should have hollowed it out in the forest. Dragging a 3 tonne log by come along is no joke”

Josh is still on the lookout for another log for another dugout, should you know of one please get in touch with him by email:

Big thanks to Josh for sharing this story with us and for supporting our products.

Cheers, Gaston

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