How To Build a Bench From a Vintage Canoe

Want a touch of rustic lakeside style inspired by DIY Network Ultimate Retreat 2017? Learn how to build a one-of-a-kind outdoor bench seat using a vintage canoe.

Photo By: Christopher Shane

Photo By: Christopher Shane

Photo By: DYLAN EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: DYLAN_EASTMAN

Photo By: Christopher Shane

Getting Started

Vermont is known for its year round outdoor activities. And on Lake Champlain, canoeing and kayaking are certainly popular past times. So what's a lake house without a custom bench made from a vintage wood canoe?

What You'll Need

Materials: Wood canoe, 3/4” lathe screws, 2x2 cedar stock, 1x6 cedar decking, construction adhesive, 15 ga. finish nails, 3” exterior deck screws, and exterior polyurethane

Tools: Jig saw, drill, 15 ga finish nailer, and chalk line

Time: 8 hrs

Cost: $1200

Step One

The hardest part of this build is sourcing the canoe. I spent a long time looking for the perfect donor. One too rough to be used but with good enough wood to be transformed. This Huron canoe was made in Canada possibly in the 1960's. All of the fabric had been stripped off it by the previous owner.

Step Two

This is a measure twice and cut once operation. Plan, plan, and plan. Make a drawing. Since the side that needs to be removed forms much of the tension strength in the canoe we need to handle it in stages as material is added back.

Step Three

In our case, I wanted the canoe to have arm rest seats that fit perfectly between the existing porch posts. You can also build this bench free standing if you modify the concept.

Step Four

Install a main support for the center rib. We mounted this 2x8 to our existing porch posts to form the main bench support right under the center rib.

Step Five

Next, install a cross brace and notch the backside for mounting around the post. We used 2x2 cedar for the cross brace to match the materials used later for the seat.

Step Six

Level the canoe prior to attaching the cross brace to the posts with (2) 3” wood screws on each side.

Step Seven

Chalk line the edge of the seat for the front cutout. Aim for a seat depth of around 16” after the back is installed.

Step Eight

Then cut the front of the canoe out with a jig saw. Go slow since this is one mistake you can't undo.

Step Nine

Once the front is removed, plan out the seat and backing.

Step Ten

To keep the wood rib canoe look, we decided to use 2x2 cedar as the seat surface. To bind everything together, we wanted the first row right over the original bottom spline.

Step Eleven

This meant drilling pockets to clear the original screws.

Step Twelve

Next attach each row from below with 3/4” lathe screws. Because these have such large heads, they make the perfect fastening for this older softwood.

Step Thirteen

Under each row, we also used construction adhesive to further tie everything together. Since wood canoes are meant to be lightweight, the structure is largely made from thin strips of wood formed to the shape.

Step Fourteen

Finish off the back with 1x6 cedar decking with a slight incline. We even mixed in a left over canoe paddle to the seat back.

Step Fifteen

We finished the look with cedar decking capping off the open ends.

Step Sixteen

To keep everything wearing well, coat all wood surfaces with exterior polyurethane.

Enjoy Your Custom Canoe Bench

Not only does this exterior bench give excellent views of the lake, but it has a unique North East history of its own. With some planning and smart shopping, you can build your own custom version of this canoe bench.