Two plywood canoes designs – How to choose a plan.

There are two plywood canoes in my range catering for quite different parts of the market. A quality first class boat and also a very cheap and easy to build boat that still works well.

Eureka Classic canoe on left. Quick Canoe on right. There is also a motor canoe version of the Quick Canoe.

Two canoes. Simple and Classic. How to choose.

To order the Quick Canoe simplest and cheapest plywood canoe plan – $30

To order the Eureka best plywood canoe plan – $75

USA Quick Canoe 155 kit available – USA

Also there is the Electric Canoe built the same way as the Quick Canoe here.

One is the best plywood canoe I could come up with – the Eureka Canoe. It is probably best built of premium materials such as gaboon plywood to further reduce the weight. Building time is around the 70 hours mark, but most part time builders seem to take about three months of part time work.  The premium materials recommended bring the cost out to $400 to $800, but you could build cheaper.

The Eureka plywood canoe - light and beautiful

Eureka Canoe – Classic shape from a plywood canoe.

The other is the simplest and cheapest plywood canoe that would still look good and work well – the Quick Canoe. I will be developing the Quick Canoe into a series of boats over time. I have also made the plans of this boat really cheap to fit in with the low budget nature of the project.  Boats have been built for budgets of $130 – $250 and building time has been as short as 4.5 or 5.5 hours from two experienced builders, though a nice job will take around 20 hours for a first time builder.

simple homebuilt plywood canoe

Generally the lower end of the prices is building in Canada or the USA where materials are a lot cheaper than the rest of the world.

(also introducing  the Quick Canoe Electric – 34lb thrust trolling motor gives 5 to 7 mph – $30)

The things the two plans have in common are the detail in the plans – anyone can build either of these boats following the step by step instructions. There are several photoessays from home boatbuilders of different experience on my forum and the consensus is the plans are pretty good. I also update the plans using feedback from builders, so as time goes by the plans improve even more.

Simplest possible plywood canoe that works fine.

Ok … so how to choose between these two boats.

Slideshow of assembling the Quick Canoe – fast build plywood canoe
Slideshow of assembling the Eureka – classic stitch and tape plywood canoe

The Eureka is based on classic canoe touring shapes from a time when canoes were used for real transport. Everything from delivering the milk or mail, heading off for six months collecting beaver pelts – less common today, but the main idea is the boats had to work well whatever the conditions were like. They had to travel real distance and be efficient and track well despite wind and waves.

So the Eureka paddles very nicely. It will greatly outperform the average fibreglass boat (though there are some very good classic shapes available in North America in fiberglass – but none in most of the rest of the world). The wooden boat is also about half the weight of most glass canoes. A typical Eureka built with Gaboon comes in around 45 lbs (20kg) but making some effort and building of thinner ply you can get down to 33lbs (15kg). Great for portages and getting it on the car roof. It is built by the stitch and glue method.

Eureka plywood canoe - stitch and glue boat plan

Eureka being assembled by the stitch and glue method.

The Quick Canoe is a much simpler shape, but I have kept the classic sheerline of a “proper canoe”. The unusual skeg/keel arrangement is to overcome the normally crappy directional stability of three panel canoes.  The skeg/keel can be reduced if more manoeuvrability is required for various uses but it is about right for lake travelling as it is.

arthur heading off for 2 weeks in missouri. Quick Canoe builds in a couple of weekends. Cheaper than hiring! storer boat plans

The Quick Canoe is made of only three panels and it is suitable for using duct or gaffer tape to hold it together while the filleting or glass taping happens on the inside of the boat.  This is a not a method that will work with any boat shape (don’t try it with the Eureka!!!), but it has been trialled through several boats with the Quick Canoe and seems to work quite well. While I am a great believer in epoxy to reduce maintenance and reliable construction the Quick Canoe – as a cheap project – would be fine in good exterior plywood and with polyester resin and glass tape.  It won’t last as long as an epoxy one … but at this price … who cares!   It is way more ecologically sound than a full glass or plastic boat.



Quick Canoe - super simple, super cheap plywood canoe

The Quick Canoe gets taped together before flipping and epoxy filleting or glass taping the inside

Tought enough to carry around .. the two Quick Canoes being built in France.

quick canoe assembled with duct tape - tough enough to carry and move around before epoxying. storer boat plans

So the summary is … if you want a really nice paddling canoe, the Eureka is a great choice – inexpensive, lightweight, easy to build, very nice to paddle.  If you want the simplest, cheapest and fastest to build then the Quick Canoe is a good choice.

Eureka Canoe Main Page

Quick Canoe Main Page including videos

Plywood Canoe Plans and ordering info

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25 thoughts on “Two plywood canoes designs – How to choose a plan.

  1. What are the length/beam/load capacity of Eureka?

    • One builder who has done quite a bit of canoeing told me he was pretty happy with 420 to 450 lbs but would not go much over that with his use.

      So it is not an ultimate load carrier for two big people and lots of gear.

      The general specs are on the webpage.

      Length – 15’6″ (4.73m)
      Beam – 34″ (0.86m)
      Weight – 44lbs (20kg) – Gaboon (Okoume) Ply
      Can be built down to weights of 34lbs (15.5kg)

  2. Colleen Canaday says:

    Hi Michael…my husband, Ori, who is an avid woodworker and designer has had me sit in front of this computer looking at ALL your canoes (yes they are beautiful, but he is the enthusiast…lol).

    He is desperately trying to find free plans for his first attempt at building a canoe so he can try it out before spending heaps of money on the Eureka (which of course is what he wants at the end of the day). I read in your site that you started with a prototype and then moved on to the amazing creations of yours today…so I was wondering if those prototype plans you send out for free for those like my hubby who really want to try before buying…if you know what I mean.

    We are currently living in Israel and the wood itself is astronomical to buy, let alone the other supplies (even tho he will do this in the end…he is on a mission…lol).

    If you would be so kind as to let me know if this would be possible it would make an excellent birthday present for his 40th birthday in 3 weeks. I know sappy story, but true…anyway, please let me know what we can do at this point to move forward with this dream of his. Thanks so much for your time and your gorgeous work.

    With kindest regards,
    Colleen Canaday

    • Hi Colleen,

      I am sure that there are some carefully designed free plans with good information on the net somewhere, but even I don’t know how to find them amongst poorly designed and conceived ones with little help and support for builders that proliferate. As one of my friends points out, after meeting up with a neighbour who had used a free plan and paddling the boat – that you get what you pay for. His own Eureka was simpler to build, much lighter, cost less and felt like a real canoe on the water compared to the free plan canoe.

      One of the few ways you can be sure you are getting a good plan is to see if you can find people building them. If lots of builders are happy … then it is probable that the plan is Ok. The feedback from builders, and teaching people how to build them in spring schools has helped me improve the Eureka plans so that anyone can build one and end up with a really nice boat. If there is a problem for a builder … I update the plan to avoid it.

      At the same time I do understand what you mean, because lots of people do think about a “trial boat” before they build the final thing. But the best economy is to buy good materials and build the good boat from a detailed plan. It is less frustrating and also the cheapest option.

      If I had a new design that needed to be tested I would consider asking your husband to build one. But I haven’t got anything at the moment.

      Hope this helps you a little bit! Write back if you have any more questions.

      Best wishes

  3. Jim Brown (Jim B in TN) says:


    Have missed your presence on the group. I have built and sailed your OZ MkII PDR and love it. Now thinking of building a sailing canoe aimed at paddling for two, and sailing mostly for one, but occassionally for two. I am 77 years old, 6′-3″, 250 lbs, and not quite as agile as I once was.

    Would I be best off with:
    1. Eureka with a drop-in sailing rig.
    2. Quick Canoe with a drop-in rig.
    3. Beth

    Actually, I backed into the PDR scene by going to your website to find Beth, but got sidetracked into the whole PDR thing.

    Thanks again,
    Jim Brown (Jim B in TN)

    • Hi Jim,

      Really nice to hear from you.

      Beth, my sailing canoe plan, has good sailing manners but will capsize unless you are a very experienced racing dinghy sailor – if you can sail a Laser in 25 knots then BETH is more forgiving than that and gives a Cadillac type ride. Also fun to go fast with a rig that many would see as old fashioned and low performance. An iconoclast’s boat.

      Beth Sailing Canoe. Fast and light enough to cartop.

      More Beth Sailing Canoe Pics here.

      So that Leaves the Quick Canoe or Eureka with the drop in Rig.

      The Eureka is more building and materials cost – it is so nice it deserves good materials. So if you wanted a good paddling boat I would go for that.

      If you want to keep everything cheap and simple I would go with the Quick Canoe. It won’t be as nice paddling, but still OK.

      So your question really reflects your paddling needs rather than anything else.

      A lot of the sailing of the Quick Canoe has been done by Paul Helbert, whom you know. His threads on sailing the Quick Canoe are here on my forum – there are pics and videos.
      Paul and his sailing Quick Canoe
      Paul and others discuss simple sailing canoes

      You will be able to see most of the pics and videos, but would have to be a member of the woodwork forum to see all of them – they are a good group and my forum has some of the best discussion on building and using boats that you will see.

      Best wishes

  4. Jim Brown (Jim B in TN) says:


    Thanks for the response. I know Paul personally, as we visited at his home on a trip up north to visit our kids. He is also a frequent contributor to the Sailing Canoes Yahoo Group. I value his opinions.

    I am leaning toward the Eureka, as I am familiar with working with stitch & glue and epoxy, and love working with really nice Okoume (Gaboon?) ply. Will have to wait a while as my shop is now filled with a Murphy Bed (bed that folds up into the wall) Project!

    Jim B in TN

    • Howdy Jim,
      If you like nice materials and a nice result then the Eureka sounds like the best choice.
      There is a bit of Eureka Action on my forum at the moment. A flurry.
      Storerboats Forum

      Paul is a great chap. He prepared a boat for me to sail in the PDR worlds in Georgia last year. He spent quite a bit of time getting the rig up to racing spec for me.

  5. Jim Brown (Jim B in TN) says:



    I have emailed with Paul, and I think the best thing for now is a Quick Canoe with your drop-in rig.

    Maybe later the Eureka with elegant batwing sails per Todd Bradshaw. I will order the plans from Duckworks as soon as I can get a new ink cartridge, perhaps later this week.

    I appreciate your very detailed instructions, and even though I have built several boats, your instructions always remind me of something I need to have remembered, but didn’t.

    Jim B in TN

    • Hi Jim B,

      I know what you mean with my plans. Those details are all the things I try to remember when I boatbuild too.

      A lot of them are just insurance to make sure things don’t go wrong and the build will be smooth. Also to save time by being efficient – for example if epoxy coating do the inside of any panels and sand them before they go on the boat. It slows down the point where you have a boat shaped thing, but speeds up when the boat shaped thing is ready to use.

      The Eureka would take a very modest sailing rig unless you are a really good sailor. But we can talk about that at the right time. The Bradshaw rigs AND his book are wonderful. A couple of things I disagree with just a touch, but most information is spot on AND in the one place. Magnificent effort.

      He is also a good sailmaker!


  6. Jim Brown (Jim B in TN) says:

    MIK, I have purchased the plans for the drop-in sail rig, and also downloaded the free paddle plans. I can start on those before my bed project is finished. Also we have a couple of plastic kayaks they might be used on.

    I have not yet purchased the canoe plans. Does your comment above imply that the drop-in rig may be a little too much for the Eureka, and I would be better off with the Quick Canoe? Or was that referring to my day dreaming about batwing rigs? I am wrestling with the practicality of the QC vs. the beauty of the Eureka. I am equally equipped to build either.

    Jim B in TN

    • Hi Jim,
      Wrestle a bit longer until you have it worked out. But you can start making paddles or the drop in rig and they will suit either boat.

      The drop in rig has about 26 (I think) sq ft of sail which is quite conservative and will be Ok on either boat. Try it and see how it goes.

      Probably worth making a polytarp sail. Then it is easy to increase the size if you find it too boring or easy to handle.

      As you have seen, Paul Herbert has been playin with much bigger sails – up close to 40 sq ft for his super narrow quick canoe version – but he is more of a maniac (in a good way) than I expected him to be.

      Actually, maniac, is not fair at all. He is an excellent canoeist and knows how to handle tricky boats to make them do amazing things – you can see that in some of his videos. So I think he likes the challenge of tricky boats and has transferred that to sailing boats from his knowledge base with canoes.

      I really like difficult boats too – a lot of fun.

      But the basic sail rig will not produce something that is too tricky with either the Eureka or the Quick Canoe – so start with that. Upgrade later.

  7. Jim Brown (Jim B in TN) says:


    I guess desire won out over practicality. I have downloaded from Duckworks the plans for Eureka, the Drop-in Sail Rig, plus the free paddle design. Now to finish that Murphy Bed project so I can get started.

    Jim B in TN

  8. Could I use Douglas Fir plywood 3/8″ ?

    also do I need a table saw or a Router for this canoe?

    • Sorry about the slow reply Johann.

      Generally I would not recommend Douglas Fir ply. It tends to “check” (gets small cracks in the paint or other coating along the grain) quite badly. The boats shown are meant to be built out of 1/4″ ply or lighter. The lightness with strength is one of their features and they are nice to carry.

      I am not sure which of the canoes you mean, but the Eureka will be very difficult to build out of 3/8 plywood, there are too many bends and twists.

      In 1/4″ lightweight ply the Eureka weighs in under about 50 lbs so is Ok for one person to carry. The 3/8″ one will be about 75, which is starting to be a serious lift down from a car roofrack and to move to the launching spot.

      You don’t need a table saw or router if you can buy the timber close to the finished dimensions you need.

      Hope this helps

      Best wishes

  9. Charlie Borton says:

    Hi Michael,
    I am considering building the Eureka canoe. It sounds like a nice boat and possible to do for someone who has never built a boat before. I am concerned with the weight capacity of this canoe. I weigh around 270 and my wife weighs 220. Is this canoe capable of handling our weight? If not, is there another design that could? And for a first time builder, are there any considerations I should contemplate in the spirit of being realistic before I take on this project?

    • Hi Charlie,

      That will be too heavy for either of my Canoes I think. Have a good look for a boat that is 16ft or larger and about 36″ beam.

      Also do exactly what you did with me and check with the designer first. There are boats in this size range that will deal with the intended weight well and others that won’t.

      Good luck with your project!


  10. The euraka is the same design as the Murray Isle Musk Duck in Tasmania Australia. I paddled one 700kms doen the river murray, fantastic in flat water not so good when it gets rough. Perhaps go a slightly larger keel for tracking

    • Hi Mark,

      The Eureka is a completely different design by me. A very different shape.

      The idea was to accept a slightly lower weight carrying ability in return for a finer shape that would have better directional stability and paddle a bit easier in chop. Most experienced users have reported they are happy. The ends are very much more like a classic canoe … or at least as far as I could push the shape in a good looking plywood canoe.

      In a way the Quick Canoe is more similar to the flatter blunter shape of the Musk Duck and the skeg design at each end of the QC would be a good model to help the directional stability – I know the problem well so set up the shape of the QC to account for that from the start.

      Thanks very much for your comment! Always nice to show how much it is possible to do with a cheap, simple and relatively easy to build boat. 700 miles is not to be sneered at!

      Best wishes

  11. […] so might not be up on all their websites yet, email them if you don’t see the plan.  For a paddling canoe see the Quick Canoe […]

  12. Hi Michael,

    My family just moved to Southland, NZ from the states (leaving our canoe behind:-( ). My husband is looking at possibly building one of your Eureka canoes. We live by some major rivers and would love to canoe them, but are wondering how the Eureka handles in fast water (great trout rivers), and how durable they are as some areas are rather shallow and quite rocky at times.

    • Hi Angela,

      The Eureka would be ok in grade 1 or 2 because you can avoid most rocks fairly easily. But if hitting rocks regularly one of the specialised boats that are commercially available will be better.

      They won’t be as pretty or as light .. but that is OK.

  13. […] you are looking for information about choosing which canoe is right for you then this article will […]

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