Handbuilding Canoes with Rollin
  • Atkinson, Maine, United States
  • 80 hours over 10 days

Handbuilding Canoes with Rollin

Build yourself the classic watercraft of the American northwoods: the wood-and-canvas canoe. Head to the heart of Maine, where master canoe maker Rollin will guide you through every step of this time-honored artform.
  • Lunch, Snacks, Coffee, & Tea


One Guest
USD $4520
Additional guest(s) (max 3)
USD $360

Meet the Artist

Rollin’s love of life on the water runs deep. As a master craftsman, he has poured his energy and passion into restoring and building wooden canoes for almost forty years. After spending much time on his family’s aluminum canoe in the early 1960s and repairing his grandfather’s leaking row boat, he became captivated by the thrills and excitement of Maine’s lakes and rivers. It was then, during his experience guiding Boy Scout trips down the Allagash River and other northwoods waterways, that he discovered the advantages of traveling by wood-and-canvas canoe.

This realization led Rollin down the path to becoming one of the foremost experts in the wooden canoe world. With little recorded wooden canoe history or guidance on building techniques at the time, he researched and co-authored The Wood and Canvas Canoe – the first book to go into painstaking detail on the matter. Incredibly well received, the book included Rollin’s original research and some of his own designs. Since then, he has lovingly restored historic canoes and, through his own original designs, continued Maine’s heritage of boat craft and production with an eye for quality, performance, and detail.

VAWAA Includes:

  • A brief history of canoe-building, with a focus on wood-and-canvas canoes.
  • An overview of the boat-building process and tools to be used.
  • Learning to shape stems and rails and fit them to the canoe mold.
  • Steam-bending the ribs onto the mold.
  • Fitting the thin planking across the ribs to create the hull and removing the hull from the mold.
  • Stretching a single piece of canvas around the hull.
  • Tacking the canvas at the rail and the stems.
  • Treating the canvas with filler to make it waterproof.
  • Shaping and fitting the thwarts to the canoe using hand tools.
  • Using screws, tacks, stembands and other fastenings made of marine grade brass or bronze to avoid corrosion and rust.
  • Treating the hull with linseed oil and covering with #10-weight canvas before filling with the shop’s canvas filler.
  • Applying durable spar varnish to the well-sanded interior.
  • All materials, hardware, and tools, including the highest quality wood: local northern white cedar for ribs and planking, local spruce for rails, and ash for decks, thwarts and seats; mahogany or cherry trim options are available with advance notice.
  • Guidance on applying final coats of paint and varnish once the filler cures (about eight weeks after application); arrangements can be made for the shop to complete the finishing if desired.
  • Instruction on finishing, as well as basic repairs and canoe maintenance.
  • Original Old Town paint schemes for reference.
  • Your own hand built canoe to take home.

Explore Atkinson, Maine

Atkinson is a small village nestled in Piscataquis County, Maine. Natural beauty abounds, with serene lakes, rivers, and hidden waterfalls to explore nearby. Hike the Appalachian Trail, which makes its way through the county to its majestic end at Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak. And with Acadia National Park less than a two-hour drive to the southeast, there are plenty of ways to experience the natural beauty of the area.

Dating back to the late 19th century, wood-and-canvas construction is modeled after the birchbark canoe-building perfected by the native tribes of the local Penobscot indigenous people. This was largely due to the incredible quality of the cedar, birch, and ash wood unique to this part of the U.S. The wood-and-canvas canoe was developed from these native crafts.

Additional Details

The shop is on one floor but there are several large steps up to the shop.

Not suitable for young children.

The price reflects building a Cheemaun style boat, but it is possible to make other models for an additional fee: Atkinson Traveler, Medford Explorer, E.M. White or American Beauty.
Rollin's Availability 10 days

Guest Reviews

  • Kristin T., United States

    Building a wooden and canvas canoe with Rollin in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine was a remarkable opportunity. Although I had almost no prior experience with drills, saws and wood working tools, Rollin had me notching and planing spruce, and planking white cedar like an old pro within hours of entering his shop. Not only is he a master craftsman, he is also a skilled and generous teacher with Read more