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Building the Merlin Solo Canoe from Northwest Canoes

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Two years ago I built a Passage Solo canoe from Northwest canoe I shortened it from the design to try and reduce the weight a bit. It has a fair amount of rocker, the bottom curve from bow to stern, which makes it more maneuverable but it does not track as well. Meaning it does not follow a straight line as well when paddled. I decided to build the Merlin this year. It is longer and has very little rocker, so it should be faster and straighter.

See this hubpage for the build of the Northwest Passage Solo:

https://skyaboveus.com/water-sports/Building-a-Cedar-Strip-Solo-Canoe-The-Perils-and-Pitfalls

Left is the Passage, right is the Merlin

Left is the Passage, right is the Merlin

Left is the Passage, right is the Merlin

Left is the Passage, right is the Merlin

Comparisons:

Passage

Specifications:

Overall Length: 15 ft

Rocker: Bow/Stern 2 in/1 in

Beam at Gunwales: 25.5 in

Maximum Beam: 29 in

3 in Waterline Beam: 26½ in

Sheer Bow: 17 in

Sheer Stern: 15 in

Amidships Depth: 12 in

Approx. Weight: 40 lbs

The differential rocker in the Passage Solo provides maneuverability in heavy water, yet tracks when you lay the hull flat.

Mine is 14’4’ 45#

Merlin

Specifications:

Overall Length: 16 ft.

Rocker: Bow Stern 1 ½

Beam at Gunwales: 26½ in.

Maximum Beam: 29 in.

3 in.Waterline Beam: 27 in.

Sheer Bow: 16 in.

Amidships Depth: 12 in.

Sheer Stern: 14 ½ in.

Approx. Weight: 42 lbs

The NorthWest Merlin gives you plenty of volume in a sleek 16 foot solo canoe. The lines of this seaworthy design provide more than eye candy, this efficient solo allows you to cover greater distances with fewer strokes.

Mine is 15’11’’ 45#

Northwest Canoe plans:

https://northwestcanoe.com/canoe-plans

Build Process Photos

printed plans

printed plans

strongback with station blocks

strongback with station blocks

cutting strips with circular saw

cutting strips with circular saw

router table for bead and cove

router table for bead and cove

forms

forms

strips

strips

inside gunwhales

inside gunwhales

bending seat frames

bending seat frames

Start of stripping

Start of stripping

making the decks

making the decks

whiskey strips, end of stripping

whiskey strips, end of stripping

fiberglass cloth

fiberglass cloth

epoxy applied

epoxy applied

sanding and scraping the inside

sanding and scraping the inside

attaching gunwhales

attaching gunwhales

assembly

assembly

sanding between coats of varnish

sanding between coats of varnish

Build Process Summary

  • Make or purchase plans. I downloaded mine from the Northwest Canoe website and had them printed full size at Office Depot.
  • Make strongback, a long table to build on, if you haven’t built before.
  • Trace plans onto plywood and cut out forms
  • Mount forms to strongback using clamp and station blocks
  • Align forms then use screws to hold in place
  • Cut ¼”x3/4” strips from cedar, I used a combination of pine and cedar they don’t have to be the full length of the boat
  • Steam bend wood strips for stems (if using) and glue together using stem forms to hold
  • Mill strips with bead and cove on router table
  • Mount strips to forms with clamps or staples with glue between each strip
  • Attach stems if using, I built without stems
  • Fair the outside, meaning plane and sand until smooth
  • Fill and gaps or holes with epoxy thickened with sanding dust, re-sand when hardened
  • Lay on fiberglass cloth, smooth and apply 3 layers of epoxy
  • Make seat, decks and thwarts
  • Flip hull when epoxy hardened
  • Repeat planning, sanding, cloth and epoxy on inside
  • Trim cloth
  • Cut wood for inside and outside gunwhales
  • Use thickened epoxy and screw to attach gunwhales and decks
  • Shape and sand gunwhales and decks
  • Dry fit seats and thwart
  • Seal exposed wood with varnish/mineral spirits
  • Varnish exterior and interior with several coats of marine spar varnish
  • Assemble
  • Paddle

For detailed process see this hubpage for my very first build:

https://skyaboveus.com/water-sports/Bulding-a-Cedar-Strip-Canoe-The-Basics

Process differences

For the Merlin I used cedar and pine strips. The wood was purchased from Menards. It has a pine feature strip down the bottom middle It has Ash gunwhales with Redwood and Mulberry scupper spacers. The Ash was cut from my neighbors property and dried for several years. The Redwood was salvaged from the frame of my old hot tub. The Mulberry was cut from a dead branch on a tree in my yard. The seat was laminated with 1/4” thick Ash with a center ¼” cedar. It has Nylon strapping (polypro would have been a better choice). The thwarts are Mahogany with Mulberry accents. The mahogany was donated by my sister in law. The deck is Redwood with Mulberry and Pine accents, laminated with fiberglass and cedar strips on the underside. The exterior is covered with 6 oz. fiberglass cloth with 3 coats of epoxy, and the interior with 4 oz with 2 coats of epoxy. I added 3 extra strips of cloth on the inside for reinforcement. I made and attached my own foot braces, made from Oak, Maple, and Cherry.

See this hubpage describing the foot braces:

https://skyaboveus.com/water-sports/How-to-Make-Foot-Braces-for-a-Wood-Kayak-or-Canoe

Unique Feature Photos

center feature strip

center feature strip

seat. thwarts, foot braces

seat. thwarts, foot braces

deck detail

deck detail

foot brace

foot brace

gunwhale grain

gunwhale grain

Cost

Not all cost but this makes up the majority:

  • Prints: $4.99 download, $10.77 printing
  • Wood:
  • 7/16x2x4 panels 4 - $17.88
  • 1x6x10 red cedar 3 - $46.11
  • 1x8x12 red cedar 1 - $23.39
  • Epoxy:
  • 1 gal kit US Composites 635 med -74, ½ gal - $41.50
  • Cloth 6 yd 6 0z E glass 60”- $6.40/yd = $38.40
  • Cloth 6 yd 4 oz E glass 50” – $5.45/yd = $32.70
  • Other:
  • Strapworks 20 ft nylon webbing $9.00
  • Varnish 1 qt – System 3 Marine Spar varnish – $40.37
  • Varnish1 qt Varathane exterior spar $16

My Other Canoe Building Hubpages

Follow links in this hubpage for more detailed build information:

https://skyaboveus.com/water-sports/Building-a-Cedar-Strip-Canoe-The-Details-Making-the-Forms

Maiden Voyage

I took the NWC Merlin out for its maiden voyage this cool morning, my take aways.

Weight – at 45# it felt easy to get off and on my Subaru Forester.

Stability – it felt very stable and seemed like secondary stability kicked in with not too much of a tilt.

Speed – hard to judge but it seemed quick enough.

Glide – with one hard stroke each side, from a dead stop, it glided for 30 seconds.

Maneuverability – it does not turn on a dime, but I didn’t expect that. I can turn it 360 fairly easily with a couple of wide forward strokes and a few back strokes on the opposite side

Entry – I’m a wet footer, stepping in and plopping down of the low seat was easier than I expected.

General – it seemed to favor a quartering or crossing light chop. As with many solos I suspect, it does want to pinwheel slightly in a stiff cross breeze. Not too bad though. I thought at first, maybe my seat was just a bit too far forward, but I didn’t see wake ripples off the tip of the bow in calm water, like I’d expect if the bow was plowing. I intend to use this for tripping so I think it will be just right. Overall, I’m please. On to the Sylvania Wilderness for a week long solo in early June.

building-the-merlin-solo-canoe-from-northwest-canoes
building-the-merlin-solo-canoe-from-northwest-canoes
building-the-merlin-solo-canoe-from-northwest-canoes
building-the-merlin-solo-canoe-from-northwest-canoes

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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