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Canoe seats

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A canoe seat can be the most important thing in a canoe !
It holds nearly all your weight. It needs to be comfortable, for both paddlers, in a tandem, as well as a solo.
It not ! The canoe will sit on the rack more often, than on the water !

I see a lot of beautifully built Cedar strip canoes, that have a factory flat cane seat.
That is OK ! But making that seat more comfortable, makes a world of difference.
Comfort by any means !

I'll be comparing Tandem seats. My first Aluminum canoe ( Lowe Line), had plastic molded seats. I still like those seats! For one, ?They kept both paddlers center in the hull. Nothing is worse than sitting in the stern seat, with the Bow paddler off to one side !

My first Cedar Strip canoe ( I still have it ), had solid flat seats . Yeah ! I never did paddle it much.

After a couple of trials, I came up with a contoured seat design. I still use the exact same pattern today. It allows me to use the same portage yoke on all my solo canoes. I can't imagine having 20 different yokes, for all my solos.

I chose Ash, as the wood for the frame, as it matched roughly, the Ash on my gunnels. It also has the strength to support a heavy paddler ! I very good friend made a beautiful Cherry seat. Laced it with Para cord. It broke on him in the BWCA , and he had to paddle sitting on a bag stuffed under his seat.

Now for lacing. I had seen so many cane seats, in poor shape, while the rest of the canoe was decent. Don't get me wrong ! I love the look of cane ! Just not the durability. That is where the Snow Shoe cord came into the picture. I bought enough cord, for a couple of canoes, then I purchased a 300 yd roll from.


My roll is running low now, but when it's gone ? I'll go to Nylon Webbing.
In Truth ? I'd recommend the Nylon webbing for its durability and comfort. It can be found in a lot of different colors also.

OK, back to the seat frame. Flat versus contoured already discussed.

What dimensions? I want a seat that allows me to shift side to side, and fore and aft, to correct trim, and still be comfortable. Comfort by all means !.
Most factory seats don't allow this ! They are not deep enough to allow the paddler to shift his weight fore and aft.
I will give you the dimensions, I use, but use them as a guide line, to meet your needs. They are by no means set in stone !

The other thing I note on Home made, as well as Factory seats ? They do not use a Mortise to fit the rails and braces together. Simple Mortise makes a solid frame without a dowel. or screw, that can give way.

The last thing I'll touch on ? How high should the seats be from the keel ? Everyone has different requirements, but for me ? 9 to 10" , measured from the top of the contour, to the keel, is about right on a solo. Often times a little lower on a tandem , for stability. Again Comfort, Comfort, Comfort.

Now for the pics.
The template

IMG_1360_zpsros6d0pb.jpg

The simple mortise that holds the frame together
IMG_1359_zpsrn3qgyxf.jpg

The frames are 11" deep. You can easily go deeper.
IMG_3494.JPG

16" wide. Again make them to suit you. 16" works for me 18" might be better. Note there is a 1" dropin 16"
IMG_3495.JPG

I lace the seats quite loose. The Spar Varnish shrinks the cord. By the way. the cord is 1/2" wide. Holes are 3/16", 7/8" apart.
IMG_3488.JPG


Finished seat.
IMG_2548_zpsqcfktpqk.jpg

The front edge is about 3" down from the top of the shear, with the valley of the contour 1" deeper.
I am able to sit to one side, if I need to heel the hull. I don't usually need to.
IMG_3492.JPG


IMG_0305_zps7igzwa3n.jpg

Jim
 
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Nice! Jim Dodd, those seats look far superior to the mass produced cane seats.

My preference is for straight, wide seats. I don't want to be stuck in the middle of the boat, because I'll need to move in response to kids, dogs, or whatever. This seat serves two kids side by side, or me facing the other way. It would be better if the cane was even closer to the sides

PXL_20230423_135810337.jpg

It was frustrating trying to buy new seats. I couldn't find a retailer who listed seat surface dimensions, only total width across the seat supports.

I needed the ability to put seats wherever I need them. Just sliding 18 in won't do. I often paddle my tandems without fronts seats so the kids can sit on coolers and such.

Which is why I'm taken to making seats out of plywood and floor cushions. I've made a couple different widths. The longer ones have a 1x1 glued to the bottom for support. They're heavy but the kids like them much better.
PXL_20230423_140914390.jpg
PXL_20230423_140943490.jpg

My ideal seat would be the firmness of a tractor seat but straight across. Like the plywood seats on some cheap canoes. If anyone has seen high quality firm, flat, seats please post pictures.
 
Mr Poling.
Sitting two kids, side by side, wouldn't work with my design, for sure.
Here is an option I found on the net. They look quite comfortable !


For a single seat, I have no trouble moving to one side, if I need to heel the canoe over.
A contoured seat is actually more comfortable, than sitting on a slant, such as a cane or flat hard seat.
Everyone has their own comfort levels ! As I get older ? Comfort means a lot more !
 
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We are pretty firmly in the same camp Jim.

I like to widen that curve out as much as the boat allows and still leave room on the ends for fitting and attachment, that is usually about 18" - 20" on a tandem and ~24" on a solo. I find when I need to move to lean, it's nice having a continuous contour with out the bump where the lacing stops.

IMG_0597.JPG

That cord is also polyester, the issue I have with nylon is simply it absorbs water and stretches, polyester does neither ... so the seat will give a bit initially as things tighten, but then it will hold it's shape. So in a nylon vs. polyester material in an outdoor environment, I think polyester is a better choice.

As far as materials go, I think construction method is likely the single most important consideration. Personally, I wouldn't make a solid wood construction seat, if I had the choice. Laminating provides much better control and a much stronger final product IMO. The pictured seat is laminated cherry, in a modified Freedom Solo 16'3" and handled a 350+ passenger through Quetico quite nicely.

When picking wood, the strength to weight ratio of most common hardwoods is actually pretty close. Take ash vs cherry for example, IF the seat above was built with ash, it would be about 20% stronger and 20% heavier ... meaning you could keep those dimensions and have a stronger seat or reduce the dimensions (volume) by 20% and have an equivalent strength seat with smaller dimensions, at about the same weight as the cherry one.

The primary adhesives to laminate wood will likely be epoxy or wood glue ... it is a good idea to look up the species you intend to use and see how it bonds with those products. Epoxy is my "go to" for most laminating jobs, mostly for it's superior performance in any gap filling situation, which a curving lamination usually qualifies for ..... as with all things woodworking, there are exceptions, for example maple, it's a very hard wood with a tight pore system and in many cases the epoxy can't penetrate well enough to give a full strength joint, so a wood glue, in this case, is a better choice.

I have had 1 seat of this style suffer a joint failure and was definitely due to not having the shallow dado used at the joint, fortunately it was on the first one I made, Jim actually commented on that build and it was added on all the rest. So do add the dado, it is a bit important.



Brian
 
My preference in seats is bench style, gunwale to gunwale. Canoe paddling is most efficient when you hold the paddle with 'stacked hands", meaning holding the shaft as vertical as possible, both hands over the water, as close to center line as possible during the forward power stroke. Best achieved with your hip right up against the gunwale, whichever side you are paddling on, with no or minimal seat gap to the gunwale. Bow and stern paddlers are opposite, of course, which is a more stable configuration overall for forward movement. For that reason I dislike bucket tractor style seats rigidly center mounted. I have thousands of miles in voyageur canoes. Of course both bow and stern paddler in most tandem C2 designs are close enough to the gunwales on both sides so that stacked hands and efficient strokes are easy to achieve. But center seats 2-5or 6 seat voyageur canoe configurations are a different story. Voyageur canoes can be designed either for single straight line paddlers, or two siide by side paddlers in all except bow and stern. Most of the variety of voyageur canoes I have paddled have been siingle line paddler desgns, so if the seats are all center mounted, it is awkward for those paddlers to get good power strokes in without them becoming partial sweep strokes, robbing foward power. Racers using the hit and switch "hut" technique will switch sides regularly every so many strokes or as needed for steerage control. Therefore, those voyageur canoes meant for marathon racing tend to have seats mounted so paddlers can slide their butt from gunwale to gunwale during hit and switch "hut" calls when racing. My first voyageur canoe had straight plywood seats covered with a thin slick teflon sheet. Paddlers wearing slippery nylon shorts could easily slide side to side as fast as necessary within a second or less when a hut was called. Coordination is a must of course. A better design came about with seats mounted on side to side wheels on roller bearings. Still another mount type is made with well lubricated sleeves riding on stiff horizontal carbon fiber tubes.
 
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Cruiser. Good thoughts.
I use a different yoke than you. It serves both as a portage yoke and back rest. Admittedly My system is heavy, but again, Comfort wins over weight.
edited-image_zpsme4ffqwm.jpg

IMG_3059_zpsvtu8w2kx.jpg
What keeps the yoke in place when portaging?

Maybe the weight of the canoe would keep it on your shoulders, but what about when slinging the boat over your hear to put in place?

BTW, I love the design.
 
Jim: Loving that seat-back design. I need to make a couple for my upcoming BWCA trip. It's going to be a bit tricky for the stern, since my seats go all the way to the cleat in the stern. Bow shouldn't be an issue, but I'm more concerned about the stern (any guesses where I'll be?).

I also laminatate my seats. These seats have 7 strip laminations, fo a total height of 1 1/4" they're walnut and cherry, 16" wide, 12" deep, with a 1" drop. The spreaders are rabbeted into the rails. I also dowel the rails with maple glue dowels. Sanded and finished, they're pretty close to cherry, because of the slightly darker end grain. I glue my laminations with TB3. Haven't had any issues, but I do leave them clamped for 48 hours. TB can "creep" a bit for quite a while, especially when it's bent like this. That's why on this build, the seat frames and other trim parts are being done first.

IMG-2849.jpg
 
What keeps the yoke in place when portaging?

Maybe the weight of the canoe would keep it on your shoulders, but what about when slinging the boat over your hear to put in place?

BTW, I love the design.
The brown straps unbuckle, and are easy to wrap and buckle the yoke in place. I sometimes use a bungee cord.
edited-image_zpsme4ffqwm.jpg


IMG_0172_zpsuxe2sgau.jpg
 
Jim: Loving that seat-back design. I need to make a couple for my upcoming BWCA trip. It's going to be a bit tricky for the stern, since my seats go all the way to the cleat in the stern. Bow shouldn't be an issue, but I'm more concerned about the stern (any guesses where I'll be?).

I also laminatate my seats. These seats have 7 strip laminations, fo a total height of 1 1/4" they're walnut and cherry, 16" wide, 12" deep, with a 1" drop. The spreaders are rabbeted into the rails. I also dowel the rails with maple glue dowels. Sanded and finished, they're pretty close to cherry, because of the slightly darker end grain. I glue my laminations with TB3. Haven't had any issues, but I do leave them clamped for 48 hours. TB can "creep" a bit for quite a while, especially when it's bent like this. That's why on this build, the seat frames and other trim parts are being done first.

View attachment 135374
Frames look great!

TB is fine, if you get a tight clamp up. Epoxy is more forgiving if there are any gaps.

You should be fine !

Jim
 
Jim:

Question about the straps on your seat backs. Is that a ready made assembly for a Kayak seat (sort of looks like it), or do you put that together from individual components? Sure would be easier to use one ready made assembly. If that's the case, do you have a source? I've been looking at Noah's and a couple other places for a couple hours now. Not ready to give up exactly, but sure hope you can simple steer me to where I can order a few just like the ones in the pictures.
 
Jim:

Question about the straps on your seat backs. Is that a ready made assembly for a Kayak seat (sort of looks like it), or do you put that together from individual components? Sure would be easier to use one ready made assembly. If that's the case, do you have a source? I've been looking at Noah's and a couple other places for a couple hours now. Not ready to give up exactly, but sure hope you can simple steer me to where I can order a few just like the ones in the pictures.
A member here. BWCA66, I believe his wife sowed them.
He may have some for sale, as he uses the same set up on his portage , back rest.
They work great !

You might PM him.
 
Thanks Jim. I sent BWCA66 a message. I also found a company called strapworks. https://www.strapworks.com/ I reached out to them through their customer service link. They replied within an hour, and they're willing to make custom straps for me at a very reasonable price. BWCA66 also got back to me within a day. I'd rather do business with a fellow canoetripping person, so as long as he can help me out, I'll go with him.
 
A canoe seat can be the most important thing in a canoe !
It holds nearly all your weight. It needs to be comfortable, for both paddlers, in a tandem, as well as a solo.
It not ! The canoe will sit on the rack more often, than on the water !

I see a lot of beautifully built Cedar strip canoes, that have a factory flat cane seat.
That is OK ! But making that seat more comfortable, makes a world of difference.
Comfort by any means !

I'll be comparing Tandem seats. My first Aluminum canoe ( Lowe Line), had plastic molded seats. I still like those seats! For one, ?They kept both paddlers center in the hull. Nothing is worse than sitting in the stern seat, with the Bow paddler off to one side !

My first Cedar Strip canoe ( I still have it ), had solid flat seats . Yeah ! I never did paddle it much.

After a couple of trials, I came up with a contoured seat design. I still use the exact same pattern today. It allows me to use the same portage yoke on all my solo canoes. I can't imagine having 20 different yokes, for all my solos.

I chose Ash, as the wood for the frame, as it matched roughly, the Ash on my gunnels. It also has the strength to support a heavy paddler ! I very good friend made a beautiful Cherry seat. Laced it with Para cord. It broke on him in the BWCA , and he had to paddle sitting on a bag stuffed under his seat.

Now for lacing. I had seen so many cane seats, in poor shape, while the rest of the canoe was decent. Don't get me wrong ! I love the look of cane ! Just not the durability. That is where the Snow Shoe cord came into the picture. I bought enough cord, for a couple of canoes, then I purchased a 300 yd roll from.


My roll is running low now, but when it's gone ? I'll go to Nylon Webbing.
In Truth ? I'd recommend the Nylon webbing for its durability and comfort. It can be found in a lot of different colors also.

OK, back to the seat frame. Flat versus contoured already discussed.

What dimensions? I want a seat that allows me to shift side to side, and fore and aft, to correct trim, and still be comfortable. Comfort by all means !.
Most factory seats don't allow this ! They are not deep enough to allow the paddler to shift his weight fore and aft.
I will give you the dimensions, I use, but use them as a guide line, to meet your needs. They are by no means set in stone !

The other thing I note on Home made, as well as Factory seats ? They do not use a Mortise to fit the rails and braces together. Simple Mortise makes a solid frame without a dowel. or screw, that can give way.

The last thing I'll touch on ? How high should the seats be from the keel ? Everyone has different requirements, but for me ? 9 to 10" , measured from the top of the contour, to the keel, is about right on a solo. Often times a little lower on a tandem , for stability. Again Comfort, Comfort, Comfort.

Now for the pics.
The template

IMG_1360_zpsros6d0pb.jpg

The simple mortise that holds the frame together
IMG_1359_zpsrn3qgyxf.jpg

The frames are 11" deep. You can easily go deeper.
IMG_3494.JPG

16" wide. Again make them to suit you. 16" works for me 18" might be better. Note there is a 1" dropin 16"
IMG_3495.JPG

I lace the seats quite loose. The Spar Varnish shrinks the cord. By the way. the cord is 1/2" wide. Holes are 3/16", 7/8" apart.
IMG_3488.JPG


Finished seat.
IMG_2548_zpsqcfktpqk.jpg

The front edge is about 3" down from the top of the shear, with the valley of the contour 1" deeper.
I am able to sit to one side, if I need to heel the hull. I don't usually need to.
IMG_3492.JPG


IMG_0305_zps7igzwa3n.jpg

Jim
Wow! That looks like a solid seat. It should hold a ton, not that you weigh that much.
I would think getting the webbing through the holes would be a pain.
I've heard some people complain that contoured seats don't allow for shifting your weight, if needed.
I kind of like tractor seats myself though, on a trip last year, the back edge of a tractor seat rubbed my backside raw.
I'm converting one of my solo canoes to a pack style canoe, partly/mostly, for the increased comfort of a more touring kayak like seating. Some of the better touring kayaks have seats that are nearly as comfortable as your chairs as home.
 
The first set of seats I made, similar to Jims, with laminated frames really were no problem to weave. I coated the frames with a light coat of epoxy after fitting them in the canoe before weaving. Ran a drill bit through each hole after epoxy cured. Seems like a lot of holes, but only took a few minutes. This knocked down any snags. wrapped the end of the webbing with a short piece of electrical tape, and it pulled through rather easily. Took about an hour and a half to weave each seat. I didn't time it, but on my next build I'm timing EVERYTHING and recording it as I go.

I really like the laminated bent frames. I cut one out of solid hardwood, and with rather heavy load rapidly applied (I stomped on it) it cracked on the grain line. The laminated frame held up no problem. the grain follows the bend this way, rather than cutting across it. My concern was having someone drop their wide load on the seat could be an issue. I know, no one should do that. But, better safe than sorry.
 
Well, I finally finished my seat backs, minus the finish. Waiting on an order. I didn't include the yoke pads, because I have a fixed yoke, with removable pads. Stern seat was a bit tricky, because the seat frame goes tight to the mounting cleat, and there's not much to hook onto.
IMG-2964.jpg

In fact, it was so tight, I had to shape the back edges to match the gunnel angle a bit, to allow for reclining a bit if I want to.
IMG-2965.jpg

With keeping them light, and all of the material removal I was doing, I was concerned about frame splitting. So, I laminated the parts. The back board is 4 layers, all grain running same direction. This was mostly done to allow for easier bending, without steam. The two side bars are 5 layers each, with layers 1-3-5 grain running parallel to the axis of the part. layers 2-4 grain runs 45 degrees off parallel (the two layers opposite) so it's sort of like plywood. Resawed the layers on a bandsaw, ran the layers through a drum sander. The side bars are glued up with wood glue. The back rest is epoxied, because of the curvature, and not wanting to leave them clamped as long as I normally do with wood glue. Hard to tell from the picture, but the back rest is concave side-side by close to an inch. It's also convex top to bottom, by about 3/8" I made the patterns off of an antique wooden desk chair I find rather comfortable.
IMG-2938.jpg
This is the staggering of the layers.

Hope the varnish gets here in the next couple days. Want to get 3 coats on, and have plenty of cure time before I put them to use.

I have to be careful adding all these gizmos Jim has. The BWCA video I saw with him in it he was tripple portaging I believe.
 
Great thread and after reading through this thread I believe I need to tackle this project at some point. The comfort element is paramount and I couldn't agree more that the flat seats are just not cutting it for me anymore. Appreciate you sharing this Jim!
 
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