Scott Seaman truly put the ‘home’ in homemade with his recent DIY wooden canoe build. Using local woods, even at the cost of ease, was well worth it to him. Though his lineage goes back seven generations in the Adirondacks, a region that’s a canoe lover’s dream, with over 3,000 lakes and ponds, his roots are strong in his home state of Tennessee. Which is why it was so important to him to source all wood locally, within 30 miles of his home.
Above: DIY wooden canoe featuring Seaman Custom Builds logo | Article by Leah Kossak, TotalBoat Social Media Coordinator
It may not seem like it from his name, but Scott Seaman’s first, and so far only, boat build was done within the past year. Before reaching out to TotalBoat, woodworking was a hobby. Growing up, his dad had tools around, but tinkering was more important than really building something from scratch. However, twenty years ago, after purchasing a 1920s bungalow, DIY turned into more woodworking projects aimed at not only fixing up the house, but building furniture to cut down on costs.
“I’m always looking for the next new, fun project. I want to create something unique and special every time.”
After reading Nick Offerman’s book, Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop, Seaman was inspired to create his own canoe paddles, something he hadn’t done before. Once he had the paddles though, he figured the next logical step would be to actually build his own canoe.
“I was lucky enough to already be a part of the woodworking community, so I had seen others make their canoes. I reached out to Trent Preszler, who reassured me I was already better off than he was when he built his first canoe. I had the woodworking experience, just hadn’t gone this large-scale yet.”
Above: The hull of the canoe after planking was complete
Above: “The Flip” – after the canoe was taken off the mold
In April of 2021, Seaman went to his local lumber yard. His goal was to only use wood sourced from within 30 miles of his home. He went with Eastern Red Cedar over the more popular Western. It contains a lot more knots than Western Cedar, but the sap makes for a pop of bright red over the muted browns. After letting the lumber dry out, he started the process of cutting up the strips to form the mold. With more knotty wood, it took longer than usual, but that bright red cedar kept him motivated.
Above: The hull after fiberglassing was complete
Above: A close-up of the fiberglass work on the hull
After the time-consuming work of getting the hull of the canoe planked, it was time to apply fiberglass. Having never worked with fiberglass or epoxy before and hearing the worst-case scenario allergic reaction story from Trent Preszler, Seaman was sure to conduct his research first. As an avid watcher of sailors on YouTube, like MJ Sailing and Expedition Evans, he turned to TotalBoat for his epoxy resin and varnish needs.
During a warm day in the summer, when Seaman’s dad, Chuck, was able to lend a hand, they started mixing the TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy with the High Performance Slow Hardener. They got into the rhythm of his dad mixing, then Seaman squeegeeing the epoxy over the fiberglass. Finally getting that grain to pop is what can be the most satisfying but stressful part of any wooden canoe build.
“It went way smoother than I was expecting. Due to the warmer temperatures, the slow hardener ended up being perfect. Granted, I might have used too much as I had about 30 hours of sanding afterwards.”
Above: The Seaman Custom Builds logo epoxied inside the canoe
But as any canoe builder knows, the boat was far from seaworthy. In addition to weaving the cane seats by hand, Seaman had a few more special touches for this build. He decided to add his logo using poplar veneer, because poplar is the state tree of Tennessee. The poplar certainly made the logo stand out on top of the bright cedar. He epoxied one logo on the outside, and one inside, so that it could always be viewed.
Above: Personal touches: The canoe name, Erma, after Seaman’s grandmother, and El Toro engraved into the paddle, for his dad, Chuck
After completing the gunwales and trim work, the canoe was ready for some spar varnish. By applying TotalBoat Lust Marine Varnish, the canoe became fully watertight and sealed with a glossy shine. He also added a name. ‘Erma’ was his paternal grandmother, who passed away in June of 2020, just 10 days shy of her 95th birthday. In addition to this sentimental surprise, Seaman added an engraving of a bull with ‘El Toro’ on the paddles, surprising his dad, Chuck, with his nickname from when he was younger.
While he had been communicating with many others in the boatbuilding world, what surprised Seaman throughout the build was the entire community embracing each step along with him.
“It was like watching Breaking Bad. I was just recording and posting to YouTube and Instagram for my friends and family out of state, but suddenly I had this larger following. The generation building canoes generally don’t post videos about it, and there was a strong eagerness to see every step of the process.”
Above: The image Seaman posted after followers kept asking if the canoe would float
Since this had become a family project with his dad, waiting for him to be free for the next day of canoe work, Seaman wanted to launch it with him. Unfortunately due to some health trouble, the launch was delayed two weeks. However, with the canoe and paddles ready, his followers were urging him to launch and ensure it would float. Instead, Seaman was cheeky and just decided to put it in his pool to prove it was seaworthy, though some still claimed it was photoshopped.
“I really enjoyed playing to the audience, posting extra clips of the processes they seemed to enjoy more, and going back and forth with them throughout.”
Above: Seaman launching the canoe with his father
Since Seaman maintains a full-time career, he considers himself lucky to be able to create what he wants, and with the materials he wants, on his own time. Each cutting board, fishnet, and piece of outdoor furniture is his own and never a duplicate of another. And the same goes for his canoe, this was a one-time project. On September 1, 2021, with his dad in the front seat, the Eastern Red Cedar canoe was launched on their local lake.
Above: Some ducks checking out the varnish job on the hull
This was, by far, not Seaman’s final woodworking project, or even boat build. In addition to rescheduling a trip with his dad and the canoe to the Adirondacks, he’s also working on plans for a shorter solo canoe. For now, he’s been focusing mostly on fishnets, cutting boards, and outdoor furniture, on which he uses TotalBoat Halcyon Varnish and TotalBoat Gleam Spar Varnish. He’s also now maintaining his powerboat exclusively with TotalBoat products! No matter what project he tackles next though, there will never be a one that isn’t uniquely homemade.