When you decide to purchase a canoe, one of the first things you want to decide is whether you go for a traditional wooden canoe or a fibreglass canoe. When you view them they may seem like completely different products – they certainly look and feel different. Fibreglass canoes are often mass-produced, whereas wooden canoes are seen as objects of desire, crafted with beauty in mind.
You may be surprised though that wooden canoes and fibreglass canoes are actually fairly similar products. Advances in materials used have allowed wooden canoes to incorporate the strength of fibreglass while maintaining their natural beauty.
Our canoes are built entirely from wood. Once they have taken shape, a layer of fibreglass gets added to the inside and outside of the boat. This is what gives the canoe its strength. The fibreglass is added on to the canoe with clear epoxy resin that dries to a see-through finish, allowing you to see the wood underneath.
A fibreglass canoe start off as either a foam body or just a mould shaped like a canoe. Fibreglass is added, however on this occasion a coloured dye is added as well. Once the epoxy dries your canoe will have a particular colour making it impossible to see the inside of the canoe.
For us, the choice between a wooden or fibreglass canoe is mainly down to the aesthetics and the feel of paddling a canoe made from natural material. As you can see from the description above, these materials do not have much impact on the strength of the canoe.
The beauty of a wooden canoe also shows in the finishing of the boat; it will have wooden deck plates, gunwales and yokes. The woven webbed seats are formed around a wooden frame, and when you sit inside it you will see the original wood used to build it. All these things help create a connection with nature that fibreglass canoe cannot offer.
If you value craftsmanship then another major difference is that fibreglass canoes are usually mass-produced whereas wooden canoes are made by hand, making each one unique and slightly different to the next one.