tips on laminating the stem for the mystic river canoe

CLC provided 2" x 3/32" strips of Spruce to laminate the stem of the Mystic River canoe (soft wood for both the inner AND outer stems, suprisingly).

The stem forms have a very strong curve and it seems clear to me that the inner stem cannot be done "dry" without breaking these strips. The provided suggestion in the manual (though for a different issue actually) is to rip the strips in half (so about 1" wide each) and laminate the front and back stems separately.

Before ripping them and trying again, I wanted to ask if anybody has helpful suggestions that don't involve using a steam box.

Did somebody have the same problem and did ripping them in half work for you?

Would soaking the strips in water be a good idea (and using polyurethane glue on the wet wood)?

Does wood glue make the pieces a lot more malleable?

Thanks in advance!



3 replies:

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RE: tips on laminating the stem for the mystic river canoe

Hi Martijn,

Steam will make a big difference.  When I was building I used a big turkey pot (big pan and cover) and then I put grate in it to keep the wood out of the water and then just boiled/steamed it for quite a while.

I then temporarily pulled the piece into position onto the form with clampse as it dried/cooled….then I did my final glue with wood glue with strapping tape….and it came out just fine.

Below are three pictures.  The first picture is the wood in the turkey pot (most of the time it was in there with the top on.  the second picture is the pulling the freshly steamed wood into position on the form….and then the final picture is actually gluing it up with wood glue.

Not the same boat….but the same idea.  It did take a while of steaming….at some point, kind of like brisket, it finally yielded.  Btw…I needed pot holders to handle the hot wood.   i also agree you should cut the pieces into 1 inch strips

i hope this was helpful.


RE: tips on laminating the stem for the mystic river canoe

As always, good comments by hspira.

I have never done a laminated inner stem but given the shape of the Mystic ends I can see that it would be easier.  That is also probably why they provide a soft wood for the strips because getting that much bend with harder wood would be difficult.

My approach is a little different.  I soak the strips in a bucket of water for an hour then use a heat gun to bend the wet strips in place.  Since I use tape, I can only do one or two strips at a time but with the clamp holes in your forms, you may be able to do more.  Once the strips have dried, they will retain the shape so easy enough to remove and then glue in place. 

You probably know this, but do not glue the first strip of the inner stem to your form.

Pictures are the redo of the bow of my Mystery.  The design bow was too plumb and collected weeds badly during races.  I used thickened epoxy in this lamination but wood glue would be fine as long as it is glassed over.

Mystery bow trimmed back ready for strips.

First strip bent in place and drying.  Not glued yet.

All the strips glued in place.

The lamination being shaped with a hand plane.


Final bow glassed and ready for varnish.        

RE: tips on laminating the stem for the mystic river canoe

Thanks so much to you both!

I am going to try pre-bending before gluing. I don't have a pan big enough for the strips for the (very interesting) simple steam method. I'll try soaking first in a PVC pipe and otherwise will set up a steam box. Great to learn about using a heat gun on the soaked wood!

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