Complete Sheet Construction in Souris River Canoes

Complete Sheet Construction in Souris River Canoes

The actual hull of every Souris River Canoe is made out of 4 complete sheets of material which vary depending on whether the canoe is Kevlar or  Carbon Tec.   That’s four complete, intact sheets of cloth with no scarfed-in (think “bandaid”) little pieces here and there.  So, you have one sheet of fiberglass on the outside, one sheet of kevlar next, then a sheet of polyester cloth, then a sheet of kevlar on what becomes the inside of the canoe.  All of these sheets are complete.  They are not one or two big sheets of kevlar with the sides of the canoe made out of 17 foot long by 2 foot wide pieces put in later to form a seam along the chine of the canoe.  After flexing the side of a scarfed-in canoe hull, you will see a seam appear as their vinylester resin loosens up.  There is no way to repair that.  You’ll never see that type of damage appearing in Souris River because there is no sheet glued in there to begin with. Plus, there are three sheets of cloth over the top of each flexible rib in a Souris River.  At the generous overlap, you end up with SEVEN SHEETS OF CLOTH.  You will absolutely never find that with any foam-core Brand X kevlar canoe out there.  That’s just not how they roll.

four sheet construction

Unlike all other manufacturers who use colored or clear gel-coat (resin with silica sand in it) on the outside and inside (some, not all do the inside) of the canoe, Souris River’s workmanship is completely visible to the casual observer.   When you look at a Souris River, you can see everything through the clear epoxy resin .  Gel coating which is never used by Souris River easily hides minor (or even major imperfections – just spray it on thicker) in any canoe hull.   Most people don’t realize that gel-coating gives that perfect showroom shine and finish to every canoe while covering up any imperfections. Gel coat also adds considerable weight and does absolutely nothing for the strength of the canoe.  It also allows the builder to take shortcuts in construction which the buyer cannot see.  One of the major short cuts is using up leftover scraps by overlapping layers in the hull of the canoe.

Many other-brand canoes are made using overlapping layers of cloth in the sides of the canoe.  It’s always more profitable to incorporate waste pieces whenever possible and use gel coat to cover it all up.  Unfortunately, vinylester resin ages and becomes brittle.   The vast majority of canoe builders use vinylester resin and overlaping cloth layers. It is not unusual to see a 5 year old kevlar canoe begin to separate right at the chines of the canoe (round part where the side meets the bottom).    Basically the two flaps of cloth separate from each other (delaminate) due to repeated flexing of the side of the canoe against the unbending, unforgiving stiffness of the foam core bottom.  See the cut-away illustration below.  The only way to repair damage like this would be to install a really long patch on the outside of the canoe just to seal the water out.  Not only would that repair be unsightly, it would not do much for the overall strength of the canoe in that damaged area.

traditional foam core kevlar caneos lay up

To prevent this weak point in the canoe (in the red circled areas) and other places throughout the canoe, Souris River uses complete sheets of material in every canoe built.  You will not see overlapping at the the chines of Souris River Canoes anywhere in the main hull body.  Now, an overlap is visible in the ends (stems) of the canoes because that’s where the sheet of kevlar ends.  You can actually see the overlap clearly and it is not in a high stress area of the canoe.

Why doesn’t every builder avoid overlapping?  The answer: cost and increased difficulty in manufacturing.  In order to make a better canoe with no overlapping layers, Souris River Canoes cost more to build as each canoe ends up with more waste pieces which don’t get used in any canoe. Building canoes in this fashion is not only unusual in the canoe industry, but also demands extra skill by Souris River builders.  Four complete sheets of various cloths makes a really strong canoe. This practise is also better than simply gluing several pieces together and that’s how Souris can build a canoe that can survive wrapping around a bridge abuttment.  Not that one would strive to do this, but wrapping a canoe does happen.  It’s much more difficult to cause a complete sheet of cloth to tear apart than several smaller pieces of cloth glued together in overlapping layers.  And, in all Souris River Canoes, a lack of gel coat means our customers see every last detail in the canoe, so the workmanship needs to be of a very high standard.

Due to the lack of gel coat, upon really close, visual observation in the right lighting, one may see what is know as “pin-holing” (to the canoe building world)  in the finish of a Souris River.  It’s normal to have pin-holing or porosity in the outside layer of a any “skin coat” canoe which is a canoe that is not covered with an outside layer gel-coat.  Porosity does not effect the canoe’s performance and generally means nothing.  Expect to see it somewhere in varying degrees in every Souris River canoe.   Souris Rivers quite possibly offer the best skin coat layups of all the canoe makers.  Their overall finish is excellent considering the difficulties and care that is required to build canoes that won’t be hidden or smoothed out by a layer of clear or colored gel coat.

Why not apply gel coat to make a perfect finish?  It’s simple. Gel coat only flexes so far and then it cracks. When it cracks, it gets water inside of the cracks and sometimes falls off in larger chunks as a result.  Repairing gel coat is a ROYAL pain! While gel coat offers no worthwhile strength to the canoe, it does add substantial weight and would crack off in large chunks on a hull that can flex.  In striving to build canoes for nature’s harsh reality, Souris River chose to forego the absolutely perfect showroom finish. While it’s nice, the vast majority of Souris River owners actually use their canoes a lot! Only very few stand on shore admiring that showroom shine of their canoe with a magnifying glass.  We feel that with Souris River Canoes, high quality function, design and a great looking canoe are what is important. If you need to impress your neighbors at the microscopic level with the paint job, get a car.

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