Sunday, November 27, 2011

Carving a Siberian Dugout

Here's a nice video showing two men carving a dugout canoe from a trunk of Siberian aspen. It's not in English, but among the points of interest are:
  • the use of an axe with curved lips, like that of an adze, for hewing the sides of the log
  • the care and precision with which the sides are hewed. A long straightedge is used to detect high spots that are then hewed down.
  • the use of dozens of small pegs to achieve a consistent wall thickness. Dozens of holes are drilled into the outer surface of the log, then small pegs of a consistent length are pounded into the holes. As the inside is hollowed out and the inner ends of the pegs revealed, the builders know they have hollowed enough in that place. Note how the canoe is carefully lined off first, so that the pegs are installed at consistent intervals.
  • the use of fire, not boiling water, to soften the sides in order to "expand" them (keep watching past the hunting sequence for this)
  • the fact that the top of the log is not hewed off flat before being hollowed. The builders leave a fairly narrow opening and hollow out the log wider beneath it. When the hull is expanded, this leaves the sides higher and produces a nice sheerline that's higher amidships.
  • the canoe is paddled kayak-style: the paddler sits in the bottom and uses a double-bladed paddle.


  1. Good film thanks. I am a bit puzzled by all the thickness gauge plugs though. Surely some sort of crude vernier could be made for this purpose? Or. do the plugs have some additional purpose such as stopping cracks developing during expansion?

  2. This system is used in many cultures, but I too was surprised at the number of plugs. I don't think it has any purpose other than thickness gauging. With a caliper, you'd have to stop frequently to check. With the plugs, you simply keep working, hollowing the inner surface until they appear. The more plugs there are, the more regular/consistent will be the thickness.