Making sawhorse canoe stands

I was in need of some sawhorses to store my canoe (see my previous post on how to make a wooden canoe yoke), and my fishing buddy needed a set for his canoe at the new apartment he moved into recently.   One of my first logs cut up with the Alaskan saw mill I made for my chainsaw was already chewed up by insects.  There were beetle holes throughout the log and as such the boards were not really good for any sort of finished furniture project.  I decided they would be the perfect boards for making a couple of sets of sawhorses to sit outside act as canoe stands.  I also plan to use my set for milling logs into lumber.

rough sawn boards from alaskan sawmillThese three boards are what I used.  The two smaller boards made 2 sets of legs. The thick center board (3.5″ slab) I used to make the tops of the sawhorses.  It is certainly possible to build similar sawhorses with purchased lumber.  I will put up a drawing later when I have time with plans for 2 by construction of these simple  but sturdy sawhorses.

   Sawhorse top board milled with 15 degree angles

I used my thickness planer to turn the thick slab into 3″ thick dimensioned lumber.  I then ripped the boards with a ripping blade on the table saw.  I used a 15 degree angle on the legs.  I have found that legs splayed at 15 degrees work very well to make for a sturdy support on a table or sawhorse.

how to make a Canoe stand - top boards    sawhorse legs with 15 degree mitre cuts top and bottom

After cutting the top boards, which are in fact the main structure of this simple sawhorse design, I used the planer to make all of the surfaces straight and at the appropriate angles.  I cut the tops to 39 and 38.5″ wide for each pair.  The shorter sawhorse will easily stack underneath the longer one.  If you make them the same length you can have issues with the anti splay bracing on the legs interfering. I cut each set of legs at one time using the first piece as the template.  I made the legs 31″ long and the ends are cut at 15 degrees to match the angle of the legs.  Each leg was cut and planed down to 1.25″ x 4.5″ dimensions from the rough lumber.

first screwed together sawhorse    Simple sawhorse design for storing canoes

The legs were each screwed on to the top board with four 2.5″ long stainless steel deck screws.  Since the wood was free, I decided to splurge and use good stainless steel screws to hold the sawhorses together.  After all they will spend the majority of their time outside with a canoe on top of them. I would hate for them to rust away to nothing and find my canoe broken from the fall one morning years from now.

Sturdier sawhorse design for alaskan saw milling logs into lumber

This is the second set of legs that I made a bit sturdier by the addition of the cross bracing.  I put one set of bracing inside the leg, and the other outside so the two sawhorses can stack for storage if I am not using them to hold my canoe or for Alaskan chainsaw milling of logs .   I’ll take a pic of the canoe on the stands, as well as put up some drawings of the sawhorse designs in the near future.

Stacking sawhorse plans   

The finished sawhorses / canoe stands got some pressure treated feet.  Icut up some left over scrap pressure treated 5/4″ decking boards into feet for the sawhorses.  I attached them with a couple stainless steel deck screws.  This should extend the life of the pine sawhorses considerably by keeping the less rot resistant pine legs off of the ground and dry.

Making name signs, a fun project for kids

Painted name sign for childrens names

Painted name sign for childrens names

This is a fun activity for you to do with your own little ones, or visiting friends little ones in my case.   Every little kid loves their own name.  Often their name is one of the first things they learn to spell and write.  This projects gives them the chance to paint a sign of their name and they can then hang it in their room on the door, a wall or a shelf.  This project was inspired by a friend who shared that she still had as an adult her name sign cut from wood that she had painted with her uncle as a child.  I had an hour to kill one day so I decided to prepare for a future visit by some little ones and cut out the kids names for them to paint.

use paper templates printed on the computer to trace a pattern on the wood

Writing up projects and activities for has been enlightening.  One such item of enlightenment has been how often a project, be it in metal, wood, plaster, plastic, etc  starts with the same basic task: making a template in paper.  Paper is cheap, easy to work with, you can print off from a computer if you aren’t good at drawing, and is completely recyclable.  Please recycle all of your paper and paper scraps from projects.  This project started with me drawing the kid’s names out on the computer and then doing some graphic work to get them to touch at each letter. I then printed them out on 110 lb cardstock paper.


A good way to hold a template in place is craft spray adhesive.  I like Krylons Easy-Tack spray adhesive as well as Elmer’s Craft Bond Spray Adhesive for use on all of my projects.  Both are readily available at craft and home improvement stores.    After drawing or printing out your pattern, cut it out with a pair of sharp high quality shears.   In our modern disposable world,  a pair of high quality shears is no longer commonplace but you should spring for at least one pair as they cut better and last longer then the cheap disposable scissors.  I’ve gone through dozens of cheap and not so cheap fiskar/other modern scissors but my trusty shears have lasted forever and are easily resharpened when dulled.


After transferring the name pattern onto some 1/2″ birch plywood with a pencil I did a fast rough cut with my band saw.  Then I moved over to a scroll saw to finish the detail cutting.   The Scroll saw cuts finely enough that minimal sanding is needed afterward.

Depending on the age of the kids you are planning on doing this project with you could have them help you with the cutting out of the names.  In my case the kids in question are quite young.  They are not ready for any sort of power tool type cutting of wood.   I prepared the wooden name signs well in advance of when we actually got to the painting part of this project.

  sanding before painting   

I started by having the kids sand their name signs with small pieces of 180 grit paper.  We then moved onto the fun part, painting them.   I pulled out a selection of nontoxic child safe paint and craft paint for this project,  all water based.  I did not guide them at all in how to paint their names. I let them choose their own colors  as they saw fit.

use kraft paper for mess management    

When painting with kids, be sure to pour out small amounts from the primary paint cans into small cups.  Often the paint will get knocked over, spilling to make a mess. Using small cups results in smaller spills.  In addition, mess management is made easy by keeping a roll of kraft paper around to cover tables.  A roll of kraft paper is cheap and can be bought anywhere.  Newspaper also works, but spilled paint can get between the pages and sometimes will bleed through newspapers so rolled kraft paper is better.


It might take a while, but eventually the kids were able to do a good job painting and decorating their names.  In order to paint colors on top of colors it is handy to have a hair drier (not photographed, sorry) on hand to speed up the base coat drying.

Painted name sign for childrens names

All in all making and painting signs of the kids names was a very fun project, the cost was nothing as I had left over materials on hand from previous projects.  The kids really enjoyed painting their name and now proudly display them on their doors to their rooms at home. Give this a try with some kids and you will see how much  fun they have as well.

Building a wood canoe yoke from rock maple

Canoe Yoke Installed on my Canoe

Canoe Yoke Installed on my Canoe

I recently picked up a very nice small canoe for summertime fishing and adventuring on the water.  The price was right and it was exactly what I wanted so I made the deal and brought her home with me one night.  It’s short (13′), wide making it stable and has two seats so I can bring a friend.  This is an improvement over my kayak primarily due to the bring a friend factor.   My new canoe needed several things before I took it on the maiden voyage.  First and foremost it needed all of the 1″ oak seat spacers replaced.  I made some new spacers from a 3/4″ oak dowel I had in the shop.  The second thing it needed was a yoke.  At some point in the past, someone removed the yoke from the canoe .  The yoke helps stabilize the sides and provides an easy way for single man portaging of the canoe by throwing it over your shoulders to carry.  This will be a mostly pictorial post.

Selecting the rough maple board for the canoe yokeThe first step in this project was selecting a maple board from my hardwood lumber pile that I cut with my Alaskan Sawmill featured in previous posts.    My choice in boards was limited by what I was able to get out from the bottom of the pile.  It was a bit like playing Jenga removing one of the early boards.  This was one of my first boards cut with the Alaskan sawmill last summer and it was far from beautifully cut.  Thankfully I cut all my boards a bit extra thick so I could mill it into dimensional lumber.  I love that I am now building things with lumber I made myself from storm downed trees.

checking my canoe yoke pattern on the rough boardAfter selecting the rough maple board, I placed my paper template onto the board to find the best fit in terms of grain and avoidance of the knots.

Straightening squaring and planing the rough lumberThe next step was to cut the ends off the long board. I will use the scrap bits to make small projects like my wooden baby rattles that are available here.   Then I cut a straight edge on the board using the bandsaw, being mindful of where I wanted to cut my yoke out and leaving plenty of wood.  Then a few quick passes on my jointer and I had two adjoining sides flat and squared up.

dimensional lumber stock for making a canoe yokeAfter the jointer flattened out one side,  the board goes through the planer and voila, perfect thickness lumber is born.  I wanted my yoke to be sturdy and Zac tough, so I planned the rock maple to a 1″ thickness.

Trace the Canoe yoke pattern onto the boardHard to see but now that the lumber is dimensioned on three sides, I traced the paper pattern onto the board.

rough cut canoe yoke before sanding and routingHere is the rough cut yoke after being cut out with a jig saw.  I might have used the bandsaw but I had the wrong blade on it.  Sometimes it’s easier to use a different tool then to change the blade.  That’s why I used my jig saw for this project.

I did a dry fit of the yoke, carefully measuring and cutting it down to size.  It came out perfect and is a gentle snug fit inside the hull.

Here is the canoe yoke all finished but not yet installed.  I realized I didn’t take a pic of the finished yoke installed on the canoe.  I’ll take one tomorrow.  Hopefully I will have my maiden voyage tomorrow or the next day and get to try out carrying the canoe with my newly installed yoke.

Maiden voyage of my Canoe with the new wooden Canoe yoke on Quick update, Above is a photo of the yoke on my maiden voyage in the new Canoe, and I wanted to share the wooden canoe yoke pattern files with folks since I have noticed there was interest in wooden canoe yoke pattern for downloading.

If you want to download the canoe yoke pattern I used, here are the files:

Canoe Yoke Pattern 1 of 5

Canoe Yoke Pattern 2 of 5

Canoe Yoke Pattern 3 of 5

Canoe Yoke Pattern 4 of 5

Canoe Yoke Pattern 5 of 5

Download and print out the Canoe Yoke Pattern PDFs unscaled, cut them out and tape them together.  You will then have your template to make a wooden canoe yoke of your very own.   Hope this helps


An easy childsafe finish for wooden toys

Kid safe non toxic furniture finish

Kid safe non toxic furniture finish

Woodworking projects for kids are a frequent item in my shop.  One of the challenges, especially on wooden toys for babies and toddlers, is how to finish and protect the wooden toy in a safe non-toxic manner.   A classic kid safe wood finish consists of mixing beeswax into mineral oil.  Both of the “ingredients” are safe and non toxic so if the little ones chew or teethe on their wooden toy there is no need to be concerned for their health.  This makes it the ideal kid safe wood finish.

Safe non-toxic furniture finish for wood working projects   Woodworking finish that is non-toxic and kid safe

The first step to make our safe non-toxic wood finish is to finely shave some of a beeswax block. Beeswax is not as common as it once was in local stores. I order mine as I use it often for woodworking but small 1oz packages are available at Ace Hardware stores still.  I shave the beeswax on a piece of kraft paper to help contain the sticky wax shavings.  This makes clean up after the project easier.   Into a single pint of mineral oil (available at most pharmacies) add a well packed slightly heaping one half cup of beeswax shavings.

safe nontoxic Woodworking finish    Beeswax and mineral oil finish for wooden toys

The next step in making the non-toxic wood finish is to pour the pint of mineral oil into a pan.  I have some heavy gauge stainless pans purchased at a yardsale that I use for project “cooking”.    Then add the packed half cup of beeswax shavings.  Using the low setting on your cooktop, slowly heat up the mixture.  Be sure to stir constantly.  It should looks like the left upper photo after you mix in your beeswax shavings.  As soon as the wax is completely dissolved remove your mixture from heat.  The solution of wax in mineral oil turns clear as in the upper right photo when it is time to remove from the heat.  You do not want to add more heat then it takes to melt all of your beeswax into the oil.

Beeswax and mineral oil finish for wooden toys      Child safe woodworking finish on baby toy

To store your child safe non-toxic wood finish, pour it while still warm into a large glass jar.   You can use the finish immediately as a warm liquid, but as it cools it turns into a soft brushable paste.   Application is very easy. Simply brush on  a liberal coating to your wood project and let the finish soak into the wood for 10 minutes.  Then buff with soft cotton cloth to remove any excess finish.  The little baby rattle toy was the purpose behind this batch of kidsafe wood finish.  The little dinosaur baby rattle is available at my etsy shop for purchase along with a fish rattle and flower rattle.   They have been kid tested and mother approved.

childsafe non toxic wood finish for wooden toys

The cooled finish is a soft brush-able paste.  If you leave it in a sunny window on a warm day it will liquify again if you prefer to use it that way.  I’ve found no discernible difference between using it as a paste or a liquid on wooden toys.  I like to let this finish sit on the toy for at least 24 hours before I buff it out to a soft natural look while removing any excess with a soft cotton cloth.