This fun and relatively easy project fits almost anywhere. It's a great shelf for collectibles and books, and a conversation piece on its own.

Inspired by the photograph of the old canoe bookcase below, we built our "boat" out of maple stock, but you may wish to embark on your project using pine, birch or oak. We wanted a traditional look that would also show off the beautiful wood grain, and chose Minwax conditioner, water-based wood stain and sealer for a finish rich in colour and quality.

Bon Voyage! Bon Voyage!

What You'll Need


  • wood glue 2020-903
  • masking tape 1670-926
  • 1" finishing nails 2134-416
  • 5/8" finishing nails (16 mm) 2134-023
  • paintable/stainable wood filler 1627-396
  • sides: 4" x 8" x 1/4" sheet of veneer plywood (1)
  • shelves: 14 feet, 1" x 8" maple/birch/pine
  • trim: 1/4" x 1" x 7" pine trim strips (6)
  • 1 foot, 1" dowel 2624-397

Tool Box

  • square 1070-067/085
  • jigsaw 1268-666
  • mitre saw 1347-037
  • sander 1262-222/859
  • bench saw 1346-620
  • hammer 1030-556
  • nail set 1039-389
  • clamps 1022-930 to 1023-190
  • measuring tape 1048-832
  • drill 1239-323
  • brad nailer (optional) 1282-506

Step By Step

  1. From 1" x 8" stock, cut the shelves and prow support pieces to size. Each shelf has angled ends, which vary slightly in degrees to accommodate the curve in the sides of the bookcase. (see plan list)
  2. From the 4' x 8' sheet of veneer plywood, cut the two shelf sides to size.
  3. Lay the two sides together, and on the interior surfaces locate and mark the position of the shelves. (see plan illustration) You may choose to change the spacing of the shelves. If so, the angled ends will vary from the diagram.
  4. Tape the two sides securely together at the "nose" of the shelf. Using bar clamps, "dry fit" the shelves into position as shown in the diagram.
  5. Using 1" finishing nails, secure each shelf in place using three nails at each shelf end. Do not set the nails at this time.
  6. Cut to size, and install the two inner and two outer front 1= trim strips flush to the top of the shelf sides, using clamps, glue and 5/8" finishing nails. Remove the clamps only when the glue has dried.
  7. Install the two prow side support blocks flush to the bottom and top edges of the sides, using 1" nails and glue.
  8. Prepare to trace and cut the back shelf panel by placing the assembled unit on the piece of 1/4" plywood. It is critical that the bottom shelf be square to the top point of the shelf and that the curvature of the sides is uniform. Clamp the bottom shelf and the top point in place when placement is correct, and trace out the back panel.
  9. Using the jigsaw, cut out the back panel.
  10. Set the cut back panel onto the shelf assembly, and secure with 1" nails and wood glue along the back of each shelf. Helpful hint: If you plan to use different colours for the sides, shelves and bottom, finish before assembling.

    Helpful hint: If you plan to use different colours for both sides, shelves and bottom, finish before assembling.

  11. Install the bottom shelf trim pieces, using glue and 1" finishing nails. Pre-drill for nails into hardwood.
  12. Cut to size and install the two back trim pieces using 1" nails and glue. Nail the strips at the shelf locations.
  13. Install the triangular prow piece and dowel using glue and 1-1/4" finishing nails.
  14. Set all finishing nails. Fill the holes after the wood has been sealed.
  15. Sand and finish the shelf unit to fit your room décor.


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