Because the seat in a solo canoe is centered in the boat, you can’t permanently mount a yoke there. I’ve seen all sorts of solutions to the problem, such as removable clamp-on yokes, magnet holding yokes, yokes held on with bungee cords, special clamping systems for yokes and many more. It seems like everyone’s inner engineer emerges to fix this problem. In the past, I’ve used an ash clamp-on solo yoke made by Bell with Chosen Valley Canoe pads. It works very well, but it does scratch up my aluminum gunwales, and it’s a pain to clamp down. I decided to make a solo yoke that attaches to the seat and stays in place via a hook and pressure. I’ve seen this style of design in a few places, and I think that Mad River used to sell something similar, but you just can’t find them on the market anymore. It’s the perfect DIY project. It fits standard-sized ash canoe seats.
- Rough-cut ash, 4 feet by 4 inches by 1 inch, straight grained (or other hardwood, such as cherry)
- Four 3-inch stainless steel screws
- Two yoke pads w/ bolts, washers and nuts
- Watco oil
- Printed plans
- Spray adhesive
- Router with a round-over bit
- Sandpaper, 80-grit, 120-grit, 220-grit
- Drill with 1/8-inch bit
- Countersink bit
Yoke Building Instructions
Step 1: Cut out the printed plans. You need two cutouts of the side piece and one of the yoke. Spray the ash and the back of the plans with spray adhesive. Allow the adhesive to dry according to the instructions and then place the paper on the ash. The glue will hold it in place.
Step 2: Cut out the three different parts with a saw. (Please, don’t cut yourself. :)) Block plane or power sand the side pieces into the same shape if your initial cut wasn’t exact.
Step 3: Drill pilot holes into the side pieces and into each edge of the solo canoe yoke. The plans show the drilling locations. On the outside of the side pieces, countersink each hole enough hold a screw head. On the yoke drill holes large enough for your yoke pad hardware.
Step 4: Screw the pieces together. With a pencil lightly note where the edges align. During the routing step, you won’t round over these edges.
Step 5: Unscrew the pieces, and round over all the edges except the ones that you marked. Use a router bit radius that pleases your eyes. (Please, clamp down the pieces and be careful with the router. It could take a finger off.) You should also just sand a round corner if you don’t have a router.
Step 6: Sand the pieces starting with 80-grit followed by 120-grit and then 220-grit.
Step 7: Wipe off the sanding dust.
Step 8: Coat everything with three coats of Watco Oil. I like the green can, but it’s hard to find, so I usually use natural in the brown can. Let everything dry according to the instructions.
Step 9: Screw the side pieces to the yoke. Bolt the yoke pads to the yoke.
Step 10: Hook the back of the solo canoe portage yoke around the back of the seat as shown in the picture above. Slide a bungee cord around the seat to hold it on when you pick up the canoe. Portage as required.
Purchase Yoke Plans
The plans for the solo canoe yoke come as a pdf. When you print the plans, you’ll have a full-sized template for cutting out the parts. I’m selling the plans on a pay-what-you-can-afford plan. The standard rate is $15. For students, poor canoe guides, people on fixed income, the unemployed or if you just can’t afford the standard rate, we ask $5 or $10. For people that can afford more than $15, we ask for $25. If you absolutely cannot afford $5, we’ll give you the plans for free. Contact us with a message about why you think you need the plans for free, and we’ll send you the file. No questions asked. If you’re a writer and have something to say, consider a well-written article about lightweight canoe and kayak travel payment.
Randy Clough’s brother a furniture maker built this pad out of cherry. He beefed up the plan a bit and joined the pieces together with mortise and tenon joints. The finish is Watco oil and the pads are Chosen Valley. The solo canoe yoke looks so good that Randy’s wife even thought that he ought to use it for a wall decoration.