WoodCentral's Book Reviews
Building an Adirondack Guideboat

Building an Adirondack Guideboat
by Michael J. Olivette and John D. Michne

Nicholas K. Burns: 2005
Paperback, 237 pp., $29.95
ISBN 0-9713069-9-0

     When one conjures up the image of a rowboat, it's not often that the adjectives "sleek," "fast," "light" or "elegant" come to mind; yet, the Adirondack guideboat embodies all those attributes and more. This nimble watercraft is a truly indigenous boat form that evolved in the lake region of upstate New York during the first half of the 19th century. It is still widely regarded as one of the finest traditional boats ever built.
     Crafted of native spruce and cedar in a lapstrake type of construction -- with a hull made up of overlapping cedar strips screwed, tacked and clenched together and then faired to a smooth contour -- the Adirondack guideboat was an elegant solution to the problems of transportation in this mountainous region, where roads were few and lakes were everywhere. The Adirondack guideboat was light enough to be portaged by one person, yet large enough to carry three or more adults and all their gear. Thin and delicate with a sleek and curving hull, it was very easy to row and extremely fast, compared to its clumsy flat-bottomed cousins.
     This book, based on the only known plans for a traditional guideboat -- the Virginia, built in 1905 -- is a clear and highly-descriptive treatise on the entire construction process, from planning to finishing. The book also contains chapters on epoxy work, care and maintenance, optional equipment, paddles and more. Profusely illustrated with 260 excellent black & white photographs, it also includes 16 crisp line drawings of the original John Gardner plans, a list of each and every brass screw required, a sources section, a bibliography and a glossary of boatbuilding terms.
     When I served as a judge for several years at the annual Northeastern Woodworkers Association (NWA) expo in Saratoga Springs, NY, I was privileged to award John Michne several awards for his boats, including a "Best of Show" award in 2002, for his reproduction of the Virginia. The level of accomplishment in these craft was stunning. (See Shop Shot #299.) Whether you intend to build a show piece, or a simpler version of this classic boat, this book will provide all the information you need, and show you a whole new arsenal of woodworking techniques in the bargain.

. . . Ellis Walentine