Dugout Project Update

Measuring and shaping the log

The Adventurer, Vernon Wade

Vernon was born in the Pacific Northwest and still lives in the shadow of Mt. Hood, near the small town where he grew up. Vernon has spent decades wandering the hills, hunting mushrooms, camping and riding motorcycles into the remotest nooks and crannies to be found in the region.

mushrooms growing on cottonwood log              A long period of neglect followed Robert’s visit last August to help me start the canoe project. Mushrooms sprouted from the ends of the log (Pholiota populnea, pretty, but unfortunately inedible). I feared the log would turn out to be rotten.

             In December I actual took some measurements and formed a plan. The small end of the log was fairly symmetrical, but there was a bow in the middle and the butt was quite a bit larger and out of round.

I made a cardboard template of the small end and transferred the pattern to the butt at the larger end. Using yardsticks and twine, I divided the log into sections and calculated where and how much I needed to shave off to end up with an even, straight length of cottonwood to fashion my canoe from. I didn’t really know what I was doing, just figuring it out as I went.

measuring the runout




With more than a little trepidation, I began chipping away at it with the hewing ax and an adze. I was reminded uncomfortably of cutting out Valentine’s in grade school: cut a little here, cut a little there and keep trying to even it up until nothing is left but confetti. It was awkward and painfully slow. The snows came. I put my tools away.





When it warmed up again, I resumed my work. The hand tools were proving too tedious so I fired up the chainsaw and started whacking slabs off the sides of the log. I was pleased to discover the wood inside was sound.

cutting slabs off the log



log shaped and ready to hollowIt went better than I expected it to. I rechecked my measurements and it looked like I was pretty close to where I wanted to be. I decided which side should be the bottom, and using the peavey, rolled it over and chocked it in place.




Blue kettle heating


First burn hot toddyI plan to use it as a Dutch oven table for cooking, and chop away the charred bits with an adze until I get it hollowed out. I started last night, heating some water over the coals and making myself a whiskey toddy. The results were encouraging – it burned down from the coals, toward the center of the log, but didn’t seem to spread to the sides. I have a long way to go, but it looks controllable.

chopping out the char

Today I am chipping out yesterday’s burn and cooking a roast in the Dutch oven. Stay tuned for more updates.






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  1. ANDY

    Looking good, brother! I can’t wait to see the result, and maybe watch it cruise Disappearing Lake!

  2. Vernon Wade

    Thanks, Andy. I am looking forward to that, too. My second biggest fear with this project is i will get it all done, launch the canoe, and discover it is too small to float my fat ass. Won’t know until it is done.

  3. Dimensional Kreemo

    Are you planning to do the hot rocks, water and spreaders at the end?

    • Vernon Wade

      I might. We’ll see when it is closer to done. The shovel nose design I am going for doesn’t need to be steamed and spread, but the log is smaller than I wanted. Spreading it might gain a little more beam and stability. If I manage to get it finished and shaved down thin enough, I will probably try it, just because it sounds like fun.


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