Master canoe maker teaches high school students

Doug Williams

There are some seriously lucky students in Maine, I’d have loved the opportunity they’ve been given.

Here at the Outdoor Revival office we regularly talk about building some of our own canoes, well, the truth is I talk about it and others listen. What Joe Lavoie is doing for these kids has the chance to change their lives, it’s great.

Ninety – three-year-old Joe Lavoie is a canoe maker from Milford. He ran two canoe making companies and has handed over the last to his son-in-law Brian Richard. He’s been officially retired from canoe-making for 29 years, but he hasn’t exactly retired from the craft. Nowadays he teaches students at the United Technologies Center in Bangor, Maine.


The seniors from Bangor High School are impressed. ‘I was blown away by the craftsmanship,’ said one. ‘To put that much work and effort into something is just amazing,’ said another.

Lavoie worked his amazing craft for forty years, first at White Canoe and then at Old Town Canoe. A single canoe can take from 40 to 80 hours to construct. He doesn’t use fiberglass. Instead, he uses cedar ribs, planks and canvas. He shuns the idea of mass production as something that cheapens the craft.

Lavoie’s elegant creations can be seen – and purchased – at the Old Town Canoe showroom. The 30 inch model sells for $400 and the 48 inch for $600.

George Bergeron is one of the instructors at the United Technologies Center. He was keen for students to see traditional craftsmen, and to learn and be inspired by them. He wanted to impart a sense of history to the young people when learning about tradesman ship.

He says students get a lot out of watching a real craftsman at work. ‘They were fascinated at how the wood would bend after you steamed it. They’d never seen that before,’ he says. He hopes the students will be inspired to combine technology and craftsmanship, and develop a keen sense of pride in their work.


The students seem to take away a sense of appreciation of what goes into one of Lavoie’s canoes, and are inspired. ‘I want to go home and build a canoe on YouTube,’ said one young man. ‘That’s just what I want to do.’


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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival