Build Your Own Japanese Boat

*This course will meet for two consecutive three-day weekends: Friday, July 20th – Sunday, July 22nd and Friday, July 27th – Sunday, July 29th from 9am-4pm.

Building the Japanese Boat

with Douglas Brooks

 In this workshop each student will build their own boat, based on a traditional Japanese river boat design. The course will provide a thorough introduction to traditional Japanese boat building techniques, introducing students to the unique techniques of Japanese boatbuilding, including fitting planks with handsaws, fastening using both edge-nails and wooden dovetail keys. Other topics include sharpening with waterstones and the adjustment and tuning of Japanese wooden planes.

 The course will meet over two consecutive three-day weekends. Tuition is $750 (10% discount for members), with a materials fee of $1,000.

 The boat design is from the Agano River and is a hard chine, canoe-like craft used in the lagoons and estuaries of the river mouth. They are called, locally, itaawase (ita = plank; awase = to put together). Workshop boats will be about sixteen feet long and suitable for paddling by one or two people.

 If time permits, students will work on making paddles and/or half models. All the necessary materials and Japanese tools will be provided, but if students own hand tools they may bring a selection to class. The instructor will also discuss the tenets of Japanese apprenticeship. No prior woodworking experience is necessary.

About the Instructor:

Douglas Brooks is a boat builder, writer and researcher. He specializes in small boats built to traditional designs and he has taught boatbuilding across the United States and Japan. He has also studied traditional Japanese boat building since 1996, having apprenticed with seven different boatbuilders throughout the country. He has written for WoodenBoat magazine, Maritime Life and Traditions, and Classic Boat among other publications. His fourth book, Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding, is the first comprehensive survey of the craft published in any language. His work can be seen at his website

Build Your Own Fox Double Paddle Canoe with Bill Thomas


The tuition is $750 with a 10% discount for Lowell’s Boat Shop Members. 

a $500 non-refundable deposit is required at sign up, upon registering, students are required to call or stop at Lowell’s to make a deposit (this avoids unnecessary fees).  A minimum of three students is required to run this class, we reserve the right to cancel the class for underenrollment.

The cost for the kit is $1300 for both members and non-members (no member discount).

Total class cost:

Non Member: $2050

Member: $1,975

This six day class offered over two consecutive three day weekends (May 11-13 and 18-20 ) will be taught by the boat’s designer Bill Thomas. Students will each have an assembled boat, ready for final sanding and finishing at the end of the class.

We’ll start our class Friday morning at 8:30 pm with a brief orientation and overview of the class. We’ll
work until about 6:00 each evening. Sunday May 20 we should finish early in the afternoon. Family built boats or builders with partners are welcome.

Building the Fox to a high standard takes about 80 hours stretched over 3 weeks; this includes the 6 to 10
days needed to paint and varnish. In a five day building class the boats are assembled and ready to
transport, but students usually finish the epoxy coating, sanding and painting at home.  Once they have the boats home, students will need to provide their own sandpaper, paint, varnish and finishing supplies. At the end of class I make sure that all the students have my contact information and access to the 21 part building video on the Fox design.

Fox is a decked double paddle canoe, a boat intended for protected waters along the coast and for mountain lakes. With an 80” long cockpit, Fox is a grand boat for hunting, fishing and tripping with a dog or young
child seated forward of the paddler.

Fox boasts two accessible watertight compartments, which add flotation and dry gear storage. There’s ample room for a camping kit. A rotating seat back and caned seat insure all day paddling comfort. She is 14’7” long with a beam of 30″; the finished weight is just over 40 pounds. For more information please follow this link:

In a review featured in Wooden Boats annual Small Boats issue Mike O’Brien commented on Fox’s handling. “Fox appears to have just the right amount of directional stability. It likes to keep going where we point it, yet it turns easily and predictably.” I’m not sure what more to ask for in a small boat.

Painting and Varnishing Workshop

Saturday July 14 from 9-3

Sunday July 15 from 10-2


Marine finishing requires a lot of careful preparation, good technique, and an understanding of marine coatings. Gary Lowell will present and information-packed day of painting and varnishing. He starts with surface preparation, including techniques for sanding, to help make the job less tedious. You will learn how to choose the right brush and several brushing techniques. You’ll also learn how to protect yourself so you can get a beautiful finish and stay healthy at the same time. Students are encouraged to bring small projects such as a hatch or seat to use as practice in class. Please check with the shop staff prior to bringing your project.



Saftey Rules – dust control & chemical use

Surface Prep – paint and varnish removal, sanders and sanding techniques, & fairing putties and fillers

Brushes and Brushing Techniques – brushing & rolling and tipping

Applying Paint and Varnish

Specialty Products – masking, bleaching, staining, teak finishes, & wet sanding and buffing


Gary Lowell is a descendent of the Lowell’s who founded Lowell’s Boat Shop. He is the president of Lowell Boats Greensboro, NC which is an award-winning boatshop specializing in classic runabout restoration. Gary teaches painting and varnishing at the WoodenBoat School and is a long time friend of the shop.