When we love the way a plug paddles, we tool it. Wood has many imperfections, so we cover the plug with bondo and fairing compound to smooth, or fair, the shape. Then the outer surface is wet sanded through progressively higher grits, a tedious but necessary process.

Once the male plug has been polished so it shines, we’re ready to make the female mold. Molds are made from inexpensive fiberglass, and are heavy. The goal is to create and maintain a shape.  Molds are rolled around on carts, so weight doesn’t matter.

Canoes with shouldered flare require a complex two-piece mold. Because of the sophisticated shape of shouldered flare, the mold needs to be able to separate to remove the finished hull. There are two main ways to separate the mold. Splitting it along the keel line results in a longitudinal seam, splitting it the opposite way creates a transverse seam.

At Bell Canoe we started with longitudinal seams and switched to transverse. Longitudinal seams can stretch twenty feet. Transverse seams never approach six feet. Since the seam is the weakest part of the mold, we minimize it. Molds with long seams may slightly sag over many years. Sagging flattens the hull, decreasing the canoe’s performance. Transverse seams guarantee canoes built from old molds have the same performance as the original plug we paddled.

To prepare a mold for building a canoe we press clay into the seam to fill it. The slight depression created by a finger creates an ‘out-tie’ seam – a slightly raised bump that runs from gunwale to gunwale. The most common questions we receive about the seam are: What is that line in the middle of the canoe? Did you build the canoe in two halves and glue them together? The latter question begs a facetious answer; most of the time we refrain.

In short, the seam is the birthmark of a canoe with shouldered flare. Shouldered flare guarantees you have the driest, most seaworthy and safest canoe available.