Building an Adirondack Guideboat: Wood Strip Reproductions of the Virginia
by Michael J. Olivette
and John Michne

248 pages
ISBN 0-9713069-9-0
8-1⁄2" x 11"
September 2005
Cover Price $29.95


Now you can build an Adirondack guideboat!

This is the essential “how-to” manual for constructing a modern Adirondack guideboat using laminated spruce ribs, cedar strips, and lightweight fiberglass. The authors explain the assembly and the finish work and they even include tips on the transporting and maintenance of the builder’s beautiful new boat.

An American original, the guideboat is the fastest fixed-seat traditional rowboat in the world. Noted for its graceful lines, elegant curves, maneuverability, and speed, its form and function are unique to the Adirondacks of the 19th century. It was a workboat light enough for one person to carry between the Adirondacks’ many lakes, big enough to haul the gear of the hired guide and his sportsmen, and quiet enough to stalk game on the edge of a lake.

The authors base their instruction on the only known set of detailed plans of an actual Adirondack guideboat, the drawings of the Virginia by the small-boat historian, designer, and builder John Gardner. The Adirondack Museum currently features the Virginia, built in 1905 by the Grant boat shop in Boonville, New York, in its extensive guideboat exhibit.

The book includes 260 photographs and 16 drawings of the work in progress; a Foreword by Hallie Bond, Curator at the Adirondack Museum; and an Appendix containing John Gardner’s detailed drawings, lines, and offsets of the Virginia.

Building an Adirondack Guideboat features:

• Detailed step-by-step instruction including the construction drawings of the Virginia by the well-known small boat builder and author John Gardner and originally reproduced in the book The Adirondack Guide-Boat by Kenneth and Helen Durant published by the Adirondack Museum in 1980.

• Guideboat building is now accessible to the amateur woodworker with easy wood strip construction.

• The tools used are already in most home shops.

• The authors emphasize economy, obtaining the best materials and tools for the best price. Readers will find that constructing their own guideboat is much less expensive than buying a commercially built one.

• Instruction includes lofting full-size rib and stem drawings; making rib and stem patterns and bending forms; laminating the ribs and inner stems; shaping the bottom board; building the skeleton; making and installing cedar strips, gunwales, stems, floor grate, and caned seats and backrests; carving oars, a paddle, and carry yoke; and making the trim, including brass work.  Then, the authors explain the assembly and finish work, including fiberglass, stem bands and caps, bottom shoes and other metalwork, and varnish or paint. They even include tips on the transporting and maintenance of the builder’s beautiful new boat.

• The authors base their instruction on the old traditional design. The finished boat is a complete guideboat, including all of the accessories of traditional guideboats. It performs like the traditional boat, too. It is fast, it tracks straight, and is stable in the water.

• Throughout the text, the authors refer to the guideboats and builders of the past. They hand on a 150-year-old Adirondack legacy as the reader absorbs the history while completing his or her own boat.

• The book includes 260 photographs and 16 drawings of the work in progress; a Foreword by Hallie Bond, Curator at the Adirondack Museum; an Appendix containing all 16 of John Gardner’s drawings of the Virginia; other Appendixes include “Screw Sizes and Quantities,” “Working with Epoxy,” “Making Scarf Joints,” a source guide for materials and tools, and a glossary.

 The builder’s Adirondack guideboat will have:
• Strong laminated rib construction.
• A smooth wood strip, fiberglassed hull.
• All of the accessories of the traditional guideboat.
• The classic look, feel, and performance of the traditional guideboat.

What they’re saying about Building an Adirondack Guideboat

Building an Adirondack Guideboat tells us all we need to know about putting together a guideboat to the old lines with modern materials at a cost that falls comfortably near the low end of the scale. …The amount of detail given to us by the authors, in a comfortable letter-from-home style, is impressive….if you’re really going to build one of these boats, you’ll bless this book each evening as you turn off the shop lights—and then you’ll take it to bed with you in order to prepare for the next day’s work.”
-Mike O’Brien, Woodenboat magazine

“The end result is a complete guideboat, with strong laminated rib construction, along with all of the accessories, and the classic look, feel, and performance of a traditional guideboat. Throughout the text, the authors discuss the 150-year legacy of the boat, allowing readers to absorb history while completing their own boats.”
-Jennifer Hicks, Woodshop News

“There is a wealth of detailed step-by-step instructions which take you through the course of building a reproduction guideboat. The authors go into such detail in so many aspects of this project that this book becomes an invaluable reference source for any builder of small watercraft, regardless of the type of construction or of their skill level. I believe this book is destined to become a 'best seller' in this genre, and that the authors should be proud of their accomplishment.”
-Martin Step, Green Valley Boat Works, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and

“This book …is a clear and highly descriptive treatise on the entire construction process, from planning to finishing. 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, New York, 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. Whether you intend to build a showpiece, 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,

“So, my thanks go to (and admiration of) Michael J. Olivette and John D. Michne for authoring a truly outstanding book and having done all of us a great service in the bargain.”
-Rodger C. Swanson, Messing About In Boats

“Thanks to easy wood strip construction, now amateur boatbuilders can make a modern Adirondack guideboat—a reproduction of the Virginia from 1905—using this 238-page instruction manual.”
-Sharon Hambrick, Woodcraft Magazine

“This is a nice book! It is so interesting that while reading it I found myself figuring out how I could fit the time in to build a guideboat for myself. The instruction and images really give you a step-by-step building process….So what are you waiting for? Buy the book and get to work.”
-Roger Marshall, Boatbuilder magazine

“If I had tried to build my guideboat without this book, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would’ve taken years to complete and the result would have been a significantly lesser boat. Michne and Olivette have done a fine job of bringing guideboat building into the realm of the non-professional boat builder.”
-Dick Millet, amateur builder who built a reproduction Virginia using this book.

“An Adirondack guideboat built with laminated ribs and strip planking is not only functional and utilitarian, as Gardner indicated it would be, but it also has the classic lines of the traditional boat and it continues to reflect the lives of the people who build and use it. With the help of Michne and Olivette, you can be one of them.”
-Hallie E. Bond, Curator, Adirondack Museum

About the Authors

John D. Michne is a retired chemist and gamma ray spectroscopist.  He spent his career in nuclear and environmental radiochemistry, and has designed, constructed, and programmed microprocessor-controlled remote deep ocean instrumentation. John has written feature articles for his local newspaper, and recently wrote a series of articles on wood-stripped canoe construction posted at his website at

John’s woodworking experience dates back to the 1940s. He completed his first boat, a 12’ plywood and fiberglass outboard runabout, built over oak framework, in 1965. His more recent work has consisted of award-winning canoes and guideboats, including a canoe stripped in Honduras mahogany and trimmed in Peruvian walnut. John’s reproduction of the Virginia as described in this book won Best in Show at the annual Northeastern Woodworkers Association Showcase 2002, judged by a distinguished panel of nationally known professional woodworkers. Other awards won at the NWA: second place in class for a cedar stripped 17’ canoe, 1999; first place in class, 13’ mahogany stripped canoe, 2000; Best of Show and People’s Choice Award, 14’ Adirondack guideboat, 2004.

John lives in Clifton Park, New York.

Michael J. Olivette is Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. He has spent much of his life exploring New York State's Adirondack Mountains.  He is a licensed Adirondack guide who, like the guides of the old days, is also an accomplished carpenter, furniture maker, and boat-builder.  In the "off-season," Michael builds rustic and traditional furniture, and has built a timber frame cabin by hand in the southern Adirondacks, where he spends much of his free time. Michael is also a field tester for L.L. Bean, Inc. A few years ago, Michael combined his woodworking skills with his love of the Adirondack guideboat and built his first reproduction of Grant's guideboat, Virginia

Michael lives with his two daughters in the lakeside community of Cazenovia, New York.