NorthWest Canoe: Building Beautiful Boats in St. Paul’s Lowertown

NorthWest Canoe // Photo courtesy of NorthWest Canoe

NorthWest Canoe // Photo courtesy of NorthWest Canoe

If you ask Davidson about the best way to obtain a canoe, he’ll recommend building it yourself nearly every time. “If you wanted to come buy a boat from us I would ask, are you sure you want us to build it for you or do you want to build it yourself?” he said. “You’re probably going to get more enjoyment and appreciate the aesthetics of something you craft by yourself rather than have us build it. Part of the idea behind the free canoe plans is that we want people to not be intimidated to build a boat. I look at it like rolling that stone out of the way. I want people to build a boat and paddle it and enjoy it.”

Davidson is happy to say that it seems like people are rediscovering the joys of making things themselves. “I definitely think we’re having a craft renaissance, but you’re talking to someone who has their shop in Lowertown,” he said with a laugh. “There is a resurgence of appreciating things like small batch wines and craft brewing and boats that you build with your own hand. Things that you can do. Whether you build a boat, make a quilt, or build an airplane—I think there’s a sense of pride that you can get out of that.”

Craft Culture of a Different Kind, Courtesy of Bent Paddle

Much of the renewed interests in craft, he speculates, stems from the fact that most people don’t actually make anything in their daily lives. Day in and day out, they stare at computer screens, moving numbers or words around but not actually creating anything. “People want to do something with their hands again.” He said. That urge drives them to attempt boat building, knitting, or even brewing.

“I tried brewing my own beer for a while, but I decided that other people make better beer than I do,” Davidson said with a smile. “I love Furious. Furious is wonderful. I just came back from the Pacific Northwest for a music festival and I was into Hop Czar from BridgePort Brewing while I was out there. What’s in the fridge right now is some Imperial Stout from Kalamazoo. I think there’s something hoppy in there too. I love to go beer shopping. Beer shopping, banjos, and boats—those are my pleasures.”

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