Will Ruch builds traditional one-of-a-kind cedar canvas canoes in his workshop, located on the ground level of his off-grid, straw-bale home just north of Bancroft. The windows of his workshop overlook the beautiful surrounding hills. Looking at his canoes is like stepping back in time. His canoes are true to the canoe-building traditions developed when the Europeans used their craftsmanship to duplicate native-built canoes, creating canoes that were simple and elegant, yet very sturdy and functional.
Will has been at his current location for about 10 years. He has been building and repairing canoes since 1984. In 1988 he started out on his own, both building and repairing wooden canoes. It was during this time that he learned how the older, well-built canoes were put together and developed his craftsmanship. Will trained in Muskoka, Ontario, an area with a strong history of ship building, but he was drawn to the simple elegance of the canoe. He generally builds 15 and 16 foot early Peterborough style cedar canvas canoes, but he is currently working on a 26 foot North Canoe. This canoe is a replica of what the early fur traders would have used to get across the wilds of Canada. They had to be light enough to portage, but strong enough to carry lots of people and their cargo. Originally, the North Canoe was made of birch-bark. This particular canoe was commissioned by someone from Toronto for their Georgian Bay cottage. Will would like to build more of these and plans on building another as a demonstration model. He estimates that it will take about 300 hours to build this canoe. The smaller canoes take about 120 hours to build. The form that Will uses to build his canoes is a work of art unto itself and looks like it took many hours of painstaking work. Will’s work is a combination of European craftsmanship and simple, yet elegant native North American design.
Will uses local white cedar to make the body of his wonderful creations, plus local ash, oak and birds-eye maple for the thwart, yoke, gunwales, stern and bow decks, and the seats, which he canes himself. Each canoe is custom made to match his client needs so they can have years of satisfaction and comfort as they paddle in harmony with nature.