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The Building of a Boat

As they say, if a person dedicates twenty-five years of his life to something, he might get pretty good at it. Bill Freese has, and did, in the process, establish himself as one of the country’s leading builders of art canoes. His elegant cherrywood creations are simply a masterpiece.

Bill, a former engineer, developed his design and technique for building the canoes. He started with a typical American model, setting a solid frame for every foot to shape the hull: then he spent years tweaking the edges until he had the final shape just right.

Bill passed down all of the trade secrets of building a boat to Dan Burton, who still carries on the tradition of crafting unique and beautiful watercraft in the St. James Boat Shop, located in the old Beaver Island Lumber Company. It’s easy to find the Boat Shop. Just follow the trail of sawdust.

Creating a canoe takes around 300 hours, including a protective graphite bottom coating. You will not find staples or nails other than ends adding to the artistic design of the boat. Each strip is glued and clamped to shape the forms, and every piece is carved and designed especially for the craft. Even the seats of the canoes are individually made, taking hours to stretch and complete. All the wood comes from Beaver Island, and Dan uses his band-saw mill. This product is Beaver Island through and through!

Each canoe, kayak, and the dinghy is customized to suit the owner’s and craftsman’s vision. They’re water-tight and useable, with a breathtaking view, gliding effortlessly through the open water. Many serve as art objects in homes, cabins, and businesses, creating the warm feeling that only a handcrafted wooden boat can bring to a room. These boats are a labor of love for art, and the reward is always in the beauty of the finished product.


Prices can vary depending upon the details and design created by the craftsman and yourself. Any canoe, kayak, or dinghy is a particular order and can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending upon the volume of orders. We do not make a date to completion as each one is a unique individual piece that varies in time and is a handcrafted, rustic work of art.


  • Cherry Wood 10’ $9500


  • Cherry 16’ $5600
  • Cedar 16’ $5000


  • Cherry 14’ $5200
  • Cherry 16’ $5800
  • Cherry 18’ $6600
  • Cedar 14’ $4800
  • Cedar 16’ $5400
  • Cedar 18’ $6200

Strip Wood Canoes & Kayaks

Strip Wood Dinghy