Surprises can pop up in the most unexpected places. On a recent vacation to the Columbia River gorge area in Oregon, I discovered a most pleasant surprise … a cedar strip boat, kayak and canoe builder. Ray Klebba has been building water craft for over 20 years, and his skill shows in the finished products I saw and photographed. He actually refers to his water craft as “functional art” and I have to agree with him. Many of his pieces grace the luxurious interiors of many of America’s lodges and corporate offices. 

 The boat shop is situated on the main street of White Salmon, a small town just across the river from the city of Hood River. If you have never visited this area, bring your camera and be prepared for great scenery, wonderful people and the trip of a life time … but back to the boats works …

 When I visited Ray in his shop, he was working on a cedar strip canoe for a customer. The outside was pretty well done and Ray was working on the inside. What you cannot see from the pictures is what a beautiful boat this really is. There is something about cedar strip water craft, and the way the hull flows because of that gorgeous Vancouver Island cedar stripping that makes up the hull.



 For those woodworkers who would like to make their own cedar strip canoe, kayak or boat, you can even purchase any one of these kits from Ray’s “White Salmon Boat Works”. I have personally heard from a number of woodworkers who purchase canoe and kayak kits in the fall and build them over the winter then sell them in the spring for a modest profit. It’s a great way of making a few dollars, creating a beautiful work and keeping busy and woodworking. I’m sure many have family and friends who would love to have a beautiful wooden handcrafted kayak or canoe. If you are thinking of building a cedar strip water craft, I suggest you call Ray. He can provide you with a number of different options and ideas that can make your boat even more unique and beautiful … like adding accent strips. These are a bit more work, but in terms of looks and value they really add to any boat. The cool thing with adding these wooden accent pieces is that with a cedar strip boat or canoe, these accents are visible on the inside of the craft as well because they are not an inlay, but an integral part of the construction.

 Bookmatching top of kayak

The kits come complete with EVERYTHING you will need, including a detailed manual, in some cases a Power Point presentation of the assembly steps and processes. All you need to add are the tools, some time and your woodworking expertise. One thing I will forewarn you, these kits are not cheap … remember, these are cedar strip, not plywood boats … and huge difference in appearance and construction, but in many ways, easier to work with than plywood panels … and they do come with all the materials needed to put them together and finish them.


But wait, there is even more … if you live in the White Salmon area, or want to take a bit of an extended vacation to the area, you can even take a boat building course from Ray and build your own boat, canoe or kayak under the tutelage of a master water craft builder.

cedar strip boat


But do yourself a favor and have a look at his website, you will not be disappointed …



Ray surrounded by pictures of his boats