Merlin: Part planked Skin-on-Frame open canoe

(5 customer reviews)



A beautiful lightweight half way alternative to the classic Canadian cedar and canvas canoe and the Skin-on-Frame.  Merlin is built using a combination of the techniques used to build the Cedar and Canvas Canoe and traditional skin on frame canoes, adapted to produce a boat that is beautiful, lightweight, robust and a pleasure to paddle.

Merlin 14 from £2400

Merlin 16 from £2500

Full details and description available here.

To order Merlin contact John to discuss the details of your order.

email :

mobile +44 (0) 7722018457

Additional information

Options/ choices

Merlin has a range of options including: The timbers used for the gunnels, decks, thwarts and seats; the Material used for the seat support; the paint colour and finishes used on the hull and timbers.

Boat deposit

16 ft deposit, 14 ft deposit


To confirm your intent to order this boat to be built we require a 15% deposit. Payment of the deposit confirms your place in the workshop build schedule. Building will not begin until we have had discussion via e-mail or telephone to confirm options.


At this point select 'To be confirmed.'

5 reviews for Merlin: Part planked Skin-on-Frame open canoe

  1. Valkyrie1

    Review written by Steve Millar 23/10/20
    Posted on Shearwater page also – copied here by Valkyrie

    I have had the chance to paddle both the Shear water and the Merlin recently and almost wish I hadn’t…..having got out of both I knew that I will at some point making an investment to buy one of these beautiful crafts from him

    I have been paddling a while and have been fortunate enough to travel on lots of rivers and lakes with not much consideration to the craft I have used as opposed to its ability to carry my gear and withstand my abuse .

    over the years I have thought of modern canoes as just what was available in the UK and Ireland and often felt envious of those in N.America where access to carbon , kevlar lightweight canoes just part of the course ….

    so when I had the chance to paddle both of John’s boats I had lots to compare and contrast to ; these are my finding.

    1. there are lots and lots of little subtleties about paddling these boat in the feel , how they look , how they respond on the water etc. and when they all add up they account for alot , this in my mind how a canoe is supposed to behave on the water.

    2. I have always found that modern boats respond to the paddler but not so well to the water…. both of these craft do each exceptionally and I felt all the movement and weight changes through my knees.

    3. Three is always something nice to look at …..if the scenery is not to your liking you will find yourself admiring the wood, colour pattern and the workmanship , love and attention that has gone into the making of the boat .

    4. Have something built by an artisan who is also a paddler….I cannot over emphasize the benefits of using something made by someone who also paddles , perfect blend of form and functionality.

    5. you have to try one to understand what I am wittering about.

  2. Valkyrie1

    Jules Burnard – Voyageur Coaching
    Adventure paddler, guide and BCU L5 Coach (Posted by Valkyrie)
    At a recent OCA canoe event (Hay on Wye, 2017) I was very lucky to be offered the chance to have a paddle of a Merlin skin in frame canoe from Valkyrie Craft. From the onset the work gone into to building this canoe is obvious together with the great finish makes this canoe a thing of beauty. All of the canoes ribs and framework are visible making it feel like I was about to paddle a traditional birch bark canoe.
    On lifting the boat up to move it into the water I was truly surprised at how light it was and how easy it was to launch. This is a big consideration for me as a solo paddler and some one who expeditions a lot and may need to portage.
    Once in the boat I was again taken by how well it handled. Primary stability was not an issue at all, and its secondary stability was also very impressive being able to sit comfortably on one side with the gunwale nearly in the water. She was as steady as a rock, never once feeling in any way unstable. The result being that the Merlin tracked really well as it glided along yet would turn on a sixpence when I needed it to by cranking it on to its edge and using a couple of well timed strokes. She carved a lovely turn with out much noticeable side ways slide. I was able to maintain speed on turns and accelerate away in a new direction with ease. This brings me to another point, that of hull speed. The Merlin has plenty of it and accelerates with little effort due to its lightweight construction.
    In conclusion I feel the Merlin would be a good boat for a novice looking for stability and a predictable performance and also for the more advanced paddler looking for something that is capable of a technical performance. Although I didn’t get the chance to try it on white water I have no doubt it would handle it well and be quite a dry paddle. Lots of room for one with when loaded with kit for a couple of days expedition.
    Thanks John for the opportunity to paddle one of these amazing boats

  3. Angela&Todd Kushner

    This is one of the best canoe we have ever had and we have had a few .
    We went to Ullswater on our first time out it was windy with choppy waters but it handled great in these conditions. We have been on the river Idle and again was excellent, weather again was windy but it moves so well in the water and is so easy to handle and manoeuvre in the water. Its so light to carry as well which is great.
    John was always at the end of the phone and was very patient with what we requested and answered all our questions, as well as giving us advice on the boat its self.
    He is a fantastic bloke and the work and craftsmanship that has gone in to build our boat is unbelievable. We cannot recommend him enough.
    Our boat has had a lot of interest and people cannot believe, and both of us as well, how robust the boat is. Its beautiful to look at and to paddle in.
    This is one hell of a boat we will never part with.
    John met us at the docks in Belfast which was so good of him to do so, a lovely bloke, and we have a fantastic canoe thanks to him.
    If you wanting a canoe which is one of a kind then get a man made one from Valkyrie you will not be disappointed well worth the money wish we had know about him sooner.

  4. Pixie

    I got to paddle one of the beautiful amazingly crafted canoes that John makes . The skin on frame canoe is so light and handles amazing in the wind. It is so stable and strong , and cuts through the water .

  5. Valkyrie1

    I bought my Merlin from John about 2/3 years ago after starting out with an Old Town Pack. I started paddling about 6 years ago, aged 70!! Should have started years ago but other things got in the way.
    Recently I moved house and the first thing I did was measure the access to the back of the house so “Wrinklie” could be safe in the back. Just made it!!
    So pride doesn’t describe what I feel for my Merlin. John did a beautiful job making her and adapting weight and size to suit a “cused” old woman. People are provided with a towel to collect their drool when looking at her, she is so beautiful. One man asked how much she cost but I replied, ” never ask a woman how old she is or how much she paid for her dress (or her canoe).
    Wrinklie is a dream to paddle, very, very responsive, light to carry and as I’m light I need ballast. That take the form of stones is canvas bags I bought in Lidl as bike panniers.
    I do have to pick and choose my venues. I avoid rapids or low rivers. I do know what to avoid since I go as front paddler where I can’t bring “wrinklie”. I’m Old but, not my tongue!!
    Thanks, John

    Emailed review by Kathleen McCormick, Co. Meath. Added by Valkyrie

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