About The Boat Builder

Since 1979 Stewart River Boatworks has created handcrafted canoes and rowboats.


Stewart River canoes and boats are built by me, Alex Comb. I started canoeing when I was eleven and earned a love of woodworking beginning with eighth-grade shop class.

On one of my first trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in the mid-1960s, I saw a wood and canvas canoe and the image hung in my minds’ eye as something I would like to build one day. My first canoe was a cedar strip/fiberglass construction that I built in college. I started Stewart River Boatworks in 1979 with a 14′ tandem canoe model and have since added and subtracted canoes until today we build 10 different canoe models.  Rowing boats have been built to suit customers’ requests, though most of the boat models listed on these pages were chosen because they reflect the kind of boating I like to do.

Alex Comb at work

Alex Comb at work

Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I have borrowed canoe designs when they were available. The traditional designs I prefer are those built by Chestnut and E. M. White. When the existing designs weren’t quite “right” I modified them. In some cases, as with solo canoes, there were few traditional designs available, so I made my own.  In these instances, I have designed them using traditional attributes and also allowing some modern adaptations.  Rowing boat designs are of proven designs by some of the best builders in recent memory like R. D. “Pete” Culler, L. Francis Herreshoff and John Gardner, as well as some “traditional” designs.

With eldest son Jesse now grown, I live with my daughter Fiona near Lake Superior on the edge of the Superior National Forest which seems to offer us “the best of both worlds”. We are close enough to the woods that getting to it is not a major undertaking, though civilization is still close at hand. Sometimes it seems too close. It is a constant reminder of the importance of a simpler life; a life where wilderness is essential.

It is my hope that these boats can help others to reach the elemental existence we all need.

Duluth/Superior Living article on Alex Comb (PDF)

Living North article on Alex Comb (PDF)