April 27, 2018 § Leave a comment
I’ve often thought that canoe building is 30% building and 70% sanding. This might be an exaggeration, but that’s certainly how it feels. For obvious reasons, I didn’t blog about sanding the inside of the fiberglassed hull, because it’s as boring to read about as it is to do.
But now we’re into some interesting stuff.
In previous builds, I brought the inner gunwale all the way to the inner stems. It’s a finicky piece of business, getting the stems to meet neatly while making sure that the gunwale doesn’t end up too short with all the curving it does and all of the adjusting the builder does. And so, I came across a picture of a deck (credit to the builder when I find the picture again) where the inner gunwale fits neatly into notches in the deck. Rather than installing the inner gunwales and then wedging the deck into the resulting triangle, I first installed the deck and then put in the gunwales. The result looks as follows:
Not only does it look pretty interesting, but it’s also a lot easier to install the gunwales.
Aside from the deck and inner gunwales, the outer gunwales and the bulkheads are now also installed.
In the last post, I mentioned that I drilled holes in the hull to indicate where the forms indicated the sheer. These holes come in handy when positioning the outer gunwale.
In this case, I set a concrete nail into the hole to brace the gunwale against as I bent it up to the tips of the canoe.
So, plans for the weekend include getting rid of the excess that extends above the gunwales, and installing the seats and the yoke. Then flipping the boat and… sigh… more sanding ahead of varnishing.
That’s it for now.
March 14, 2018 § Leave a comment
A little update before the weekend’s fiberglassing activities.
I’ve been busy sanding the inside of the hull (by far my least favorite part of the build). Concave shapes are a bugger to sand.
At any rate, I thought I’d share the following picture as it captures several facets of the build. You’ll notice dark splotches at the far end of the canoe. These splotches are thickened epoxy (aka dookie schmutz) used to fill in the inevitable gaps between strips. When sanded down, these splotches will disappear, leaving only a slightly darker line where the gap is filled.
Then, the clamped business on top of the hull will eventually be two decks. For this build, I’m using a strip of oak sandwiched between lengths of walnut. It all needs to be planed smooth. You’ll also notice how canoe forms provide a handy work surface.
In the foreground, you’ll notice holes drilled in the hull. These are guides to tell me how the inner and outer gunwale will lie. To back up a little, the forms have notches at the bow and stern that indicate where the sheer is. Before removing the hull from the forms, I marked the location of these notches. Because sanding would remove these marks, I drilled holes. When I set the gunwales, I’ll place them just shy of these holes. The material above the gunwales will then be planed off.
March 3, 2018 § Leave a comment
No matter how many boats you’ve built, each build invariably provides a humbling lesson.
For this build, and having fiberglassed many times before, I opted for some faster curing epoxy. I was better at it, after all. Knew my business. Right?
Having wetted out maybe a quarter of the canoe, the epoxy started to kick/react, and I was left with a steaming pot of epoxy with no reasonable way of applying it without totally butchering the job. In the end, I capitulated, peeled off the fiberglass I’d wetted and rescued as much of the unwetted cloth as I could.
So it was back to what I knew best — slow cure epoxy applied at temperatures near 20 degrees Celsius. (This temperature limit comes as a result of another hard-earned lesson. With my last boat. I applied a coat of epoxy at 10ish degrees. It never cured properly and remained tacky.)
At any rate, back to this build. Armed with slow-curing hardener, I tackled the task again. This time, things went smoothly and the fiberglass went on with no appreciable air bubbles (I sealed the hull with a coat of epoxy before glassing). After that, I filled the weave with three more coats, using a pretty saturated foam roller to apply the epoxy, and a foam brush to smooth it out and remove the minuscule bubbles that would appear.
With that done, it’s time to flip the boat and sand the inside.
December 23, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’ve completed the first round of sanding, but left the ends unsanded ahead of installing the external stems. Because I’m not equipped to steam wood, I thickness planed the strips of ash until I could bend them without fear of breaking the strips.
The next step was to notch the hull where the stem starts. Then it was a matter of applying thickened epoxy (epoxy and wood dust) to the hull and between individual strips. The sandwiched strips are then fastened to the hull using drywall screws. I’ll remove these later, expand the holes, and fill the holes with pieces of dowel.
Next steps are to shape the stems, more hull sanding, filling gaps with thickened epoxy, and then on to fiberglassing.
December 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
The stripping is done and now we’re into the dust.
Overall, I’m happy with the progress thus far. I’d wanted to add another arc to the design on the bottom, but the fates were against me. Uncooperative strips, the difficulty of getting a proper fit while battling the curve, and finally the lack of dark stock. In the end, I finished the halves with straight runs of lighter cedar parallel to the centerline. It’s not exactly what I wanted, but still looks nice.
The next steps are filling small gaps with epoxy/wood dust, installing the outer stems, a lot more sanding, and then (hopefully early in the new year) fiberglassing.
That’s it for now.
December 3, 2017 § Leave a comment
When I last posted, I was in the process of creating the loon inlay and adding strips. Well, the loon is done, and I’m still laying strips.
With the treatment of the football, things are getting interesting again, at least more interesting than simply laying strips. The effect I’m trying to get with this build is the same as I did for an earlier one:
So here it goes.
At first, I placed two glued strips along the center line. Towards the bow and stern, the edges are beveled a little so that they create a slight angle. Then it’s a matter of alternating light and dark strips. A note on the design is that the dark (and light) strips form a continuous line, which decreases as you get to the center of the half-football. The following picture gives you an idea.
At any rate, it’s a finicky bit of business, dry-fitting the pieces, making sure the tapered ends of the strips meet the neighboring strip properly. The other thing to note is that it’s crucial that the two strips that form the center line are exactly in the center. I know too well how a minor miscalculation throws off the design (whereby the points of the football half don’t line up with the other half-football on the other side). Fortunately, things are working out.
That’s it for now.
October 24, 2017 § Leave a comment
This is the fun part of the build — laying strips and watching the canoe slowly take shape. This particular build features a loon inlay.
For the first ten or so rows, I used straight strips (in other words, no bead and cove), partly because the sides of the boat are upright and the strips sit nicely against each other, mostly because I don’t want to router a bunch of strips if I don’t have to. When I get close to the curve, I router one row that is cove only. This, then, helps me transition to the bead and cove until I get around the curve.
When clamping, bar clamps work best before the hull starts to curve. When you get to that point, the pressure of the clamp can force the strip away from the form. So when I get to the curve, I employ a variety of tools.
Bungee cords work great. I place the cord either inside or outside the hull depending on where I need a bit of extra force. Note that I use the bead part of a scrap strip to protect the cove. The blue clamp is there to press the strip against the form. In the second photo, I’ve used a C clamp and a clamp with a scrap piece of cedar to keep the bar clamps from pressing the strip away from the form, as the force at this point is as much out as down. The clamp with the wooden bracket (on the left) works to keep the strips against the form, but the downward force is seldom enough by itself to do the job well. In the third photo, I’ve used a longer bungee to wrap around the newly glued strip (again using scrap bead pieces to protect the cove). When I can’t use bar clamps any more, I use bungees almost exclusively.
And that’s about it for now.
August 27, 2017 § Leave a comment
Now that the weather is growing cooler, it’s a perfect time to start a new build!
Much of the weekend was spent on prep work — setting up the forms, ripping strips, and fashioning the internal stems.
After an embarrassing mishap with the router last year (the finger has recovered), I decided to invest in some safety hardware to keep my digits away from spinning metal. To that end, I purchased some board buddies to keep the boards down and tight against the fence, and my fingers clear.
I have to tell you, they worked like a charm and I was able to make quick work of (hopefully) enough boards for the canoe. As well, because there is so much variability within the same board, I made sure to keep adjacent strips together.
For the internal stems, I used some left-over cedar strips from another build. I floated them in the bathtub in hot water for several hours to make the strips more pliable (I really have to rig up a steaming device).
Next steps: beveling the stems and starting the build!
March 25, 2017 § Leave a comment
While I wait for the garage to warm up before fiberglassing the deck, I thought I’d update on the progress thus far and mention some mistakes that I’ve made. It seems that no matter how many boats I build, I’m constantly learning and often relearning lessons.
The last post saw the hull being completed. Here it is just before it was fiberglassed.
For the deck, I decided on a maple leaf motif and a set of stripes aft of the cockpit.
The stripes that run off the deck align with the stripes on the hull, so it’s a pretty cool effect.
Now, in terms of lessons learned or relearned…
Glue lines drive me crazy. Most can be eliminated by sanding properly and while they are hard to see, wetting the surface usually causes them to jump out, giving you the opportunity to sand them away or using an iron to heat the glue, rendering it transparent. Knowing this, you’d think I’d be building glue line-free boats these days. Unfortunately, no. And while there are relatively few visible glue lines, where they do appear is annoying knowing that I could have averted this problem had I been less impatient.
It’s nothing critical and probably won’t be too visible when all is said and done, but it’s a lesson relearned… Don’t rush.
The other mistake has to do with wood selection. I use 10′ strips that I join using a scarf joint. I’m pretty careful that I join strips from the same end of the board to avoid wildly different grain and color at the joint. Usually. At any rate, I had 2 joined strips left over from the hull and used these for the outside strips of the deck. Dry, the strip looked pretty contiguous, but when I put the seal coat of epoxy on, I realized that I’d been napping when I’d joined the two pieces. As a result, the color of the joined pieces is very different.
Again, it’s nothing critical, but it still rankles.
That said, I’m pleased with the overall look of the boat and look forward to playing with it this summer.
So, on the eve of fiberglassing the deck, that elusive “perfect boat” still eludes me.
Oh, and another lesson learned: protect the hull against drips when glassing the hull. Thankfully, I remembered that one!
December 3, 2016 § Leave a comment
Okay, so it’s been a long time since the last update. Since I’m now into the sanding phase and I prefer blog updates (and just about anything else) to sanding, I thought this a good time to show some highlights.
In this shot, I’m just finishing up the football. Rather than strip on half of the football, cut along the centerline, and then strip the other half, I do both halves at the same time. This is the same technique as I used on my last canoe (see Starting the football). Apart from the finicky cuts, it enabled you to better match the color of the strips on either side. If you’re wondering about the bungee cords and clamps, this is the best way I’ve found to keep the strips firmly against the forms.
Of course, by the time you get to the last strip, you have to create a very narrow, slightly curved piece that you have
to size perfectly and insert into the gap. It’s a lot of fiddly work with the block plane, but the end result looks pretty good.
And finally, with the hull done, we’re into the seemingly endless task of sanding. There are the usual gaps I have to fill in with epoxy and wood dust (aka dookie schmutz). Because this kayak is a bit lighter than the last one and dookie schmutz tends to be pretty dark, I’m going to try mixing some baking flour or talc into the mixture. We’ll see what happens.