Installing the external gunwale and decks

March 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Canoe building factoid #6 — You go through a lot of latex gloves when building a canoe. I recommend buying them in bulk at Costco. The cashier may give you a funny look (buying 200 latex gloves at a go and all), but the sawdust on your ball cap and hardened epoxy on your jeans will bear testimony to the fact that you are not a proctologist.

A quick post to my legion of fans — is 3 a legion? — up to date. I spent some time torturing strips of ash to follow the outside contours of what is looking more and more like an almost finished canoe. It’s essentially the same process as installing the inner gunwale, but you don’t have to worry about length and such (although cutting the gunwale too short in either case is a sad situation). And you get to play with dozens and dozens of clamps. And you get to enunciate some new curse words.

The finished product, sans clamps, looks as follows:

In addition to the external gunwale, the bow and stern now feature decks made out of birds-eye maple.

canoe deck

And that’s it for now.

Installing the internal gunwale

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

I fashioned the gunwales out of strips of ash, approximately 7/8″ x 5/8″. I ran the strips through the router to soften the edges and then epoxied the joint with epoxy and wood flour.

Ash is a hardwood, so it’s no surprise that I needed every clamp in my collection to persuade it to go where I wanted it to go. Rather than screwing the gunwale to the canoe, I again used epoxy.

You’ll note that the yoke has also been installed at this point.

Next up: external gunwales and deck.

Glassing the inside

March 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve been slow to update the blog, so here’s a quick update.

Last weekend, I recruited a friend to help me glass the inside of the canoe. It’s helpful to have an accomplice to mix the epoxy and catch the runs and drips and, of course, to enjoy a beverage when the work is done.

canoe building:fiberglassing the inside

Catching the wayward drips and removing excess epoxy…

You’ll notice the clips and clamps along the edge of the canoe. After a short while, we got rid of them. Once the glass is wetted out, they tend to get in the way and prevent the glass from properly adhering to the wood.

The finished product…

You’ll notice that I’ve started sanding the outside of the hull in anticipation of eventually varnishing it. The sanded bits look milky.

On a side note: The mind is a remarkable thing in that it is able to suppress unpleasant memories, so that when the unpleasantness occurs again, it’s new and fresh. To wit: I was again able to suppress the knowledge of how much sanding was involved in building a canoe. The very term “building a canoe” is misleading. Sanding is at least half of the effort and seems to bookend every phase of the project.

That said, now that the canoe is fully glassed, I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here are the things that remain to be done:

  • building and installing inner and outer gunwales
  • mounting seats and yoke
  • mounting the decks
  • building and installing the bulkheads (something I’m debating)
  • sanding, sanding, and more sanding
  • drink some beer to celebrate the end of sanding
  • varnishing (and lightly sanding between coats)
  • drink some more beer to celebrate the completion of the project

Building canoe seats (part 2)

March 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

I left off part one having built the canoe seat frames. The nylon webbing finally arrived, so I was able to finish the job (hence the part 2 now).

After the joints had cured, I routered the edges off and varnished. The seat frame is now ready for some nylon mesh.

I plotted the location of the strap on the seat frame and then cut the strap to length and stapled one end into place.

nylon mesh canoe seat

Then, using a lever (the use of which is nicely shown in a video here), I added tension to the strap.

A bit of  stapling, weaving, stretching, and more stapling later, I have some nice canoe seats.

nylon mesh canoe seat

Flipping the boat

March 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Canoe building factoid #5 — Unlike dust and sweat, epoxy cannot be removed from clothing. In your eagerness to start fiberglassing, it is wise to look at yourself in the mirror for a moment and determine whether any article of clothing that you are wearing was a gift from a loved one. Consider very carefully before proceeding to the shop. The wise man changes his clothes. However, in this one activity — namely fiberglassing — there is no shame in wearing a Glee t-shirt.

Flipping the boat is a bittersweet milestone. By this point, I’ve spent many hours sanding and fiberglassing and cursing and obsessing that everything looks good. And it does. The surface is smooth and the glass went on well. No bubbles, no drips, nothing but a beautiful expanse of rich-looking wood. So I stand there for a moment, run my hand along the hull and say to myself: Huh, would you look at that.

No one answers, of course, as the rest of the family has been abducted by the X-box, the computer, and The Biggest Loser.

By flipping the boat, for which I admittedly recruited the services of my eldest boy, I’m of course getting closer to my goal of a finished canoe, but I’m also setting the stage for many hours sanding and fiberglassing and cursing and obsessing that everything looks good. Again.

Fiberglassing the hull

March 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Canoe building factoid #4 — The most under-appreciated fiberglassing tool is a belt, for it is invariably when your latex-gloved hands are coated with epoxy that your pants decide to migrate.

Today is the day I fiberglass the outside of the canoe. I’ve recruited a friend to do the mixing while I spread the epoxy. It’s important to select a friend for whom curse words will not cause affront.

My preparations included vacuuming the shop and getting it as dust-free as possible. The last thing I wanted was to generate airborne dust as I shuffled around the canoe. Wet epoxy or varnish are dust magnets. I also lightly sanded the hull and then, realizing my mistake, vacuumed again. Finally, I got the heater running as the shop temperature was under 10° C/50°F.

By the way, Nick Schade has a great video on YouTube that shows him fiberglassing a kayak. You can find it here.

The reason I bring up the video is that I could describe the technique, but watching a master do it is far more informative and rewarding. In fact, I fiberglassed my first kayak based on reading only. After seeing the video, I realized all of the things that I could have done better and differently. Now I make a point of watching it whenever I’m about to fiberglass anything — just to get into the zone.

Here is the canoe looking quite elegant in a sheer white number.

fiberglass on cedar strip canoe

And here is the job in progress.

wetting out the fiberglass

For this job, I tried to follow a few simple rules:

  1. Don’t dally when wetting out the boat.
  2. Don’t get hung up on one area. Move.
  3. Be in the goldilocks zone when removing excess resin. Don’t remove too little, don’t remove too much.

For once, finishing the bow and stern was quick and easy and devoid of the “what now?” deliberations that characterized previous builds. I trimmed back the excess glass as far as I could. While the ends were still wet, I applied a 2″ strip of bias-cut cloth (saved from trimming around the boat earlier) over the stems. Using a brush and gloved fingers, I applied more epoxy until the strip was completely wet-out. There are some wayward strands and a visible edge to the strip, but some careful sanding once everything is dry should blend it in.

Overall, the job went well. There are none of the air bubble problems that have plagued previous projects, nor does the canoe have an excessive number of drips.

I can’t wait to get the boat off the forms and upright.

Building canoe seats (part 1)

March 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Because I want to hold off on fiberglassing until the weekend, I have several days on which I can work ahead on a couple of tasks. The first of these tasks is building the canoe seats.

This is one area in which free, how-to information is a little hard to come by on the internet, so I’ll take a little more time on this one in case anyone wants to avoid my mistakes.

The basic dimensions are as follows:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Thirteen inches wide? Whose butt is thirteen inches wide?

And you’re absolutely right. It could have been wider, but I have faith that no one’s posterior will be too put out by the meager real estate of the seat (least of all my wife, for whom 13 inches will be no doubt spacious).

(Note: in later builds, I’ve used 13″ seats in the stern and 16-18″ seats in the bow.)

Moving on then…

I ripped some pieces of ash to about 1.5″ x 7/8″ and set about aligning the seat. Note the clever use of the table saw as a work surface. I really do need a real shop at some point…

While the whole thing was clamped, I drilled some countersunk holes. I then glued the ends and used some wood screws to keep the frame assembled. I then glued dowels into the holes.

And voila, in short order four seat frames are done. I’ll cover the sanding and webbing in another post.

Why four seats?

Because there will be more canoes. Oh yes, there will be more….

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