Another canoe build

April 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

There’s something appealing about stripping — watching with growing excitement as an elegant form is revealed, lovingly shaping lengths of wood. The thumping music (I like to whistle while I work). The glue. The splinters. The sawdust.

It didn’t take me long after hanging the last canoe from the rafters (pending better paddling weather) to start daydreaming of the next canoe and how I would build it. I scoured the internet for canoe pictures — cedar strip porn. Ideas abounded.

I set up the forms on the strongback and positioned the first three strips. I was following a pattern that I’d used for the previous canoe. It was then that I decided to make things more complicated (as though building a simple canoe isn’t complicated enough). I decided to add an accent line that would follow the waterline.

It’s a great idea in theory — follow the waterline. Of course, that only applies when the boat is empty or populated on either end by individuals of the same weight. It won’t follow the waterline if I’m in it. I know what you’re asking yourself: “Is Greybeard fat?” Um… I may be an overachiever in the weight department, geared to marshaling my resources for the harsh winter that never comes. Though I’m okay with this, I didn’t think, before putting down the accent strip — all parallel to the waterline and all — that this strip would indicate just how well I had marshaled my resources over the years. In the teeter-totter that is the canoe, I’m forever on the earthbound side.

I hope that I’m wearing my PFD if this isn’t the case.

That being said, the accent strip was glued in and it was too late to change it. In the picture below, you see the accent strip (the first two strips on the top) and the three strips below that, until a few feet shy of the ends, follow the shear line. That leaves me four long triangles to fill in on either side and on the bow and stern.

stripping a cedar strip canoe

I cursed myself and my dumb idea when placing the first strips to fill in the triangles (third strip from top in the picture above). The process was finicky and required several (dozen) trips between the sander and the canoe to dry-fit the pieces. After a while, and not because I started to care less, the shaping became easier and less time consuming.

In terms of how I managed to shape the strips, I used my trusty belt sander and have so far avoided an inadvertent, self-inflicted manicure.

sanding cedar strips for canoe

For those of you who are interested in this kind of thing, I’m not using bead and cove strips for the sides of the boat. I’ll transition to bead and cove as I approach the bilge and then transition back to non-bead and cove for the bottom. At this point in the stripping process, the strips mount flush to one another without any work on my part. A rolling bevel may be necessary later, but for now the strips are going in as-is.

Although I prefer stapleless construction (as suggested by the unsightly blobs of hot melt glue in the first picture), I did staple the bottom-most strip and the accent strip. I stapled the latter because it was susceptible to moving as I filled in the triangular sections.

The (almost) finished product

April 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

The canoe is essentially complete now. It has been a great project and overall I’m satisfied with the results. Is it a perfect canoe? No, and in a way I’m glad that it isn’t. It gives me something to strive for and gives me a reason to build another. <Insert groan from significant other here.>

So at the end of the project I’m left thinking of what I will do differently the next time.

Although I was taken with the variability in the color within single strips, I will try for a more uniform color the next time, both between and within strips. Not that there’s anything wrong with funky strips (I still think they look neat), but it’s admittedly not to everyone’s taste.

To save on weight and to provide a different look, I’ll add scuppers to the gunwales the next time.

Finally, to save time and aggravation, I’ll do a better job of cleaning up glue drips, particularly in the bow and stern.

And that’s it. All that’s left is launching the canoe.

I have a feeling, though, that the next one isn’t too far away.

Installing a kayak grab loop

April 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

I realize that all of my posts to date have been related to canoes, but the fact is that my neglected kayak needed some finishing touches. One of these is the installation of grab loops at the bow and stern.

To prepare the boat for the grab loops, I fashioned a couple of inserts that consist of a length of 7/8″ dowel into which a hole is drilled lengthwise. I might have gone for a slimmer dowel, but I wanted the fudge-factor given that I was free-handing it.

Then I drilled a 7/8″ hole cross-wise at the bow and stern, close to where I remembered the internal stems to be. There’s something unnerving about drilling holesĀ  in an almost-finished kayak, but it had to be done.

When the holes were drilled, I applied thickened epoxy to the dowel sections and inserted them into the holes. I then used thickened epoxy to fill any gaps and left it alone for a day or two.

When the epoxy had dried, I did that thing that seems to comprise at least 50% of any boat-building activity — sanding.

And here is the insert after being varnished.

When I do the end-pour, the insert will be encased in epoxy, which will give the ends of the kayak a great deal of strength.

Varnishing at last

April 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

For the canoe builder, dust in the home is an occupational hazard, wafting from the shop into the home on unseen currents of air, depositing a thin film over absolutely everything. It is the stuff that causes the builder to shrug ruefully when his/her spouse/partner/significant other points it out all over the place. It is, after all, an unfortunate byproduct, a sneeze-inducing annoyance that is to be borne with stoic patience given the beautiful watercraft that is emerging from behind the motes.

However, that same dust in the shop at varnishing time is evil. Pure, unadulterated evil. It seem that no amount of cleaning and air-purifying is ever enough to banish it from whence it came.

At any rate, before varnishing, I vacuumed the shop several times and then reversed the shop vac to blow any remaining dust outside. And then I vacuumed again. My wife would have been impressed had it been the actual house.

My fear of dust prompted me to build a “redneck dust filter” (pictured below), which consists of a furnace filter and a box fan.

I’ve read of some builders who strip down to their skivvies or wear what looks like a hazmat suit in an effort to avoid having lint fall onto wet varnish. While I applaud their efforts and dedication to perfection, there are certain lengths to which I refuse to go, particularly when a neighbor might be watching.

And so, fully dressed, I and a friend applied the varnish (Epifanes high gloss clear varnish). I could have done it solo, but I’d wanted to maintain a wet edge on the middle of the canoe and having two brushes working from the middle and then down the sides allowed me to do just that. We used foam brushes to apply 2 or 3 brush-widths perpendicular to the direction of the strips and then ran the brushes in the direction of the strips, moving them from dry to wet.

One more thing about varnishing: get it right the first time. If you screw up and go back, you’ll only mess things up more. Not that this happened, of course, but one hears things…

All in all, things went well. A few specs of dust but that’s the cost of being fully dressed. The canoe is now looking shiny and just about ready for the water where it will get scratched and the varnish will never look as it does now.

Installing the seats

April 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today saw one of the last steps in the construction of the canoe — installing the seats. This is definitely one area in which you want to measure twice, cut once and to make plenty of allowance for adjustments. My initial measurements were made as follows:

The cardboard measures 10 inches from the bottom of the canoe while the adjustable cross-piece enables me to measure length. The masking tape on the gunwales marks the location of the front of the seat.

I`d had all kinds of notions of fancy seat hangers. In the end, I opted for simple lengths of ash that I had left over from ripping the gunwales. Because the hangers were pretty narrow, I opted to use stainless screws (rather than carriage bolts) and a dollop of dookie schmutz to fasten the seat to the hangers and the resulting assembly from the gunwales.

The final result appears as follows:

All that’s left now is varnishing. Almost three months to the day from starting this project, the canoe is almost done!

Installing bulkheads

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Installing bulkheads is something I’ve debated for a while. On the one hand, they represent more work, which is bad. On the other hand, they look good and they effectively hide the often less than attractive sanding and fiberglassing at the ends of the canoe.

Even though I did a lovely job at the ends, I’ve decided to exercise my modesty and keep my attention to detail a secret by hiding it behind a pair of bulkheads.

So here we go…

By some fluke, I had an empty case of beer, the cardboard of which I used to create a template. More on the template later.

By somewhat less of a fluke, I had a lot of scrap wood. I glued several of the longer strips together until they were as wide as the template referred to above.

Then I went to bed, because watching glue dry is second only to watching paint dry.

The next day, and without my having observed it, the glue had miraculously dried.

I decided that modesty had its limits and opted to do something that I’d read about. On a sheet of onionskin paper, I printed the Greybeard logo, because after all, how will Lady Gaga ever endorse the Greybeard brand if the logo is never “out there” (even if “out there” is some lake in Ontario)?

I digress though. I placed said logo beneath the fiberglass and applied the epoxy and presto, you get the result seen below.

Using the template, I cut out the bulkheads and with a bit of sanding and gentle persuasion put them in place. I then mixed up a batch of dookie schmutz — a term I believe coined by Nick Schade to describe the mixture of epoxy and wood flour — and applied it to the edges of the bulkhead, thereby permanently sealing in the perfection of my work at the ends of the canoe. By the way, using a gloved finger is the easiest way of applying the dookie.

And that’s not all! I also used said dookie schmutz to attach handles to the gunwales.

And now it’s time to make another empty case of beer, because you never know when you might need to make another template.

Sanding, sanding, and more sanding

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m newly motivated now that the end of the project is in sight. In this step, I’m preparing the surface for the first coat of varnish. For the first pass, I use a 60 grit sandpaper to knock down the shiny parts to the point shown on the left side of the picture below. I’ll then use a 120 grit to achieve a uniform “milkiness”. I still have a little more sanding to do, but it’s getting close.

Boats in the sunshine

April 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

The first nice day of the spring allowed me to get the boats out of the garage so that I could do a serious cleanup ahead of the last stages of the build.

It was also the first time that I could see the canoe from a distance and walk around it without tripping over the tools that I’d stupidly left on the floor. I have to admit that I love the shape. And though I’ve had some misgivings about using some of the funkier strips of cedar on the very visible sides of the boat, I’ve grown to like the look. That said, the next canoe will be more uniform.

So here’s a picture of the canoe and its little cousin basking in the sunlight.


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