Filling the football

March 3, 2013 § 3 Comments

Just a quick post to show how I’m filling the football. Instead of running alternating light and dark cedar strips parallel to the centerline, this time I’m running alternating light and dark strips both along the centerline and the edge of the football to form a continuous dark line that decreases as the football grows smaller. I’ll post a picture when I’m done (it’s hard to explain), but the picture below shows the progress thus far.


Ready for some football

February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

At long last the canoe is at the point of the build called the football. At this point it’s advisable to measure from the edges of the strips to the center of the forms to make sure that everything built up evenly. If something is off, this is the time to adjust for it. Fortunately, this build treated me well and everything was even.


Many builders choose to fill one half of the football with arcing strips, cut along the center line and then fill the other half. The method I prefer, partly because I can’t trust myself to cut a straight line, is to run a pair of strips down the center line and then fill the halves. In the past I’ve used this technique to alternate light and dark strips that run the length of the football. To people who haven’t seen me in a canoe, I call these racing stripes. This time, I’ll try something a little different. Less racing. More zen. Stay tuned.

The following picture shows the pair of strips run along the center line and the use of bungee cords to keep the strips tight against the forms.


Progress thus far

February 18, 2013 § 3 Comments

The picture below contains a couple of items that I want to touch on.

The first is the inset of the bird, done in a darker cedar than the surrounding strips. Besides being an attractive feature, the inset effectively integrates joints into an overall design. The fact that grain and color don’t match (a concern when joining strips) becomes desirable. In this way, I’ve been able to do most of the sides of the canoe without obsessing about how good the joins look.

The picture below also shows the use of 1/4″ dowels to protect the coves of the strips when clamping, and the use of both clamps and bungee cords to press the strips together. As the stripping continues, the clamps eventually become too short (or the curve of the hull makes their use impossible). At this point, I use bungees and either wind them around the assembled strips or hook them from the newly-installed strip to the base of the strongback.


Inner Stem Mohawk

January 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

I know that I said that I wouldn’t overdo the posts this time around, but forming the inner stem is always a momentous occasion. Your forms are in place and you’re finally building.

The last few times, I was able to use three standard 1/4″ strips to make the inner stem. This time, I was rewarded by the sound of cracking wood as I bent the strips over the form. Deciding that I didn’t want to hear that sound again, I planed four strips a little thinner and then (as last time) soaked them in the tub in hot water for over an hour.

This time, the strips bent well and the end result was a beautiful inner stem mohawk shown below.

inner stem

By the way, I use Gorilla Glue for this part. It reacts nicely with the damp wood and gives a good bond.

Aligning the forms

January 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

After some time away from boat building, it was time to reassemble the strongback and get another build underway. For this build, I won’t give a strip-by-strip account, especially if I’ve already posted on a topic, but I will post on things that I’m doing a little differently this time around.

For this build, I’ve decided to clean up the strongback a little by including a better shelf, which comes in handy for clamps and tools. The shelf is held supported by 1×4 stock into which the forms are screwed. Note the right angles to ensure that the forms are straight.


The shot below shows the forms in place with a string stretched between the end forms to ensure that everything is straight.


The string shows you if the forms are centered, but it won’t show you if the forms are off in other ways. For instance, if you traced the outline of the form onto the plywood a little shy and cut the form a little shy as well, then the form may not be as wide as it should be. While this deviation won’t be obvious just by looking at it, it will certainly become evident when you start stripping the canoe. One quick test is to take a 36+ inch length of cedar and run it along each form. If, for example, you hold the strip against forms 1 and 4, it should touch strips 2 and 3. There should be no gap and the curve of the strip should be smooth. It’s a very easy test and it gives you the peace of mind that the strips will run smoothly when you begin to build.

levelling 1

Varnishing (!)

January 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

There comes a point in any canoe build when the sight of a sander invokes a sigh. You’ve sanded diligently. You’ve gone over the places that you missed the first time around. You’ve spot sanded because, in spite of your best efforts, there were still places that you’ve missed. And you’ve heard your wife complain again about all of the dust that you’ve tracked into the house. It is at this point that you say to yourself: Enough is enough. Time to varnish.

This is an exciting time. It’s the time when the wood that has lain muted beneath a layer of fiberglass and epoxy leaps forth. It’s also a time when the mistakes you’ve made leap forth as well. Finally, it’s a time when the reek of varnish replaces the inconvenience of dust in your house.

Before sanding, I washed down all surfaces and then wiped the hull down using a tack cloth. For this build, I decided not to obsess about lint and dust. I obsessed the last time and still got lint and dust in the varnish. Regrettably, I don’t have a dust free work area and it would have taken the better part of my mid-life crisis years to make it so. So I vacuumed and dusted as best I could and then left the final product to the vagaries of whatever draft happened to waft over my canoe.

For the first coat, I used Epifanes clear varnish, diluted a little with a splash of thinner. Later coats will be diluted less.

The following pic shows how the colors pop under the varnish.

And finally, the finished product.

Installing the decks

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

In an effort to appeal to a new demographic (to which my wife also belongs), I will compose this post along the lines of the cooking shows that seem to fascinate her beyond all reason.

The ingredients that we will be using in this episode are several pieces of delectable maple. Specifically, per deck, two triangles of birdseye maple and a strip of standard quartersawn maple joined using our friend, dookie schmutz. Beautiful.

canoe decks

Admittedly, the ingredients don’t look like much now, but wait!

After trimming and sanding the decks down, prepare a small amount of dookie schmutz (2 parts epoxy resin to 1 part hardener and one or more pinches of sawdust). The mixture should have a consistency of peanut butter. Mix thoroughly.  Give it a whiff. Mmm. Smells great.

Now, with a spatula (or any piece of scrap wood you have lying around), spread the dookie schmutz on the edges of the deck. You don’t have to be too neat here. Just have fun! Yum!

(You will note the scribbles all over the deck. These helped to guide my sanding to ensure a good fit. They’ll be sanded off later.)

spreading dookie schmutz on the deck

(At this point, you might be tempted to lick your fingers. Don’t. Not only is it unhygienic, but you probably have dookie schmutz all over them and your tongue will likely cleave to the roof of your mouth.) Now we’re ready to put the deck in the oven bow or stern. Mmm. Look at that!

With clamps, secure the deck in place and wait until the next day (or more) depending on the ambient temperature of the kitchen workshop before removing the clamps and sanding the area.

Building the gunwales

November 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

After a summer of fun and frivolity and canoeing and a less fun autumn of knocking some items off the honey-do list, it was time to return to my beloved stripper. Yes, she waited patiently for me in the garage, neglected for far too many months. I was glad to get back to her.

At any rate, when I left the build, I had fiberglassed the hull and had sanded most of it inside and out. It was time now to start putting things together. The last canoe had a solid ash internal gunwale. For this boat, I decided to construct a scuppered gunwale. Why scuppers? For one, I like the look of them. As well, they provide drainage and convenient tie-down points and the end result is lighter than a solid gunwale of the same width.

I started by scarfing two 10′ lengths of ash, roughly half an inch thick. Then I set up an ugly but functional jig to create 3 inch long blocks out of 1/4 inch thick ash. The “C” clamp in the picture below acted as my stopper.

The drill press enabled me to have a nice concave shape at the ends of the blocks.

Then I epoxied the blocks along the length of the gunwale as follows, leaving roughly two feet on either end without blocks:

Then I had a beer in the sunshine with my trusty helper. And then a couple more after which we decided (wisely) to put the tools away, because boat-building and booze is second only to boating and booze in the annals of really bad ideas.

Installing the gunwales is a finicky business and you want to be stone cold sober when you do it. You want a nice join at the ends where the two gunwales meet, and you want to make sure that you don’t cut the gunwales too short. It’s remarkable what bending and twisting the gunwales does to what you thought was a perfect measurement.

At any rate, the gunwales went in without too much in the way of trauma, and after dry-fitting them, it was time to epoxy them into position. I think I mentioned that you can never have enough clamps when building a canoe; I think I used every one I had when mounting the gunwales to the hull.

Fiberglassing the canoe ends

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Someone recently asked how the ends are fiberglassed, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to that.

When I glass the hull, I cut back the cloth so that it follows the curve of the bow and stern but doesn’t quite go around. When the fiberglass has dried, I sand down the jagged ends so that the fiberglass is smooth where it meets the external stem.

To cover the bow and stern, I use the excess cloth that I trimmed off when I initially covered the canoe. I apply some epoxy to the area that I want to cover and position the cloth. The epoxy helps keep the cloth from sliding off the boat while I fiddle around with placement.

When the cloth is in place, I apply epoxy with a brush. I normally cut a slit in the cloth as I follow the curve to keep the cloth from bunching.

fiberglassing canoe ends

From this point, it’s just a case of wetting out the cloth and ensuring that it lies flat against the surface.

I then add a second, narrower strip over the first for added protection.

fiberglassing canoe ends

The end result looks a little Frankenstein-ish, but sanding the layers when they are dry renders the seams invisible.

Fiberglassing the canoe

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

I haven’t updated the blog since finishing the stripping because… well… sanding isn’t that interesting. That said, I was careful to sand away any glue lines between the strips because these invariably appear as white lines and look gross. I also filled any gaps between strips with epoxy and sanding dust. Bigger gaps (there were a few) were filled with cedar splinters and epoxy.

But at last, with the sanding done, it was fiberglassing time. With the exception of a few hiccups, the glassing went well and I’m happy with the results.

fiberglassing a cedar strip canoe

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