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.

side

The last strip

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

The last strip is always a bittersweet affair. There’s the endless shaping and dry-fitting until the last sliver of a strip finally slips into the tapered opening in the hull. It’s a rush when the final strip goes in, but this rush is tempered by the knowledge that what follows is an eternity of sanding (and the stink-eye from the spouse who attributes any speck of dust in the house and every sneeze of the kids and wheeze of the dog to the dust generated in the workshop… never mind that  everything — EVERYTHING — happens to be pollinating right now. It’s the dust!).

But I digress.

The picture below shows the herringbone pattern that I used to fill in the hull.

And finally the hull itself, waiting for the outer stems and, of course, the sander. And the stink-eye.

Starting the football

May 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

There comes a point when it’s no longer possible to affix strips to the internal stem. Stripping the resulting opening — the football — can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Many builders strip one half of the football, cut the excess along a straight line, and then finish the other half. It’s a nice effect when done well, but falls apart if the two halves don’t match each other perfectly.

I’ve opted for a different method for the following reasons:

  • Cutting a straight line gives me the willies
  • Matching wood between the halves is more difficult if you lack the foresight and planning required (as I do)

Instead, I’ve opted to run two strips along the centerline and then fill the halves using a herringbone pattern.

The advantages are:

  • The two strips form the straight line that I want
  • It’s easier to match grain and color by working on one half of the canoe and then the other

cedar strip canoe sides

Running the two center strips requires some careful beveling as the hull at the ends have a pronounced angle. Towards the middle of the football beveling is less of an issue as the bottom of the canoe is relatively flat.

Here are a couple of other notes on running the center strips:

  • Clamping the strips together here is overkill. More likely than not, the pressure of the clamp will prevent the strips from lying flat against the forms. I’ve found that taping the strips together with masking tape is more than sufficient to hold them together until the glue dries.
  • It is crucial that you measure the distance between the edge of the football and the center strips at each form. Any discrepancy between the halves will be accentuated as you fill them in, particularly if you’re planning on using strips of different colors as accents.
  • Although I have opted for stapleless construction, this is one place (among a few others) where I do tack the strips to the forms. It is easy to alter the position of the strips when filling the football, so securing them is a good idea.

Here’s a picture of the football with the center strips in place:

centerline of football

Now for an admission of fallibility…

You’ll notice that the center strips don’t align perfectly with the strips in front in the picture above. On measuring the distance between the sides and the centerline, I noticed a small discrepancy (less than 1/8th of an inch) between the sides. Fudging the strips (as above) corrects the discrepancy. Fortunately, the external stem will cover and disguise the adjustment.

On another note: After stripping the canoe with bead and cove strips to more easily navigate the curve of the bilge, I’ve transitioned back to square edged strips. I’ve found that using bead and cove strips when filling the football tends to damage the cove, particularly if you’re fiddling around with adjustments and dry-fitting the strip multiple times. Running a rolling bevel for this part of the build is less aggravating (for me, at least).

Adding an accent strip

May 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

Funny how posts on “stripping” garner the highest number of blog visits…

At any rate, I’m just about done the accent strip, which consists of alternating light and dark western red cedar sandwiched between two strips of douglas fir.

I’ll soon transition to bead and cove strips to more easily strip the curve of the bilge.

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.

Sanding and the sealer coat

February 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sanding is one of those things where it’s difficult to know when to stop. After all, how smooth is smooth enough?

Usually I get to the point of diminishing returns. In other words, continued sanding serves only to reveal gaps between strips and doesn’t add much in the way of smoothness. When I get to this point and the canoe is as smooth as it’s likely to get, I put the sander away for a while.

I should have mentioned something about the crack-filling process. There will be gaps between strips, either because of imperfections in the wood or a bad mating of strips. These gaps are easily filled with wood filler or a mixture of epoxy and sanding dust, mixed to the consistency of peanut butter. Wood filler (or plastic wood) tends to appear lighter than the surrounding wood when epoxied, while the epoxy/wood flour mixture tends to appear darker. While I’m glad that I didn’t use wood filler between strips, I should have used it to fill screw holes on the ash stems. Ash doesn’t darken as much as cedar under epoxy, and as a result, the epoxy mixture gave me dark dots on the stem. Live and learn.

When the sanding was done (or rather, when I was done sanding), I put a sealer coat on the canoe. The sealer coat is optional, but I like doing it. For one, it allows the wood to absorb epoxy so that it doesn’t absorb as much when the fiberglass is applied. The sealer coat also gives you a great idea of what the canoe will look like when it is glassed.

And here is a pic of the completed hull.

Next step: fiberglassing.

 

The football filled

February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

canoe widow [kuh-noo wid-oh]  -NOUN    The partner of a canoe builder whose recollection of his/her spouse is prompted by a whiff of sawdust that emanates from the garage.

___

After what seems like an eternity of stripping, the football is now filled. The children will now have to do without the tedious and vaguely distressing jokes (and associated mental pictures) of their father-as-stripper.

I got ahead of myself a little and started planing and sanding parts of the hull. The left side of the picture above shows how smooth the hull will eventually look against the roughness of the right side of the hull. There are minor gaps to be filled, but overall the strips are tight and level.

But there are a few details to complete before I turn my attention completely to planing and sanding. I’m using some of the off-cuts from the main portion of the hull to fill in the bow and stern of the canoe. These shorter pieces will be shaped after glassing the outside of the hull for form the upsweep of the bow and stern.

Once I have these pieces in place, I’ll be able to form the outer stems, but that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I’m taking out a canoe widow.

ca·noe

canoe pronunciation [kuhnoo]

Filling the football

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Canoe building factoid #1: You spend half your time looking for that thing that you just had in your hand.

Canoe building factoid #2: That thing that you want is always on the other side of the boat.

Filling in the football. The stripping has gone quickly and without any of the problems that can arise. From time to time I measure from the edge of the center strip to the edge of the side strip. The last thing I want is to have the last strips on either side to look different. As fun as the stripping has been, I can’t wait to get to the next phase of the project. I can taste the sawdust that I will be creating soon when I start sanding  the hull.

There are a lot of acute angles. I’ve found that the best way to pare the wood away is with a block plane.

note the fashionable, canoe-building garb

It takes about 20 seconds to rough in the angle. If I’ve marked the angle correctly, the test fit will reveal that the strip fits tightly. Otherwise (and is normally the case), I have to fine-tune the angle. Either way, the block plane does quick work and you end up with a neat little pile of gerbil bedding.

On stapleless construction

February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

You might look at the picture below and say, “Whoa, dude, that canoe you’re building has leprosy.”

canoe building: stapleless construction

Actually, those unsightly blobs are hot melt glue. Essentially, I glue and clamp the strips, and then apply hot melt glue between the strips on the outside of the boat. The hot melt glue keeps the strips together while the wood glue cures. In this way, I can move on to the next strip without having the previous one move around on me. All in all, I prefer this method to stapling the strips to the forms. One caveat though is that the strips will have a tendency to bow away from the station forms when you clamp them (particularly when using bar clamps).

Of course, if I’m doing just one strip, I glue it, clamp it, and leave it.

I can then scrape off the blobs of hot melt glue and the resulting surface (after a bit of sanding) looks none the worse for wear. And no staple holes!

The darkness, by the way, occurs when you wipe the surface down with a damp rag. I was just curious about the final color of the boat.

On scarfing

February 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the facilities to deal with 16′ strips, so I have to make them out of shorter strips. Enter the scarf joint.

This is the preferred joining method. Our friends at Wikipedia have this picture:

I’ve used a block plane to scarf the strips in the past, but then discovered the following method (which combines scarfing with the possibility of a manicure). I usually use two hands, but one is holding the camera.

canoe building: belt sander

I have a little mark on the base of the belt sander to indicate the length and a block to achieve the desired angle. In this way, all of my scarfs are exactly the same. Because I’ve been so picky about keeping the strips together, I end up scarfing the same end of neighboring strips, and this ensures that the grain and color will be more or less the same and will make the joint less evident.

When I’ve scarfed two cedar strips, I glue and clamp the scarfed ends using little clamps that I thought were pretty useless before I realized that they could be used for scarfing. I now know what with canoe building, there’s no such thing as a useless clamp.

canoe building: scarf joints

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