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

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.

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

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.

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