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.


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

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.

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 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.

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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