Woodworking in the great white north.

Archive for March, 2010

Canoe – part 3

Now that we’ve got the sides of the hull planked, we close in the bottom of the hull. The process pretty much remains the same, edge glue the strips together, staple them onto the form to hold them in place.

This is a point where having extra hands was quite valuable. You really need to flex the strips quite a bit to bend them onto the form as they work around the curved part of the hull. At one point, the each strip is essentially flat (horizontal) on the bottom of the hull, but as it curves around to the bow/stern, they end up vertical against the stems. The strips are flexible enough to do this with a little convincing, but we found it easiest to work from the middle out in both directions at the same time, one person working towards the bow and one towards the stern.

Another design element: An option that I have seen on some canoes, was to keep going with the planking up one side and wrap the strips across the keel-line and around the other side. This creates an interesting visual detail as the canoe becomes asymetrical. A second option is to get the point in the pictures above and fill in ‘the football’ (the football shaped gap that remains) in different ways. Switch from the continual curved strips, to a transition where the football is made of strips running parallel to the keel, more like a strip floor than a curved hull.

I went with a more traditional approach, to continue to fill in the football with curved strips one side at a time. You do get some challenges with the curvature that has to happen in the strips, but a few clamps, staples and patience will get you to the point where one side of the hull is filled in.

We also had to glue in some shorter strips from our original first strip, going down the form, to give the bow and stern their upward curve. These have to be a fair bit longer than you think, since the curve of the gunwales from bow to stern is fairly shallow.

Next, closing up the hull completely.

Canoe – part 2

Let’s start with what we’re building.  This is a 16′ Peterborough canoe built from cedar strips edge joined with a cove and bead, covered with a layer of fiberglass adhered with a thick coat of epoxy resin and protected with a marine spar varnish.  I believe the hull is a Steve Killing design, or at very least a modified version of it.

The forming of the hull is done on a strongback, which is basically a long rigid beam with panels rising from it that look like cross sections of the hull.  I didn’t take pictures at this stage, but you will see what these look like in the first few pictures.

If you were starting from scratch, you would need to build these forms and attach them to the strongback according to whatever set of plans you work from.  Many plan kits come with full scale plans for the forms (also called aligning stations).  I was able to skip this step as Dave already had a prepared form that I could use.

The first part of the canoe to be attached to the form are the stems.  These are the curved wooden strips that form the bow and stern.  These are critical to get right as this is what the hull strips are attached to.  The stems I used are steambent ash, roughly 7/8″ square.  These get bent and clamped onto the form and once they hold their shape, the profile of the stem is shaped to accept the cedar strips by putting a slight bevel on them.

Now that the stems are in place (held onto the form with clamps and tape, which get removed as you add strips) we get to the fun part, adding the strips.  Yes, we took full advantage of the opportunity to make light of the fact that we were ‘stripping’ for fun after work.  🙂

We start with the first full strip extending from bow to stern.  Using reference marks on the forms the first strip is stapled on to the form and glued to the stems at the bow and stern.  This takes a bit of finessing as they are supposed to curve around the form and getting them right on the reference line is important.

From here, the work goes quite quickly.  We ran a bead of polyurethane glue into the cove (which faces upwards on the form) and placed a new strip flush into the cove, stapling it to each of the aligning stations and gluing and clamping them to the stems, allowing them to overhang the stems slightly. 

Design alternative:  This is a good place to point out that this canoe has no ribs, some other designs would have ribs stretched over the aligning stations and each strip would be tacked onto the ribs with brass tacks.  While this adds rigidity (and weight) the later addition of fiberglass and epoxy to the interior and exterior provides enough support to allow the omission of the ribs.

One of the fun aspects of this stage is sifting through the pile of cedar strips to pick out matching or complementing colours and trying to establish some sort of symmetry in the way these strips appear on both sides of the canoe.  After the first few strips went in, we put an accent strip made of basswood that makes a nice very light line down the side of the canoe.  Not quite racing stripes, but close!

The progress on this first session was pretty dramatic.  I think we left thinking that we’d be done in a couple of weeks.  That misconception was corrected a couple of weeks later.


Canoe – part 1

Even though this project was done a few years ago, it has been the biggest project I’ve worked on and one that I’ve enjoyed a great deal since.

I decided several years ago that I wanted to get more serious about woodworking and to try something that I perceived as out of my league.  The idea for the canoe was one that had bounced around in my head for a while.  I finally chose to make the leap after seeing a magazine article showing someone in the Toronto area who had a large workshop where he built boats and taught people the art/skill of small boatbuilding.

After doing some research, I found that this was not a unique thing.  I found another, smaller, workshop closer to my home run by a guy named Dave Fisher.  I went out to his shop one night, looked at the canoes and kayaks being built and was hooked.  I signed up for his next opening.

The project began early in 2004 and was completed over several months, working an average 3-4 hours per week.  Dave was an excellent teacher (his regular vocation as it turns out) and with the help of my friend Adam, each week gave a great sense of accomplishment as we saw the project grow from a pile of cedar strips into a beautiful canoe.

This is the final product, ready for her maiden voyage.

My lovely wife suggested that we needed to name her and brimming with confidence, we christened her ‘Hope it Floats’.

It does float…rather well in fact!

More to come in the days ahead, I’ll take things back to day one.


Gifts for the workshop

As I try and ponder how to get some content here and what that content should be, I can’t help but think that the place to start is in the workshop.  Given the endless list of ‘what did you get for Christmas for your workshop?’ discussions on pretty much every blog I read, I thought I’d slip back a couple of months and give my own thoughts on this.

Getting gifts for the workshop from non-woodworkers can sometimes be…well…difficult.  How do you politely say that you don’t REALLY need a set of chisels from the dollar store?  How do you politely NOT say “what I really want are these awesome Japanese chisels that start at $150 each?”

I think we can all agree that as we become more established our tastes, wants and needs for woodworking becoming something that only other woodworkers can appreciate and virtually none of us can justify or afford, as hobbyists.

So what happens when, on Christmas day, your 9 year old brings you ‘a gift for your workshop?’

You stifle your anxiety, try not to get your hopes up that it is actually a box full of Lee Valley gift cards and put on a smile and dive in hoping for the best.


…if you’re me…

….you choke back the emotions when you see that your Wife and Daughter made something that you would never have thought of to make your shop a nicer place to be….custom curtains!

Workshop curtains
Best gift I can get for the workshop

What gift could be better for a workshop?  Considering as well that the previous pale blue floral curtains were entirely too hideous to show in any sort of before and after picture.

Naturally this is something I would never think of…with all the tools out there to buy and the jigs, storage and fun projects to make for the workshop, this one never crossed my mind.

Now, every time I go into the shop now, I am reminded that my wife and daughter spent time and effort sewing, drawing, painting and trying to make my place of refuge a brighter and happier place in which to enjoy my hobby time.  I am extremely lucky to have the encouragement and support of my family to indulge me in this addiction.