Woodworking in the great white north.

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.


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