Woodworking in the great white north.

Archive for May, 2010

Canoe – part 6

One thing I forgot to mention was what we did to seal up any holes/gaps in the hull before we did the fiberglassing. Even though we soaked a lot of epoxy into the fiberglass, and it will fill in most of the gaps, we did a bit of proactive work first. We mixed up some epoxy with some of the cedar sawdust (of which we had plenty) and made a woodfiller which we rubbed into any gaps or holes (yes, the staples holes got filled). For the most part this ended up looking pretty seamless once it was sanded. You’ll see a few spots on the inside where we plastered some of this one before sanding.

Before we can get to the inside, we’ve got to get the canoe off the form. The form was built such that a few station blocks at one end could be easily removed from the form and the canoe slipped back off the form quite easily.

I was unprepared for just how springy and loose the whole thing was once it came off the form. This thing can bounce! In fact, to demonstrate how strong and flexible this type of construction is, someone at one point made up a curved panel and epoxy/fiberglassed it together. They would put it cup-side down and jump on and off of it….and it apparently bounced back with little or not damage. I never saw this myself, but I can see it…to a point.

Hey…that almost looks like a canoe!

And here’s the inside with the woodfiller spots.

Once again we had a very very long day of sanding to get the inside of the hull nice and smooth. The inside was much harder to do than the outside since the curves were concave, adding the risk of cutting in with the sander. Up in the bow and stern ends it became a labour of love to do the sanding by hand. Especially around the inside stem bands.

Here’s the nice shiny sheet of fiberglass draped into the interior.

And once again, the same process of pouring in the epoxy and spreading it out evenly.

Once this had dried, we could trim off the excess.


Canoe – part 5

With the majority of the construction complete, we move on to doing some of the finishing on the outside of the hull.

The hull as it stands is pretty rough, there’s a lot of squeeze-out of the poly-glue that we used on the strips, rough edges to the strips, slight tearout around the areas where the staples were. I have to confess, I don’t look forward to the sanding process for any project, but once resolved to the idea, I find it a calming zen-like process.

The sanding was done with rather large random orbit sanders. Rather large, rather noisy and rather heavy. My zen-like state of sanding was rudely interrupted (insert sounds of a record needle scraping across an LP) by the numbness traveling up my arms from the vibration of the sander. Ok, so I’m whining a bit, it wasn’t all that bad, but it was by far the most arduous task in the project. Getting the hull all sanded down to a smooth consistent state took quite a while, and included burning out one the sander motors.

As is usually the case, once the gruntwork is done, you feel satisified with the end result.

With all the glue and gunk removed, you can start to see what the canoe’s character is going to be. Very satisfying stuff.

The last step before the canoe comes off the form is the fiberglassing. This was something I had zero experience with and was more than a little nervous about screwing up the work done so far.

The process was surprisingly easy. Clean the surface of all the dust, wipe it down and very gently roll out and lay the sheet of velvety fiberglass material evenly over the canoe. When you see the canoe draped in what looks like a nice shiny white satin cloth a lot of questions come up about how it’s going to look when it’s done.

With the fiberglass in place, we mixed up tubs of epoxy resin and set to work. This was the part I was most concerned about, I had visions of big wrinkles and a resulting ugly mess on my beautiful wood. My fears were unfounded. Pouring the resin onto the keel line and using plastic spatulas, we worked the epoxy into the fiberglass, making sure not to stretch or wrinkle it. This was much easier than I thought. The resin is quite thin, kind of like a runny syrup, so it goes on pretty easily and spreads well. It took a fair bit of time to get the whole hull done, but the satisfaction was huge!

It was a big boost to see the wood as it’s going to appear when it’s all done. The epoxy darkened the wood to its final colour and while it was wet, gave it a luster and shine that was pretty spectacular when you compare it to the before picture. Here’s the same view as the last picture, but with the epoxying done.

A couple more pictures of how the hull looks with the fiberglass/epoxy in place. I really was quite surprised at how clear the fiberglass became with the epoxy soaked into it. Great stuff.

Next up…do the whole process again on the inside of the hull.


Canoe – part 4

I’ve been negligent in wrapping this up….but here’s the next stage, finishing up the hull itself.

I out last episode, we had finished up the one side and now we’ll close it all up.

Before we close up the other side, we’ve got to trim down the first side to get a nice clean line to work with. Nothing too scientific here, for the most part we eye-balled the parts around the stems and laid a strip down the keel-line to mark off the center. Getting the keel-line straight isn’t necessary yet, since we’ll be fine tuning it later on.

With the one side cleaned up, we repeat the process on the other side and work in towards the keel. The difficult part here was as we got down the bottom of the hull, where we had to trim pieces to fit properly. This involved a lot of clamping, cursing and trial and error as we didn’t want to cut them too short or at the wrong angle.

This was about the time when I felt a bit of panic. The keel doesn’t line up nicely and there are literally hundreds of holes in my boat…mostly from the staples. I did not feel confident that this was going to float that well….maybe make a nice sprinkler system if I string it up over the veggie patch…

The keel area looked pretty rough with the loosely joined edges.

All was not lost….we then cut a strip for the keel-line and tacked it in place to mark the area that it would go. We marked it, removed the strip and cut out the excess wood very very slowly and carefully. This part we wanted a good fit for.

It looks a bit loose in the picture, but it’s actually quite a tight fit.

The last step in the hull construction was the clean up the stems and put the outer stems in place. Cleaning up the stems with spokeshaves and planes was pretty timeconsuming, but in the end it turned out to be pretty good.

We attached the previously bent stems and glued and screwed them in place.

Lastly, we cut off the screw heads, cleaned them up and epoxied over the ends.

In our next episode things get very very very dusty….


Weekend woodworking

Woodworking for me really settled in as an activity I did out of necessity to solve problems.  I need a step stool….find a design, buy some lumber, build it, finish it, use it.  There was certainly not a lot of artistic influence, nor was there much in the way of regularity to the effort.  It was purely a utilitarian exercise.

When I decided to get more serious about woodworking and take the time to build something nice that would last a (hopefully) long time, I started down the path of building the canoe I have been documenting in the blog. 

At the time, I did not know a lot of people who were into woodworking.  One friend of mine, Adam, was taking an introductory course at a vocational school so I invited him along to work on the canoe.

This was several years ago and we have managed to keep the woodworking activities going since then.  We typically meet up everyone week or two on a saturday and work on our own projects or help each other out.  Nothing like having an extra set of hands to rip down some plywood.  Or an extra set of eyes to notice that you’re about to put your hand in harms way.

While we are both learning, we’re trying different things and get to see what the other is doing and use them as a reference.  To date, most of the work has been done in my workshop, but now that Adam has his own place and is amassing tools, we’ve done a bit of work getting things set up in his own workshop.

As a result, woodworking has become a saturday activity while my family is out doing their own activities.  It doesn’t always pan out each week, but getting some regular time in to do a hobby is clearly a good thing.

It’s a delicate balance between learning and doing.  The doing is often still out of necessity, but I am trying to steer the necessities of life to require more development and application of woodworking techniques and even a little of that artistic side of me that gets less attention than it should.