With all of the assembly in place we were down to getting the final finish on it.
Just as it is all looking like it’s “this” close to being done, we get to revisit our friend the random orbit sander! I had thought that sanding the hull was a lot of work…but sanding the epoxy was an entirely different experience. Not only is the epoxy that much harder, but you can’t go too hard at it or you’ll get through the epoxy to the fiberglass. Once you hit fiberglass you end up with ugly white crosshatching that won’t go away. Ok, so I had just a little bit of it on the outside of the stern….caught it in time that you only see it in certain light, but it’s there!
With the sanding done…the magic really starts to happen. The epoxy gave us a really good look at what it was going to be like when it was finished…but doing that sanding and throwing on a coat of spar varnish just blew me away.
The decks and handles just popped with the varnish.
But the real test was the outside of the hull. There’s something inherently artistic in the look of a glossy canoe flipped upside down. For me, this was the ultimate reward in the entire project. Even more than the maiden voyage, seeing what this canoe looked like with it’s final finish on it just took my breath away.
There is that sweet spot when the varnish first goes on and is still wet where everything looks like it’s shrouded in glass. I think I stood there and looked at it with sticky varnishy hands for a good 20 minutes. Of course….the fumes from the spar varnish might just have had something to do with that.
To be honest, all these years later, I don’t recall how many coats of varnish we put on it. I think it was 3, but may have been 4 with successively lighter sanding between coats. I have heard that you have to be careful about not doing too many coats or as the varnish weathers it will delaminate and come off in big flakes.
The only things we had left were to mount the yoke, seats and stem covers. I was impatient at this point and chose to buy the premade yoke/seats (in cherry). Someday I may make my own…but for now they work fine and look good.
The stem covers are strips of brass to protect the stems from bumps and dings. These were bent around the stems and up onto the decks. We secured them with brass screws. Note to anyone doing this….get some steel screws the same size as the brass and install them first so that the brass screws don’t get stripped off and break. Once it’s all in place, replace each steel screw with a brass one very carefully. Putting a drop of epoxy into the screw holes also adds a bit of extra protection.
Here it is at home. My wife and daughter were very excited and even decorated the house with streamers and had mock champagne. We Christened her ‘Hope it Floats’….and thus far, it does!
Shortly after we took her up to a lake and here is the maiden voyage, across the lake and back.
Thanks for following along…it was a great project, very satisfying and something we can keep enjoying for years to come.
With the fiberglassing complete, we finally get to add some of the detail work.
First up, we have to install the inwales. In order to allow water to pour out of the canoe easily, you need to install the inwales with a space between them and the hull. The spacers are called scuppers. I love nautical terminology….you call that a what???
I wanted a contrast, but not so much that it took away from the cedar. I found that a strip of mahogany that I had kicking around would be just slightly darker than the darkest parts of the cedar so I used this in making some of the accents. This also nicely contrasted with the ash gunwales and maple I was using in other parts.
We had to mark out and predrill all the holes from the outside in to attach the scuppers and the inwales with screws. The screws would later be hidden by the outwales. The scuppers also got a bit of glue to seal up their edges. On the bow/stern ends, the final scupper was a long tapered strip that brought the inwales to a point in the bow/stern.
I had the option of using some stock cherry decks, but I really wanted to add some personality to it, so I fabricated the decks out of maple and mahogany.
Once these were in place, I added some accent pieces to the inner edge as well as adding maple carrying handles in both ends.
The outwales were next to go on and were screwed through the hull into the inwales to secure everything in place. In order to get this right there was a bit of fiddling around that had to go on when we sized the inwales and outwales. The hull was ultra flexible at the time, so we had to get the yoke in place and temporarily clamp it in place when we fit the inwales, but once they were in place we put the yoke in it’s proper place with brass carriage bolts through the inwales, stabilizing the hull for the placement of the outwales.
To plug up the screw holes from the outwales being attached I made up some mahogany plugs and glued them in place, giving the final bit of accenting…hopefully not too overboard. (Pun intended)
Next up, the final finishing and maiden voyage!
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.
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.