Beginning in January of 2014, I was part of a group build
of a Cedar Strip Canoe. This is Part Two of a photo album documenting
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PLEASE NOTE: To respect people's privacy, I have
blurred the faces in most of these photos. The exception is
people I know who have given permission.
Things are progressing well.
We were able to completely dispense with
the end frames tonight. I lost count, but I think we put another
five strips on the top, and also two short lengths on each side at
each end on the bottom.
One nice thing is that we were able to go back to two-at-a-time for
the last set of strips on top.
Don't knock the duct tape... it does a good job with helping us
clamp things in awkward places. The boards are fighting us, as there
is quite a curve to them as we force them into place.
Tonight we hit a mini-milestone, as we finished gluing strips to one
side of the canoe -- that is to say, we reached the centreline with our
cedar strips. Next time things will start getting fiddly, as we will
have to start fitting the strips in from the other side.
This photo is from about partway the evening, having just
finished clamping into place the second pair of strips. We are gluing
in two at a time, since it is flat enough for that.
We also added one more strip at the top (which is upside down still...)
of each end. These end strips is one place where the duct tape is
mandatory, as there is no easy way to clamp the pieces.
Here We are forcing the last two strips into place for
There was actually a fair bit of standing around tonight. We glued in
a total of six strips on top, and one on each side of the end (so four
at the ends). But each time we had to wait for the glue to set up for
20-25 minutes before unclamping and getting the next set into place.
Yeah, maybe I'd use staples next time I build a canoe...
On the one hand, we didn't get much done this Saturday, only 3 strips.
But on the other hand, we made huge progress!
Using a long straightedge, we marked the centre line of the canoe.
This showed us how much waste had to be cut off of the strips already
installed on the finished side of the canoe.
Nothing fancy here, Albert is just using a jigsaw to cut off the waste. He is
staying between a sixteenth and an eighth inch off of the line.
The end result (almost). After this, we used block planes to plane
back to the line all the way along the centre, and resorted to chisels
at the ends where the planes would not fit.
Each strip now has to be fitted carefully at each end. We start with
one end and plane a sharp point on the strip. Then we fit the strip,
and plane the other end to fit. Then we test fit, and hopefully we
have not planed off too much. More likely we need to plane a bit more.
(then repeat again and again...)
The ends usually had to be held in place with duct tape, which you can
see in some of the other shots.
Here we are at the end of the day, sweeping up, and the third strip is
in place. You can see how straight the centre line is after being
planed back to the pencil line.
We also worked on the stems. We used a belt sander to smooth and curve
The outer stems are laminated strips of cherry. These were made WAY
back on the FIRST day of the build. They were made at the same time
and on the same form as the inner pine stems. Finally we got to take
them out of storage and see how they fit on the ends.
Here is what the end looks like after belt sanding and before the
cherry stem is in place. It is pretty wide, since it needs to match
the width of the cherry stem.
We also had to trim back the strips a bit, to make a bit of a pocket
for where the cherry stem comes to an end.
Once it fit close enough, we slathered on the Titebond II glue, placed
it in place, and fastened it with 2 inch screws. We pre-drilled all
the holes in the cherry about 3 inches apart. The screws are serving
as clamps. Next week the screws will be removed and cherry plugs
fitted into place to fill the holes.
We also marked the shear line at the ends and roughly cut off some of
the excess strips at those four locations.
My buddy, Albert, (the one who actually knows what he is doing... I'm just
winging it!) couldn't make it tonight. It was just me and my #2 son. I
was actually okay with that, as I'm still a bit unsure of things, so I
was happy to have just two of us to keep track of.
We got two more strips installed. That doesn't seem like much, but with all
the fiddling it is a good 15 minutes to fit each one, and then wait 30
minutes for the glue to set before unclamping and starting on the next
one... that means things do not go quickly at this stage!
While waiting for the glue to set on the first strip we got going on
shaping the outer stems. Of course we first removed all the screws!
I had not remembered to bring my plug cutter, so we could not fill the
The stem started out with a sort of rectangular cross section. We
needed to reshape that to be V-shaped, so the lines from the stem
would flow into the shape of the hull.
These were the three tools of choice for this:
Chisel - used a bit to pare down the ends, where the other two could
not easily reach
Spokeshave - used a TON for shaping the stems
Block plane - used a fair bit, until I realized the spokeshave worked
much better. Still used it afterwards for more cleanups
Here is a close up of the spokeshave at work. You can see a bit over
my shoulder how it is shaping.
I worked just on the upper half of the stem. The part that curves
around to the bottom I left alone tonight.
Final shot of one of the stems. You can see where we pulled out the
screws and did not plug any of the holes. We really want to get the
stems shaped before we worry about plugging them.
Other commitments meant that we could only spare a bit over an hour this morning.
We got two more strips installed, and some more work on shaping the stems.
We measured and it seems like 5-6 more strips and we will close in the hull.
Here is how we fit a strip. First we place a strip at one end, make
pencil marks, cut 1/8" off the line, and then plane to the line and
fit it into place (dry). We then put one clamp in the middle to hold
Over at the other end we bend it into position, take marks off the
canoe and again rough cut it to shape, leaving the other end in
Again we plane to the line. Here I am pulling with the block plane, as
that is the easiest way to do this with the plank half-clamped into
After a few test fits and adjustments we decide it is good and then
pull it out and run a bead of wood glue in the cove where the plank is
fitted. We run our finger along to make sure the glue is in the cove
and there is 100% coverage.
Then we force in the plank and clamp it, as has been shown in other photos.
While the glue is setting, we could get started with the spokeshave on
shaping the lower part of the two stems where it needs to blend into
the hull. Near the end we had well over a half inch of stock to
remove. Therefore, I set the gap on the spokeshave blade quite wide
so I could peel away thick strips of the excess stem wood.
With the bulk of the stem gone we continued finessing the shape with
the block plane. In this photo I have put in some arrows to indicate
where the end of the stem is located; just near the leading edge of
Sunday morning after church I snuck into the shop and fitted in one
more strip (with my two sons). Sunday evening my buddy managed to do
the same. No photos, sorry.
Monday evening (March 31) I snuck back to church for a half our
and my son and I fitted another plank. All that is left now is a very
narrow gap. This will be filled (hopefully on Wednesday evening) by
gluing two (maybe two-and-a-half) strips together and fitting them in
as a unit.
Here you see that this is the remaining gap. And there are also a
few overview shots.
Unfortunately we did not manage to close in the bottom today. We had
some trouble with the strips. We decided to leave the pieces clamped
to dry until Saturday. We've come this far, better to pause and do it
right than to rush and make a mistake. We still made lots of other
One guy was sanding all night. 40 grit. Yes, I said 40. Just keep the
sander moving!! One side of the canoe is quite nicely smoothed.
We also did a lot of hand planing on both sides. Up top we used a
block plane. Down near the lower edge we have to be careful as the
sides can flex in and out. So we used a #4 plane there to avoid
following those temporary dips.
We finished the shaping of the two stems with the spokeshave + block
I then got out a 1/4" drill bit and drilled shallow holes in all
the screw holes.
Used a tapered plug cutter (thank-you Lee Valley!) to cut a bunch of
face-grain plugs from a scrap of nice cherry that I had at home:
And popped out the plugs with a screwdriver... You could also use a
bandsaw to slice the board, freeing the plugs. However, these are
quite small at 1/4" in diameter, and they easily popped free by
twisting them out with the screwdriver.
These plugs were then glued into those holes on the stem to plug the
holes left by the screws we had used to clamp the stems in place.
Meanwhile, Albert built a jig from a wide and long pine board.
He drew a
straight line, which I don't think you can see. Then he measured the
gap on the boat at several places and attached those white blocks that
you see on the right side. The screw is loosely in each block, so that the
blocks can pivot and follow the curve. We then glued and braced three
cedar strips against those blocks, which should replicate the open curve on
the boat. (or at least close enough!)
The strips where left there to dry flat for 45 minutes. Unfortunately
that was not long enough. (poor choice of glue) The one strip popped
free when we started trying to shape the piece. We worked on it for a
half hour but ended up deciding that we needed to put it back in the
clamp and leave it dry until Saturday. We've come this far and it is
best to slow down and get it done right, rather than force something
in that doesn't work. (as my friend said, best not to stumble this
close to the finish line!)
(I've been bringing an old camera with me. Being a workshop, I'm
not so concerned about an old camera getting contaminated or affected
by dust, or banged around on a bench. Unfortunately, that old camera
gave up the ghost. Something in the electronics is fried.
Fortunately a friend was there with her blackberry phone and snapped a
few pictures for me. Next time I'll have to bring my other old camera!
So any photos here that look horrendous are mine.)
Today we closed in the bottom of the canoe. We also did lots of
sanding with the ROS, finalized the smoothing + shape of the stems,
and started patching some of the inevitable cracks/gaps.
The first thing we did was set my son to trimming the plugs off with the flush cutting saw
Then we turned our attention to the remaining planks of wood, which we
had clamped up last time. Here I am at the bench trimming the inside
of the final piece that needs to be fitted. We spent a LOT of time
"fitting, marking, trimming (repeat)". You can always remove more
wood, but you can't put it back, so we were very cautious!
Pictured here is one of our final dry-fitting sessions with the plank.
Here we are laying a bead of glue all along the edge of the opening.
Oh and my son and I are on a long low stepstool, which makes working
on the center of the canoe a lot easier.
We did a lot of sanding. We had two ROS's going over the canoe. Still
needs more work and hand sanding.
We also mixed up a pot of epoxy. We thickened it and mixed in a
bunch of cedar sawdust. The result was the consistency of mashed
potatoes. We then moved around the canoe and forced it into the
inevitable small cracks/gaps that were in various places. When we sand
next these should fade into the background and be mostly invisible.
This process does start to give a hint of the colour that we should
see when we glass the canoe.
Not much to show from this date, just more sanding and more filling with epoxy.
FYI, here is what I used this week for filling cracks. I bought this
epoxy kit at Lee Valley. Works very nicely - the measured pumps make
it easy to get the proportions right. It starts out runny like warm
honey. I added some cedar dust (for colour) from the sander dust bag.
And I also added some of the #406 filler. Then it was thicker, but
still runny like soft mayonnaise. I added more of each and mixed it
more and now it was like soft mashed potatoes (or maybe smooth peanut
butter.) And yes, the back of the "filler" can does use terms like
"mayonnaise" to describe the different degrees of stiffness you can
This was then used to fill some cracks, using that yellow spreader
to force it in and spread it thin.
PLEASE NOTE: Albert later told me that I used
the wrong filler. It works, but the result is much harder, and
therefore harder to sand. He uses a different filler. (I'll try to
find out which number it is and make note of it here.)
Okay, my camera issues seem to persist. Today I totally forgot to
bring my camera! So all the shots are from my (mediocre) cell phone
camera. Fortunately, we worked outside today in the sunshine, and the
cell camera does best in that situation.
Today was five guys with sanders... We continued with the 40 grit on
one sander, and 80 grit on the others. See all the patchy parts in the
photo? That is remnants of epoxy from where we filled gaps and cracks.
All of that had to be sanded back to clear cedar.
Good sandpaper was important. I was working away and seeing little
progress, but when I changed the paper in my ROS things got a lot more
Compare this photo with the previous shot, or some
of the eariler, see how the end is sanded down to cedar; all the epoxy
stains are gone.
It is looking gorgeous, and we aren't finished yet!
We did a LOT of this. We were constantly running our hands over the
hull, feeling for rough spots, or unevenness. And of course, just
because it felt so cool to run our hands over this smooth hull!
Any rough spots were marked with pencil so we could clearly see where
we needed to keep sanding.
Then it was time to wet down the hull. This serves two important
tasks. First, it raises the grain before the final sanding. But also,
it reveals any remaining resin spots or imperfections which were then
noted (see the pencil in the shot) for later attention.
Then it was time for final sanding - 120 grit this time.
Here is how beautiful it looked at the end of the morning's work.