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Cedar Strip Canoe Build: Part 2

 

 


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.


March 05:

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.

March 19:

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 that side.

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...

March 22:

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 ends.
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.
March 26:

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 holes yet.
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.
March 29:

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 it there.

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 position.
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 position.
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 the plane.
March 31:

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.

April 02:

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 great progress.

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 plane.

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!)
April 05:

(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.

April 09:

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 achieve.

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.)

April 12:

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 interesting!

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.

 

Thanks for reading!