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Cedar Strip Canoe Build: Part 3

 

 


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.


April 17:

This is what we've been working towards! Tonight we glassed the outside of the hull.

And more importantly, I remembered to bring a camera that works. Even better, I brought a photographer! (My son injured his hand, so I nominated him as photographer for the evening, and he took a ton of creative shots.)

This greeted us when we arrived, a roll of fibreglass cloth draped over the canoe. It is just wide enough to hang about 2" past the gunnels at the widest point. We rolled it out, centred it, and smoothed it down. NO WRINKLES ALLOWED!
One little non-standard touch was this. Albert cut a long oval piece which we slipped under the cloth at both ends. This gives us a double-thickness just under the bow and stern where you are likely to "ground" the canoe when you hit shore.
And we're off with the first pouring of resin. We mixed it in small 3-4 cup batches and poured it on and spread it with those spreaders. And yes, we ALL wore gloves (right after this photo), and old clothes, and had paper on the floor to catch the drips.
We had two people spreading and one pouring, most of the evening. At first we just spread it out and let it soak through. The resin is basically liquid glue, so we want it to soak through the cloth and into the wood. The fibreglass cloth provides the strength. Later we went over everything several times. It requires a light touch, as you want to spread it and get rid of any air bubbles, but you DON'T want o push so hard that the resin is UNDER the cloth, it needs to be IN the cloth also.
The lower sections and the ends are trickier. We need to work quickly, with small amounts of resin.
Doesn't it make the cedar look gorgeous?
At the lower edges we had to work carefully to ensure it was full adhered and there was resin everywhere, right to the edge of the cedar.
Here, most of the body is finished, just touching up and then working on the ends
A closeup of the bottom.
The ends required some care.

We trimmed the fabric ends so they were maybe 2" longer than the canoe, following the curve of the end, and then cut up the centre.

Then we poured epoxy on one side and worked it in...
...and folded over the cloth. Look close and you can see in the top section of the photo the cloth is embedded in epoxy, and the lower section still needs to be glued.
Close-up of the top section. It looks kind of rough at first, but give us time to get it all done right!!
Almost finished for the evening. Look at all the drips on the paper we laid on the floor.
In this photo, if you look closely, you can just see in the foreground the slight bump in the cloth from where we put that elongated oval piece of fiberglass under the cloth as extra reinforcement.
Here you can see how the sides are now complete all the way down to the gunnels.
Here's a tip that my buddy picked up from a professional boat-building company. This is NOT in the Ted Moores book! It is tough to finish the ends. You risk pushing the resin away from the cloth. We wrapped the ends in a strip of plastic wrap (the boat company used a different product, but essentially the same thing) and this helps get rid of the air bubbles while not pushing away the resin from the stem. It's hard to explain, but it looks great. Once dry we just peel off the plastic.
And that is it for the night. This was a longer weekday evening -- just over 2hrs in total. Next time we will be doing the second coat.
April 23:

So the ends of the canoe under the plastic wrap were not exactly smooth...

My task was therefore to do some light light light sanding. I was using 320 grit in my ROS and I was checking with my fingers every two seconds or so. The goal here is not to get perfectly smooth, but to take off the high points. I probably was being excessively paranoid with the grit choice. 80 or 120 would have been fine.
Meanwhile, the other guys broke out the scotchbrite pads and started working over the canoe. Believe me, there were plenty of "Wax on, Wax off" jokes!
They also loosened the station molds a bit, and I missed this totally as I was working on the ends the whole time, so I'm not even sure what they did here. Oh yeah, as you can see along the bottom, we also trimmed off the excess fibreglass cloth which was extending below the gunnels.
Here was another big reveal as we lifted the canoe off of the form for the first time ever.

Houston, we have liftoff!

Here it is. The end molds are still in there. They're mostly held by friction, but also maybe by a bit of glue squeeze-through.
A bit of carefully applied persuasion and the ends of the forms were also removed!
A look inside one of the ends.
Here is another look. I was trying to get a picture of how thin the sides are, but it is difficult to see in the image. The whole thing was incredibly light at this point. We have several more pounds of fibreglass + resin to apply to it, as well as the seats, thwart, and gunnels.
The inside was pretty rough, as expected, but not bad. You can see a few dark brown horizontal stripes in the top third of this photo. Those are places where the resin soaked right through a gap or crack to the inside, which is precisely what it is supposed to do, filling and bonding as it does.
Then it was time to pop it back onto the form loosely

And some more "wax on wax off" with the scotchbrite pads. We're trying to take the gloss off the resin, before we apply the second coat.

We used a roller to wipe this on thin, and had the whole thing coated in about 15 minutes.
Last shot of the day. More sanding next time!

 

April 26:

These first few shots sort of belong with the last day of work. Here is what the canoe looked like after the second coat of epoxy dried. Gorgeous. Mostly

Overall View.
Oops. Yeah, a few runs here and there. I started to do some sanding. It all needs to be sanded smooth eventually.
But then Albert showed up and had me stop. Yeah, it needs to happen, but there is a better use of our time. The epoxy will still harden more as it cures, and it is actually easier to sand when it is harder. So we turned our attention elsewhere, which is to the interior. We set things up to sand the inside. We also took down the station molds as we don't need them anymore.
Time to pull out the 50 grit 6" ROS again and get busy. It's a noisy, dusty, arm-wearying job (from the vibrations), but it needs to be done.
Meanwhile I worked on some scarf joints.

The gunnel (gunwale) is made up of two pieces, the part on the inside of the cedar canoe shell is the inwale, and the part on the outside of the cedar shell is the outwale. Unfortunately we did not have an easy source of 16ft (plus) boards, so we have to make do with 10ft ash. So we needed to make the boards longer.

Where is that board stretcher?

We set up the miter saw to take a 6-degree cut, and cut the ends of the pieces

And then I glued up the scarf joints. This project is full of firsts for me, first scarf joints I've ever done. And they will need to bend too, when they are fitted in place! We have seven-inch long joints, which is what the book recommends for a good strong joint. Hopefully it works!
Here I have the inwales glued and clamped in place
After those two, I moved on and did the same with the two outwales. The strongback makes a nice long flat surface for this clamping procedure. See the step stool in the foreground? I added that for climbing over the strongback -- the pieces are so long that I can't really get around them at the ends.
A final look at the canoe. We probably aren't half done the sanding, but that was all we got done today.
May 07:

Here we are at the start of the evening... I was away the previous week and therefore missed out on a whole lot of sanding. I also did not get any pictures of that work. At this point, most of the inside of the canoe has been rough-sanded.

Here is a look inside one of the ends. You can see the rougher (darker) wood in tight near the bow/stern where we can’t get that close with the sander. So we’ll have to hand scrape + sand that tight spot.
I took a turn on the 40-grit sander. Powerful, but vibrates a lot and is hard on my hands. (I admit, I’m an office worker by day!) 40 grit is VERY rough, so the main thing to keep in mind is always keep the sander in motion. I worked about 15 minutes before Albert showed up and took over.
He took the canoe outside and worked on getting all the inside sanding done. One of the nice things about being outside is the fresh air and space makes the dust much less an issue. It also is more public, so folks who are at church for other activities will stop by and chat, which is nice.
Meanwhile, my sons and I worked on re-doing the gunnels.

Full disclosure time: I had been alone the night that I first glued up the scarf joints on the gunnels. I had misunderstood my friend's instructions and used wood glue instead of epoxy. Upon discovering the mistake we pondered briefly whether to just chance it. In the end we decided that we should not take a chance, so I cut the joints open and redid them using epoxy (fully waterproof!) this time.

Fortunately, we still had the plywood jig that we used for making the 6-degree scarf cuts. So after some quick re-work (you can refer to the previous photos, I'm not posting a bunch of the same type) we clamped the fixed gunnels.

One extra bonus was that I got to re-orient the cuts. Now that I had done it once and understood the mechanics of it, I was careful to lay out all the scarf joints so that the LONG part of the joint faced the sides rather than the top. In that way there is only a short line on the top of the gunnel to show where the joint is, and the long line is on the sides more out of view.

Back outside there are almost done. Note the pile of sawdust!
Oops. After we put the canoe up on the rack for the night I happened to look up inside it and saw this. Yup, that is light shining through. Those are very bright lights and they’re very close to the canoe hull (maybe 2ft above them), so it’s not like this is a hole, but the cedar is getting a bit thin in those 3 spots. We’ll be careful with more sanding, and the inner layer of fibreglass will take care of it!

Next time we will be finish-sanding the interior with 100 grit, and then after that (I think) it’s on to glassing the inside.

May 14:

My son was having fun with the camera… Here is a closeup of the top of one of the stems. We’ll have to clean this up when we install the inwales and outwales and deck. On the inside of the boat you can see the cedar strips. Next standing tall is the pale pine of the inner stem. On the front is the rounded cherry outer stem. And wrapped around all of it is the fibreglass cloth and resin.

The weather was dry after a day with scattered rain, so we took the canoe outside in it’s cradles.

At this point the canoe is incredibly light.

So it was all about sanding today. Sanding, sanding, and more sanding. We went over the inside, sanding it to 120grit. There were three of us going at it most of the evening.
Every now and then I would pause to vacuum out the dust. This gives us a better view, and also speeds the sanding since the grit gets in the way and inhibits progress.
Later on, we flipped it and got to work on the outside. You may recall that we had left this a few weeks back with some drips here and there. Now that the outside was well hardened, it was a quick process to sand those down.
more sanding...
Here is a closeup of one of the ends. Right in the middle of the photo is one of the spots where we plugged a screw hole. You can se the slightly darker colour of the wood.
And at the end of the evening we cleaned off the dust...
...And tucked it away until next week.

I don't think I've mentioned it yet... once we got the canoe off the forms and off of the strongback, the process of putting it away for the evening on those racks became totally easy. As I mentioned earlier, the canoe is light as a feather currently, so what was a 6 person hard job, is now something that one person can easily do.

 

Thanks for reading!