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Cedar Strip Canoe Build: Part 4

 

 


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.


May 21:

Tonight, we glassed the inside of the canoe!

First we had to clean up the insides of the ends. We used a paint scraper there, to get any glue drips out of there and try and smooth things. A paint scraper is nice and slender, which is exactly what you need to get into those tight quarters. There was a LOT of scraping to be done.

I also brought this compact sander which helped with the not-quite-so-tight transition areas.
Everything needed to be vacuumed out. Everything. We also tipped the canoe over and banged it to try and knock everything loose, and then vacuumed some more.
The next step is fitting the fibreglass cloth as best we can to the inside of the canoe. In the middle it is fairly easy to smooth flat. At the ends, we didn't even try, as it is impossible.

(Unfortunately, this was when my camera decided to go nuts. This is my second "older" camera that I had been using -- I'm reluctant to bring a really new/nice camera into the harsh and dusty conditions of a woodshop. Apparently something died on the image sensor, based on the strange lines through the photos. Fortunately, Albert had a pretty new smart phone with a good quality built in camera which we used for more photos. But there still are a few lousy ones I have to include here. )

After that we moved on to pouring the resin, and got busy with the spreaders. We are not pushing hard, we are just spreading it out. We want it to soak through the cloth and into the cedar.
Once we had most of the centre saturated we start pulling the resin up the sides. The goal is to wet the cloth and have it stick to the sides.
It was a long process, requiring patience and a light touch. All told it was probably two hours for four of us to complete the process on the inside of the canoe.

There was lots of fiddling and spreading as we get close to the ends. We have to be careful to NOT pull on the cloth, or it might lift out of the resin. We need the cloth to be fully embedded in the resin and bonded to the cedar.

As we worked along, my son cut off most of the excess fibreglass. He cut it back first to about 1" from the sides, and later coming back and cutting it back to 1/2". If we left it long, the weight of the cloth would pull the inside cloth out of position.

In the background of this picture you can see us trying to work into the end.

Close-up shot inside one of the ends.

It's tricky to fit the cloth in the end. Here it needs to fit over the stem, which sticks inside the canoe at the end. We nicked the cloth there with the knife to open up a half-inch gap so it would lay down in front of the stem.

Here, my son and I are cutting away the excess cloth and doing our best to fit it into the stem. This was the second end, Albert did the other end, which I watched, and then I felt a bit ready to tackle this one.

The goal is to have the cloth meet right at the stem, all nice and neat. (Ha!)

That previous comment was sarcasm, in case you missed it. The reality is things just get kind of ugly inside the stems. We did NOT get a nice perfect seam where the two sides of cloth nicely meet. We used a sacrificial paint brush to get in there and spread resin around and make sure all the wood and cloth is saturated.

The we just left it as slightly ugly. It's hidden away in there. The strength is more important than beauty at this point.

Here we are going over the canoe lightly with the spreader after the resin has been soaking for a while. This cleans up drips and any "fuzz" that has come up off the cloth.
Almost done for the night, and pretty happy with how it went.
May 28:

Tonight it was just myself and my two sons. Another guy dropped by for a brief while also. So there was not a huge amount of progress made.

We're now at the trimming out stage. So I read the Ted Moores book section about fitting the inwales and worked on getting one fitted.

First, I took a few posed shots, just to show how far we were. Here it is inside just after we arrived. Then we trimmed off all the extra fibreglass and moved it out for more space and better light. (Next two photos.) It looks much better with that all gone!

Fitting an inwale...

First, we measured and marked the centre of the boat. I mean centre as measured from front to back, not the side-to-side centre. Then we measured and marked the centre of one of the inwales and clamped it in place along the inside.

You can't quite see it in the photo, but the ends of the inwale are set on the OTHER side of the stem for measuring. The stems still stick up a bit, so they help holding the inwale in place.

We clamped it as far as we could until it would not flex into position any more. Then we measured along the side of the CANOE to see how far it was from the end (about 26" in my case), and made a mark on the inwale. Then we measured forward along the INWALE from that mark 26". That SHOULD be the point at which we want to cut the inwale so that it will fit in place, snug up to the inside of the stem.

Yeah, this is hard to explain, I should have taken photos of each step.

This is repeated for the other end. Then the inwale is removed from the canoe and brought to the bench. At this point I cut the inwale to length. I then also cut a taper. The inwale needs to taper down so that it is half the width of the inside of the stem. The OTHER inwale will occupy the other half. The stem is about 5/8" wide, so I needed to taper the inwale down to 5/16". One thing the book does NOT tell me is how LONG the taper should be. In a sense it probably doesn’t matter too much, as we will be filling that in with a deck.

SIDE NOTE: This was a MISTAKE, by the way. I should NOT have tapered the inwale as much as I did, as it made fitting the deck a nightmare, as will be explained later on. In future I would only taper the inwale along the part where the two overlap.

Then we fitted the inwale back into position and it fit perfectly!!!

Yes I'm lying.

I needed to dismount it twice more until I was happy. But better it is too long than too short! Here it is clamped (just clamped!) into position.

Here is a close-up of the one end. You can see how we also need to trim down the cedar to give us a fair curve. That is boat-build-speak for "we need to trim the cedar down to follow the line of the inwale." And yes, there is more to the term "fair curve" than that, but it's close enough for this situation.
June 4:

Another Wednesday evening in the shop. Tonight we worked on fitting and attaching the inwales.

First, a minor aside... This has gone on much longer than we ever anticipated! For that reason, as well as a few other reasons, I stopped by a canoe vendor on the weekend and bought a pair of seats as well as a deep-dish yoke. We could have made seats, but this will save us several days of work! We could also have made a regular thwart or flat yoke, but a deep dish yoke is quite a challenging project, and also not really suited for a group project. So we took this shortcut.

Here we are testing to see how the seats look, and marking their rough positions on the hull.

Prior to attaching the inwales me marked every six inches along for screws. We needed to avoid the places where the seats would be attached, so it is important to mark locations. As well, we want to be consistent.
Then, starting at the centre of the canoe, we worked our way outward, drilling pilot holes at every mark. We drilled them in groups, and then came back and fastened in screws in the same sequence.
In other words, we don't pre-drill the entire inwale. We drilled four or five holes, and then came behind and fastened in screws. Then we moved to the other side of centre and drilled some more holes and repeat until near the ends...

We just used screws. We could have used epoxy, but this is quicker and still strong. Also, should the boat ever be damaged, this will make it slightly easier to fix. But that might not actually be true, as the outwales WILL be glued on.

Sometimes we needed a few hands to hold the inwale where we needed it.
Planing down some of the excess cedar strips near an end.
When the one side was finished we worked on fitting the other side into place so it could also be screwed on.
You need lots of clamps! Spring clamps are nice, since we need to put the inwale on and off a few times.
Trimming the end to fit is fiddly and exacting work.
Here both inwales are installed but the one is not yet fastened to the hull. It will look far better once a deck is installed.
And that is about it for another day.
Jun 6: (An evening in my own shop working solo.)

Tonight I worked in my shop building two decks for the canoe. To be completely honest, though, I began this a long time ago. Way back in April I worked on some test pieces to make a deck for the end of the canoe. I did this to test the procedure, and to have fun. I did not want just a simple board, but rather a "fancy" deck, with alternating strips of different colour/species of hardwood. This is roughly outlined in the Ted Moores book, and some of the procedure is much like I use when making side-grain cutting boards.

The resulting test deck was way too big, but it taught me that the procedure was actually quite quick and manageable, and I refined how to get my measurements to work out.

Here are three deck "blanks" being glued up. The one on the right is two blanks; they are separated by packing tape, so that I can just clamp both at once.

I am looking for a deck that is about 12" long along the gunnel. I measured the canoe and the inwales are 5-1/2" apart at that point. So I was aiming for a deck about 6" wide, in order to have a half inch for trimming and fitting.

The way to make a deck is to take this rectangular piece, draw a diagonal, cut out the diagonal, and then flip and re-glue the halves together. So... how to measure that? I know the length I need, 12", and the width, 3" (half of the 6" width I want). But that is one measurement short of what I need to figure it out with geometry. At least, I couldn’t do it. I ended up measuring on the board and figuring things out from there.

Take a look at this picture: I need a piece where a line drawn 90-degrees from that tape measure is 3" long where it hits the corner. How wide a board is that? I just figured it out by measuring the piece and trimmed the blanks to match.

The blank is cut on the diagonal, like this.
This leaves you with a blank that looks like this...

Note that since the blanks are being glued back together they need to be symmetrical. They can't be cherry-ash-cherry-ash for instance, they need to be cherry-ash-cherry-ash-cherry. Otherwise they don't match up when re-joined. The pictures will make that clear!

Then when flipped the two pieces go back together like this, making a V-shaped deck. Note how the different species line up at the centre!!!

As an aside I am mixing photos from back in April when I first experimented with this procedure, with photos from June 6 when I built the actual decks we used. So the pieces might look somewhat different in different shots. I did this to give the best step-by-step photos of the process.

The diagonal is then smoothed flat on the sander, or CAREFULLY on the jointer, so that they mate up well. Then I cut a slot down the centre of the diagonal face.
A spline is then fabricated to go down the centre in that slot. This helps with alignment and strengthens the joint.

Ideally, You should either use plywood, or a spline where the grain is oriented at 90-degrees to the joint, for maximum strength. I goofed here and ran the grain lengthwise along the joint, which is not as strong.

Gluing the pieces is next, but good luck with clamping them. It is not easy to clamp diagonal surfaces!
After the glue had dried, I sanded them and cleaned things up a bit. I also planned and cut a shallow curve along the rear of the decks —- I just traced a paint can for that curve. I also trimmed the original test blank down so that it was the same size as the final decks.

I am sure that some of you are wondering about that red stripe of padauk down the centre. I did that on the test piece to HIDE the joint, as I was pretty sure I would NOT get a clean joint where the two pieces met. It turned out that I COULD get a nice clean and tight joint, and so I skipped it on the real decks. It does look nice though!

June 7

Just two of us today, my friend and myself. He brought his own canoe which he'd built about eight years ago. It was built off the same forms as this one, so it is basically a twin of this one. He brought it so that we could take the measurements off of it for the seat placement; it is easier to just copy an identical canoe than figure things out from the book.

He just quickly dismounted his seats and used them as templates to cut our seats.

Meanwhile, I worked on fitting the decks. Or tried to. It turned out that I really should not have tapered the inwales the way I did. Look at how they compare to the deck. It was going to be a real bear trying to get those to fit smoothly together.

Note that you don't HAVE to have decks, you could just cap the ends with something on TOP of the gunnels, or something similar. But, we just wanted decks.

I tried, though. To make it fit I mean.

I took the spare deck and traced out the lines, and cut them out on the bandsaw. I wanted to test everything here before doing anything to the real decks. This was a wise move! The results were horrible, as you can see in this photo. First, the bandsaw in the shop is really not well tuned. But even so, to fit to the inwales I needed to cut this weird curve on the deck, and getting everything to fit was not going to be easy. I was in despair for a time.

I came up with this solution, which Albert agreed would work fine. The decks' current size is almost perfect for fitting there at the end of the boat. So we decided to just cut out the inwales at the ends, and fit the deck in, and it would serve both as inwale and deck in that location.

So it turned out to be a very good thing we had not glued the inwales in place, and just screwed them. Actually even more than that, as we later looked and realized that the inwale curve was just not right in a few places and we need to adjust them up or down and re-set a few screws to do so. Partly that was our own inexperience, and partly that was the fact that the ash inwale just wanted to curve it's own way.

Here is one deck fitted into place. I cut the point off the end, cut out the inwales, and angled the sides on the belt sander to somewhat match the angle of the canoe sides. This is a loose fitting, but with screws and epoxy it will fit very snugly.
Meanwhile my friend was busy -- not so many photos of that, though. He trimmed and fit the yoke into place. It is just about 2" in front of the centre of the canoe. You want just a bit more weight in the back of the canoe for when you portage, so that the nose of the canoe sits further up, so as not to block your view as you carry it. It is currently held in place with some wood screws. These will be replaced with bolts next time.

One thing that I did NOT get on a photo... With the yoke in place, the top of the canoe pulled IN a bit. We now have some tumblehome! Took me ages to grasp the meaning of that term. It means that the canoe actually bulges outward a bit below the gunnels. I'm not going to even try to explain more than that!

He also worked on the seats and standoffs. Those are the ash posts that seats are attached to for hanging under the gunnels.
Second last thing we did for the day was to mix up some epoxy, and toss in a lot of thickener until it was like mashed potato consistency, and then smear it around the decks and around the hull and screw and glue the decks into place. We got a nice tight fit on both decks.
The LAST thing we did for the day was to pull in my friend's canoe for a small repair: One of his scarf joints in the gunnel had opened up, so we cleaned it out, and packed it full of epoxy and clamped it -- not too tight so we don't starve the joint. Hopefully we got it right.
June 11:

Nearly done, and a minor disaster...

I had meetings tonight, so I couldn't be at the shop until at the very end of the time. But, I dropped off my two sons, who assisted my friend Albert with working on the canoe. They got the seats fitted and installed (temporarily) and fitted and glued one of the outwales. The other outwale... well that was the disaster. The grain in that piece of ash took a bit of a turn near the end, so when they bent it up at the stern to follow the curve of the canoe, it snapped.

That is a bit of a minor setback, but we are still getting very near finished. One more gunnel needs to be installed. I also am going to fabricate some handles, as the decks we put in are a bit too small for integral handles. Then it is sanding and varnishing and launch ime. The end is in sight!

I picked up a new camera: A Sony action cam (similar to the well known GoPro). It has a very wide angle lens, so it's great for these ight indoor shots, but you might notice a bit of distortion in the pictures

First, they finally cut off the excess sticking up at the ends:

It will look better once it is sanded down and has some finish on it!

The sides had to be clamped a bit to pull in the tops for the fitting of the seats:
Marking the location for a seat bolt.
Drilling the inwale. The seats hang from the inwales, in case you were wondering. We're fixing them in place for now with wood screws, but that is temporary. We'll be replacing that with stainless steel bolts.
Here the stern seat is temporarily mounted it into place.

And in the next two photos they are fitting the bow seat.

Overview shot.
Epoxy was again mixed and thickened to mashed potato consistency (so as not to run, and so as to fill gaps) and then smeared along the top of the canoe. Starting at the middle we clamped the inwale to the boat. When we got to the end, it didn't quite line up, so they loosened it and tapped it a bit to get it into position. Thankfully the epoxy has a long open time, as you need it.
Clamping at the very tip was hard, so we just popped in a temporary screw. We'll plug that later.
Top view...

The broken outwale sits there on the right side. We'll have to make a new one for there.

 

Thanks for reading!