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Cedar Strip Canoe Build: Part 5



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.

We're entering the home stretch...

June 14

This story actually begins a few days before the 14th, on Thursday, when I snuck into the canoe shop for a half hour. Take a look at the canoe up on the wall, and note the handle near the end. We wanted to make a handles for our canoe. So I took measurements to see about making two handles for our canoe.

(As a reminder, that canoe was built by my friend, Albert, several years ago off of the same forms as this current canoe project.)

I had some scrap cherry, which you can see on the left side of the bench, that I could use. I made a paper template first of the shape of the the gap between the gunnels, which is to the right of the piece of cherry. I also made a thin template from plywood of the rough shape that I was looking for. Finally, note the bevel gauge, which is immediately to the right of the paper template and the plywood template. I took the angle from the paper template, set the bevel gauge to match, and used that when marking out the actual stock. We want the handle to follow the angle of the canoe gunnels.

That might seem a bit confusing. Here is another way of explaning it. The paper represents a top-down view of the space where the handles need to fit. The plywood templat represents a front view of the shape we want. So those two shapes need to be merged together when making the actual handles.

The needed angle is about 15 degrees. I set the bandsaw table with the bevel gauge and used that to cut the one side of the handle. I needed to tip the table the other way to cut the other side of the handle... Problem was, the table would only tip 10-degrees the left! Fortunately my bandsaw at home WOULD tilt just over 15-degrees to the left, so I finished this project up that evening at home.
Here is one of the handles, roughed out from cherry, and ready for fitting.
Saturday morning we worked on fitting the handles in place. Of course they needed some tweaking on the stationary belt sander and with a chisel to fit into place. The gunnels are not perpendicular to the ground, which was the main issue that needed adjusting.

(Really the issue is that this is a canoe which has practically no straight lines or perpendicular angles, anywhere on it.)

We also worked on trimming the sides. I used a block plane to take down the cedar strips where they stuck up above the gunnels.
Another guy was using the belt sander to do the same thing. The belt sander was a better tool for smoothing the ends of the stems where they poked up.
We then took the canoe outside and two guys worked on final sanding the outside. The outside still needs smoothing all over to bring it down to the glass-like smoothness that will glide best through the water.

One guy worked over the boat at 100grit, and behind him came the other guy smoothing it at 150grit. They want it smooth, but must NOT get into the weave of the fibreglass. A few spots will need a slight touch up of epoxy -- chiefly just at the stems. Epoxy is not UV stable, so it will break down in sunlight, so after this we will be varnishing the entire thing with spar varnish.

Meanwhile, inside, two of us worked on fixing the broken gunnel. Albert had brought some more ash stock. We cut another scarf joint, and mixed up some thickened epoxy and then glued and clamped it to a flat surface.
At the end of the morning we brought it inside and used some of that thickened epoxy to glue the two handles into place. We are all really looking forward to seeing the wood visually pop when the finish is applied. The deck is made up of alternating strips of Ash and Cherry lumber. The gunnels are ash, and the handle is cherry.
One last look for the day...

At this point there is not much work left. We need to glue the other gunnel (outwale) into place, and do more sanding on the exterior, followed by varnishing all of it.

June 18 Small group tonight, just three of us...

We did some sanding (80 grit) along the top of the one gunnel, working to bring it smooth. As well we rounded the corners a bit.

The repaired gunnel was unclamped, and the area around the scarf sanded smooth to remove any excess epoxy. We sanded the underside (since that is hard to do when it is on the boat) and then dry-clamped it into place. We then marked centre, so that we could find it again -- centre is the starting point for clamping it for real later on. We also marked the ends where it would be trimmed to length. Finally, a dry run like this tells us whether the piece is going to snap or not! Fortunately, this time it worked fine.
Then we cut off the excess...
... and sanded the end to round it.
Meanwhile I was finessing the end of the other one. You can just see the wood plug, near my finger tip, which we fitted into the other gunnel to patch the hole left after we removed the screw which we'd used to hold the end of the gunnel in place.
Here we are beginning to apply epoxy to the edge of the canoe before mounting the remaining outwale. If you look closely you can see how we thicken the epoxy to the consistency of smooth peanut butter. It is thickened with silica, which has good gap-filling properties. Also, check out the open door in the background. It was raining the whole evening, so we couldn't work outside, but we could at least open the door for ventilation.
Another view of the epoxy being smeared along the edge.
Again, we start in the middle, lining up the mark and clamping. The mark is just visible above the C-clamp.
We work our way to one end, clamping every 6-7 inches or so. As mentioned before, the end is hard to clamp, so we popped in a temporary screw.
Another minor issue being dealt with: At the end, we had the gunnel in the right position. At the left side of the deck (the left hand clamp in the photo) the gunnel was also in position. But in between it was dipping down. Not much, just a small dip, but we wanted that fixed. So we clamped a piece of hardwood to the deck, and then used another C-clamp to pull UP the gunnel just a few mm right there.
And here it is clamped from end to end
One last look at the end of the evening.
June 25

I was unable to make it last Saturday, so I have no photos from the 21st. There was just some sanding done, so nothing really would show up as different in photographs anyway.

We came in to find a bit of of a problem tonight:

About seven inches of the gunnel joint let go at the one end. Possibly we starved the joint a bit, or possibly we just did not quite get enough epoxy into it. Oh well, it was a small setback that was fairly easy to fix. First we cleaned out the joint a bit.
Then we mixed up some epoxy + cabosil. (Cabosil is a silica filler for thickening the epoxy.)
And filled the joint and clamped it (with a screw) back into position. We were careful to use plenty of epoxy, and also careful to not squeeze it too tight to avoid starving the joint of enough glue.
Meanwhile, I got busy on the drillpress.
Albert picked up one of these bad boys for drilling the bolt holes through the seat supports. That is one long drillbit. The problem is that we only have small benchtop drillpresses in this shop. As well, the holes in the seat blocks are not nice right-down-the-centre holes. Most of them go off on an angle a bit since the seat blocks themselves are installed on the angle.
So, the way we approached this is to make up a guide block. We had a piece of stock the same thickness as the seat blocks, about two inches long. Then we drilled a hole right down the centre of it on the drillpress, as show in the previous photo. On the side of the block, I drew a dark line indicating where the hole was located. And also drew a line down the side of the seat blocks to show how we needed the hole to go through them. Then we clamped the guide block firmly to a bench.
One at a time, each seat block was lined up and clamped beside the guide block. Note from the photo how the block is clearly a bit off from straight. However, the pencil lines along the top of the two blocks are lined up. (The small hole indicates where the block had been temporarily held in position with wood screws.)

That pencil line indicates the path we want to follow with the drill bit.

Then I fed the drill through the guide block and and on through the seat block, which gave us a reasonably perfectly drilled hole.
Like this.

One thing I learned is to leave a small gap, about 1/4", between the two blocks. This would give me a space for the chips to be ejected from the block that we were drilling into. I could only drill about 1/2" at a time and then needed to pull back to expel chips. Even so there was still a touch of burning going on.

After we had drilled the seat blocks, my son and I took them over to the belt sander and rounded over the edges so they looked more like the rounded boards of the seats.
While all this was going on inside, Albert was outside with the sander, working on the outside of the canoe. There is still a fair bit of sanding needed to smooth the outside.
And that was enough for one evening.
July 12

I was away last week, so no photos or updates from then. My buddy worked a bit on fitting the bolts to the seats, and we continued that work today.

This is the last update on this project from the church shop. If we'd thought to bring some paddles, we might have aken her down to the Fork of the Thames and dropped her in the water to test out. (well, not that we really had the time, but we were tempted!)

First thing we had to do was replace two of the seat posts that we’d made last time. Unfortunately the drill bit had wandered a bit while drilling through it -- I suspect it followed the grain which curved a bit -- and it was too close to the side. We were more careful here to pick straight grained pieces and that worked out.

The seat and posts holes still needed a little "wiggling" with the drill bit to give us room to fit the bolts easier.
These are stainless steel bolts of varied lengths.
The yoke is bolted in place (loosely) and the rear seat is nearly there.
Then we picked it up and tried it out. Note how it tips toward the back. This is pretty close to exactly what you want, so that you can more easily see out the front. I tried it out also, and it’s pretty good.

As an aside, I remembered to bring my bathroom scale today, and the canoe is right now roughly 49-50lbs, which is pretty good for a cedar strip. All that remains in terms of additional weight is to spray on a few coats of spar varnish.

We wet down the sides to wash off some dust and eyeball the sides and concluded that the sanding job is pretty good and there is no more need for more. (well, maybe a touch on the gunnels.)
View of the inside. Unfortunately we need to remove the seats once more before spraying finish.
Here is a closeup of the carriage bolts holding the yoke in place. I posted this one to show you the scarf joint closeup. Look right along the inwale and you can see the top side of a scarf joint. This one needed a slight bit of attention with some extra epoxy a while back, and still needs to be sanded smoother. Once it is sanded more you should only see a thin line crossing the piece. We tried to position all the scarf joints like this, so you only see a small line. The long angled seam of the joint is on the sides of the inwale (and outwale) so that they are more hidden.
One shot along the inside, showing how the seat supports hang down from the inwale.
On the lighter side I have three oddball photos:

I accidentally set my camera down inside the canoe and left it set on "interval" shots. So it kept snapping photos every 60 seconds from down there. I added these here just for a laugh. In particular I like the "giant hand" shot. And also, it has the only photos of myself this time, since I did not have my son along to take pictures.

It was a beautiful summer day to be working outside. We had several people stop by to see how we wer doing and just chat for a few minutes.

And the canoe was then loaded up to be transported out to my buddy's farm. We are planning get together again in a week or two (or later this summer) for some final sanding and spraying on some finish. This concludes the work at the church shop. I will still of course be posting photos of the final product!

Project Stats:

I have been asked about total hours. That is of course impossible to accurately answer. However, thanks in large part how I documented the build with noting dates and progress, I have a pretty accurate record of days. I went back through this thread, and my other notes, and I came up with a figure of 33 days when we met to work on this canoe.

From that, while I can't give an accurate count of hours, I can do some reasonable estimating. There were almost always two of us there, along with various other folks helping in various capacities. I am estimating 2hrs work per day, times 3 people, which totals roughly 6 person hours of work per day, or a total of 198 hrs. So I'll just call it "about 200 hrs".

As well let me repeat what was mentioned above. Right now the canoe weight is about 49-50lbs, which is extremely light for a cedar canoe. I was expecting something closer to 70lbs. I know that the varnish will add weight, we shall see how much!


Thanks for reading!