Monday, January 20, 2014

Stripping and Fairing

I’ve made good progress on the canoe over the past few weeks.  After the strong back and stations are set up it’s time to start stripping the hull.  The first strip is the most important and will eventually become the sheer line.  The strip is stapled to the center station and allowed to curve, down, naturally at the ends and is then stapled in place at the ends.  The sheer strip is then stapled in place on the other side of the canoe using a four foot level to match its location with the first strip.  Again these are the two most important strips, if they do not describe a smooth curve, any abrupt angles will be transferred to the rest of the strips that come next and the canoe will not have smooth, graceful, lines.  So after spending a good deal of time looking at the sheer strips from every angle possible, and even having my girl friend (Zoe) look at them I was satisfied with their placement.  Now the fun part can begins.

Up to this point the process of building the canoe has just been setting up.  Now with each strip added the boat truly begins to take shape.  The process of stripping a hull is quite simple, just run a bead of glue in the cove of the previous strip, set the next strip in place, making sure it’s fully seated in the cove of the previous strip and staple in place.  Always work from amidships toward the ends of the boat.  In an effort to somewhat book match the strips on each side of the hull I would glue two strips in place, trim the overhang on the ends then move to the other side and add two strips there.  Moving back and forth from side to side keeps any tensions that may build due to the twisting, gluing, and stapling of the wooden strips distributed evenly throughout the hull. 

Progress slows once the bilge is reached; at this point the cedar strips are forced into compound curves as well as twisted vertical to align with the inner stems.  It can be tough to get each strip to sit flush against the station.  Also, once the bilge is reached, one side of the bottom is stripped past the center line.  After the glue is allowed to dry a line is drawn along the center and the excess strips are trimmed off. This center line is then planed flush and true.  To fill in the other half of the bottom I had some help from Zoe.
Next I turned my attention to the stems, the outer stems have to be fitted and glued in place using epoxy thickened with wood flour.  Originally I wasn’t planning to use screws to attach the outer stems but I was concerned about durability and decided that screws hidden under wooden plugs would be much more durable.

Once the glue was dry I removed all the staples and planed the entire hull to take down the high spots in preparation for rough sanding and fairing the hull.  The entire hull was first rough sanded using 80 grit paper then sanded again using 120 grit.  The hull was wetted to raise the grain and sanded again with 120 then 220.

Making sure the sheer strip describes a smooth arc.  Any weird angles here will be transferred to all the strips that follow.

This photos shows the two by two stripping process I used.

Here I'm approaching the bilge where the strip at the center of station begins to turn to create the flat bottom of the hull.  At the stem the strip must be twisted vertical to match the inner stem.

Another view of the sheer line.

The above sequence shows the process of stripping the bottom.

The outer stem is held on with ratchet straps while the thickened epoxy cures.

The outer stem is then shaped.

I used a hand plane to shave down the high spots.

Wooden plugs hide the screw heads.

I wetted the hull to raise the grain and sanded with 220 grit sand paper three times.

Next step, fibreglass.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Prep, Set Up, Stripping.........

Ok, like I said, I had prepared the strips earlier in the fall while the weather was still warm.  The next step was to prepare the station molds.  I could have lofted the measurements from the CanoeCraft by Ted Moorse but decided to purchase the plans from Bear Mountain Boats.  This way the lines would be professionally faired.  By the way, Canoecraft is the main reference source that I am using along with the forum on Bear MountainBoats and the builders notes on Green valley boat works website.  

The prospector style boat has a symmetrical hull meaning forward and after of the centre line are identical.  For this reason I was able to make two stations at once rather than one at a time.  To make the stations I screwed two sheets of 5/8” plywood together, trace the station outlines onto the wood, then cut it out with the band saw, and faired the edges on the belt sander.  Then unscrewed them.  

There are definate steps to building a canoe.  Preparing the materials, setting up, stripping, sanding.........  The more time you spend in prepping the parts and setting up, the better each step will go along the line.  As part of the preparation step, after the stations are made, the inner and outer stems have to be made.  This involves steaming, and bending 6, 1/4 inch strips for each stem.  The strips are steamed to make them pliable then bent and clamped in place on the stem stations that were prepared along with the rest of the stations.  After letting them dry for a week the strips were laminated together in groups of three to produce the inner and outer stems.

On to the set up.  Each station as well as the stem stations are now screwed to the strong back with 12” spacing.  This step in the process will make or break the whole project.  All stations must be aligned carefully to ensure the boat will have fair curves to the hull.  If even one station is out of alignment the the boat will have a funky shape and it won’t perform properly.  Now is the time to slow down and take your time.  After spending hours staring at imaginary lines, taking careful measurements and attaching temporary strips to get a feel for the shape and curve of the craft, it is time to start stripping.

This is the stem station screwed to a set of saw horses.  The inner and outer stems are made of walnut and are parepared longer than needed.  They'll be cut to length later.  The white duct tape helps keep the stems from sticking to the station if any glue runs down.  I used a sacrificial strip of pine to protect the walnut from being damaged by the clamps.

The strong back is basically a 15 foot long saw horse that the stations are attached to.  The stations are typically set 12" apart.  

Temporary strips are attached in key locations.  Sighting along these strips will quickly reveal any stations that are out of alignment.  

This photo shows the string line along what will be the bottom of the boat.  This is used to centre everything.  Here I'm sighting along what will become the sheer line.  This is the most important line on the boat.  If this first strip isn't right then every one after will be wrong.  It also defines the look of the canoe.  At this point I  spent hours staring at the imaginary boat.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Maskwa Paddle Co. Chestnut Canoe Build

Earlier this fall I began another boat build.  This time I decided to make a cedar strip chestnut prospector 16.  This is the same style of boat that Canada’s canoeing guru, Bill Mason, paddled.  Only his was a wood canvas.  Actually the dimensions for this boat were taken by Bill Mason from his own canoe.  I purchased the station plans from Bear Mountain Boats.

Here are a few specs:

·         Length 16'
·         Maximum beam 35"
·         Beam waterline 33.25"
·         Bow height 19.25"
·         Centre depth 13.25"
·         Displacement 420 lbs
·         Draft 4"
·         Wetted surface 27.2 sq.ft.
·         Prismatic coefficient 0.510

Like I said, I began this build earlier in the fall.  I wanted to mill the strips before the snow fell.  The strips are 17 feet long so I would need at least that much space on either side of my table saw.  My shop is only 24 feet long so that meant I would have to feed the lumber in through the overhead door.  I had purchased around 60 board feet of 4/4 clear rough cut cedar from a local lumber yard.  Milled it to the required ¾” with a thickness planner.  After setting up the table saw and router table with a 16 foot out feed table I got to work ripping and milling strips.  The strips are ¾” wide by ¼” thick, 17 feet long, with a bead milled on one edge and a cove on the other.  It took me a couple of full afternoons to mill 1700 feet of strips.  Once finished I bundled and stored them on a temporary shelf until it was time to begin building.

Ripping 1/4" inch strips is a dusty job.

In order to have enough length in the shop for the 16 foot out feed table I had to move the table saw close to the over head door.  An old pallet with a roller worked well to support the portion of the board that extended into the alley.  I actually had to temporarily block off the alley so that vehicles passing by wouldn't hit the end of the board.

Milling the bead and cove.  Here's the temporary router table with 16 foot out feed table attached.  Feather boards help guide the strip into the cutter.  Produces a more uniform strip.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Web Site Announcement

I'm pleased to announce the publication of my latest website,  I am a Paddle Canada certified canoe instructor and have been teaching tandem and solo canoe lessons every spring.  Now I've made it easier for those interested in canoe lessons to register for one of my courses. is an online source that allows people to register for one of my scheduled canoe lessons or to contact me to arrange private lessons.

Spring 2013 Canoe Lesson Schedule

Learn to Canoe Clinic - June 9th
Learn to Canoe Clinic - June 23rd
Learn to Canoe Clinic - June 30th

Intermediate / Advanced Tandem Certification Course - July 13 - 14

For more information visit or email

Canoe Trippin

Well, it's been a long winter and even longer since my last post but since spring is just a couple of months away I thought I'd share my canoeing adventures from last summer. 

As usual we did our annual thanksgiving canoe trip.  This time we went to a long time favorite, Robertson Falls on the Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan.  We've camped at this spot many times for Thanksgiving and on more than one occasion it has snowed on us and this trip was no exception.  The weather was cool and damp pretty well the whole weekend, if it wasn't raining it was snowing.  Finally on the last day, half an hour after we broke camp, packed the canoes and headed for home the clouds disappeared and the sun came out.  Again this weather pattern has happened on other Thanksgiving trips.

We pretty well stayed close to camp and even closer to the camp fire for most of the time, staying warm and dry for the most part.  The rain was mostly mist so as long as we had a large fire burning it evaporated before it hit the ground.  We had three tarps set up to duck under in case the rain came with force and we even had a wind break set around the fire which helped deflect some of the heat.

In order to maintain a large warm fire we made several wood runs with the canoes.  In all we brought in 5 canoe loads of wood, of which we burned around three.  

We did venture out one afternoon, when the drizzle stopped, to take a tour over to Twin Falls for some photos.

As usual the food was second to none, we usually have a large pot luck style Thanksgiving meal.  As usual everyone out did themselves.

The fog offered some very nice views considering the cool temperatures.

As a distraction from the cold I taught the group how to light a fire in the soaking wet woods using a fire steel.

Our camp showing the many tarps used as wind breaks and to store items under.  We had a full days worth of wood stashed under the orange tarp.

Zoe and Taiga in front of Robertson Falls.

Taiga had a great time exploring the woods around camp.  Here she is recovering a bone that she buried earlier.

Group photo in front of the fire.  

Chocolate chip cookie carnage.

Thanks giving meal.

Resting in the warm sun on the trip back to the vehicles.