Building A Western Red Cedar Strip Canoe Pt1


In April of 2010 I did a flat water canoeing course with my then employer Alta-1 Education. The guy leading the course was Mark Tait from Kuringal Education (Christchurch Grammar School). We got talking about a dream both of us had dreamed about building a Cedar strip canoe. I had considered it from time to time over previous years, I was particularly inspired when a friend built 3 nice kayaks our of Cedar. So the conversation with Mark on the course tipped me over the edge and I began to investigate plans.

I discovered a great book about canoe building that had been turned into a DVD. Good start, watch a DVD. The brilliant (and entertaining) carpenter made it look so easy, as a good carpenter would! So I bought the book some weeks after I watch the DVD (minutes more like!)

Now with the book and DVD from the same place the plans needed to follow.

In July I made the choice of Bear Mountain Boats for my place of purchase for plans (Where the book and DVD came from). Theboat – The Prospector. An old guy, a legend canoeist off one of the training videos we watched on the course used this canoe, so that sealed my choice, I ordered the plans. They cost me about $100 with postage.

I had promised to finish building a long promised bed for Christine and I. So after the plans arrived I needed to do 2 things;

1. Clear the shed of all the bio diesel production plant

2. Build a bed head.

Once complete … well to be honest just before the bed was complete I began the construction of what is called The Strong-back. This is like the bench upon which everything else is built on.

Strong-back #1 was built from a booklet that came with the plan kit. That was a mistake. I should have stuck to the book and build the lot from the one set of instructions because the Strong-back in this little booklet was a different one and did not fit the boat I planned to build. Sophie my 9 year old disassembled the whole thing with my drill, she had fun – I was frustrated, off to a bad start!

By the 4th of September I had finished Strong-back MkII. I had not paid for any wood andwas determined not to. The wood for the actual boat was to cost me plenty! In fact I understood I would be up for over $600 for the Cedar. I mixed up (wrongly) some resin and glued it all to the floor.

Around this time I began to get fascinated by hand carved paddles. I saw some nice ones down at Main Peak Paddle in Cottesloe. I investigated online and found a good teaching DVD from the UK – couldn’t resist. I bought it!

By the end of September I had set out all the station blocks and created the 2 stem molds. The pointy ends at the bow and stern of the boat. These are all just molds mind you. Not actual canoe. The stem molds would be used to bend the steam heated strips of wood around.

A few days into October and I had created a few of the station molds but I was fast running out of wood. I had gotten wood from all over the place, – bulk rubbish, Des up the road, Alta-1 shed, Uncle Earl and so on.

I stopped the mold stations for a few weeks towards the end of October whilst I taught myself how to steam bend. This started with the construction of a steam bender for the small strips of wood I had for the Bow and stern. I bought exactly the wood recommended in the book.

Each end had 3 strips of Cedar for the the under-stem and 2 Ash and a final strip of Cherry for the outer stem. I soaked them in hot water for about 4 hours then steamed each set (6) for 20 minutes before bending them and clamping them on the stem. I did this again for the stern.

Then a couple of weeks later I made up a (good) batch of resin. Stem set 1 glued up good, the second one, well lets just say the weather was warmer and the resin went off quicker! But it all worked out OK. I think it did not spend enough time making sure all the strips were the same width and when clamped up I did not work hard at making sure they were all in line. This posed a problem later when I went to mark center lines! I needed to borrow lots of clamps!

With only a few station molds left to make and the stems completed I decided it was time to look into buying the lengths on rough sawn Cedar. Austim are the importers of all things rare in the Timber game so I headed down there happy to discover they did 6m lengths of 50x150mm Western Red Cedar from British Columbia…the price was $997! I bought it quick so I didn’t have time to think about it!

At the beginning of November I scabbed a hug sheet of MDF for station molds from Alta-1 which took me to only needing to build 3 more. I found some out at the factory where Clint and I went to rip all the Cedar one Saturday. The ripping job took almost 5 hour out there in Bayswater with 4 of us on the job, Massive!

By mid November all station molds were complete, balanced/leveled and set in place with a fastener running temporarily along the top to stop wobble. Each station had tape running around its edge to stop glue from sticking to it when the boat was pulled off.

Sophie and Clint helped out in what was a 10 hour day for me running the strips through the router here at home to create the bead and cove joins.

Last Saturday, the 20th November I laid out the first 2 strips along the beam line. Not easy as it all had to balance right. When I tried to put another one on top, the staples ran out and I couldn’t fit the new ones right, the glue dried and … well it was a frustrating mess to say the least. This is the hardest most stressful part of the whole process to date – without a doubt!

I got 3 strips up and decided to head to CarbaTech and buy me a chunk of Western Australian Sheoak. A lovely red hard wood, but not as had as Jarrah to run a feature strip along the waterline.

It was a short bit and I had to join it twice on each side of the boat. In fact putting those 2 strips on in the heat of the day was quite the challenge…glue drying, wood slitting, seeing gaps through the joints AND through the bead and cove join – aghhh. But it’s looking ok.

 

I think I will call this the half way point and do part 2 as the next post…

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20 thoughts on “Building A Western Red Cedar Strip Canoe Pt1

  1. Very cool, Scott. Jaimie was just looking over my shoulder and said “You’d love to do something like that wouldn’t you?” hahaha, she knows me. I just don’t know how you find the time!! You also know a whole lot more about wordworking that I do. But that’s a very cool project. Can’t wait for part two!

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