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…


Last Child In The Woods

It not be significant to many, but I thought it worth a mention. I finished a book this morning by Richard Louv. The book was called Last Child in the Woods. The significant part is that Richard (a guy who lives in the USA) is in Perth just for this morning speaking at a conference! Anyway I did not get to hear him but I finished his book instead. It was a great read for all people interested in the benefits of growing up with the outdoors in your blood. Good for teachers and parents and lovers of wild things and spirituality! Here’s what Louv’s website says of the book ;

n this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults. More than just raising an alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.

The Mess of it all – Going Green

Well it’s Blog Action Day for Climate Change day – so here goes…

“Going green” is not always as easy as it sounds…if it ever did sound easy.

I live in an established house in suburbia and climate change was a burden to me and I wanted to do something about it…

1) A veggie garden. I wanted to stop buying vegetables that were grown thousands of miles away from where I live, or ones that are grown local but have petro-chemical fertilisers and insecticides all over them. There are some local semi-organic growers, and we use them when we can, but we began to plant the occasional plant in the backyard, then we dug up almost half of the backyard for this purpose. We used old roofing tiles from the rubbish dump to make raised beds and use all organic (mostly made in the back yard) compost. We made a chook pen and bought 3 chickens. The pen was also made from rubbish from the tip bits. This season we have spread into the front yard and have planted melons and pumpkin around the front rose bush. We already have olive, apricot and nectarine in the front along with a bunch of flowering native trees to attract bees and birds. We have a nice pond running on a solar pump in the back that attracts frogs, birds and all sorts of nice visitors. The upside of this is … well obvious, the downsides are, less yard for kids play (we have 3 girls under the age of 13). But this has forced them out into the parks and bush lands with friends and neighbours – so that’s not bad! The garden is very water intensive so…

2. A Water Tank. In Perth, Australia it gets pretty dry! We have major water restrictions at times and vegetable gardens are water intensive. (So is making bio diesel, but we’ll get to that later). So we found a spot that had an ideal spot for a 5000L water tank (after removing a Date Palm). We catch only the water off the patio roof, and this is enough to fill the tank to overflowing numerous times over winter. WHY DONT THESE BECOME LAW FOR EVERY HOUSE BUILT AROUND HERE!! What we have discovered is that 5000L used for the washing machine and the garden and washing bio-diesel does not go far at all. It is only just the end of our Australian winter and a few weeks into Spring and the tank has only about 800L left. I would dearly love to install a couple of others to be honest! Maybe even dig up what is left of the backyard and put in a 10 000L underground one!

3. Biodiesel. Much talk about this alternate fuel is on the internet and in the media. Just the other night on some current affairs programme I saw a guy I know from Perth here talking about running his old Nissan on straight Vegetable Oil. I had been reading about how to convert used vegetable oil into Biodiesel for a while when I attended the Sunfair in 08, an alternate fuels fair at the University of Western Australia. I met a group selling the “BioMaster” processor. I grabbed 3 mates to put in $1600 each, which well and truly paid for itself in a short amount of time. We make sure we only use oil that has already served its original purpose and would otherwise be thrown out or turned into pig food…or women’s cosmetics 🙂  There is too much deforestation and ‘take-over’ of existing crop for the purpose of bio fuels for me to ever justify buying new oil for the purpose of making bio fuel.

This is where the mess of it all comes in…The process of collecting used cooking oil from the back of a restaurant or sports complex etc is rather ugly. I used to hate that used oil smell that wafted up my nose if I rode past the back of the fish and chip shop as a kid, now I loath it! Take last Monday for example. I had to pick up a couple of hundred litres from one place and about 180 from another, and maybe 50 from another.

Place 1 – For some reason unknown to me mould had developed over the whole thing, it was disgusting. Bits of old fish and chicken floated around the open drum and when I tried to extract it all with my pump an old cloth got sucked up. I got as much as I could, oil dripping down my arms and on the floor. I climbed back into our nice family car, oil on the floor, steering wheel and door handles and gear stick!

Place 2 – As usual someone had left the lid open and it had rained, there was so much water mixed in with the oil it was almost worthless, again the pump jammed with some unidentifiable deep fried object and I got frustrated and moved on with only 100L and wondering when I would get back to properly clean out this drum!

Place 3 – easy, clean golden used oil, love it!

I got it all haf way home and was at the traffic lights when a pedestrian called out that I had liquid (oil) running out from the back of my trailer. I jumped out to see that one oil container had fallen over…the only one I had not fixed the lid on well 😦  I kept going, leaving a small trail of oil all the way to my house. At this point I did a silly thing. I removed the trailer, the oil rushed to the end and ran out all over the road, my drive and into my garage as I pushed the trailer in there. For 4 hours yesterday I scrubbed everything with Glycerol (a handy waste product of Biodeisel that is a soap base). This did not work as the brick paved drive and road are porous and soaked it all up. The stain from the oil mixed with Glycerol is all down my street and the smell is wafting through my open office window as I type this.

My shed has never been the same since I installed the plant over 18 months ago, everything I touch around the house has a greasy mark on it, I have bundles of oil covered clothes that stink and I am constantly wondering where to pour all this waste water and glycerol, 2 by-products of the process. Some of the Glyc goes good in the compost.

In the meantime, I have a pretty environmentally clean car (not perfect, but better than normal diesel. I have more money in the bank as this process is cheep. I have a hobby that I quite enjoy and a couple of guys who have been on the journey with me that I enjoy a quiet beer and chat in the shed with while we play with chemicals.

But let me tell you this. I need a bigger bit of land and a bigger shed 🙂 Which makes my footprint bigger I know, but this is getting ugly and the neighbours are only just smiling still – it stinks around here!

It’s fun to live greener and these ways are not the only way we try, we/I catch public transport a bit, we only have one car and a scooter. We catch excess water in buckets to flush toilets where possible, we carbon offset flights when we travel for what that’s worth…or is that just a guilt offset for using such a big carbon emitter(!!??) we compost a lot and feed every bit of food stuff to the chickens! We do a bit here and there, hoping that others might ‘catch the bug’ too. But with 2 working adults and 3 kids in all sorts of activities, it makes for a constant messy active ongoing campaign, but – you know, I think its worth it.

See other posts and pictures – Here (My Backyard) and  here (environment), also here (Bio diesel)

Bulk Rubbish Discoveries

Well, it is the season … for putting out your bulk rubbish.

We live in a funny age, never before has there been the need for so many ‘extra’ rubbish collections. Who remembers growing up with just one of the small round tin bins? The rubbish men would run from house to house, with an even bigger plastic version of what we would put on the verge. They would throw two, maybe three, maybe even four bins worth of rubbish into the bin they carried on their shoulder before manually dumping it into the back of the truck that was being driven (usually by a big fat guy who wouldn’t run!) Where was all our rubbish in those days? Imagine a rubbish man running (just that is enough!) around with 3 or 4 wheelie bins worth of rubbish on his back!!! Now we have 2 full sized wheelie bins for all our rubbish, an occasional trip to the tip as well as our annual bulk rubbish collection!

On this topic have you ever seen Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff“? I have posted it here before, but it’s worth another look.

From Roll 141

It was fun, a few weeks ago when our area had bulk rubbish. Christine and I got up early one Saturday morning before the kids were even stirring. I took the dog for a walk while Christine began the clean up around the yard. Whilst on my walk I discovered a fantastic compost bin as well as 2 big sheets of marine ply maybe 2.5M by 1.5M! I ran home, grabbed the car and went back and grabbed it. As I was off-loading my find, Christine was busy dragging out stuff onto the verge, some of it admittedly was stuff I had brought in last time…one man’s trash is another man’s treasure they say 🙂 We laugh at people in their utes driving up and down the street filling their cars with other peoples ‘rubbish’ but maybe they are the ones with the last laugh. As they never need to spend $500 on that swing set for the kids because they found a perfectly good one on the roadside. They laugh as they remove the broken keyboard from the perfectly good monitor and replace it with the perfect keyboard they found attached to a broken monitor! Where does most of this stuff go? Well after the guys at the tip (who are heroes in my mind!) have sorted the good for the crap…it gets put into landfill, mostly. Our region is just experimenting with a massive composting factory, millions of bucks to avoid so much land fill. Great stuff, but you should see the environmental footprint it creates to keep the engines running 24/7 so the fumes remain neutral! I know, I know, it sounds hopeless and negative, but I guess I don’t see a future in better ways to deal with our rubbish. I only see a future in learning to create less at a domestic level – YES domestic. Because when Mr Production Plant owner has a revelation about how much ‘stuff’ he puts in his household bin, I think…I hope…he would carry that over into his factory waste.

So next time you go to throw out something, I dare you to ask yourself NOT which bin should this go into, NOR do I need to throw this out? BUT rather, did I need to buy what was in this box in the first place, could I have made something? Borrowed it? Done without it? Got it second hand? I know this is the question that perplexes me always too late. That my purchasing of stuff is directly related to my environmental footprint. “stuff in – stuff out”. And I just love ‘stuff’ too much!

I get a pleasure from buying stuff, all that lovely packaging, the sound of unwrapping the box…the smell of the fresh plastic…

From Roll 141

I can even justify stuff. Take for example my new water-pump, lost f nice smelly plastic in that new box hmmm But I justified it ok…prices are low now, I wash my diesel in rain water now, our veggies are watered in rainwater now, we wash our clothes in rain water now… all great, but I still loved the power of the purchase more than all these sweet reason to buy such a ‘nobel’ toy!

We yesterday I put my guilt to rest…for while at least, I was out with master collector and bio-diesel buddy Andy Longhurst and we decided to drive the streets near his house where bulk rubbish is happening, my discoveries?

1) Another great compost bin, this one with a liquid catchment and tap on the bottom.

2) Two good milk crates for the shed, storage and seating 🙂

3) A pair of blundstone boots in my size.

4) A couple of jerry can holders for my car…admittedly they were in Andy’s shed…but he was going to get rid of them!

So call me a scab – but I’m having fun!

A Good Crop

Our garden is going stupid! It is producing massive amounts of very healthy large looking veggies. Christine is SOOO diligent with her hand watering. Today after work she went out and gathered about a tenth of our potatoes and yet another big bucket of beans, some celery, carrots, zucchini, basil, onions, there is such a lot still in there to pick….oh and the fish look like they have had babies.

We have not used anything artificial in the garden whatsoever. I was out there for the last 2 nights with my torch picking off slugs and snails and green caterpillars which the chooks eat. I would say the success has been in the soil, the timing and the layout, and my wife’s good looks.veggie-garden-nov-12-08

A Garden Justice Story

I have posted on this issue in the past. It was first brought to my attention when I saw the farm destroyed on the DVD “Escape From Suburbia” (Sequel to The End of Suburbia). When I saw the DVD I thought it was the end of the story until I recieved an email from one of the activists involved saying that it was far from over. Here is the latest –

For Blog Action Day: LA’s South Central Farm

October 15th, 2008  by Susan Harris

Thousands of bloggers around the world are participating in Blog Action Day today by focusing on  poverty, a timely issue that got a lot more so in the last couple of weeks.  But don’t worry; my contribution to the event won’t be about Wall Street but about 41st and Alameda in Los Angeles, where the 14-acre South Central Farm once was the heart of a poor, mainly Latino community and fed 350+ families – until the powers that be allowed a developer to bulldoze it to erect a bunch of storage warehouses.

Yes, that’s the unhappy ending to the documentary “The Garden”, which chronicles the fight to save the urban farm.  The movie, by acclaimed documentarian Scott Hamilton Kennedy, premiered at the American Film Institute, where it won the highest award at its Silver Docs Film Festival. (See my review on GardenRant.)  Truly, you have to see the movie to appreciate the depths of corruption that led local politicians to support the bulldozing and the depths of racism exhibited by the odious developer.  The sight of the bulldozing of not just 400 garden plots but the livelihood, community and culture that had been created by them will break your heart.

But the story – and the fight –  isn’t over yet.  The 14 acres could be returned to garden if they win the next stage – the environmental review, which was demanded by South Central gardeners.  In it, they’re making the point that turning the land into huge storage warehouses will bring a swarm of noisy, polluting diesel trucks to the site, and that using the land as green space is far better for the environment.  But has it really come down to purely environmental factors?  Will the human environment be considered, including crime reduction and the sheer amount of food – really healthy food – that was grown there to feed poor families?  Let’s hope so.


On a positive note, some of the South Central farmers took their farming skills to Bakersfield, 120 miles north of LA, where they grow food that’s then brought back to the old neighborhood via a CSA (community-supported agriculture) – the cheapest one available to the neighborhood.  So for a fee, they can continue to get really healthy food, admittedly a poor substitute for growing it themselves.

South Central Farmers have also created a grassroots economic project aimed at bringing “green jobs” to the neighborhood, called “Bringing Food to the Hood“.  Its regular events around the perimeter of the old garden are all about food, music, teaching urban farming and nutrition, and keeping the spirit of the farm going.

And you’d better believe they’re using all their grassroots political skills and connections to lobby the City Council and Mayor Villaraigosa to stop the warehouses.  The long battle to save their garden has turned these urban farmers into savvy, experienced community organizers (a term that, incredibly, evoked derisive laughter at a certain party’s convention in St. Paul).


If you’re in Los Angeles, express your support for the garden to the mayor and City Council.  If you know someone in  LA, send them this article.
Help get this important and very entertaining documentary distributed.  Just contact the filmmakers.
Bring more urban farms to your city.  Here’s a good roundup about urban farming today.

Sabath Economics & Living Organically

Here is an extract from a great article Harry from Peace Tree put me on to, I loved it.

It dawned on me that what I was witnessing was a near perfect example of a local economy in action.  And when Andy started talking specifically about economics, which he will do if pressed although normally he is quiet and reserved, he “brought home” the significance of what I was looking at. He and Jan delight in their frugal life style which is the main reason they can afford to keep on being such small farmers producing such high quality food. Their house, partly underground, is modest and environmentally sane. They heat it with their own wood cut and split from their own woodlot. Parts of the house and of other buildings are made from salvaged  materials. They raise most of the food they eat, obviously. They are keen practitioners of home medicine. They are very artful recyclers of material our wasteful society throws away. And they are content with their lives. “We would rather do without many things that modern society strives for,” Andy says, “so as to have the time to grow really good food while enjoying the natural and spiritual world around us. We could expand, work ourselves to distraction and make more money. We choose to avoid that trap.” I have used Andy’s observation about their life style before: “It is rather easy to live comfortably below the so-called cost of living because the government keeps raising the index.” This is something that today’s society needs to hear, especially now that the international economy has come near to collapse because so many people are so unwilling to live sensibly and have therefore borrowed  themselves into bankruptcy.

Full article here