Part III of the Canoe Building Saga

Well, it’s finished! Yes…it floats!

Well, lets see where we were…agh yes I had just glassed the inside. Well I trimmed the excess glass as I did for the outside. I did the 2 recommended coats instead of the three the outside got, But unfortunately I laid it on too think and missed the textured finish intended.

It was around this time (or in fact some weeks before) I had picked up all my timber from am old guy I knew from my days at Whitford Church. He had a shed full of nice Sheoak, great grain and various lengths. He cut it all and thined it to size – Thanks Ken!

I played with the gunnel lengths against the side and in doing so discovered that this Sheoak is a bit brittle. I snapped a length. Well, I had multiple lengths as they were not long enough to go the full 16ft. So a knew I had to join (and now steam bend) them.

But after shaping them and cutting the scupper holes into the inwales It seemed more flexible and indeed, when it came to fitting them the bent nicely with no cracking. (I stll steam bents the outwales) I tapered them at the ends so there are nice lines and used resin and lots of clamps! I was careful to clean up the excess as I knew how hard dried resin was to get rid off! Once I took off the clamps, I was getting excited. In fact it was this fittings process that sent me into the worst obsessive stage of the whole project. It was deeply satisfying seeing this wood shaped, sanded and watching the grain come out in it. It was also great plaining the actual shear line of the canoe down to meet the top of the gunnel. I wake up at 3am thinking about building boats!

Whilst the gunnels were doing their drying thing I gave the thwart carving a go. I tried downloading plans as I wanted a yolked thwart. But nothing seemed easy…until I put a cake tin and coffee cup on a piece of paper, traced out a design, then just doubled it over so it was a perfect mirror. I spent ages getting the shape and used the router table (free hand) to trim the edges. In fact I forgot to mention how the router ripped into some of the scupper holes…I need some serious repairs done…and repending for bad language in the shed! I must say, the thwart is my highlight. It came up a treat, really nice.

I started on the 2 little decks. I had decided this simple task would be my first attempt at laminating. It worked! In fact I chose not to round the decks as the guy on the DVD does. I just kept it plain, but the effect of the strip of ask down the middle looks sweet.

As I am just using webbing (like seat belt straps) I just made plain seats with right angles. I did not drill a big enough hole into the end grain on one of them and it split. A quick trip to Ken’s to grab some more (no such thing as a quick visit to Ken!) and I was home again giving it another go. Later the other seat that I made first was to crack in my hand, effected by the same mistake. It had set (resin) so I could not pull it apart even though one join was loose as a result of the crack. I made a resin brace…lets home it holds!

They look and feel great, it was good to use the router here to round all the edges. I like router 🙂

Couple of challenges around this point;

1) The decks did not just neatly slide into place. I think I should have been more careful making up my little cardboard templates. It took ages and in the end I just left it to the thickened epoxy resin to fill my gaps. They do look nice still.

2) The seats were hard to hang. I am still thinking something is wrong about the whole seat thing. I have this bad feeling that in its maiden voyage if something will go wrong it will that the seats snap or something like this.

I made little spacer blocks that the seat bolts slide through. They took a while, were fiddly, but kind of fun.

Once the seats were fitted, the bolts drilled into the gunnels and counter sunk, I then did the same for the thwart. But before I set where the thwart was to go Mikaela and I stood either side of the boat and lifted it by the thwart to determine where the boat balanced. It was not meant to balance perfectly, but rather tip to the rear a little, this is so when you are carrying the boat on your shoulder by yourself, the front lifts up a little to be able to see. I counter sunk the bolts then buried them all in some of my tinted resin. When it was dry I sanded it all back to the gunnels.

I then pulled all the fittings off, seats and thwart, to get ready for the big paint.

The varnish was long winded. I sanded, then varnished, then sanded the varnished. I did this 3 times on the inside and 6 times on the outside. The fittings all got three each. The outside hull gets beat up pretty bad so 6 coats are needed.

Oh by the way I finally tracked down brass strip. Half round brass strip is rare in Australia. I ordered some from the UK but they failed to contact me about price. I emailed twice, but they failed me, and lost my business…not so bad as I ended up finding some in Henderson, so off I go for a long drive…and it turned out to be the wrong stuff! So I will get the strip from the UK when I can afford it.

The other thing I picked up was some neat fonted signs for the front. I decided to coat over them with a couple of layers of varnish just to protect the sign writing – she is called Bonnie Doon.

The varnish ran, plus when I tried to re-coat I did so before the previous coat was properly dry and it blistered (see pic).

I was running too late to care, so I will come back and do another few coats later. I had to launch on the 1st of Oct at our family holiday in Walpole. But I had no paddles!

I was impressed with how a very rough paddle together, I am definitely wanting to make some more.

The paddle still a little wet, we loaded Bonnie onto the car and headed to Walpole – it’s LAUNCH DAY!

Check it out here –

She floats! Thanks for the good times…now the adventures begin!


Building a Western Red Cedar Strip Canoe Pt II

By the way – This is my 1000th post to this blog!

(See Part I here)

Part II of The Canoe Building Saga

Well last time I typed in here about the Canoe Build was on the 10th of December last year (2010). I was 6 strips of Cedar into a very large project. If I thought I had had some challenges to that point I was dreaming! I have seen some real tough challenges as well as some very creative recoveries, I have invented some cool little jigs to help out in tough corners as well as discovering how to use resin to fill in big mistakes!

I have just finished fibre glassing the inside and started building my gunwales, I thought I may have finished by now, hence my last post suggesting I would do this in two posts…Ok so I thought I was half way through back then…I guess that depends on how fast you go and how many breaks you take.

Where was I?

Just outside of this picture (on the right) is the end stem. The careful shaping of this stem with block plane and spoke shave as well as the occassional hack with a sharp chisel proved to be a challenge, but a satisfying one…no lets face it it was BLOODY frustrating at times. You had to shape it just right to recieve the strips coming in on the angle.

The higher the strips went up the more they began to twist. They were verticle in the middle, but as they moved to the end stems they began to twist to horizontal, as they were meant to…but this pulled out the staples and made the strips want to pop off the frame.






26th January – Invasion Day, Australia.

So I made up the first of quite a few little jigs. (pictured)

These stayed put for just enough time to let the glue grab while I was putting the strip on the other side and doing some end stem trimming, then I would take them off and lay on my next strip.

Speaking of end stem trimming…it was here I made my biggest mistake. I trimmed the strips back too far up the stem so that I was kind of trimming on the keel, not meant to happen. You are meant to bevel out a kind of trench into the strip ends there at the keel and seat the new outer end stem into the trench. I was left with some gaping holes I needed to later fill with resin, at first I thought it was the end of the world, but resin covers over a multitude of sins!





This picture show the outer stem after fitting with the gaps.










Meanwhile (got out of order there for a second!) I was puting the low short strips on, then drawing my curved line and then cutting off excess with a sharp chisel and block plane…my tool of choice!

Here you can see before and after the trimming and shaping.

This end jig was made as the wood strips began to twist. I used it in conjunction with the little stip jigs pictured above. It was awkward, but I don’t think I could have got the end of the strips to stay down without it. (Max the Border Collie  in the background, lives pretty much under my feet in the shed).








Once I turned the corner and my strips left the end stem I had to work only on one side, as aposed to the way I had been working, left then right then left then right. You do all of them until the  very middle of the boat is covered. A centre string (in pretty pink) is laid down the hay diddle diddle and a line drawn. A sharp chisel (sweet feeling!) is used to cut away all the excess over the centre line and my sweet little block plane to trim it down to the centre line. This looked great.

Now here is where I began to REALLY go mad. Matching the strips end to end along the centre line on the other side was very difficult, in fact I was all out of alignment and had to keep triming the ends and at one point I inserted a unique little strip just so I could rematch the 2 sides. The other challenge was the joining at the ends, this was a great challenge for someone with endless patience … but for someone like me…I just swore a lot! There are still  some little spots of light coming through the hull, but now the glass is on, it will only be light – not water!

26the Feb

The last piece/s get glued together and shaped before being ‘dropped’ into place. This process was quite complicated, too detailed to explain here, but it was clever, much respect for Bear Mountain Boat designs! But I tell you this…each stage of building has ‘sweet’ moments, sanding, glassing, etc. Dropping the keystone piece into place was one of those moments – sweet!




The very last part of this process was cleaning up the end stems and putting the outer stem layer and shaping it. Nice process, might have been made easier if I knew how to use the spoke shave properly…or at all, but the block plane was my friend again…my best friend.






March 2011

Fairing the hull was another beautiful moment. After some three months of laying strips around the mould stations, I was desperate to do something different, and different it was…days and days of endless…different! Neighbour annoying, family destroying orbital sanding…for days.

By March 19th I was over all the sanding. In fact I sanded first, then did some patching with resin…then sanded again..a mistake. I should have patched then sanded, then did some little patches after the first sand. Hard, resin is like sanding steel.

So towards the end of the process I took a few hours off to build some little stands in preparation for the big flip!




The Glassing Begins!

April 26th, after waiting for perfect weather conditions and good help in the form of my brother-in-law Scotty amongst others! In fact on the day every man and their dog came past to visit. I was so focused I didn’t notice who was there nor what the time was. The word “harrowing” comes to mind. In fact I still think that the fiberglassing has been the most stressful aspect of the whole build. The timing, the fact that if the resin goes off its all over, the fibre glass cloth moving… aghhh just typing this I get stressed. I had to join the glass down the middle as they don’t sell it big enough to go over the whole boat.










I did 2 coats on the one day, a third a week or so later, but was not happy with that so I did another day of sanding and cut it back to the second coat, then bought a roller. This worked better, less runs.









Then one morning, whilst still in our P.J’s Sophie and I flipped the baby! It took a bit to get it off, the glue had stuck to the mould in a few places. Booy it felt great to finally see the inside!







Lots more fairing, then sanding. Only this time the sanding took longer as it had to be done manually as the sander didn’t work in the concave surface without cutting into the sides, so – LOTS OF LONG WEEKENDS hand sanding!











We are now up to August 19th.

Laying on the 2 sheets on glass looked easy…until resin was added.

The inside was meant to remain with the rough textured surface that 2 coats gives. But obviously my second coat was too think and I ended up with a bit of a patch work of resin. I am not upset, but I know it could have come out much better.

After the resin is almost dry…tacky I think, well a bit after tacky, you go inside and pinch your wife’s best dress making scissors (again) and begin trimming off the excess.

This was the end of the glassing, in fact it was the end of making what I might call the shell or the basic hull.

I think I will post it here, even though I am ahead of this at the time of typing. It seems appropriate to make a separate post for the trim; that is the seats, the decks, the gunnels and the thwart…then the finishing varnish, which I bought today…along with all these really expensive stainless steel screws and bolts and nuts!

Christine is almost still talking to me, I have spent the family savings…and food budget…

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…

Playing in The Shed

Well aside from being a geek and playing on my Mac, I also like to do other things!

So far today, I have managed a stunning 2 hour paddle along the coast in my sea kayak, returned to hand over the car to Christine, for the kids swimming lessons then I headed for the shed and finished building a little ‘workbox’ for my MacBook. You see with the keyboard and mouse, I figure the nice white board on the Mac will last much longer if I don’t touch it 🙂 I just put it up on a little frame and look at it from a distance and don’t touch. When I want my desk all clean I just tuck everything under the MacBook in its little box! The wood was leftover from a shelf I am building for the backdoor of my car…you know fold down for coffee on the road, you don’t need to get out the table, just open the back door and fold down the little table…you want a photo don’t you. Ok I will finish it today and take a snapshot. In the meantime enjoy my MacBook Riser (I made that up all by myself!)


Shed Update

Bit of work in the shed on Saturday. Amy has a birthday coming up, she is a budding artist. I love building things for which I have everything already in the shed, no trips to the shop for anything. In fact the clip on the top was pulled of an old file. Love it!
I still have not really started our bed yet, this is a major procrastination project at the moment! It was meant to be for last Christmas…or was it the one before?

My Backyard

You know, one day I would like to start a blog called just that – “My backyard”. It would have stories of sheds, building stuff out of wood and metal, it would have pictures of great sheds and projects I and others attempt and ideas for people, like how to make a great compost heap or look after your chooks … if in fact you are allowed to keep chooks in your suburb, which, so I discover – we are! So I am building a top looking chook shed and finding 3 chooks from somewhere. Free eggs! But I think my worms will miss out on some food, unless you live near me and want to donate your food scraps ?
In other “shed news” I built a small cabinet for Christine’s Creative Memories photo albums. It is a hobby/business of her’s and these photo albums were starting to crowd out some of my book shelves (these bookshelves were a project I did some years ago…for Christine actually, so I guess it is her right to use those shelves however she wants…but hey they are book shelves, not photo album shelves!). Now she has a little unit just for albums. I will put a picture of this here and later on I will post about the chook pen, maybe once there are chooks in it! But today I will head out there to see if I can (re) make the gate…it fell apart yesterday, my first attempt at biscuit joins!

Shed Mess and Other Thoughts

Last night I was all in for a relaxing play in the shed. I am building a small cupboard for Christine’s photo scrapbooking albums, custom sized, just to fit CM albums. I had cut and was ready to paste. got the supa strong wood glue, the big clamps and clamped 2 sides together. wiped off excess glue and stood back to admire my work.
Looks great!
Just think I will measure it one more time…oh dear. What was that deal? Measure twice, cut once!
Not only that but my pine T&G was all the wrong way round.
So I begin pulling it all apart…think the glue had set? You betcha! Some of the wood just split, some had to be hit hard with my hammer. The floor was scattered with bits of wood, a hammer, clamps and my sweat…I almost ran from the shed, pulled down the door, had a shower and jumped into bed with Jodi…Picoult that is, the author, well her book, My Sisters Keeper, a good read.
So much for the shed being a place of relaxation and meditation, of developing patience and the old ‘wipe on, wipe off’ style work!!

I have looked at the shed twice today. It’s like I have personified it. It has become an enemy. I hear it calling me, daring me in to have another go, “you wont get this done”, “I will eat you alive”, in fact I think the door shuddered a bit…woops I think I have had too much heat today…maybe I sniffed some of that woodwork glue!

Back in the Shed

Remember way back when I built a wine rack with Gaz?
Well I may have commented on the fact that I have started another one for Brad B a good mate of mine. In fact I think he is a good mate still, he asked me to build this last February, I purchased the materials in March and finished it tonight!! So I think he may have run out of patience…I have a feeling he is on holidays in Canada, so he wont even know it’s finished.
But after a few months of being in the books for the degree I have missed my cathartic exercise of building ‘stuff’ in the shed. This year I am dubbing “the year of the bed”, as I plan to build us a new bed…once I finish up the chairs I started restoring 13 months ago!! I mainly make stuff for other people as I can’t afford to be making new things for the house all the time, it is fun but it all costs, if I can get someone else to buy the stuff, I will build whatever they want…in time!! But this year it’s my turn again.
I think Arch Hart (one of my heros) calls this kind of thing ‘faceting’. As in adding a multi-faceted dimention to your life. He says that too many of us are ‘one eyed monsters‘ (his words not mine!), that we only know stuff about one or two things and this make us very boring and quite uninteresting in a conversation. I like to think I know a little bit about quite a few things, and a fair bit more about a few other things…if you know what I mean. That’s why I like to read, I get to know stuff, I like to participate in conversations with a wide group of people, it’s not so much that I want to look smart (nice as that feels on the rare occassions it happens) but rather I see it as a way I can respect and honour others – that is, by knowing a little something about what they are interested in…my thoughts for the evening, good night. (I think my Mum taught me this too!)