Heritage Canoe Project: Day 10

I know, it’s been a while.  That’s what you get for having to pay the bills, a.k.a. having to end your vacation.  Day 10 was another 1/2 day, but well worth it.  I arrived early morning. Yes indeed — after my morning cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.  Since I hadn’t been back for a while it was good to see that Chaucer  the dog was really happy to see me, so I spent some time greeting him. Then it was off to work.

Today was final paint application day; coat #1.  I chose the sapphire blue, as it will be a great compliment to the darker interior, not to mention that blue is also my favourite colour.  The first 1/2 hour was spent hand sanding the primer, blowing and brushing the dust away, and tack clothing the surface.

sanding primerAfter moving the canoe inside, to avoid those pesky flying bugs from getting stuck in the paint and thus leaving a bump, Roger and I got working.  Using sponge brushes we worked on our respective sides and quickly finished.

paintingThe paint didn’t dry as fast as the primer (thankfully) so by the time we finished, even my side looked really smooth and gleaming.  After a final inspection, Roger said it would only need one more coat.  I was happy to hear that, as even one additional coat adds unwanted weight to a canoe.  The gleaming blue canoe was a sight to behold… almost brought tears of joy to my eyes.  OK… would you settle for bringing the lyrics from the song ‘Blue Canoe’ (by Blue Mountain) to memory?  (That’s only because Ron, at work, recently sent me the link to the song).   Roger offered for he and Doug to do the final coat before I returned, promising that it would look really great.  I agreed, as I am getting quite anxious to complete the project before Christmas (and also because I remembered how rough my primer painting had ended up).  Better to ensure the final finish would really sparkle.

blue canoeThe rest of the day was spent having a seat myself and making great progress on re-caning the canoe seats, which does take a long time to do.  We used pre-cut caning from the rattan plant.

caningAfter soaking them in water, Roger showed me how to re-cane at each step along the way.  It wasn’t as hard as I thought, and I found it really therapeutic.

seatworkBy the time I left I was very pleased to see how much I had accomplished.  It was great to learn, and add re-caning to my growing list of new skills on this project.  It’s much like weaving to some extent, especially when you do the diagonal caning.

seat progressThe time to leave came too soon for me, so I was sad to have to go again.  I was, once again, looking at close to another week before I could return.  Until next time…

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Background Writing

A recent online article in “Inside Higher Education” discussed what I’ll call background writing — writing that must be done but is not the finished publishable product or submitted essay. In that article Nate Kreuter reminds us all, but particularly academics, that writing is a cognitive exercise. We write, and in the process we learn. We write as part of the thinking process, we don’t just write essays or ideas that are fully formed in our brains. We think and write together, and this process means that not all writing we do is a final finished product — nor should it be.

This idea is important for students as well as professors. Students should realize that they probably need to do a lot of non-graded writing, just as academics do a lot of non-published writing. This background writing is the foundation for the writing submitted for grading or writing submitted for publication. I’m not sure if anyone has an estimate on the amount of unpublished writing that goes into a page of publishable material. I wonder if it is like an iceberg — most of the iceberg is below the water, and very little is visible above the surface of the water.

Do background writing. Keep reading journals. Make notes. Think on paper. This will make your visible writing stronger.

Heritage Canoe Project: Day 9

Finally, day 9 arrived.  My vacation being over, it was difficult to carve out time to continue the project.  I managed to schedule an afternoon, arriving just after 1pm and anxious to work.  It was good seeing the canoe again.

Today started with light sanding the canvas hardener.  It was very smooth, thanks to Doug’s work on day 8, so this job didn’t take a lot of effort or time.  Then came the primer coat.  If you think this is your common paint primer (as I did), think again.  This stuff is really thick, and dries really quickly.  I don’t know what’s in it but it feels more like glue than paint.  Because it dries so fast, Roger did one side while I did the other.

primerOnce we got going it was too late to ask if Doug could do my part (as he wasn’t here today), but then again, I’m in for the long haul aren’t I?  When finished, Roger’s side look a whole lot smoother than mine.  Hopefully some intense sanding and a couple of finishing coats of paint will blend everything together.

For the rest of the time I worked on the seats and thwarts.  I removed the old caning, sanded, and then put two coats of sealer on the seats.

seats take caning offsanded sealed seatsI only sanded the thwarts and supports, as we needed to epoxy them before sealing.

sanded thwarts So, the last job today was to epoxy the thwarts to the supports. This needed to be done in the canoe, to get the right angle for when we finally install them. That’s when we discovered just how much the canoe started to lose its shape.  To correct this problem, Roger used cords tightened between the inner gunwales to bring it back into shape before we fitted the thwarts and applied the epoxy.

thwarts in placeThat was all that could be done today, as everything now had to dry.  With great sadness I scheduled my next visit — a full week before I would return.  Between mine and Roger’s schedules I know I’m going to succumb to CRWS a lot over these coming weeks.  To be continued (when I can).

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Paddle Making Day: Waiting for hardener to dry

I knew it was going to be tough waiting for the canvas hardener to dry, but a paddle making course came at just the right time.  Roger offers these day long courses at Carlisle Canoe Company, for those who would like to create their own ‘individual’ paddle exactly tailored to their height.  It took some effort, but I finally convinced Cindy to join me for a ‘date day’.  (Pretty romantic, don’t you think guys!)  After all, how would we power our beautifully renovated canoe without paddles?

It was a wonderful sunny day when we arrived raring to go.  There were 2 other couples, so Roger had the bench setup with 6 blocks (I really do mean ‘blocks’) of black cherry in the general shape of a paddle and marked with guide lines and colours to follow in our work.

paddles 1Roger first went through basic safety and use of the spoke shaver.  Then it was time to begin.

At each step during the day, Roger took us through what to do, the guide lines to follow, and exactly how to use the spoke shaver.  (Sort of like a ‘Dummy’s Guide to Paddle Making’ — anyone can do it — really they can).  Starting with the paddle blade, the toughest stage, we set to work.  This took tons of carving and some brute force, but by the time we finished, the blade was finely contoured and very thin.

paddles 2Cindy and another woman had the hardest blades to carve, as their paddle grains were very mottled and zigzagged throughout the wood.  When finished, however, these particular paddles were really beautiful and totally unique.  Being black cherry, the blades, despite being thin, had both strength and flexibility.  Finishing the blades took the entire morning, so we were all thankful (and really tired) when the lunch break arrived.

After lunch we tackled, or rather shaved down, the shaft and handle.

paddles 3Each had to be done a specific way to get just the right shape.  Roger attentively, and very patiently, watched and guided us all through the process, often lending assistance when needed.

paddles 4As each of us finished, and got the thumbs up from Roger, we took our paddles outside to assist Roger with power sanding.

paddles 5Then, after a final hand sanding, we applied linseed oil as the final step.  Each paddle turned out quite different, and totally unique due to the grains, all very beautiful and extremely light.  Some in the group weren’t going to use their paddles, but intended to hang them on the wall as ‘artwork’.  Not us, however.  I’m even more keen now to complete the canoe restoration.  After all, a beautiful paddle requires a beautiful canoe — or is it the other way around?  Regardless, the paddles and canoe are ‘a match made in heaven’.  OK, at least made at Carlisle!

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 8

Anxious to start, after seeing so much progress to date, I arrived early (well, early for me anyway).  Seeing my gleaming treasure, I remarked to Roger that it looked so much better than the sad driftwood, in need of some TLC, that I dragged in the other week.  Always the gentleman, Roger simply nodded.  I did catch Chaucer smirking a bit, but then again, he’s a dog and you’re just not sure what he’s thinking.

Today is canvas day.  After screwing the seat supports to the inside of the canoe, we went to Roger’s work shed to prepare.

Installed seat supportsAfter cutting a little longer length than needed, I was fascinated by the setup Roger had designed to stretch the canvas.  Folding it in half, the canvas was clamped between boards at both ends and ratcheted to stretch a bit.  It looked like a hammock.  We then put the canoe inside this canvas ‘hammock’.

Canoe in HammockAfter Roger showed me how, by using special clamps and his technique, we systematically (starting at the centre of the canoe) stretched and stapled the canvas to the top of the deck, at both sides, where the outer gunwale will go.

Stretched stapled canvasAfter then removing the ‘hammock’ boards, the canvas was cut and stapled (by me) to the end stems while Roger stretched it, first one side, then the other (after gluing and hammering down the first side to prevent it from bunching).  After soaking the entire upper edge of the canvas with clear preservative to prevent mildew, it was time to brush on the hardener.

canvas stretch staple bowBy this time Roger’s assistant Doug had arrived to help.  Thankful for no rain, we took the canoe outside for this messy job.  Armed with a small sander each, with a ‘pleather’ pad installed instead of sandpaper, we watched Roger begin painting on the hardener.

applying hardnerOnce it turned from shiny to dull I followed Roger’s progress with the ‘sander’, working the hardener into the canvas.  Doug followed me with his ‘sander’, making it as smooth as possible.  Doug did an amazing finishing job, as the smoothing will pay off big time when the real sanding takes place in a few days.  It was indeed a messy job and by the time we finished I couldn’t feel my hands from the vibrations.

smoothing hardenerThe now canvased and ‘hardened’ canoe looks great.  Roger said it will now float, but several coats of marine paint will definitely look a lot better.  We parked the canoe on the supports under Roger’s awning, where it will now have to dry completely for several days before anything more can be done.  I sure hope my CRWS (Canoe Restoration Withdrawal Syndrome) doesn’t get the better of me.

resting canoeUntil next time…

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 7

Has anyone heard of CRWS?  Well, I had it for several days — Canoe Restoration Withdrawal Syndrome that is.  And it was bad.  So I was really happy to get a call from Roger, whose schedule opened up a day early.

When I arrived I found that Roger had already shaped the stem pieces to the canoe contour, filled outer deck holes with epoxy, and sanded the sides to the level of the inner gunwales.

formed stems outerI had about a 4 hours time slot, so my job today started with power sanding the external hull to smooth the epoxy areas. I then lightly sanded the interior ribs and, after thoroughly power blowing the canoe (inside and outside), I applied the final varnish coat.  The inside was now gleaming.

ready for final finish coatgleaming interior

Flipping the canoe again, I applied the final varnish coat to the outside hull.  In between these jobs I also sanded and varnished the seat supports, as they must be screwed in place before the canvas is installed.

seat supports

All in all, it was a great and productive day.  Once dry, it’s canvas time at Carlisle!

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 6

Day 6 was another short day for me.  By the time I arrived Roger had already rebuilt the bow and stern areas where the wood had been disintegrating.  He had curved several thinner pieces to form new wooden stems and added epoxy where needed.

rebuilding stems

My first job was to replace all hull areas, at the gunwale, that were missing.  Yes… this included more nailing.

hull repairs with interior

Then it was fun time for me.  After lightly hand sanding the ribs, it was time for the second varnish coat.  This time it was full strength varnish which left the interior gleaming.  Only one more varnish job left.

varnish twodrying finish

We then flipped the canoe and I finished the day by applying a varnish/varsol mix to the outside hull wood.

hull with one coat finish

Day 7 will have to wait.  Between Roger’s and my schedule it will be almost a week before I will be able to return.  The good news is that the canoe is really taking shape.  It is a far cry from when I first arrived.  So far it has been a great way to spend a vacation.

To be continued!

(Because of the magic of the Crux blog time delay, the Day 7 & 8 posts will go up at noon tomorrow and the next day. Ed had to wait a week, but we don’t have to.)

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 5

Day 5 was a shorter day, but packed with lots of work.  The first thing was to power orbital sand the outer decking to make the deck smooth, and take out as many bumps as possible.

Sanding Hull

Roger said the canvas covering would show all decking flaws unless they were taken out first.  After a very long time, and with numb hands from the vibrations of the sander, I was done.  But what was to follow?  You guessed it.  My favourite thing — nailing.  I had to identify all nails that were in any way protruding and hammer them in, to avoid any possible rips to the canvas.

Then we flipped the canoe, and one of my very favourite things was next — varnishing.  Yes, really — I happen to like painting and varnishing.  Much better than those countless brass nails.

varnish interior

Since this was the first varnish coat being applied, I used a varnish/varsol mix so the wood could absorb as much as possible.  It was really thirsty, as by the time I finished some was almost dry.

finish drying

That was day 5. Day 6 is coming!

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 4

Day 4, my birthday, and what do I want to do?  Work on the canoe, of course.  Goofed around this morning, but still made it to Carlisle Canoe before noon, and still worked almost 8 hours before I left.

When I arrived Roger was working on another canoe that had arrived earlier and needed repair, but we soon got to task on my project.  Today was hull replacement.  There were lots of holes already, and even more after I cut out the bad areas we had previously marked (and thankfully not nailed to the ribs).

hole that needs repair

Some replacements had to be steamed to shape, and Roger was great at using ‘low tech’ means.  For one he plugged in a kettle and set the piece over the spout.  As the kettle boiled, the steam ‘naturally’ shaped the piece.  (My father would have referred to this as a ‘Heath Robinson’ method, named after an unusual English inventor).

hole repairedroger nailing

After the hull was fixed, my job was to prepare the inside for staining.  First was wire brushing the areas between the ribs where a sander couldn’t fit.  This was much easier than hand sanding, but it still cost me a number of cuts on my hands as I often bashed fingers into the inner gunwales.  After wire brushing came the power sanding, which went a lot faster.  Roger then showed me how to use the blower with a brush, as he explained that just blowing caused an electrostatic charge in the canoe which attracted dust.

When all was ready, my last job today was staining.  We used a cherry stain, as the wood was old and already darker.  Cherry gave it a very deep and rich look.  I found a cloth, and not a brush, was best for this task.  The day was then gone, as the stain was left to dry over night.

ed staining interiorend day 4, stain left to dry

Tomorrow is varnish day!

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Rebuilding Pat’s canoe: update and correction

I initially wrote my first blog in July, titled: ‘Rebuilding Pat’s canoe: remembering our founder‘.  In it I said that Pat was rebuilding his grandfather’s canoe.  That was not correct, and I thank Jocelyn, Pat’s widow, for updating me and giving me some great history about the canoe.  Here it is:

The canoe was actually Jocelyn’s grandfather’s canoe.  It was initially purchased by him at the turn of the century, and for many years resided in a log cabin/boathouse that Jocelyn’s mother helped to build when she was a child.  About 22 years ago, Pat and Jocelyn went to Michigan to help sell the canoe.  When Pat saw how exquisite the workmanship was, he brought it back to Toronto to restore.  Pat and Dave spent a lot of time on the project, but when serious money was needed to continue, the project stopped.  By that time Pat was putting everything he had (time and money) into Crux Books.

Jocelyn tells me that restoring the canoe was one of Pat’s dreams.  I am very honoured to be a part of bringing this dream finally to fruition.



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