Heritage Canoe Project: Day 3

Day 3 arrived way too early.  At least that was what my body was telling me.  I slept in, but not long enough, when Cindy reminded me of my commitment to this project.  I really wanted to stay in bed and rest — and was working hard to convince myself I needed a day off.  I still hurt from the prior work days.  But my conscience finally won, and by just after 11am I finally arrived at Carlisle Canoe (after my morning Tim’s of course).

Roger was already at work finishing the restoration of the two decks.  He is amazingly talented.  Just watching the detail he puts in everything he does convinces me he was the right “Canoe Doctor” for the job.  When I arrived the bow deck was already in place, and Roger was working to finish the stern deck.  He was installing the custom rosewood pieces he had fabricated for the inside face of the deck.

roger restores canoe decksinstalling stern deck

And what was my job?  You guessed it… the remaining two rib replacements.  I finished them by early afternoon, as I actually remembered to finally bring my glasses.  (Nailing goes much better when you can actually see what you are trying to hit.)

ed's finished rib replacements

The last ‘big’ job of the day was helping Roger cut and install the inner gunwales.  This canoe didn’t originally have inner gunwales (which Roger says is not common), but in order to get it to a proper shape and strength, it was a necessary addition.

installing gunwhales

By end of day the canoe looked a whole lot healthier.  Roger said he didn’t think we would have done so much so soon in the week.  I left feeling very encouraged, after having put in almost 8 more hours.  I didn’t feel as tired as day 2, but I was also looking at a day of rest tomorrow.  To be continued (in a couple of days)

end day 3, taking shapeprevious Heritage Canoe Project next

Heritage Canoe Project: Day 2

Well.  Day 2 arrived quickly, and by 9 am I was already working (after grabbing a Tim’s coffee on the way, of course).

The steamed ribs (sounds like a restaurant doesn’t it?) had been folded around the hull all night, so they were ready to install.


But wait a minute — before I could add new wood again, the old had to come off — and guess who got to do that.  Using a chisel and cutters, I set to the task of removing the old ribs.  It was very time-consuming because once the rib was hacked out, the old iron nails had to be snipped off where they were curled and then removed. Once off, and the area wire brushed, we fit the new rib.  Roger very carefully ensured the rib was set just right, and we clamped it in place.


Using a ‘dolly’ (a very heavy iron weight that was angled just right) on the inside, and a hammer to hit the brass nails on the outside, I went to work.  It took a while to get the hang of doing the job again today.  And that was the extent of my entire 8 hour day, except for a break for lunch.


Meanwhile, Roger spent all day rebuilding both of the decks.  This was also a lot of work, as new pieces had to be custom-made and epoxy and screws added to hold it all in place.

One rib, two ribs… all the way to 5 of the 7 steamed ribs (hold the barbecue sauce).  By the 5th new rib, however, I was setting it myself and doing all the nailing.  And I really felt it.  I thought I was in pretty good shape, but by the time I got home I was sore in lots of places I forgot I had muscles.  Only 2 more ribs to go?… But that’s for my next work day.


Day 3 coming tomorrow!

previous Heritage Canoe Project next

Heritage Canoe Project: Day 1

It was decided.  I was committed to this project, regardless of the time, although a bit concerned about the cost Roger spoke about yesterday.  Up early, I wolfed down a hearty breakfast and headed to the Carlisle Canoe Company.  I would not be stopped in my determination, and if Roger needed convincing, by gosh I was the guy to do it!

As it turned out, Roger also greeted me with enthusiasm and spoke about giving me some discount pricing, since it was going to take a while.  I thanked him and told him I was “in all the way.”  Quickly getting to the task, we discussed the days work.  It became very apparent that Roger was the real deal, confirmed by an article displayed on the wall referring to him as the Canoe Doctor.  I was glad the doctor was “in.”  We discussed keeping as much of the original look to the canoe, including the original decks that were extremely rare pieces of work (albeit needing a lot of restoration).  The ribs were also  unique, being significantly thinner than most canoes.  This will be good, as the canoe is also significantly lighter.

It turned out to be a great, and productive day.  Roger is an amazing teacher, patiently explaining what needs doing, exactly how to do it, and why.  Throughout the day he added information about canoe construction and why particular things are critical. DSC09685

While I pulled countless nails, screws and tacks out of various parts, Roger manufactured replacement parts needed, including 10 new ribs.  He showed me how, and why, brass nails are used to secure the ribs to the cedar hull and I was given the task of nailing 3 half ribs into the canoe.


My first few attempts were dismal.  (It really is quite different than any nailing I had done before).  Roger calmly gave me the needed guidance, and by the third rib I was feeling like a pro.


After steaming the other 7 ribs in the ‘customized’ steam box, we folded them around the hull, clamped them securely, and left them to form overnight, in time for tomorrow’s work.  A bit more custom cutting of various parts for the hulls, and the day was done.

4 and 1/2 hours went quickly, but looking at the pics I took we really did get a lot done.  Saying farewell to Dr. Roger, and his trusty dog Chaucer, I headed home a bit tired but a whole lot happier.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s canoe restoration installment.

previous Heritage Canoe Series next

Canoe Transportation Day

Yes, the day finally arrived.  With the help of my trusty sidekick Phil (actually, he’s one of my sons) I borrowed my sister’s SUV and journeyed north to rescue the canoe that was trapped in my sister’s boathouse.  After battling ferocious spiders and mosquitoes, we managed to bind it to the roof and began our trek westward.

Canoe on car

It soon became apparent our original route was not going to work.  As the SUV approached 70 km/hr the canoe began to shimmy and shake (not even to the tunes we had playing), and the straps began emitting their own bass drone, much like the start of a Gregorian chant…. perhaps a criticism of The Eagles?  (Say it isn’t so.)  Backing off to 60, Phil quickly found a gentler route.  After still being passed by impatient, and sometimes irate, drivers Phil discovered an even more remote path.  Unfortunately, it quickly began to look like we might have to portage both the canoe and SUV as we quickly ran out of road.  (Good thing that SUV was 4 wheel drive!)  Oh well, nothing a good car wash didn’t fix.

Back on a more ‘normal’ paved road we continued to smile and wave at the jolly passing motorists.  (You mean those people weren’t really waving hello when they passed?)  What was supposed to be a 3 hour trip turned into a 5 hour one.


Finally arriving at the Carlisle Canoe Company, we were greeted by Roger and his trusty dog Chaucer.  After unloading the canoe, and various parts, Roger began his assessment. Although I tried not to read his facial expressions, the word ‘concern’ kept popping into my mind.  After quite a while Roger said:  “I don’t think we’ll see this one in the water in two weeks.”  As my dejection sunk in, Roger continued with even more to think about.

“You know, even if we can fix it I must be honest and tell you that it will cost a lot more than you probably had in mind.”  Well… at least he’s honest (I thought), trying to find something positive to hold on to.  But Roger also was intrigued by the canoe, pointing out things that were most unique and saying he had never seen this type before in his 20 years in the business.


He suggested I “sleep on things, come up the next morning and we can decide then.”  That was fine with me.  Trying not to be too depressed, Phil and I climbed into the SUV and headed out for some well needed dinner.

Tomorrow: the adventure continues

previous Heritage Canoe Series next