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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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)

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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!

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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.

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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

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Rebuilding Pat’s canoe: remembering our founder

It’s been several years since Pat Paas, the founder of Crux Books, passed away. Many knew Pat as the Crux eccentric bookseller, some as an avid fly fisherman, but only few would have known he had been rebuilding his grandfathers canoe with his good friend Dave.
I felt honoured when Pat’s widow, Jocelyn, offered me Pat’s partly rebuilt canoe and the opportunity to take over the project. I enjoyed canoeing as a young man and loved working with my hands, so the opportunity to restore a heritage canoe was right down my alley. One thing led to another and before long I convinced my nephew Michael to tackle this project with me.  With great excitement, and grandiose plans, Michael and I drove to Dave’s house to pick up our prize. Visions of a gleaming canoe, the gentle lapping of water drumming against the dazzling newly painted canvas, danced in our heads. Alas, this was quickly shattered when we arrived as we stared at the stark and faded hull, replete with several cracked ribs and even more holes.

canoe overviewIMG_3769IMG_3753IMG_3761

“Wow” I said to Michael, admittedly dejected, “this is going to be a ton of work.”  After Dave explained just how much work he and Pat had done to get the canoe to this particular condition, our enthusiasm quickly returned.  With our heads full of renewed eagerness, after getting a crash course from Dave, we transported the “canoe” to my sister’s cottage.  And that is exactly where it has resided for two years, in exactly the same condition.  What do they say about the best laid plans of mice and overzealous canoe restorers?


Which brings us to 2013.  Yes folks… this is the year.  My excitement has returned and I am now determined, eager, and yes still slightly overzealous to finally restore this treasure.  Which is one reason I also agreed to write this blog.  I am now committed to this project and figure that if I also commit to writing about it, and supplying evidence of progress along the way, it may come to fruition.

Contacting the Canadian Canoe Museum to find a professional restorer I received encouragement from the curator who was pleased this canoe was going to get a second life.  (Perhaps I should name it Lazarus when it actually floats!)  My first intention was to find a professional to simply do the work, without costing an arm and a leg of course.  As I browsed the list of professionals, on the link I received from the curator, I came across the Carlisle Canoe Company.  Browsing their site, the excitement of doing the job myself quickly returned.  Here was a place where I could actually do the work–guided by a canoe restoration professional, of course–where all the tools are available and where needed materials and parts are custom cut for the job.  I’m still hoping it won’t cost an arm and a leg, but also not too many hammered thumbs as well.

Visions from years ago quickly returned.  Ah… the joy and freedom of paddling over glistening quiet waters in a gleaming restored piece of history… the gentle call of the loon in the distance… wait a sec… who told that seagull it could fly overhead and drop…  Oh well, nothing a good cleaning can’t take care of.  After all, the plan now is to try to secure a place for my treasure at the Toronto Sailing and Canoe Club after all is done, seagulls and all.

I quickly connected with Roger, at Carlisle Canoe, and have now committed to spending at least the first week of my upcoming vacation bringing needed life back to a beautiful (at least I hope so when it’s finished) piece of history.  The project start date is Saturday July 27th, 2013.  That’s not only this year, but this week!

So, stay tuned.  More to come.  And please pray for me (and my thumbs).

Blessings, Ed

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