Heritage Canoe Project: Day 13

Well, I made it through my withdrawal.  Day 13 arrived, appropriately on Friday, September the 13th.  How lucky can that be?  I, for one, felt very lucky having returned again to my canoe project.

The canoe was already inside, awaiting the first coat of varnish for the gunwales and decks.  My first job, however, was to stain the external keel that Roger had already cut to fit.  I didn’t really have to stain the keel, as Roger noted that it wouldn’t be seen under the water, but it would have bothered me whenever I took the canoe out and particularly when I turned it upside down to store.  The canoe was already odd enough without making it more so.  So I stained it mahogany to match the gunwales since it was also made of white ash.  Roger took the time to explain how he cuts and installs gunwales, and why.  The surface that fits against the canoe is beveled, on purpose, to ensure the outer edges kept in contact with the canoe.  This prevents the keel from moving too much when bumped.  In addition, Roger is only concerned with waterproofing the holes where the screws are, as this is the only place where water can get inside from the bottom, rather than try to putty the entire keel to the bottom.  Wonderfully logical to me, again making me thankful I’m working with a pro.

external keeleThen it was time to varnish.  Using a varnish/varsol mix I applied it using a sponge applicator.  Carefully… as I didn’t want any runs and drips either outside or inside the canoe.  The mix was particularly important, as the mahogany decks were extremely dry and sucked the stuff up quickly.  I was glad I hadn’t stained the decks as the mahogany went really dark, even more so than the gunwales that I had stained.  The deck wood, when finished, was beautiful.

varnish mahog deckdeck varnish finished

I also hadn’t stained the black cherry facings on the decks, so they came out much lighter.  (On day 3 I had said these facings were rosewood.  They were not.)  It won’t take too long, however, for the cherry to darken to approximately the same colour as the gunwales.  To finish the day I also varnished the thwarts and seats.  It was only afterwards that I discovered that I should not have varnished the underside of the newly caned areas.  Roger said these should be left to breath, but added that one coat of the varnish/varsol should be ok.

varnished seats thwartsFor me, day 13 work was ended after only a few hours as the varnish had to dry.  I did take some time to chat with Bill who just brought his Old Town canoe from Michigan to repair with Roger.  I told Bill he had come to the right place.  Bill’s canoe was about 75 years old, and had been purchased by his father, so Bill was keen to get it back in shape.  I was really impressed by how solid and well-built the Old Town canoe was especially when Bill told me he had canoed down rapids with it.  I don’t think my canoe could handle rapids.  I think she was built for a much easier lifestyle, and that’s just fine with me.

end of dayAs Roger predicted, he was starting to get busier as the fall set in.  For my job, I have about 3 visits left to go.  Day 14 follows tomorrow.

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 12

Two days in a row was a real bonus for me as, returning to my paying job, it was now difficult scheduling the rest of the work.  I was happy to be back in some sort of routine, and very happy to arrive at Roger’s retreat centre to continue where I left off yesterday.

Roger had put the canoe in the driveway, where there was more light for me to finish the major sanding job that was interrupted by the power failure yesterday.  Driving up to the house and seeing the canoe warmed my heart.  It looked almost ready to taste the water once again, after years of being land-locked.

start of dayLast night Roger had filled all the remaining holes with epoxy, particularly where the decks met the gunwales.

ready for sandingAs a result, my sanding job had significantly increased overnight.  But  I was happy to undertake the task.  I took my time, as I wanted to ensure the decks and gunwales were completely smooth and blended together.  I also decided to sand out the remnants of the old decal, as it looked like a dirty blob instead of a real decal.  Since the rest of the canoe gleamed, it now looked totally out-of-place.  I already had enough pictures to (hopefully) help in locating the manufacturer, so it didn’t worry me to see it vanish under the sander.  After the mahogany decks were sanded, they looked so good that I decided to keep them natural, with only varnish as the finish.  This will (I hope) pleasantly offset the darker interior and gunwales.  After a final hand sanding ,and blowing away of the dust, I was ready to stain so we took the canoe back inside.

ready to stain gunwalesThe staining took longer than I expected.  I found the best way was to use a rag dipped into the stain and ‘brush’ it on using a one-finger method, as I had to be really careful to leave the decks untouched.  We chose the mahogany stain in order to bring the gunwales as close to the colour of the interior as possible.  All the counter-sunk holes in the outer gunwales had to be stained using q-tips along with several unstained places that I found between the gunwales.  Not staining those would have really bothered me every time I used the canoe.  When finished I was very pleased with the result.  The canoe would now have to totally dry before the next step, varnishing.  A job for my next working day.

stained gunwales not stained deckdrying

My final job of day 12 was to complete the caning of the seats.  Once I finished the diagonal caning on both seats, the final finish trim had to be done.  After Roger showed me how to do it, I finally completed the job.  Another time-consuming task was done.

recaned seatsThen came the painful part.  Due to Roger’s and my schedule I was now facing a two-week delay before I could return for day 13.  Oh no!! How was I going to survive?  We are so close to completing.  (Maybe it really will be Christmas before I finish.  OK, maybe not — but perhaps Thanksgiving?)  This time my CRWS (yes, that dreaded Canoe Restoration Withdrawal Syndrome) will definitely kick in again.  Is there therapy for this thing??

After a sad goodbye to the beautiful blue canoe (and Chaucer) I drove home.  At least I have tons of pictures to keep me going.  Till next time…

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Heritage Canoe Project: Day 11

Back again, I arrived anxious to see the canoe after Roger and Doug’s final painting earlier in the week.  The lads did an amazing job.  It was indeed gleaming, and really smooth.  I realized that, although it felt like I’ve been doing this project for ages, it really is only day 11 and thus less than 2 actual weeks of work.  Not very long after all, considering how close we are to completion.

shiny blue canoeToday was outer gunwale installation day.  Over a week ago Roger had cut the gunwales, routed them to fit snugly over the canvas, and clamped them onto custom-made jigs to mirror the severe bend they have to take. This is because the bow and stern have a huge upswing to them, not common for most canoes.

outer gunwhaleWe un-clamped the gunwales so I could sand, stain, and preserve them on the bottom and inside edges before they went on the canoe.  This took a lot of time, as the gunwales had to dry between applications.  Not to waste good working time, I was able to do more caning of the seats during the drying time.

attatch outer gunwhaleBy early afternoon, the gunwales were ready.  After clamping the first one to the canoe, installation began.  After pre-drilling and counter sinking holes every 3 ribs, brass screws were used to attached the outer and inner gunwales together, sandwiching the deck and ribs between them.  The challenge came when we got to the upswept bow and stern, where the large decks were located.  My job was to use brute strength to force and hold the gunwale in place while Roger prepared the holes and screwed it in.

hard work on outer gunwhaleNot being able to see what the screws were attaching to, they often ended up in soft wood which required different screws and longer lengths to ensure attachment.  The second gunwale was then similarly attached.  Thankfully, by the time we finished, all seemed to be holding together.

Once the clamps were removed we took the canoe outside for a major power sanding job, done by yours truly.  Since the exposed outer and inner gunwales were not yet finished, a lot of sanding was required to remove all stain and particularly preserver where it had dripped.  In addition, the leading edges of all 4 gunwales needed rounding and the outer gunwales had to be sanded down to match the level of the decks at the bow and stern.  As I said, a major sanding job.

sand gunwhalesJust as my hands began to feel numb, however, the power in Roger’s house went out.  Good timing, perhaps, as I did have to drive home soon and feeling the steering wheel does help.  So that was all I could do today, but I had still put in about 8 hours.

looks like a real canoe

I felt this was a really great day, particularly as the canoe is visibly taking great shape.  Tomorrow I will return to take on day 12.

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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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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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