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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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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