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      Building a wood/canvas canoe     

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tumblehome
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03/25/2020 03:27PM
I'm starting on one this week. Details to follow with pictures. I'm not in a hurry so it might play out a while.

-Tumblehome
 
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Arcola
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03/25/2020 07:54PM
I for one will be watching.
 
03/26/2020 05:19PM
Sweet, it's been a while since someone's documented a project!
 
tumblehome
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03/28/2020 04:34PM
I built a birchbark canoe back around 2004. This canoe was made with a single sheet of bark across the bottom. Sewn with spruce root.








I haven't built a wood canvas canoe for 10 years. This is the last one I made. It's an Adkinson Traveler.




I've built plenty of strippers.
 
Grizzlyman
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03/31/2020 12:52AM
AWESOME! I will be turning in! Good luck TH!
 
wingnut
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03/31/2020 06:53AM
Nice work. It looks like you've got boat building deep in your bones. I read Jerry Stelmocs Book on cedar canvas boat building this winter. Interesting process and history of canoe building in the northeast. Will you use your original form for your next build?
 
tumblehome
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04/05/2020 02:22PM
Wingnut. Jerry Stelmok's book is a great resource for building a wood/canvas canoe. He also wrote a book about Joe Seliga and his canoe company. Both those books together will permit anyone with a creative mind and tool skills to build a wood/canvas canoe.

For this build, I am renting a solo canoe form from a professional builder. I was prepared to build my own form but was offered his. How can I refuse? Building the form is a time consuming job in itself.

I will begin building this next weekend. For now, I have cut all my planking out of some absolutely beautiful clear white cedar that I've been saving for 20 years. I also have the ribs made, sanded, planed and smoothed the edges. The gunwales are cut now too. I have mahogany for the inwales and black ash for the outwales. And I have a crazy figured piece of maple for the decks and thwarts.

Like usual, I'm hand-caning my seat .









I was prepared to build this in June but I am a not working full-time right now due to the pandemic and have decided to start now. If Canada opens their border before June 6, I'll take this canoe on my annual Quetico trip. I'm hoping it comes in around 50 pounds or less. I will paint it burgundy.
Tumblehome
 
tumblehome
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04/08/2020 12:20PM
I have the form set up for this canoe. It’s 15’6” long with plenty of tumblehome in the center. I’ve been paddling a Merlin the past 20 years and love the canoe. This particular model is somewhat similar in design so I think I will feel at home in it.

I have the stems made and installed on the form and I’ve numbered the ribs so when it comes time to steam them I’ll know where they belong.



 
1JimD
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04/09/2020 09:40AM
Great start ! I'll be following !
Thanks !

Jim
 
tumblehome
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04/12/2020 02:14PM
This weekend my wife and I steamed and bent the ribs over the form. Other than a few cracked ribs, it went well. I made up a few more to replace the cracked ribs. Getting the end ribs over the stems went pretty smooth too. I used lots of steam and some boiling water.



 
tumblehome
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04/15/2020 05:59PM


I’ve started planking the canoe. Since this is a solo, the twists and bends of the planking !re more pronounced than a big tandem. I have found that I need to use boiling water on the planks near the ends on more than just the first plank (called the garboard plank) since they essentially twist nearly 90’ from the bottom of the hull to the where they meet the stems. I also found that I can’t butt the planks up against each other at the ends or they cup. I did a little reading and this is not an uncommon problem. I need to let the planks lay where they want and I will fill in the spaces between the planks at the ends with little cheater planks. Think on super long thin pizza slices.

I’m comfortable with my pace on the canoe. I’m not going to rush it and I’m working out the problems as they arise. I’m looking for a well made canoe when it’s done. I think I’m still on track to take it to Quetico on June 10th.

I do, however, need to let the canoe sit for a full month after I get the canvas on so the filler can cure. We shall see.

Tumblehome
 
tumblehome
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04/19/2020 07:17AM






I made good progress this week working on it now and then. I have most of the initial planking on and am working on the gored planks. This is the area in the middle of the canoe where I have a lot of space to fill in but can’t use long full planks otherwise they would run right off the end of the boat. So shorter planks are used and fit into this space.

I hope to pull it off the form this week and finish the sheer planking and start cleaning up the inside. The sheer plank that runs along the gunwales doesn’t get put on until it’s off the form.

-Tumblehome
 
1JimD
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04/19/2020 07:43AM
Dumb question !

Do those braces extending to the ceiling, ever come loose and fall ?

I'd be worried about them damaging the hull, or Me.

Enjoying this Thread. I would like to live closer and stop by to see you build ! At a Distance of course !

Thanks !

Jim
 
tumblehome
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04/19/2020 01:20PM
1JimD: " Dumb question !


Do those braces extending to the ceiling, ever come loose and fall ?


I'd be worried about them damaging the hull, or Me.

Thanks !


Jim"


Nope they never fall off. They aren't on there too tight but do put a good amount of pressure on the ribs to keep them from losing their shape as I build it. Once I put that board across the bottom of the hull and put the braces on, it's pretty solid. If I was a real builder, I suppose I would have a better arrangement. I am actually more concerned about scratching the ceiling!

Tumblehome
 
wingnut
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04/19/2020 03:39PM
In the Illustrations in Jerry Stelmocks book he holds the first plank in place the same way. Must be a tried and proven method.
 
tumblehome
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04/22/2020 01:44PM


I took the canoe off the form today. It looks better than I thought. One problem with building this type of boat is you don’t know how it looks underneath until you pop it off. Everything looks great. I have a lot of work on the ends getting the planking onto the stems and finishing the planking at the sheer line.

If all goes well I plan to canvas the canoe this weekend.

-tumblehome
 
Grizzlyman
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04/22/2020 06:53PM
Beautiful! Just curious. What that thing weigh at this stage?
 
tumblehome
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04/22/2020 07:34PM
Hey Grizzly,

I'm keeping track of the weight of every item on the canoe. Stems are a pound. Ribs were 9 pounds. Tacks 1 1/2 pounds. Inwales 4.5 pounds.

I haven't weighed it yet since I'm still adding some planking but I will weigh it before I canvas it. I'm guessing it's 25 pounds right now.

-Tumblehome
 
04/22/2020 08:12PM
this is gorgeous. I have a buddy who has just recanvased a 1970s vintage 18’ chestnut prospector. It’s a giant. Curious what you use for filler, my recipe for a canoe this big had seven pounds of clay.
 
SaganagaJoe
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04/23/2020 07:02AM
Boy this is fun to watch. Thanks for sharing.
 
tumblehome
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04/27/2020 01:02PM





I have the canoe all cleaned up and ready for the canvas. The inside is a little dirty and will need some sanding. I also need to sand the outside first. Overall I am happy with the canoe.

It weighs just shy of 30 pounds right now. I also found out that the tacks I’m using on this canoe are made from the same company, on the same machine, that made the tacks for the civil war soldiers’ boots. They’ve been making brass tacks since 1829.

I bought the filler pre-made. I didn’t want to start monkeying around with home-made filler since it’s not something I plan to use often. The filler is made with linseed oil, varnish, and silica. The unmixed goop on the bottom of the can does look and feel like clay but it’s really just powdered sand for the lack of a better term. There might be some other secret sauce in there too, I don’t know.

 
wingnut
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04/28/2020 07:17AM
Very interesting build , thanks for sharing. Concerning those brass tacks. I think there is something about old things that connects with most people.
 
amhacker22
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04/28/2020 10:59AM
Wow!

That's an impressive project getting done with impressive speed. I picked up a used cedar canvas around the time you started this project. I'm still stripping varnish!

Good luck.

-Nick
 
tumblehome
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04/28/2020 02:55PM
wingnut: " Very interesting build , thanks for sharing. Concerning those brass tacks. I think there is something about old things that connects with most people. "

Agreed. I’m an old soul anyways so it just makes my canoe that much better.

I am working on the canoe every day so while I am humming along on it, it’s moving fast because I’ve spent all my free time working on the canoe.

Next pictures will be the canvas.

Tumblehome
 
tumblehome
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05/01/2020 05:34PM


This week I was able to get the canvas stretched over the canoe.


Using a piece of canvas 18’ long, I folded it in half like a taco then using some clamps and a come-a-long, stretched the canvas as much as I could without tearing it. The canoe was dropped in the fold and then stapled at the gunwales.
This is standard procedure for building this type of canoe. I used a carpet stretcher to pull it even tighter at the gunwales before stapling it to the sheer line.



I then cut the canoe free from the clamps and pulled and folded over the canvas at the bow and stern and tacked the canvas at the ends.



After the canvas was tightly covering the canoe, I used the filler to fill in the weave of the fabric. It took three quick coats of the filler to get the weave completely filled, and smoothed out. At this point, the filler needs to dry/cure for a month.

For now I will let it sit for a while and then I’ll be able to finish the inside. Around the end of May I will prime and paint the outside. An interesting note about wood/canvas canoes: the canvas is only covering the wood and not bonded to it. It’s like a tight water resistant blanket tightly covering the hull.

The funny and sad thing about this is that I am building the canoe with the intent of taking it to Quetico June 10th. And from what I hear, it won’t happen with the Covid-19 issue. Oh well, I can’t control that.

I must admit, I am really liking this project, it’s so beautiful to look at. I have a feeling I’m going to build another one soon. The only problem is I have absolutely no need to build myself another boat. I have 7 in the basement. This makes 8.

-tumblehome
 
wingnut
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05/01/2020 08:28PM
Looks like you got the canvas tight and looking good. Do you think this same method, slipping the boat into the taco, could work for a skin on frame boat?
 
1JimD
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05/01/2020 10:38PM
Looks great ! Do you varnish the hull, before adding the canvas ?
 
tumblehome
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05/02/2020 06:48AM
Wingnut, I'm not sure what method is used for a skin on frame boat. I would guess no since the canvas conforms so tightly to the canoe, even something as small as a mosquito caught between the canoe and the canvas is very evident. I think the canvas would not conform without a continuous smooth surface to stretch the canvas over.

I have oiled absolutely everything with Watco so far. The back sides of the ribs and both sides of the planking. Before I stretched the canvas, I learned bout adding varnish to the oil for a more durable finish. The outside of the canoe got a good heavy coat of about a 50:50 mix of oil and varnish.

One trick to keeping the weight down after it's built is to get all the wood water-proofed so it won't suck up moisture while in use.

I think the canoe weights about 42 pounds now based on the 30 pound weight I started with before canvas. I have 4 pounds of canvas on the canoe and I estimate eight pounds of filler. It might be less total weight. I'll weigh it this weekend.

Tom
 
Grizzlyman
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05/02/2020 08:44PM
I had no idea the canvas wasn’t bonded to the wood. I would have thought the compound penetrated the canvas and stuck to the wood underneath like epoxy would.

Few questions. What exactly is the filling compound? Is it an oil based thing, rubbery, or plastic/Epoxy like? Does it get Just rolled / painted on or do you have to force it into the canvas? Does it make the canvas rigid then? - I’d assume so or I would think the canvas would tear or shift somehow since it’s only attached at the gunwales??

Way cool tumblehome!
 
tumblehome
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05/03/2020 07:26AM
Grizzlyman: "I had no idea the canvas wasn’t bonded to the wood. I would have thought the compound penetrated the canvas and stuck to the wood underneath like epoxy would.


Few questions. What exactly is the filling compound? Is it an oil based thing, rubbery, or plastic/Epoxy like? Does it get Just rolled / painted on or do you have to force it into the canvas? Does it make the canvas rigid then? - I’d assume so or I would think the canvas would tear or shift somehow since it’s only attached at the gunwales??


Way cool tumblehome!"


I'm building this canoe using the same construction techniques that were developed maybe 100 years ago. You would think that the canvas was bonded to the hull but it is just a tight skin over the wood hull. Here are two recipes for the canvas filler.

“Commonly Printed” Filler reported by Judah Drob (Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #52)

1 quart boiled linseed oil
4 pounds silica
7 ounces Japan drier
3 quarts turpentine
4 pounds white lead

Harold “Doc” Blanchard’s Filler Recipe (reprinted fromWooden Canoe Issue 52)

5 pounds silica
1 quart spar varnish
2 quarts boiled linseed oil
1/2 pint japan dryer

In the former recipe, white lead was used in addition to the silica as a solid. While it was a good addition to the filler, it was not good for the workers putting it on the canoe. AFAIK it is no longer used by anyone. The latter formula is a common variation. Many builders have their own formula to suite their needs.

The filler is brushed on and the solvents immediately penetrate the canvas weave sucking into the canvas. The first coat absorbs it as fast as you can brush it on. A second coat starts to fill the weave and a third coat fills it completely. Over time, the solvents evaporate out and what is left is a slate-like hard surface that is essentially un-sandable. It is flexible to a degree but none of it has actually bonded to the wood. In theory, I could tear into it and pull it all right off.

The canvas was banjo tight when I filled the weave, but now the filler occupies the spaces in the fabric so there is essentially no tension in the canvas. The gunwales go over the staples and it is a solid mass so it just holds itself on there.

This method will hold the canvas on forever providing you take care of your canoe. And the nice thing is that if it ever needs replacing, it's not a terrible job to get the canoe like new again.

 
tumblehome
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05/16/2020 06:59AM
I'm just waiting for the filler to fully cure. It's going on three weeks now.
I'll soon have more pictures and info as I get it finished.


-tumblehome
 
05/19/2020 05:17PM
Amazing work Tumblehome! I can't wait to see how great it looks when finished.
 
tumblehome
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05/28/2020 06:09PM
After rubbing on the filler, I had to let the canoe sit for a month for the filler to cure/dry.

I have now primed and painted the outside. I used Epiphanes epoxy paint, burgundy
in color. I wanted red, but not bright red. The burgundy was just what I was looking for.




You will notice in the first picture that the outwales are not yet installed. They don’t get installed until after the paint. However, the inwales are part of the initial construction as seen in the next photos.




As you can see, I am just using scraps of wood to hold the shape for now. After the outwales are installed, I will sand everything and then coat them with a mix of 80:20 of linseed oil and spar varnish. Then the seat and thwarts will be Permanently installed.
I also added some half ribs in front of the seat so I can step in without having to do so gingerly. They also add some stiffness to the center of the canoe.

I am quite happy with the canoe. It is just what I was looking for and I’m not sure I would change anything if I built it again. Since this was supposed to go to Quetico next month only to have that plan be dashed, I will take it to the BWCA instead. It will be a shame to scratch it up as I know it will get a little beat up after several days even if being careful. But alas, that is what happens to canoes in the bush. And I did build it for rugged use.

My next project will be a somewhat complicated repair job to my 25 year old stripper Merlin. It’s time to peel the fiberglass off the bottom and rebuild it. I’ll share that process too.

-Tumblehome
 
1JimD
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05/28/2020 08:01PM
Nice Build Tumblehome ! I like the half ribs.
The lines look sweet ! Take it easy on her !

Reglassing the Merlin. Did you use Polyester resin on it ?

Jim

 
tumblehome
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05/28/2020 08:22PM
Hey Jim,

Thankfully, no polyester. I used West System epoxy. I plan to make a jig with a Dremel tool and cut into the glass in the football on the bottom. I will then use a heat gun and slowly pull the glass at the waterline on the entire bottom.

Tom
 
wingnut
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05/29/2020 07:36AM
Nice work on your canoe. looking forward to seeing it when you get the trim work installed and finished.
 
tumblehome
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06/03/2020 06:38PM


Gunwales are installed. Next is about 4 hours of detail sanding. After this I will oil them and install the seat and thwarts. Finally Is the brass stem band and then a test paddle!


I leave next Wed for Snowbank Lake with my new baby.

Tumblehome
 
Arcola
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06/04/2020 07:13AM
Looks to me like it will paddle like a leaf. I need to build another boat.
 
Grizzlyman
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06/04/2020 06:37PM
Arcola: "Looks to me like it will paddle like a leaf. I need to build another boat. "

Haha. Ditto!

Beautiful boat tumblehome!!!
 
tumblehome
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06/05/2020 06:41PM



It’s done!

I spent the past few days sanding the gunwales and cleaning up a few imperfections.
I tell people that a wood canoe is never done until it gets sold or used. I could work on the little things forever but I’ll call it done. I will probably add an accent strip down it this weekend but it goes in the water on Tuesday so I’ll call it done.

It turned out as pretty and functional as I had hoped. I worked on it most every day since I started it back when there was snow on the ground. The fancy maple on the decks and thwarts came from a dumpster. I tend to poke in dumpsters for stuff I can use and a medical therapy bed showed up in a dumpster that was made from maple. This particular piece was enough for the canoe.

It came in at 52#. I could have shaved off a little here and there but I made it as light as I could but it was made for wilderness travel so I am happy with what I have. I would guess that I have 100 hours in it.

This is only my second scratch-made wood/canvas canoe and I learned a lot. If I build another one, there are many things I can improve on. But I am more than happy with what I created. It really makes me wonder why people paddle composites when they could paddle such beauty instead. For the few of you that followed the process, thanks. I feel like a musician in a bar with only a few people at the tables listening. They say —we’re not a large crowd but we’re a proud crowd—.

Maybe I inspired someone to get rid of the Kevlar or worse, aluminum canoe and find that they can do everything in a work or art instead. Pictures of a wilderness sunset with a wood canoe in the foreground only enhances the beauty of the evening. If I can help with ideas, suggestions, or techniques, send my a PM. I’ll share everything I know.
My first wood canoe was built when I was 26. I’m 52 now and have a few more than I should admit under my belt.

Tom




 
1JimD
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06/05/2020 10:03PM
She looks Sweet Tom !
Nicely done !
Well worth a pat on your back !
Just in time for Paddlin Season.

Jim
 
06/06/2020 03:07PM
Beautiful boat. I don’t think many of us appreciate paddling works of art. I couldn’t tell you how many miles I’ve sat in mn2s and thought, god,why do I hate this canoe? There’s a feeling being in a wood canoe that can’t be explained. My dogs expression sums it up.



 
amhacker22
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06/06/2020 09:57PM
That looks fantastic.

Nice!
 
wingnut
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06/07/2020 07:34AM
Very nice. That was a good find on that dumpster dive. I'm guessing you must have seen a bit of wave in the maple to get you to look closer. 52 Lbs is a manageable weight for such a well crafted canoe. I'm still curious what form you used. It looked like it had seen a lot of use. Just wondering about the history of the form.
 
tumblehome
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06/07/2020 03:33PM
Wingnut, I sent you a PM. I'm just not sure if the owner of the form wanted me to tell a public forum where it came from. It is a commercially built canoe belonging to a professional builder.

Tom
 
tumblehome
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06/07/2020 03:36PM


 
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