Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Boat Building’ Category

With the bottom shaped, it’s time to get everything we’ve built so far set up on the strongback.

The plans show a baseline above the midships frame and the bulkheads that represents the top of the strongback. Using this, temporary legs are cut from scrap and fastened with drywall screws. The frame and bulkheads are plumbed and aligned on the strongback and the legs are fastened to cross-cleats.

The stems are fastened to the bottom with screws and glue.

The bottom/stem assembly is placed on the frame and bulkheads and carefully aligned. The bottom is then glued and screwed to the frames and bulkheads.

The stemheads are extra long, extending beyond the sheerline. When the boat is turned upright, these will each be trimmed and shaped into a pleasing curve. In the mean time, the height of the stem and the height of the legs on the frame and bulkheads affects the curvature, or rocker, of the bottom. When the bottom is fastened to the frames and bulkheads and the stems are pulled down tight to the strongback, it introduces a (very slight, for this particular boat has almost no rocker) curvature.

At the moment, the edges of the bottom are square, just as they came from the bandsaw. The bulkheads and the frame, however, are angled so the planks must meet the bottom at an angle and the bottom must therefore be bevelled. How do you find the correct angle? By playing “connect the dots,” or rather “connect the bevels.” Where a bulkhead meets the bottom, you can lay a straight piece of scrap along it and see how much wood must be planed off to make the scrap lie flat.

If you do this at each intersection, and also where the stems meet the bottom, you will have four known points on each side to guide you. The bevel “rolls,” or changes between each of these, so your job is to join these areas up with a fair curve to create this rolling bevel.

Here are four of the most useful tools for doing this kind of work, and in fact four of the most useful tools in a shop that builds traditional small boats. From left to right, they are: a jack plane; a low-angle block plane; a bullnose rabbet plane and a low-angle spokeshave. In the backgound is an awl, useful for clearing chips and shavings from the throats of the tools.

The next pieces to be added are the sheer clamps, which define the upper edge of the hull. These are important elements that join the sheer plank, decks and stems together, so they’ll be gotten out of white oak. I couldn’t find any stock long enough, so I ripped a shorter piece of white oak and scarphed it together with epoxy, using an 8:1 angle.

Ripping this long, flexible piece takes careful preparation, so I’ve made some temporary supports to hold before and after it passes over the saw. As usual, the preparation takes about 5 times longer than it does to make the actual cut. Once the sheer clamps are ripped, they are planed to the final dimensions.

The clamps fit into pre-cut notches in the bulkheads and frames. At each stem, they must be cut so that the planking will flow smoothly off them and on to the stem bevel. This is pretty easy at one end, using a bevel gauge to lift the correct angle and cut the end of the clamp. At the other end, though, the untrimmed end will be in the way of an exact measurement, so it requires some careful thought to cut the correct angle at the correct length.

With the bevels cut in each end, the sheer clamps are screwed to the frame, bulkheads and stems.

Everything is now in place for planking, where we’ll pick up next time.

Until then. . .

Read Full Post »

We’re doing a construction diary of Harry Bryan’s double-paddle canoe Fiddlehead. In the last post, we were laying out the shape of the bottom, so let’s pick up from there.

A finishing nail is driven in at each point, and then a flexible batten is held against it with other nails to make  a smooth curve. This leaves a few small holes, but they tend to disappear as the project goes on.

It’s tough being fair in both life and boatbuilding. Before the curve is drawn, it’s important to sight down it and make sure that it’s “fair,” without humps or hollows or flat spots. The longer your view of the curve, and the lower the angle you view it from, the easier it is to spot unfairness. If you see a spot that looks flat or hooked, pulling the nail and watching the batten move will tell you if you have a problem. Sometimes I nail a line and go for a walk before drawing it.

The fair curves of the bottom are bandsawed just outside the pencil lines.

The sides of the bottom are then dressed down to the pencil lines with a block plane.

The shape of the watertight bulkhead is transferred from the plan to masonite to make a pattern.

The bulkheads are made up of two diagonally-opposed layers of ¼” cedar glued together with epoxy. Cut from random widths of cedar, they make economical use of scraps from the bottom planks.

A completed bulkhead with the pattern. The circular hole in the middle will have a screw-in watertight hatch.

Since we’ll be building this boat with classes, I’ve made masonite patterns for all of the smaller parts, including the midships frame, the stems and the coaming brace. These were made the same way as the bulkhead pattern, by pricking through the plan and then joining the points with pencil lines.

Finished spruce pieces for the stems and the midships frame.

Transferring the curved line showing the start of the stem from the pattern to the stem.

To be continued. . .

Read Full Post »

The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario is setting up a new workshop and teaching space called the Living Tradition Workshop. Created in honour of Walter Walker, the eminent Lakefield Ontario builder of wooden canoes (primarily in the longitudinal strip technique) who passed away two years ago at 101, the new space will be used to share the techniques of canoe building, repair and restoration with museum visitors. It should be open by early fall this year.

The museum has a long history and quite a bit of expertise in dealing with birchbark, wood-canvas and longitudinal strip canoes. Until now, however, they haven’t had a chance to spend much time with the kind of lightweight lapstrake construction that was one of the main techniques of recreational canoe building in the later years of the 19th century. What better way to inaugurate the new workshop than to build a little lapstrake canoe?

The canoe I chose for this project is called Fiddlehead, and was designed by Harry Bryan. Harry is a frequent contributor to WoodenBoat and has a fine eye for a sheerline and a traditional hull. He also has a unique design philosophy, and his website is replete with beautiful small boats with a minimal environmental footprint.

 Fiddlehead is a flat-bottomed version of the kind of small double-paddle canoe popularized by John MacGregor and his Rob Roy designs in the early years of recreational canoeing by way of J.H. Rushton’s famous Wee Lassie.She can can be built in three sizes, but I’ve chosen the smallest, 10 1/2′ overall, because it will work best for classes where we’re building multiple boats and has all the features of lapstrake construction in a nice compact package. Here’s what she’ll look like when she’s done. That’s Harry himself at the helm.

The museum’s new workshop is still under construction, so I’ve started the canoe in my shop at home to get the project rolling. Here’s the first part of a Fiddlehead construction diary.

Every project begins with careful study of the plans and instructions.

The bottom is made from three white cedar planks, edge-glued together with epoxy.

Once the bottom planks are glued together, the squeezed-out glue is planed off and the bottom is sanded. And now the usual disclaimers about safe shop practices. 1) Yes, I do have bare feet; 2) no, I don’t normally do that in the workshop, but when you’re taking pictures of yourself with the self-timer and not really working but only pretending to work, that’s what sometimes happens; 3)I also don’t normally wear safety glasses when using a low-angle block plane (notwithstanding what the product liability lawyers might have recommended) but in this case I have reading lenses in my safety glasses so I don’t beat up my good glasses in the shop.

The width of the bottom at certain stations is transferred from the plans (see, I have my steel-toed safety Birkenstocks on in this photo!)

To be continued. . .

Read Full Post »

 

I’m going to take a break from writing about the restoration of the Old Town sailing canoe to talk about some boating books. Reading books about boats and boating (and buying books about boats and boating!!) is something I enjoy almost as much as boats themselves. Turning away from my desk to look over my bookshelves, I’ve made a quick selection of some volumes I think are worth talking about. At the top of my list are works by William Piccard Stephens.

Better known as W.P., Stephens (1854-1946) is one of the giant figures in late 19th and early to mid 20th century boating. A true polymath, Stephens participated in his chosen sports as a builder, designer, yachtsman, editor and writer. Among his most enduring contributions to yachting and boating are his written works. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of words, he performed an invaluable service by documenting the history of North American yachting and boating, working from both meticulous research and considerable first-hand knowledge and experience.

My favourite book of his, hands down, is Canoe and Boat Building, or, to give its full magnificent 19th century title: Canoe and Boat Building. A Complete Manual for Amateurs. Containing Plain and Comprehensive Directions for the Construction of Canoes, Rowing and Sailing Boats and Hunting Craft. . .With Numerous Illustrations and Fifty Plates of Working Drawings. The copy I have to hand as I write this is the 5th of many editions, published in 1891. One can find copies on the second-hand market, but they are usually shorn of their plates. These 50 large-format drawings were sold in a separate folder, printed on very thin, almost tissue-paper-like stock, and most have not survived. Mystic Seaport Museum performed a great public service in 1987 when they compiled and published a complete set of plates, at the original size, from two original editions of the book. Canoe and Boat Building has been reprinted in paperback by Dover, that indefatigable reviver of out-of-print materials. You can also read a scanned copy of the 9th edition, along with the original plates, at the website of Dragonfly Canoes.

This book could be a litmus test for whether you are the least bit interested in small boats and boatbuilding. If you think you are, I defy you to read through even the first chapter and not want to head straight for the workshop, and/or the lumberyard, to start a project right away. Canoe and Boat Building is an almost inexhaustible well to which I return regularly for advice, inspiration or simply daydreaming. An added bonus for me is that the greater part of the book is given over to the building of decked sailing canoes, of which Stephens was one of the chief American exponents. Though there are some classic examples of sneakboxes, canoe yawls, sailing skiffs and a handsome little Delaware River Tuckup, it’s pretty much all sailing canoes, all the time.

The writing is characteristic of Stephens and his late Victorian age. It is sensible, practical, energetic and straightforward, and assumes that you want to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. In 18 chapters, an appendix and descriptions of the plates, Stephens gives you all that you need to know about building a sailing canoe, from making a model through lofting, building methods, rigging, rudders and centerboards and finally canoe-cruising accessories such as tents, stoves and camp beds. While the gear you take with you (and what you pay for it!) has changed, much of Stephens’ basic advice about laying down, building and rigging is as fresh and useful as the day it was written.

Stephens was involved in recreational canoe sailing and travelling from its earliest days, and in addition to its other virtues, Canoe and Boat Building is a history of the sport written by someone who was not only there but in it up to his ears. The decked sailing canoes illustrated in the plates, from Stephens’ own Shadow-model canoe Dot through the British Invasion Nautilus and Pearl boats of Warington Baden Powell and E.B. Tredwen to Robert Gibson’s game-changing Vesper and later developments such as Pecowsic, are a hall of fame of the most significant sailing canoe designs of the late 19th century.

Canoe and Boat Building is a book well worth owning and reading repeatedly for anyone interested the history of recreational small craft in North America and also, of course, the wonderful sport of canoe sailing. In the next post I’ll talk about Stephens’ other monumental work: Traditions and Memories of American Yachting. Until then. . .

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts