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 The history of the canoe building companies that were a significant part of the economic life of Peterborough, Ontario, for more than one hundred years is as rich and tangled a story as you’re likely to find in Canadian business history. Invention, entrepreurship, patents, lawsuits, rivalries, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and catastrophic fires: it’s a tale that has all this and more. It is also a complicated story, and those who are interested in canoeing history, Canadian history, Canadian business history and the story of how the city of Peterborough, Ontario came to be synonymous around the world with the canoe will have a much easier time figuring it out after they have read Peterborough author Ken Brown’s new book: The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories.

This isn’t Brown’s first crack at the subject. In 2001, The Canadian Canoe Museum published published his book The Invention of the Board Canoe: the Peterborough stories from their sources, which compiled primary source material to explore competing claims for the origin of the Peterborough area’s unique wide-board method of canoe construction. This first book was a modest pamphlet, which did invaluable service in clarifying an important part of the local canoeing story. It wasn’t, however, a book that you would be likely to leave out on your coffee table, or give to anyone but the most hardened canoe-head as a Christmas or birthday present (don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a criticism. I’ve read and enjoyed and used it, and I’ll be forever grateful that he wrote it.) With the publication of this new volume, which has been more than fifteen years in the making, Brown has really raised the bar. Now we’re definitely in gift and coffee table territory, and several people I know will be getting one for Christmas.

Reading through this book and learning about the challenges that faced these entrepreurs as they developed their businesses, we are reminded that although the canoes they built are revered today for their craftsmanship, they were originally made in an un-romantic, hard-headed commercial environment. Brown has done an excellent job with the business history of this industry, not surprising considering that his working life was spent as a chartered accountant. This is an aspect of maritime history that is often neglected, and it is refreshing to see it treated in such detail. It also helps to bring the story out, for we see both the sucesses and the failures of these companies, both the good decisions and the bad.

The book is amply illustrated and visually sumptuous, and publisher Karen Taylor and graphic designer Louis Taylor have done a fine job bringing the story to life. The 16 pages of colour plates at the end are a real treat, as is the back inside cover, which identifies the sites of companies connected with Peterborough’s canoe industry from 1858-1961. This map is particularly valuable because few of these structures are still extant today and these industries which were such a prominent part of downtown Peterborough for so many years are now invisible.

Highly-recommended and just in time for Christmas, The Canadian Canoe Company & the early Peterborough Canoe Factories is available from Cover to Cover Publication Services and from The Canadian Canoe Museum, which also carries The Invention of the Board Canoe: The Peterborough stories from their sources.

In this shot, the covering boards have been varnished on the underside and permanently screwed to the boat. Where they cover the watertight compartment of each end, they’ve also been bedded in sealant. I’ve also taken the outer stem off, buttered it with bedding compound, re-attached it using all of the screws and epoxied a tapered wooden plug ineach screw hole which will be trimmed flush later.

The inwales receive a coat of bedding compound on their backs before being screwed in place for good.

With all of the decking and outwales permanently fastened, it’s time to start building up the finish. The first coatis usually thinned at least 50% to penetrate deeply and raise the grain.

Even a thinned coat begins to bring out the nice warm look of the cherry.

The next step is the cockpit coamings. Because of the way Harry has designed the ends, they don’t have to fit together closely, but it still takes a couple of tries of clamping them in place dry to get the fit right.

It’s a good idea to use clamping pads on the inside of the coaming to avoid marking it with the c-clamps. It’s also a good idea to not press too hard on the portion of the coaming that extends above the deck, or you might split it and have to get out another one in a hurry (this last sentence was written by the voice of experience!).

With both sides trimmed and clamped in place, the coaming can be fastened. You’ll need to measure carefully from the bottom up to make sure the screws hit the carlin and not the deck.

At each end of the coaming, a triangular block of cherry fastens the two ends together.

The block is fastened in place from the outside with four screws through the coaming.

After the block is fastened, the top and bottom are faired into the coaming.

Now is a good time to stand back and look at the coaming. For this boat, I decided that it was a little too high in the middle, so I got out the plane and gave it some more sheer. Do this carefully, and don’t forget to sight from each end as well as each side as you’re working.

The coamings in place.

The designer has come up with an ingenious solution for finishing the coamings which avoids what can be a tricky raking beveled cut. It begins by sawing off the rough ends of the coaming and the triangular block.

This leaves a blunt surface at each end.

This is finished with another triangular block that sits on the deck cap.

This little block ties everything together nicely.

This is attached with a little thickened epoxy.

And left to dry overnight.

Then it’s back to sanding, fairing the coaming and blocks together into a pleasing whole with smooth transitions between the different pieces.

And then it’s back to varnishing, building up a good solid surface.

Because I was in a bit of a hurry, I used a quick-drying acrylic enamel on the exterior hull and the interior bottom.

The last step was to make some nice cherry floorboards that go in in two sections. And here we are, a finished Fiddlehead.

Here’s a shot from above showing how the beveled end of the outwale fits against the stem.

With the end of the outwale cut and beveled, the outwale is clamped amidships.

It’s important to make sure that it’s clamped so that this end fits tightly, and to make a centerline hash mark so you can find this position again, because now comes the tricky part: fitting the other end.

Before the bevel from the other end can be transferred to the stock,we need one other important mark. Bending the outwale in as far as it will go, transfer the intersection of the outer stem and sheer plank to the stock.

Now transfer the bevel using the mark just made as the origin point on the inboard side.

Check that midships hash mark again, then cut the other end of the outwale. I usually cut it at least 1/8” too big and then gradually fit it into place.

The screws that fasten the outwale on are highly visible, and it looks terrible if they’re not lined up evenly, so I clamped a block to the drill press along which the outwale slides, ensuring that the countersunk holes are in a straight line.

Here’s the finished outwale fastened in place.

Here’s a long shot. The outwale makes a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the boat because the shadows cast by it on the sheer plank really define that important curve.

Now you can see what a nice effect the deck cap gives: the lines of the outwale, deck edge and deck cap edge all converge on our nicely-finished stemhead.

Once both outwales are fitted, the combination of curves that make up this little canoe is visible. This is a stage where taking your time really matters, because these are the details people will notice on the finished boat. It took me a whole day, for instance, just to get out and fit the outwales.

Now that everything has been dry fitted, it’s time to take off the decking to varnish the underside side before final assembly.

Until next time. . .

Until now, the hood ends of the planks at the stems have only been roughly trimmed, mainly to get them out of each other’s way when the planking was going on. They need to be dressed down to a smooth curve and square across the end of the boat. This latter part is tricky, as it’s very easy to trim them at an angle and take off too much on one side. The block plane, the spokeshave and even a belt sander all have their place in this step, though it’s very easy to overdo it with the latter tool. It’s best to work slowly and take only a stroke or two before checking with the template again.

One way to test the accuracy of the curve you’re shaping, and especially whether it’s square across the boat, is to use the inside of the outer stem, which has been cut from cherry stock using the inner stem pattern from the plans as a template. At this point, the outer stem is still rough stock, though the inside edge has been faired.

Once the curve was dressed down to a fair shape that also fits the inboard face of the outer stem, I made a template for next time which was checked against both the inboard face of the inner stem and the outboard face of the planks on the boat.

After the fastening holes are marked on the outer stem and carefully checked to see that they won’t conflict with any of the hood end fastenings already on the boat (something which becomes increasingly complicated as the building process goes on and you add more fasteners) they are drilled and countersunk on the drill press to make sure they’re square. While holding the stem on the boat, I also made marks to remind myself at the drill press what angle the holes should be drilled at.

Often, the planking will be a little thicker in way of the gains, so now is a good time to check the width and dress it down if necessary.

The width at the forefoot has been picked up with an adjustable caliper, and when that is brought down to the sheer, it’s apparent that some wood has to come off this pair of laps. When you dress this down, you’ll also find out if you’ve countersunk the hood end screws far enough(!).

The outer stems are fastened on, but only with the topmost and bottom screws, as they will be removed and put back a few more times as everything is fitted together.

With the boat right side up, the shaping of the stem can begin. Here I’m marking the intersection of the top of the deck cap and the back of the stem curve as a reminder for when the stem top is being shaped.

The final width of the outer face of the stem is marked to shape the tapered cutwater. As you can see from the edge of the line I’m drawing, it’s just slightly wider than the countersink holes, which will be filled with glued plugs a little later. This is why it’s important to get those screw holes in a straight line.

The stemhead was roughly cut on the bandsaw. Now we need a nice radius for the top, and the handle of a foamie looks to be just the right radius to continue the curve I’ve already cut.

The radius marked for final dressing, along with a line that continues the sheer.

The final shape of the stemhead has been made on a belt/disk sander. This is a powerful tool with which it’s easy to take off too much wood. In this case, you can see that I’ve not completely followed my own line, and so the bottom of the convex part droops down instead of following the sheer—oh well, that’s the kind of detail that gets better with practice.

The next step is to fair the covering boards to the sheer planks. I’ve made three flat sanding blocks by tacking cut-up sanding belts onto pieces of oak. This is one area where you must back up the sandpaper with a hard block, as you’re aiming to fair everything together with a smooth curve based on the plan view of the sheer plank.

Because the cherry is harder that the cedar, I’m pressing a little harder on the upper edge of the block and using long, sweeping, overlapping strokes as I move down the boat. You could use a plane, but caution is required as the ringnails that fasten the sheer plank to the sheer clamp are not far below the edge of the sheer, and they’ll take a big nick out of your nice sharp plane blade if you hit one.

As always, it’s important to periodically stop and sight along the work to make sure it’s fair. In this case, running your hand along it can often tell you as much by feel as by eye.

With the sheerline faired, we have a nice even surface on which to mount the outwales, as I would call them, or the “guards,” as the designer prefers. When I made the cutwater on the outside stem, I left a square portion just below the sheerline. This provided a place to drill a hole for the painter, and it will also let me land the ends of the outwales and make a nice clean finish that ties the outer stem and planking together. The first step is to get a small bevel gauge.

This is fitted right into the intersection of the outer stem and sheer plank to pick up the angle.

That bevel is then transferred to the end of the outwale stock.

Here’s where the outwale will be fitted, and you can see what a nice job it will do of marrying everything together (and covering over the gap where I inadvertently trimmed the upper edge of the sheer plank a little too much—that’s what trim does!)

I’ve made a little mockup piece of outwale to test the angle on the end. It’s a nice touch to put a little upward taper in the end of a piece like this to lighten it up visually. In this case, that’s also a good idea because when I was drilling the painter hole I wasn’t really thinking of the outwale, and so if I don’t taper the end upward, it will awkwardly clip the top of the hole.

Until next time. . .

The rough-cut covering board is clamped in place to check for fit, and the inside edge of the carlin is traced on the bottom.

Back on the bench, the inside edge is planed to the traced line. By skewing the block plane, it can cut the inside curve, even though the sole is longer than the radius of the curve.

On the boat, the centreline ends of the covering boards are carefully trimmed to make a tight joint.

The covering boards dry-fitted. The outer edges are still rough, and won’t be completely trimmed until they’re fastened for good.

With the forward ends fitted and clamped, the midships butt joint is carefully marked and trimmed square.

The first pair of covering boards fitted and fastened.

With the covering boards fastened, the coaming support knees can be fastened in place.

Just for fun, we brought the museum’s c. 1905 Rushton double-paddle out for comparison with the Fiddlehead. With the exception of a little bit of epoxy and the fact that the Rushton boat is round-bottomed and has steam-bent ribs, there’s not much difference at all between the two.

When the second pair of covering boards is fitted, the midships butt joint is finished before the final trimming takes place elsewhere to ensure a tight fit.

The final covering board clamped in place for trimming.

I usually centrepunch fastening holes with an awl to ensure that the bit doesn’t skate sideways when the hole is being started.

With the covering boards fastened, the tops of the coaming support knees can be dressed down flush—because of the angle at which they meet the carlins coming down from the bulkhead, there will be a little bit to take off.

The final step before the second layer of decking is to add three trim strips to bring the top of the bulkhead and carlin up flush with the surface of the covering boards. These have been taped in place for now and will be glued later.

All of the main decking and framing dry-fitted, ready for the next level.

You may have noticed in earlier post that when we were making patterns for the covering board and decking that the decking stopped short of the bow. After thinking about it some more, we decided to go with a more Peterborough-style deck. So, I made a new pattern for the deck so that it and the covering boards converged at the stem. The final step will be to cover the long centre deck seam that runs from the forward end of the coaming to the stem with a long narrow deck cap. There are several advantages to this style, not the least of which is that the long seam between the deck halves doesn’t have to be tight. If you put your hand under the deck of an old Peterborough canoe, chances are you will feel a gap between the two halves of the deck planking.

The two halves of the deck meet at a slight angle owing to the crown of the deck. In order for the deck cap to lie flush, this crown must be taken off the centerline with a plane and sandpaper.

The deck cap is just a long, straight-grained cap which tapers from just under 2” wide at its inboard end to just a bit wider than the inboard face of the outer stem at the outboard end—the final trimming will be done once the outer stem is in place.

One end of the deck dry-fitted, showing how the three levels work together.

An inboard view.

Ready for the coamings.

The pleasing shape of the deck and cockpit are beginning to emerge.

Until next time. . .

The canoe in the Canadian Canoe Museum’s Living Traditions Workshop, where I’ll finish it off in time for the raffle drawing on October 15th.

Beginning to install the deck framing. We didn’t have any nice spruce around, but did have some white oak, so we wentwith that. The centre carlin butts up against the aft face of the stem at each end.

I made a little stop for the carlin to sit on to simplify fastening it to the stem.

The centre carlin in place at the stem.

The side carlins, which support the and the side decks and the cockpit coaming, die into the centre carlin just aft of the bow. This means a beveled end, which I’ve scribed off the boat and cut on the bench.

One of the side carlins in place, notched through the watertight bulkhead.

The carlins are screwed down into the bulkheads.

They are also fastened into the deck supports of the midships frame. Because the screw is going in cross-grain, it’s a good idea to clamp the deck support before drilling, and make sure that the drill is going in dead straight.

The side and centre carlins fitted and fastened.

The covering boards, or side decks, butt together near the middle of the canoe, so we’ve made a little oak butt block to go underneath that joint and fastened it in place through the carlin.

The butt block is also fastened in through the sheer plank.

With all of the deck framing in place, we can clamp on some deck stock and begin to take off the shape. The museum has lots of cherry left over from paddle-carving classes, so we’ll give this Fiddlehead an upgrade to cherry decks, coamings and rub rails. Because we’ll be building this boat again, I’m using some leftover cedar planking to make patterns first before I cut the cherry.

The edges of the carlins are traced on to the bottom of the pattern stock and it is bandsawed to approximate shape, as always leaving the line.

Once it is cut out, the pattern is placed back on the boat and trimmed to final shape. I also took the precaution of trying it on the other three quarters of the canoe as well to make sure there wasn’t too much variation in the finished size.

The carlins make good guides for trimming the inside edge of the pattern to final shape.

The covering board pattern trimmed to final size and taped in place.

On this canoe, the deck laps over the covering board, so another piece of pattern stock is put in place to trace off the shape of the deck.

I wanted to get the fit between the deck pattern and the coaming just right, so I mocked up the bent coaming from a scrap piece of planking.

The patterns for the covering board and the centre deck in place.

Since this boat is the same at each end [and, depending how well it’s built, the same on each side!], one pattern for each piece of deck should suffice. It’s wise to leave a generous margin when first cutting them out, though.

With the patterns in hand, it’s much easier to make efficient use of your stock and make sure you avoid knots and other irregularities. Here I’m tracing the first pattern on the cherry stock, which has already been planed to its finished thickness of 3/16”.

Until next time. . .

The middle plank is beveled and ready for the sheer plank.

The sheer plank dry-fitted in place.

It’s important to keep sighting the lower edge of the plank to make sure the curve is sweet and fair, as these are highly visible on the finished boat.

The sheer strake fitted and clench-nailed.

The sheer plank is epoxied to the oak sheer strake, and it is also fastened with bronze ringnails. First, a 1/16” pilot hole is drilled for each nail.

Then they are nailed in, backed up with the clenching dolly.

All planked, taking a moment to admire the finished job. The little “porcupine” quills sticking out of the planking near the bottom are small dowels being glued in the holes where the drywall screws held the garboard on during the clench nailing.

The sheer plank is planed down to the level of the oak sheer clamps.

Out the window, onto the truck and down to the Canadian Canoe Museum for finishing.

Until next time. . .

One of the most useful tools for beveling the laps  is a bullnose rabbet plane, here a Stanley #90. Unlike a regular plane, the iron of the bullnose rabbet plane goes right out the edge of the sole, so you can keep it right on the pencil line. Its sole also just happens to be close to the same with as the lap bevel on this boat.

At each bulkhead/frame, wood is removed until the straightedge lies flat with its upper edge touching the penciled lap line. You need to be careful not to take off too much, which you can see I’m just on the verge of doing here. The thickness of the bottom edge will depend on the shape of the boat’s hull. Here, the bottom becomes a feather edge. If you do that at each known point, it’s then a relatively simple matter to connect these bevels with a smooth transition. Unless you’re making a boat with flush-lap or guideboat-lap planking, all of the beveling takes place on the lower plank.

We’re back to spiling now. The middle planks will go on in one piece, so the spiling batten goes full length.

The second plank is clamped in place to check for fit. If you’ve done a good job ofspiling, it will just touch the lap line and the marks on each frame/bulkhead showing the lower edge. The next round of fastenings will go in the upper edge of this plank, through the 5/8” lap of the plank below it, and be clenched on the inside of the boat.

In order to do the clench-nailing, we need to clamp the plank in place, but the edge we need to clamp is about 5 ½” away from the lower edge, and most clamps don’t have a deep enough throat to reach. We need lap clamps. These may be for sale somewhere, but everyone I know makes their own. I took a couple of hours one afternoon and made up half a dozen from some scrap cherry left over from the paddle project. They’re hinged at the butt end, sometimes with leather but here with little metal hinges, and the middle is just a carriage bolt with a wing nut. These are a medium size with a 6” throat, but you can alter the pattern to make whatever size you need.

Here are some lap clamps in place on the upper edge of the plank. As well as holding the planks together for clench-nailing, they also let you make a final check of how well your laps are beveled.

A lap clamp in action from underneath the boat.

Before fastening the middle plank, we need to mark out the fastening line.

It’s easiest to do this on the bench, using the same gauge we made to mark the plank laps. The laps are 5/8” wide, and we want the fastenings more or less in the middle, so here we’re marking a line 5/16” in along the upper edge of the plank.

The middle plank is fastened. This time, there are screws in the hood ends at the stem, but all of the other fastenings are clench nails, once again driven from the outside and clenched inside.

2 planks on, one more to go.

Until next time. . .

At the end of the last post, you’ll remember that had just fitted and fastened one garboard? Well, when we went to trim the rough end of the planking the next day, a split developed near the stem where the plank twists the most. There was already a little split at the scarph, and we started to think that perhaps that plank should come off. As we were looking at it to make the decision, the plank decided for itself, splitting even further. So, off it came, which meant pulling the fastenings, pulling the plank, cleaning off the sealant and plugging the fastening holes with dowels. The twist in the garboard planks from midships to the end meant that there was too much tension in the plank (rule number one: there should always be more tension on the boatbuilder than on the plank!). So, for the next round, we soaked the stem end in boiling water.

The plank was then clamped to the form and allowed to dry. When it was removed, it sprang back a little ways ( probably more than it would have if we had steamed it properly) but retained enough shape that there wasn’t a lot of tension exerted in the final fitting and and the fastenings were holding it in place instead of pulling it into place.

So, once more we fastened the garboard on. This time, we followed the suggestion of the designer and added a couple of drywall screws with washers under their heads from the garboard into the bottom just to hold the plank in close while it was fastened, because it’s not possible to get a clamp in that joint.

With the plank held in place, the fastening holes are marked and drilled with a 1/16” pilot hole.

One at a time, the copper tacks are driven from the outside and clenched inside on the bottom.

The tools of clench-nailing, left to right. A backing dolly. This can be any heavy piece of metal, but I like these panel-beater’s dollies used by auto body shops. They’re nicely curved to fit inside the hull, have a good handle and cost a lot less than the fancy canoe-builder’s clenching irons. Then, a box of 5/8” sharp-pointed cut copper tacks and finally a hammer. A nice small hammer, not a big beastly 16 oz. framing hammer. Clenching requires a series of light, fast strokes to gradually turn and set the nail on the inside of the boat. Oh, and coffee. Can’t build boats without coffee.

While tapping from the outside, the inside hand holds the dolly tight to the point of the nail, gradually turning it into the wood down (towards the bottom of the boat) and across the grain for best holding power.

The 10:1 scarph has been cut in the plank on the bench before it gets fastened in the boat.

The other half of the garboard is overlapped, and the start and finish of the scarph joint are transferred to it. You can also see where the fastenings have been marked out.

The finished scarph. The fastenings are driven from the outside in at the thin end, and the inside out at the thick end. We really should have turned the points of the clench nails more down and across the grain for best holding power. The bottom of the scarph will be faired up before the next plank is fitted.

The other end of the garboard fastened in place, showing the #6 x ¾” screws in the garboard and the #8 x ¾” in the stem.

After fastening, the ends are roughly trimmed to make room for the plank on the other side.

After sawing close to the line, the rough trimming is finished with a spokeshave.

Fitting the second garboard. Where it’s difficult to put a clamp, you can use a “hutchet,” a piece of scrap stock that holds the plank in place.

The second garboard fitted and waiting to be trimmed.

Using the lower edge of the plank as a guide, the laps are marked out. Here, they are 5/8″ wide.

Before beveling the laps, I took a few minutes to trim the edges of the fitted and fastened garboards flush with the bottom.

In order to make the plank edges lie against each other on the lap, the upper edge of the lower plank (once the boat is right side up, that is) needs to be  beveled. There are five places on each side of the boat where you can find out what the bevel should be: at each end, where it tapers to a feather edge; at the two watertight bulkheads and at the midships frame.

Placing a straight edge on the mark showing the edge of the next plank will tell you how much needs to be taken off. What you’re aiming for is to have the straight edge touch the pencil line showing the upper limit of the lap, so as you can see, there’s quite a corner there now to be removed.

Until next time. . .

At the end of the last post, we were ready to start planking. This is the part where lapstrake canoe construction gets really interesting.

“Spiling” is the process of deriving the shape of a plank from the boat itself. It’s one of those things that you can read about over and over again and not be sure how it works, but as soon as you see it in practice it all becomes clear (sort of like lofting). Fiddlehead‘s designer Harry Bryan has helpfully provided dimensions for plank patterns on the plans, but using those presupposes that we’ve built a framework that’s exactly the same as his. Spiling is a good thing to learn and practice, so we’ve decided to spile for the planks instead. To do this, we need some key pieces of information. When we made the stems, we picked up the heights of the top edges of the three planks on each side of the hull from the plans and marked them on the stems. We also know where the plank edges cross the frame and bulkheads because this boat has those flat faces pre-dressed so there’s a definite point where one plank begins and another ends, and they’re also shown on the plans (on a round-bottomed hull with steam-bent frames,  you would need to “line out” the hull for the planking, but that’s another project).

To pick up the shape of a plank, a 2 1/2″ wide masonite spiling batten is stapled to the bulkheads and frame between the bottom edge of the plank and the marks showing the top edge of the “garboard,” or first plank. The shape of the spiling batten is NOT the shape of the finished plank, but rather a tool to help you derive the shape of the plank.

Using a compass set to a consistent width (here 3”), the point is placed on the edge of the bottom and the pencil end traces an arc on the spiling batten. There will be quite a number of points on the upper edge of the batten (which will define the lower edge of the plank—are you still with me?) but only three points on the bottom edge of the batten at the frame, bulkhead and stem.

The batten is temporarily stapled on to a piece of plank stock large enough to accommodate the full shape of the plank once the measurements have been expanded back from the spiling batten.

Now the marking process is reversed to re-locate the edges of the space the plank will have to fill on the boat. Each arc traced from the boat on to the batten left a partial circle. The compass point is placed where one side of that circle crosses the edge of the batten and an arc is swung on the stock. When the compass point is placed on the other side of the circle where it crosses the batten edge and another arc is swung, their intersection marks the edge of the plank—ain’t geometry wonderful?

If you look closely you should just be able to see the penciled arcs on the batten, along with a notation as to the width of the compass.

A finishing nail is driven in at each intersection, and a batten is sprung.

Here you can see the spiling batten and the shape of the right-hand edge of the plank, which is (hopefully!) the shape of the space on the boat that the finished plank will occupy.

Here the other edge of the plank has been de-spiled (yes, that’s a word, a least in the boat shop) and a second batten sprung to show the other edge of the plank.

Once everything looks fair, the battens are held down and traced to show the final shape of the plank.

The rough-cut plank is clamped in place to test for fit.

Quick-clamps with large, rubber heads are perfect for working with the soft cedar planking. They can also be opened and closed with one hand, which is a great help to the solo boatbuilder.

A bow view shows the significant twist in a garboard plank, which must make a transition from nearly horizontal in the middle of the boat to nearly vertical at the stem. The white cedar planking is limber enough to make this twist without steaming, but only just, and needs to be handled carefully at the stem.

With the plank clamped temporarily in place you can check to see how good a job you did with the rolling bevel and tune it up where necessary.

The excess planking is trimmed off about 1” beyond the stem.

These garboard planks will be scarphed together near the middle of the boat. Measuring back 2 ½” from the end of the plank will give a 10:1 scarph joint, which can be cut with a good sharp chisel.

The scarph can also be cut with a low-angle block plane. This is the kind of work which will quickly let you know whether your tools are sharp enough or not.

This boat is truly double ended, so the first plank can be traced and cut out to make the second, and then if you do it twice more you’ll have the planks cut for the other side, too.

As always, bandsaw a little outside the line (“leave the line!” the old craftsmen say) and then dress right down to it with a sharp block plane.

There are many nice features of a low-angle block plane, one of them being that it’s light enough to hold in one hand, so you can either push it away from you or pull it towards you, depending on which way the grain wants you to go.

Here’s the scarph joint being fitted on the boat. Traditionally the scarph faces aft on the boat, but since you don’t decide which end of the Fiddlehead is the bow until you put the backrest in, we’ll just make them all face the same way.

The first pair of planks dry-fitted and ready for fastening.

Garboards are the trickiest planks to fit, so a couple of friends dropped by to help. Beth Stanley and Jeremy Ward both work at the Canoe Museum.

Between the stem and the bulkhead, the garboards are fastened to the bottom with #6 x ¾” screws. The holes are drilled and countersunk first, and the screw heads will finish just below the surface so the holes can be puttied later. Beyond the bulkhead, the garboard is clench-nailed to the bottom. At the scarph joint, half of the tacks go from the outside in, and the other half go from the inside out, which means you get to hammer blind, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. 5 more planks to go!

Until next time. . .