Now that the boat is complete I thought I’d put together a dedicated photo diary since the individual posts are now in reverse order and hard to scroll through. I started the form in late July and completed it two months later in late September. The hull was completed in November, canvas and filler accomplished just prior to Christmas to take advantage of the holiday break since the filler needed to cure for several weeks prior to paint. Outer rails were milled and installed in early February and then we commenced painting. Varnishing stage began mid February and I finished up in early March with the stem bands and rail caps. Now that I have the form and some experience I feel confident I could complete a boat using evenings and weekends in 8-10 weeks – there were some rather large gaps in the November – March project.
One of my mentors, Ken Wetmore of New Limerick, Maine, built this boat for our Maine camp about 10 years ago. It’s a 17′ boat that Ken based on a White design. Before you get upset with me, Ken covers his canoes in fiberglass/resin so she stands up to the gravel without a problem. He’s been building a few every winter since before I was born. I helped him with a little 14′ solo canoe this past summer that I think he managed to hang onto. There’s no telling how many he’s built over the years and he finally managed to keep one for himself. I hope I don’t have that problem!
This is the old Gerrish that planted the bug many years ago. I grew up in this boat not knowing what she was: a Gerrish rowing canoe probably built between 1905 and 1910. She was at least 18′, leaked, and weighed a ton. My mother was deathly afraid of the sailing rig after stories her father told of capsizing on the opposite side of the lake. If there was more than a wisp of a breeze the rig stayed in the boathouse. I don’t know what has become of the canoe – I donated it to a museum not knowing the curator was a crook. The museum went belly up years ago and the collection of small craft disappeared. Maybe someone took her home and restored her.
Here we go, starting with the form:
Rail backers are screwed into the slots in the station molds. The compound curves toward the ends require steaming so we break out the turkey fryer, some heater hose, and a PVC pipe. If I do another form in the future I’ll bend the rail backers on a jig prior to installing them on the form.
With the stems and inner rails attached to the form we’re set to bend on ribs. The ribs are pre-soaked and then”cooked” in the steam box. With the strongback bolted from stem to stem, we slide one rib at a time under the strongback and nail each end into the inner rail using bronze ring nails. This stage goes surprisingly fast – I had all the ribs fastened in one afternoon.
Using a fairing block (large sanding block) and a section of planking stock to check for high spots, the entire hull is gone over carefully. Any errors here will reappear quite painfully later on when you can’t correct them.
Planking begins. To avoid bolt holes, remove the bolts from the strongback, slide it to one side of center, and brace it against the overhead. Once you get a few planks set, reset the strongback on top of the planking so you can run the other side. The purpose of the strongback during the planking stage is to keep the hull tight against the form so the tacks will hit the metal and clinch.
Remove the clamps that fastened the inner rails to the form and carefully work the hull free and turn it over. The remaining planking will be done off the form using a clinching iron to turn the tacks.
In 3′ sections, work the initial coat into the weave with a short brush. It will dry almost immediately. Brush on a second coat and start rubbing it in using a canvas mitt. Keep rubbing it in until it’s nice and smooth. It will likely take a 3rd light coat and more rubbing to get the desired look. Once you get a section the way you want it, move down and start all over!
Several weeks later once the filler has cured out it’s time to install the outer rails. In this case, mahogany. I followed Rollin’s method of relying on the paint to help seal the joint between the rail and hull. I could have painted the hull and then installed the rails.
I carried my rails beyond the stem in order to trap the end of the stem in a modified mortise/tenon joint. This meant I couldn’t wrap the stem bands up onto the decks so I used Rollin’s trick of a copper cap hammered up over the ends to protect the tips. Again, bedding compound underneath to seal out water.
And finally working moving water with a pole.
Professional builder and designer of the Cheemaun 15′ canoe: Rollin Thurlow http://www.wooden-canoes.com/ Also co-author of “The Wood & Canvas Canoe”. Another good reference book is “Building the Maine Guide Canoe” by Jerry Stelmok, Rollin’s old partner. Both are available through Rollin’s website or Amazon.
A good local source for books, paddles, canoe parts is Alabama Small Boats. They share retail space with Mountain High Outfitters in Cahaba Village Plaza off 280 in Mountain Brook. http://www.alsmallboats.com/
Supplier of all things related to wooden canoes: http://www.shawandtenney.com/index.php
Supplier of marine hardware for traditional boatbuilding: http://www.jamestowndistributors.com
Posts detailing the entire construction process are available on my blog: http://www.steveambrose.net/woodshed/category/the-canoe/
Tools you won’t find at the big box retailers, Woodcraft in Pelham: http://www.woodcraft.com/stores/store.aspx?id=511
Wood you won’t find at the big box retailers, Hardwoods of Alabama in Alabaster: http://www.hardwoodweb.com/distribution/hia.cfm
For those interested in a working vacation in Maine, classes are available through Rollin and http://www.thewoodenboatschool.com/
More info on wooden canoes of all types: http://www.wcha.org/index.php
Index of builders/suppliers (all types, not just wood/canvas) http://www.wcha.org/buildsupply/