I installed Miss Nancy’s thwart yesterday.

Thwarted!

Thwarted!


It did not go as smoothly as I would have wished, and thus, the title of today’s post.

When we reglassed her hull last summer (!) she was not on a mold. A canoe mold (for this type of canoe) is a series of plywood cross sections mounted to a T-beam made from 2×10 lumber. I do not have a mold for Miss Nancy though, so when I was ready to put the glass on, I just propped her up on a pair of sawhorses and went at it. Unfortunately, the weight of the glass & epoxy on the unsupported hull caused her gunwales to turn inwards, giving her an exaggerated “tumblehome” (meaning, her widest point is not from gunwale to gunwale, but rather, it is below that point – the gunwales come in towards the center). A little tumblehome is good, because you can heel the canoe over pretty far before the gunwales dip below the surface, at which point the river/lake rushes in, and the canoe capsizes in seconds. The downside to tumblehome is that the gunwales are not as good at turning the waves away. They just come in over the gunwales. I would rather take on water that way than by the other way, but this was just way too much tumblehome.

I decided to address this by cutting the thwart a bit wider than her “resting” position suggests, so before I cut it, I placed a spreader clamp between the gunwales and carefully started cranking on it. Crank, crank, crank. OK, one more. Pop! I split her stern deck:

Stern deck... oops

Stern deck… oops


Though disheartening, this too is fixable. Since the deck is already split, I might was well keep the gunwales spread apart as I intended. I plan to make a maple wedge whose width equals the width of the crack, and which tapers to a point. Then slather it with epoxy and insert it into the crack. I just need to be sure that the wedge is slightly higher than the rest of the deck so I can sand that down until it is at the same level. I do not wish to have to plane down the whole deck, which is a mistake I made on her bow.

When I put the bow deck in place, the starboard side just would not stay in position. It wanted to slip above the level of the gunwale. I even had a board clamped over it to stop that, and though somewhat effective, it was insufficiently effective. To fix that, I started planing the deck down to match the gunwales. Unfortunately (there’s that word again!) I ended up reducing the thickness of the deck by more than the thickness of the inlay.

Bow deck problem

Bow deck problem


So I’ll need to redo the starboard side of the inlay. I guess I’ll route it out (by hand) and cut a new piece of zebra wood to match, glue it in, clamp it down, and wait for the epoxy to set. Then I can sand the zebrawood inlay to match the level of the deck. I will do the expoxy work on both decks on the same day, because neither one of those jobs will require a full shot of epoxy, and that stuff is expensive. Like $130 per gallon. I guess it’s not that expensive – a shot of epoxy is about one fluid ounce, so that’s a whole dollar. But combined, the two deck repairs should use most of one shot. Why waste it?

Repairing my mistakes is not work that I enjoy so much, and because of that, I will have difficulty mustering the requisite ambition to actually do it! Especially when it’s hot & humid outside. But I will.

Other than the deck repair, all she needs is to have her seats mounted.

She’s so close!

Advertisements

I slept in a little bit this morning, but these days, that means “past seven.” Va made breakfast, and then Beth asked me if I wanted to go for a walk somewhere. I asked “Where to?” and she answered “How about the Union Church?”

That sounded pretty OK to me, so off we went.

Northfield Union Church

Northfield Union Church


It’s just under a mile from our house to this church which is owned by the town of Northfield. It was built back in the late 1800’s for the use of any denomination that wanted to use it, and they could use it free of charge. I don’t know if that’s the way it is still, but if it is, no denomination apparently wants to use it.

Penny was pretty thirsty when we started back again, so we detoured to Sandogardy Pond. She went in to cool off and get a drink, and then the three of us walked home again. By then it was nearly 10:00, so I drove to Tilton to visit the hardware store. I needed to get some new handles for my wheelbarrow, as mine broke neatly in half last week when I tried to move some rocks with it. Bill didn’t have any on hand, but he ordered some for me, and I will get them next week. No hurry there.

When I got home from the hardware store, I dug up the spar varnish I bought for the canoe project(s). Miss Nancy was ready for her first coat, so I laid some down on her gunwales.

Then it was time for Beth and me to head over to Laconia, as the Pathfinders had been hired to sweep our sister church’s parking lot (we share our pastor with Laconia). That didn’t take very long at all, and we were back home again by 3:30.

As soon as I thought Miss Nancy’s gunwales were dry enough, I moved her onto a pair of sawhorse, flipped her over, and varnished the outside of her hull. Here’s the starboard side:

Miss Nancy's starboard side

Miss Nancy’s starboard side

And here’s the port.

Miss Nancy's port side

Miss Nancy’s port side

She is in much better shape now than when I got hold of her. I will still need to sand the inside hull before I varnish that, but I don’t plan to spend a lot of time there. Just something to knock down the high spots in the fiberglass, wipe her down, and slather on a quick coat.

I also picked up a piece of maple today and cut out a new thwart. I shaped it with a 4-in-hand, but only on one side – then I petered out. Maybe I’ll finish that off tomorrow.

Today I worked on attaching the newly-scuppered inwales to Miss Nancy. The first step is to dry clamp them to the hull up at the sheer line. Once an inwale was clamped on, I was able to mark it for cutting. Truth be told, I cut them a little short, but I used some pieces of filler wood to get them to reach all the way to the stem.

Marking the inwale so it can be cut to length.

Marking the inwale so it can be cut to length.


As you can see, it looks like I marked it in the right place, and I definitely cut it on the mark. The problem was that I had not clamped it sufficiently so the inwale was bowing inwards a bit. Enough to make this mark be off by a quarter inch. That’s a LOT in the woodworking world, but I will recover.

Once I had the inwale cut to length, I mixed up some epoxy, painted it on, and then started clamping it into position. The initial clamp placement is just to hold it in place while I drill some pilot holes for the screws. Sometimes a clamp was in the way of drilling the hole, so I would have to move it. With all the holes drilled, I ran a steel screw into each hole and then backed it out again. The purpose of this little exercise is so that the brass screws don’t have to cut the threads in the wood. Doing so is very difficult with brass and often results in either mangling the divot in the top of the screw (where the bit grabs it) or twisting the screw in half.

With all the threads cut, I then made a second pass and set the brass screws in place. I put a screw between every other scupper, and I offset them from the center. The offset is because when I mount the seats and thwarts, I will want to drill a mounting hole there. I skipped every other scupper, because the outwales will attach there. When I get to that point.

Port side inwale clamped, glued, and screwed into place.

Port side inwale clamped, glued, and screwed into place.

I had other things to do today, so once I got the port inwale glued and screwed into position, I let the glue set for a while. Also, I used every C clamp I could find (which is probably not all of the C clamps I own). I returned about six hours later and gave the starboard side the same treatment.

Ditto for the starboard inwale

Ditto for the starboard inwale

With both inwales in place, I turned my attention to the bow deck. I should have mounted the stern deck first, because it does not have the inlay in it, so if I messed it up, it would not be a tragedy. It would be easy enough to make a new one. Luckily, all went well with the bow deck, so my impatience didn’t bite me. This time.

Bow deck

Bow deck


Fitting a deck is not an easy thing to do. The inwales’ inner surfaces do not go straight down, so a square cut along the edge (relative to the top of the deck) will not do. I measured the angle with a bevel gauge, and transferred the measurement to the edges of the deck.

The deck was quite a bit wider than it needed to be, so I had to trim it to the correct width. It’s really a little too wide, but I figured I could wedge it into place and spread the hull a little bit. Making it narrower would have meant the edges would have come all the way to the inlay – maybe even into the inlay, and after all the effort i put into doing that, there was no way I was going to let that happen. So I wedged it into place.

With the deck rough cut to the correct width, I placed it on a sanding belt and sanded the edges down to the correct (ish) angle. I didn’t get it exactly right, but I did come awfully close. Then I mixed up some more epoxy, painted the edges of the deck, mounted it in place, and ran some screws into it from the hull, through the inwale, and into the deck. The mess on top of the deck is where I mixed wood flour with the leftover epoxy to fill the gaps. They weren’t very wide, and now that they are filled, no one will notice.

I did not get around to fitting the stern deck. I will probably cut it to the width the boat wants it to be since it has no inlay. Or I may make it a little wider so that it kinda, sorta matches the bow.

Updates as progress warrants!

Today I turned my attention to Miss Nancy’s gunwales. I had joined eight lengths of ash into four using scarf joints last week. Today I sanded the joints smooth (they are pretty difficult to see now, which is good), and then built a jig with which to scupper them.

I borrowed a router from my friend Shaun a couple of weeks ago thinking I was almost ready to do the scuppering, but… it took longer to get to that point than I had anticipated. The jig is just a piece of eighth-inch plywood with a few scraps attached to it – but attached very precisely. There’s a piece on the bottom that the gunwale gets clamped to, and then there are three on the top that the router’s bottom plate rides against.

I made one miscalculation while screwing the scraps to the plywood, which resulted in me running the router through one of the screws.

Oops!

Oops!


Luckily, I was using my own router bit, and not one of Shaun’s. That could not have been good for its edge, but I was still able to cut wood with it.

Here’s the jig in action.

Scuppering Jig

Scuppering Jig


The scuppers are those small areas of scooped-out wood. The scooped-out edge (or scuppered edge) will get glued and screwed to the inside of the hull. The scuppers reduce the weight a little bit, but more importantly, they will allow water to drain from the canoe when it’s heaved over on its side (presumably on land).

But the best thing about doing this is that I get to say “Scupper me gunnels!” in a piratey voice.

Maybe tomorrow evening I will have a chance to attach them to the hull. Then I can fit the decks, and attach the outwales. Miss Nancy is almost ready.

Sometimes when I am working on those wooden canoes I find myself questioning my sanity. For example, I noticed that Connor and I had used way more epoxy than we should have last week when we glassed the exterior hull of Miss Nancy. We went through about three quarts when we should have been able to do it with two. But he learned how to do it, so I think it was worth it.

Unfortunately, it does not leave me with enough to do the interior hull, so today I bought another gallon. That quantity of resin and hardener costs about $140. Or I could get a quarter as much for half that amount, but that’s crazy. I know I will be able to find a use for any that’s left over.

On the way home from getting the epoxy, I started adding up what I’ve spent on these three canoes. After the initial purchase price, I think I’ve added another $400-$500 in materials. Ouch. So I was discouraged, wondering if it was worth all that time, effort, and money.

Then today, I saw this:
http://canoeguybc.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/chestnut-canoes-for-sale-adopt-a-wood-canvas-canoe/
I’ve been following this blog for about six months, and have enjoyed every post. Today he listed prices for restored wood-canvas canoes. Now I do not imagine that I am as good a craftsman as Mike Elliot, and a cedar strip canoe is probably worth inherently less than a wood-canvas canoe. But I would hope that the canoes I am restoring will be worth at least half what he’s asking (the discount being mainly for my comparative dearth of skill and experience).

So yeah. It’s worth it.

Today I am gluing up the gunwales for miss Nancy. Tomorrow I will glass the interior, and in between coats I hope to scupper the inwales. We’ll see how it goes. Miss Nancy will almost certainly be finished before the end of May.

Sorry I haven’t posted anything here in a while. I just checked and saw that I hadn’t written anything since I went for a hike on New Year’s Day. Time flies by when you’re having fun!

I’ve spent a lot of my time this week working on one of the cedar strip canoes I bought on behalf of the Pathfinder Club back in August. This one will be named “Miss Nancy” after Nancy Nichols, a much-loved member of our church who died a couple of years ago. The other three will be named “Miss Emma” (after Emma Haggett), “Miss Sally” (after Sally Machia), and “Miss Margaret” after Margaret Meyers. All of these women are deceased members of our church, and all were connected with the Pathfinder Club to some extent or another. I like having them named this way.

Anyhow, here’s what I found when I stripped the glass off Miss Nancy’s stem:

Miss Nancy's Stem

Miss Nancy’s Stem


She was a mess! I wiggled the stem to see how sound it was, and snapped off a six inch section. I will have to fashion a new one. It might be tricky getting it installed, as that normally happens before the planking goes on (the planks are attached to the stem). But I think I can manage. I’m going to try to heat it up to get the rotted stem out. I’ve already traced the shape onto a piece of cardboard which I will transfer to a piece of particle board. The new stem will be formed around that. Then I’ll have to add a rolling bevel. I’m going to also make an outstem while I’m at it, so this canoe will have a proper and complete stem!

Shaving the hull.

Doesn’t that look so much better?

Once the glass was off, I still had lots and lots of epoxy on the hull. I’ve been working on getting that off too. If it were just a light layer of epoxy, I’d leave it alone, but it’s a quarter inch thick in places! So off it comes. My preferred tool for that is a spokeshave, and that will be followed by a random orbit sander. Unfortunately, the velcro on my sander’s foot pad has lost its grab, so a disc stays on for about a minute. I have ordered a replacement part.

The problem I had with using the spokeshave is that this canoe is unsupported. Thus, when I apply pressure to the spokeshave, the canoe gives, so I can’t really press the blade into the wood without just pushing the wood out of the way. Normally when smoothing (or fairing) the hull, the canoe is still on the form so it doesn’t do this. But I don’t have a form for this one. But I do have my own canoe, and since Miss Nancy has her seats, gunwales, thwarts, and decks removed, she fits nicely inside mine. So I lowered mine from my garage ceiling and found that it made a pretty decent mold. By doing this I was able to spokeshave off a lot of epoxy (and smooth the planks so they are no longer offset from one another).

I have to be careful in doing this, because a spokeshave is a lot like a hand plane, and a sharp, well-tuned hand plane is my favorite tool. When I built my canoe I enjoyed the planing a little too much, doing so with what Alan Greenspan at the time would have called “irrational exuberance”. The net effect was that I reduced the thickness of the hull to zero in one spot. I ended up replacing that plank, but the lesson was learned – don’t overdo it on the planing!

I got my car back from the shop on Monday. It’s nice to have it back, but somebody put a canoe in its parking place! Since I’m waiting for a part for my sander, I decided to just hoist Miss Nancy and my own canoe up to my canoe’s regular parking spot.

My canoe embraces Miss Nancy

My canoe embraces Miss Nancy

Now I won’t have to scrape the frost on my windshield in the morning. Speaking of which, at least until my employment situation changes, I will be teaching computers (and programming) to the grade 6-8 students at our school starting tomorrow. This is a volunteer position.

I guess I need to prepare a lesson!

We finally got some snow today, and by that I mean more than an inch. Last winter was a complete dud (other than October 31, 2011), so I’m hoping this winter makes up for it. It started snowing around 10:00pm last night, and it’s not supposed to stop until tonight around 2:00am. We’re supposed to get 12-18 inches, but the last time I looked, we only had four or so. My guess is that 12-18 inches will really be about 6.

Beth had left her boots and snow pants at school, but she found that David’s boots and old snow pants fit her pretty well. So she put them on and out she went. Penny joined her.

Penny waiting to intercept some snow

Penny waiting to intercept some snow


Penny thinks her duty is to intercept any thrown snow before it hits the ground. Beth wasn’t throwing any, but Penny was prepared. She is ready to leap into action if duty calls!

David and I have come up with a motto for Penny:

Nonnumquam ergo semper!

It means “Sometimes, therefore always!” In other words, sometimes when master gets up from the couch in the family room, he goes to the living room and (gasp!) turns on the TV! Therefore, I will always be ready to freak out when the TV comes on!

Sometimes when master puts on his shoes, he goes outside! Therefore, I will always be prepared in case he lets me go out too! Incidentally, she can hear me slipping my feet into my shoes from the other room, and she will come running every single time. I am not able to do it quietly enough to slip out without her noticing.

In the case of Beth in the snow today, sometimes when she plays in the snow, she throws some of it! Therefore, I will always be prepared in case that’s what she does! Nonnumquam ergo semper! Heaven help us if I go out with a snow shovel.

While Beth was out playing, I worked on that canoe a little more. I fashioned a new in-stem from a piece of ash I ripped from a long plank. Then I tapered it. Before I glue it in place with epoxy, I decided to bend it to the proper shape so it will sit snugly against the existing out-stem. Normally, I would steam a piece of wood before bending it by putting it in a PVC pipe and running steam from a kettle into it. But I don’t know where my kettle is, and this was a small enough chunk of wood that I was able to slip it into the microwave over a dish of water. So that’s what I did, for six minutes.

But first, I had a bit of lucky happenstance. OB (original builder) used what looks like a walnut plank to add a stripe to the hull (as did I when I built mine). Unfortunately, it was about 2 inches shy of being long enough, so he added a chunk of cedar to the end to fill it out. Except that the cedar wasn’t as wide as the walnut, so he used two pieces of cedar, only one of them didn’t line up right. Instead, it poked itself deeper into the hull, so on the inside of the boat it sticks out and would prevent fiberglass from touching the surrounding planks, and on the outside, it is recessed such that no fiberglass will touch it when it’s applied. I had decided to redo that 2 inch plank, and the first step in that is to remove the botched one. I applied heat to soften the glue and was able to push them out, leaving a handy gap in the hull:

Bending the new instem

Bending the new instem

Handy, because that let me clamp my steaming-hot in-stem to the existing out-stem, thus bending it to the proper curve. Tomorrow I will make another one for the other side, and just hope that the two stems are shaped similarly enough to work out OK. The other side doesn’t have a convenient portal for a C-clamp. That should get it close enough such that a screw through the out-stem into the in-stem should hold it on while the glue sets.

So… that’s not a lot of progress for the canoe, but I’m not in a big hurry. Maybe I should be though, as I’ll want to park my car in that spot in a couple of weeks.