The boat I bought for the Pathfinder club two three years ago this month is finally rehabilitated. I named her Miss Nancy after a dear woman from our church who died a few years back. Here she is:

Nancy Nichols

The real Miss Nancy

Miss Nancy the boat was in awful condition when I got her, but I saw that she had promise. I stripped off the badly laid fiberglass and reglassed her. I replaced her front stem and shortened her up by a few inches so her planking would reach the stem (it didn’t when I got her). I made new gunwales, new decks, and a new thwart. So here’s the before shot:

Miss Nancy: Before

Miss Nancy: Before

And here are the “after” shots, including a voyage Beth and I took her on before I completed the last finishing touch (which was to varnish the seat spacers and a spot on the deck I had to repair).

Almost done (needs a few spot varnished)

Almost done (needs a few spot varnished)

Ready to cruise

Ready to cruise

From the stern with Beth in the bow seat

From the stern with Beth in the bow seat

That was a lot of work! Now all I need to do is finish Miss Emma and Miss Sally (they don’t need nearly as much attenention as Miss Nancy did), and the Pathfinders will have enough canoes to take a river trip.

Miss Sally is one of the three wooden canoes I bought on behalf of the Pathfinders back in August. She is resting on a rack I built before winter set in, and I went out there today and noticed that she has some visitors.

Miss Sally's guests

Miss Sally’s guests

Miss Sally was in the best condition of all the boats (though Miss Nancy is in better shape now that she has been worked on). But since Miss Nancy is still in my garage, these birds picked the nicest apartment on the rack.

It’s a good thing Miss Sally doesn’t need to go for a paddle anytime soon!

Anyone know the species? I’ll keep an eye on them so when Momma comes back maybe I can tell.

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!

Winter has returned to New Hampshire.

Back yard

Back yard

We got about a half inch of snow today. When I got up there was ice all over the windshield of my car. This surprised me, but I guess it should not have.

Front Yard

Front Yard


Some people are probably pretty upset about winter’s last gasp, but I find it a welcome return. Maybe it will be enough to tide me over until next winter (or if I’m lucky, autumn).

Throw it already!

Penny gets ready to catch a stick


Penny didn’t seem to care. All else becomes unimportant when there are sticks to be caught.

Spring will be back again, and soon I’m sure. We had chipmunks in the yard last week. This one was at the foot of the deck stairs.

Chipmunk

Chipmunk


I opened the sliding glass door and he turned around, but he didn’t run off. Luckily, Penny didn’t see him as I took several shots.

Another thing I did last week was visit a virtual geocache in Franklin called “Abnaki Mortar” (sic – should be “Abenaki”) From the name, I couldn’t figure out what it was, but once I got there it was plainly obvious, and I felt silly for not knowing what to expect.

Abenaki Mortar

Abenaki Mortar


This is a mortar where the Abenaki Indians ground corn. European settlers used it too. I imagine they would have scooped the water out and tried to dry it a bit first. I was pretty pleased when I got here and saw what it was. I really like Native American history, especially here on the East Coast where almost none was recorded before they were driven out.

Meanwhile, I have been making slow but steady progress on the canoe. In spite of today’s snowstorm, we had a spot of nice weather last week. It was warm enough to consider epoxy work, so I considered it. And did it. I fit the instem into “Miss Nancy.”

New instem

New instem


That’s a tough proposition, as the stem is kind of the foundation of the boat. The brief period during which it was stemless, it was also exceedingly fragile. Once I got this new stem in place, it regained its strength plus some extra strength for good measure. Once the epoxy set on the instem, I attacked the outstem too:

Outstem attached

Outstem attached


Instead of clamping the outstem in place, I screwed it into the instem with steel screws. Those came out once the glue set, and will be replaced with brass screws. I generally don’t drive brass screws into wood until I’ve used a steel screw to cut the threads in the wood. Otherwise, the brass screws will twist in two, or strip out. As it was, the steel screws themselves all snapped in half when I went to remove them. I haven’t decided how to deal with that yet. Now that the epoxy is set, the screws are more decorative than anything else. I think if I tried to remove the steel screw nubbins, all I would do is mangle the ash. I might just use some shortened brass screws to plug the holes and make it look good.

Since this was done, I also shaped the outstem so that it flows into the hull with sweeping curves. It looks pretty good now. I also mixed up some epoxy and wood flour and slathered it into the cracks between the planks. I still need to hit it with another layer of that mixture and sand it down, but once that’s done, it’ll be ready to take a new layer of glass. Then the strength will increase by another order of magnitude. Once that’s done, I can smooth the inside of the hull, slather on more epoxy/wood flour, and sand that, and then it will be ready for glass as well.

This is going to be a nice boat.

I have almost finished building a new deck for Miss Nancy. I inlaid our Pathfinder Club’s logo with zebrawood.

Central New Hampshire Flames Logo on a canoe deck in zebrawood

Central New Hampshire Flames Logo on a canoe deck in zebrawood

First I drew the logo onto a couple of quarter-inch thick pieces of zebrawood. Then I cut it out with a coping saw and placed it on the deck (which I had previously glued up from maple and walnut). Then I hit it with a light layer of spray paint, because that seemed like a good way to trace it. Turns out, that’s not precise enough, so I ended up laying the zebrawood shapes on the deck again and tracing them with a sharp knife. Once I had the shape transferred, I deepened the cuts with a very sharp knife and scooped out the in-between with a chisel. That was the hard part. For whatever reason, the elbows on both arms took the brunt of the soreness. It took me all day yesterday to get it to where I could fit the pieces into the cavities.

Then I mixed up some epoxy, added a bit of ash sawdust (well… sanddust, since it was from sanding, not from sawing) and mixed that in. Having the sanddust in there gives the epoxy a more solid look, and I wanted that in case there were gaps between the zebrawood and its cavity (and there were).

With the epoxy mixed up and poured into the cavity, I set the zebrawood in place, and then poured more epoxy on top of it to fill in any voids. Then came a part that was even harder than scooping out the cavity – waiting for the epoxy to set!

I left it overnight. The zebrawood was about an eighth of an inch higher than the deck, but that was OK. I had borrowed Warran’s benchtop sander (he’s one of the Pathfinder staff members), so I turned the whole thing over on top of that and sanded it until the zebrawood was level with the deck and the spray paint was gone.

I still have to square off the bottom, and varnish the underside (that would be difficult to do if I waited until it were installed). I will varnish the top side after it’s installed, and I am tempted to cover it with a layer of fiberglass just to be sure that zebrawood stays in place forever (fiberglass is transparent when it sets up). Before I can install it, I have to measure the required bevels so that the edges are flat against the gunwales. It will be a rolling bevel, meaning that it is different up at the tips verses down at the base. That part is not easy either.

This deck is a bout 18″ long. It’s funny that something this small is even called a “deck,” but it is. The decks go between the gunwales at either end of the canoe. One normally thinks of a deck as being something that can be stood upon. I suppose you could stand on these, but unless your balance was exceptional, not for very long!

Canoe seat/yoke

Maple & Cane


Last night I finished the new canoe seat/yoke for Miss Sally, the 19′ cedar strip canoe I am restoring for the Pathfinder Club. She had a thwart when I got her, but it was a rough, unplaned, pine plank with a yoke notch apparently chopped into it with a hatchet.

I was just going to make a plain yoke, but decided a seat/yoke combination would be a better option. This canoe is 19′ long after all, so having a seat in the middle is a definite bonus.

The frame is made of maple, and the side bars are set into the cross bars with hand-cut mortise and tenon joints. I didn’t make the mortices very deep because I didn’t think it was necessary and I was afraid it would weaken the cross bars. When someone sits on the seat, it’s going to pull those joints together rather than push them apart.

I went with a cane seat because all of the other seats are cane. I had never made one before, but it’s not that hard to do (the Internet knows how to do almost everything). Caning the seat took me three days of fairly dedicated effort, and the tips of my index fingers and thumbs are pretty sore for the effort. But I think it was worth it.

The cross bars are currently four feet long which is wider than the canoe. I will cut them to size when I am ready to install the seat. I can’t do that until I make some new gunwales though.

When I do mount it, I am going to put the yoke toward the stern. Normally, I mount a yoke on a canoe so that when I am carrying it, it goes bow first. However, if I did that, then the person sitting on the seat would have that uneven yoke edge poking into his thighs. This will be far more comfortable for any bow-facing passenger.

Even though it just seems wrong to carry a canoe stern first!

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!