Monday, January 26, 2009

Splitting Cedar Sheathing

When I made the decision to use rough sawn white cedar lumber for the birchbark canoe's ribs and sheathing, I miscalculated the amount of wood I needed. Resigned to the fact that I'd have to waste another day to drive to the mill where the clear white cedar was purchased, I stumbled on a great find at RONA (Canadian equivalent to Home Depot). Normally these home reno stores are loaded with construction grade lumber, but this time I managed to find some near perfect, clear, straight-grained Western Red Cedar 2x4's AND at 50 off no less!

Straigt grained clear WRC

Sure WRC is not traditional birchbark canoe material but I was forced to use this wood when making the gunwales given that I couldn't get a hold of white cedar at the required length. The darker coloured sheathing might be a nice accent against the pale white cedar ribs, especially after seeing a red cedar planked canoe at the WCHA assembly last summer. Of course 2x4 are actually closer to 1½" × 3½" in dimension, and this worked out well since the sheathing width in my boat is meant to be between 3-3½ inches wide anyway and about 1/8-1/16" thick. Given that splitting is usually done on green cedar wood, the splitting is often more controlled and sheathing even thinner. César Newashish demonstrates the process in César's Bark Canoe, splitting a huge board of cedar over and over again until he ends up with 5 ft long pieces that are paper thin, split right down to a single grain line.

Given that this dimensional lumber has been kiln dried and my wife has expressely forbidden the soaking of any more wood in our bathtub after the making of my canoe model, I figured the best I could do was split each board into 8ths and then shave down the rest with crooked knife or block plane. Here are some pics of the sequence:

Initial split

Two halves

Starting another split with the knife

Following the grain

Quartered pieces; Splitting down to eighths

Final sheathing splits (about 1/8")

Not every 2x4 split this evenly and there are some shorter pieces of scrap that I'll be using for temporary sheathing when the rib bending phase comes. Many of the pieces have a wonderful tone and when laid out on the floor I can begin to visualize what the final boat will look like.

Some of the sheathing blanks laid out

Still a lot more work to do, but I'm optimistic that I'll be paddling this sucker by the late spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Newer Posts Older Posts Home Page