Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leather Solo Seat

Another off-season project I have been gradually working is a leather sling seat for the 15ft cedar canvas canoe. Paddling solo means kneeling as close to the center point of the canoe as possible. With my shorter, symmetrical 14foot canoe, the bow seat is perfectly positioned to paddling the canoe "backwards" so that my rump can rest on the edge of the seat and take weight off the heels if needed. With this option and full kneeling on the bottom of the hull, paddling the 14 footer is a joy.

The longer 15ft cedar canvas logically has its seats positioned further towards the ends of the canoe and paddling in reverse while resting on the bow seat results in an awkward stern heavy position when the boat is unloaded. So a solution was in order. I considered the idea of adding a permanent kneeling thwart but then wanted to explore a more removable option - hence the pursuit of a personalized sling seat.

Tom Seavey of Azland Traditions is the creator of Original Saddle Seat. I've seen a few first hand at some canoe gatherings and have always admired the quality leather workmanship. Here's shot of one I took at the WCHA Assembly held in Peterborough back in '08

Original Saddle Seat by Azland Traditions

I'm assuming this design was meant to be used as true seat with folks sitting while paddling...it is quite wide and sturdily built. Since I was making a sling seat for exclusively kneeling, I figured that the dimensions could be narrower.

While Tom's design is stunning, there was one more issue I had with my personal style of paddling. After maybe an hour or so paddling on one side, I might switch sides and heel the boat the other way to give muscles a needed break. This means the seat would need to be able to slide from the extreme port to extreme starboard side of the boat. Tom's design with its 4 independent straps doesn't allow for instant adjustment. The buckles would need to be undone and the seat repositioned each time.

Another option was for the seat to "ride" on webbing straps tied to the inwales. Stewart River Boatworks sells a canvas canoe seat with webbing that looks promising as well but hand stitching waxed canvas isn't my idea of fun.

Stewart River Canvas Canoe Seat

Eventually, I came across BigBlue's post on WildSurvive featuring a pic of his homemade sling seat made of a combination of leather and webbing straps.

BigBlue's Leather Sling Seat

His design with two layers of leather laced together riding on webbing straps strung across the boat fit the bill. I didn't have enough leather on hand to mimic his design and wasn't crazy about the lacing idea.

So my own version involved a 8" wide by 20" long piece of veg tan leather along with two 6ft long, 1-1/2" wide straps to sling across the inwales. The straps would be fashioned into a simple belt. To prevent the edge of the leather seat from digging into the skin, I thought I would fold over the edges and lace them in place by playing around with some grommets and scrap piece of leather lace.

8"x20" piece with grommets

Edges folded in and tightened with lace

Leather is a suitable medium for pyrography and like my EBook cover made a while back, I obviously wanted some canoe related theme. I was aiming for a sort of old-fashioned, western look with a paddler & bark canoe rather than a typical horse & rider scene. After finding some clipart on the web, here is my adaptation.

Burned decoration

Of course the leather gets darker when stained and treated with waterproofing finishes but here is the completed project...

Finished saddle seat

Before the very late freezeup of the lake this year, I got the chance to try out the sling seat on a short jaunt. Here's how it looks on strapped in...

Buckled into the boat

Because of the rib positions and the dimensions of the actual seat, the belt straps don't end up running parallel so the seat can't slide completely side to side as originally intended...oh well. I also seemed to have lost one belt keeper loop that keeps the straps nice and taught at the inwale, but all in all, it worked well. I ended up moving it one rib location further astern than the pic after giving it a trial run and this allowed to get into a full kneeling position behind the centre thwart if I wanted to and then quickly come up onto the seat if needed. Overall, it was more than sufficient to support my (ever growing) weight and is comfortable enough when paddling in the kneeling position to keep the weight off the heels. Plus, being a not permanent and removable accessory, it can be taken off and put into another canoe if needed.


Mike said...

Murat, you are not only a master paddlemaker but also a master leather worker....great job on the seat....and the pyrographic artwork is incredible....

Murat said...

You're too kind, Mike! Thanks for the compliments. Really looking forward to your posts about your canoe restoration trip up in Fort Severn. Give my regards to Pam and John and have a safe journey.

Mike said...

Murat, I'll definitely pass on your regards to Pam and John....heading back up to Parry Sound for more prep work for Fort Severn next week....we're all looking forward to the trip and project....and I'll be posting about Fort Severn on my blog as well as on WCHA forum....as well the youth there will be makling a video documentation of the project, which we hope to put up on YouTube....as well as link up to on the Canadian Canoe Museum website (CCM have graciously offered to put up any photos or videos of the project)....
Paddles up until later then

Tom said...

Murat, The "Original Saddle Seat" was designed for and intended as an aid to the traditional kneeling position. Not as a seat to sit on as it slings too low to be used that way effctively
The full size seat was designed for comfort on long trips and is durable enough to sit on for a good leg stretch.The "slim line design" is a narrower version of the "Original Saddle Seat"
and is a good option for lightweight travel or shorter paddles.I've spent a lot of time in the Saddle and never had any trouble heeling to either side. Good ideas will always be copied but so far I have yet to see anything that works as well and looks, feels and sounds as good as genuine leather,brass and copper.
Good luck with your endeavors
Tom Azland Traditions

Murat said...

Thanks for the clarification with your Saddle Seat, Tom. You are absolutely correct that good ideas will always be copied. My amateur attempt was originally inspired by your fantastic idea! Sincerely,

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