Thursday, May 22, 2008

Making Cedar Sheathing

Another structural component of the canoe is the cedar sheathing that is layed down on the inside of the hull and ultimately sandwiched between the bark and the ribs. Its purpose is to protect the bark, add structural support, and minor waterproofing to the inner hull. In a full size model, the cedar sheathing is split down to ⅛" thick or less. Master builders do the splitting by hand. 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 - fascinating to watch.

In my case, I took the random length pieces of plank cedar provided in the kit and tried to split them in approximately ¼" wide pieces, although the natural splitting tendency of the wood dictated the ultimate sizes. These were then shaved with a block plane down to 1/16". Technically they should've been 1/32" to fit the scale, but they were too delicate at that thickness.

Sample piece of sheathing stock; Splitting into strips; Planing down

I ended up with a bunch of random length pieces that should cover the inner hull. The good news is that unlike the stock for carving the ribs, I've got plenty of sheath making material.

Pile of sheathing resting on the canoe

I haven't decided on the sheathing pattern yet. Algonquin and other central native groups tended to use short (4-5 ft long) sheathing and overlaped in groups to cover the inner hull. Others used longer pieces (7-8 ft) to cover the hull in halves. Either way, the sheathing will need to be cleaned up a bit before its final placement. But now that this is done, I can move on the the most exciting part of the build for me so far - bending the ribs. More info next post.

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