Sunday, June 29, 2008

Canoe Wall Art

With the canoe build finished and the boat launched for its Maiden voyage, it needed a suitable mount for the cottage wall. In keeping with the theme of the canoe, I wanted to use whatever materials were on hand to make this functional piece of wall art. I came up with the idea of using a left over piece of birch plywood as a background and burning the blueprint image from Adney's book that served its purpose as a guide for the building process. After printing the image to appropriate scale and taping the pieces of paper into position onto the board, I transfered the image and burned it with the fine tip pyrography writing nib. I wish I could free hand it, but Adney's sketching detail and adherence to scale is amazing and out of my league.

Transfering the Adney plan

The burned image

For the border, I ended up using some harvested bark from the recent cottage hike (all from naturally downed trees). I figured it would add a nice touch to emphasize the material used for the build. Using a scrap piece of plywood as a guide, I scored across the face of some collected bark with my knife to create even pieces. Along with some regular craft adhesive and a few clamps, the bark pieces were glued to form a rustic border. To support the boat, I simply drilled 2 holes into the plywood and stuck in some 1/4" dowels provided in the kit, re-using these items from earlier in the build.

Cutting bark strips for the border; Dowels into position

Here's how the final piece turned out mounted on the wall. Easy access if I want to take it down and play with it in the lake until the real one is eventually built.

The final resting place

Side View

Below the Greenland Kayak Paddle & next to the Cherry Maliseet

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bark Harvest

With the completion of the model canoe, I've decided to try my hands at a few other birchbark crafts but this required scouting for a new bark supply. While up north, I decided to scrounge around some local secret hiking trails to try my luck and source out some birch with the intention of harvesting a small amount from fallen & dead trees only.

While hiking around I came across plenty of naturally downed Birch trees in various stages of rot, including a few large ones. Unfortunately, the quality of the bark had already begun to degrade on these trunks and so I simply harvested small pieces, many of which contained the darkened winter bark that I can use for etching purposes. The largest piece I was able to obtain is a 3 ft long, 22" wide piece that'll serve nicely for other projects.

Here are some pics:

Dead standing and fallen trees

Slicing down with the Mora

Peeling with cedar spud

The bark harvest from downed & rotting trees

I was also able to hook up with another canoe enthusiast who gratefully responded to my Kijiji ad requesting harvesting some bark legally from larger trees on anyone's private property. Paul gratitiously offered scouting on one of his properties up north and together we spent the day searching for bark from various deadfall and standing trees that were going to be cleared for a bush trail anyway. After wandering around and surverying the options, we ended up harvesting from a single tree while being swarmed by the season's unusually horrid mosquito population. The harvesting went slower as planned and the bark didn't "pop" off the tree easily despite the ideal time of the month to harvest...I guess last month's unusually colder temperatures hindered the natural release of bark that occurs during June/July. In the end, I ended up with 2 lengthy panels of 30" wide bark that'll be saved for the full scale build I intend to start later this summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Spoons

While not directly related to paddle making , I've been trying to be eco-conscious and use the scraps of wood left over from the process to make some more wooden utensils. Tonight, I decided to try my hand at free carving some spoons from a piece of Basswood cutoff. Basswood is a remarkable wood for carving and with a piece left over from cutting out the blade pattern on the 17th Century Kayak Replica, I got to work on a warm evening out on the balcony. At first I tested the grain for carving direction and then settled on cutting the stock in half for easier shaping. Using the Crooked Knife provided by John Lindman's Canoe kit, a Frosts Spooning Knife, and my trusty Mora, the basswood piece was quickly shaped.

The basswood stock

Progressive shots of the carving process

I still don't have the carving finesse to perfectly carve a smooth spoon without the need for abrasives. So after sanding with various grits, a decent basswood scoop spoon had formed.

Sanded down

With the other half of the basswood scrap, I tried another more elaborate design and sketched a spoon design with a broader, flat handle. This one turned out okay and I might consider some basic decorative chipcarving on this one since the wood is so soft and suitable. Already ordered a introductory chip-carving book from the Library.

Scrap wood; Roughed out spoon

I've been going through a bit of a creative rut regarding the decoration lately...can't seem to come to a decision about the decoration pattern. For now, I've leave these blank and come back to them later.

The final basswood spoons

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Future Improvements

The model canoe is finished and served as a fantastic building project into understanding the building process. Even though it isn't up to the standards of Ted Behne and his amazing museum quality models, I'm still happy with my humble boat despite its rougher lines.

In any event, the experience has me fantasizing about the full scale model. Working on the model has helped me understanding areas of improvement I would need to focus on to really build a worthy craft.

Here are some things I would do differently (some cosmetic, some structural)

1. Fresh Roots - the kit provided some roots that had obviously been through many boiling / drying cycles resulting in a darker colour. While I liked the darker tone as accents, the ease in which I collected my own roots and the quality of the splitting/lashing would make me want to harvest and use fresh roots as much as possible.

2. When I split the ribs from the provided rib stock, I ended up soaking the plank over night and splitting while it was wet as many books mention. One chapter in Gidmark's book mentions builder Jim Jerome favouring soaking the wood but letting it partially dry out to prevent fraying. While splitting the ribs, many of them ended up fraying and when fully dried, left an uneven texture that didn't smooth out even with sandpaper.

3. I'd probably use less gum on the inside (went a little overboard to ensure it wouldn't leak) as well as taping seam borders with masking tape to contain the sticky mess.

4. In this model, I was worried about tearing bark on the gores while stitching, so they were left unnecessarily wide. In fact after viewing more models and re-watching Jim Miller's DVD, the gore stitching looks cumbersome and bulkier in my model. Jim didn't even stich the gores on his model, just gummed up the seams while many of Ted's models don't have any sticky gum on the stitched gores them making them look "cleaner"

5. I should've made the thwarts from hardwood. I had plenty of birch, maple, cherry scraps on hand but got lazy and just used cedar. These got the job done of stretching apart the gunwales but also ended up splitting or cracking during the lashing process and look damaged.

6. In the full scale one, I think I'll make use of winter bark panels to etch out some designs.

In any event, this whole experience has been very rewarding personally and if any readers care to make their own model, hopefully my experiences can make your build a tad bit easier.

As an extra note, I've just noticed that Ted Behne will be at the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's Annual Assembly, this year appropriately held Peterborough, Ontario (July 16-20th). He's there on the Saturday so I intend to head up there for the day and talk canoes with this fantastic builder first hand.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

17th Century Kayak Paddle Replica - Part 3

I've been steadily working on the 17th Century Kayak Paddle Replica begun at the beginning of May. The blades have all been shaved down to the appropriate thickness and the oval shaped shaft has been sanded down. With the paddle wetted and re-sanded, it was time to begin the decoration.

Shaving completed; Wetting the grain

The group requesting this for their retiring principal wanted a loon image. Basswood is a fantastic wood for pyrography and its light colour and tight grain mean a great contrast with darkened tones. Here's the loon image I came up with...

Loon image on one blade

For the other blade, the group decided on an inspirational quote which was expanded to appropriate size using the Monotype Corsiva font on MS Word. I wish I could free hand, but I'm no Calligrapher. I'm embarassed to say I had no idea who the author of the quote was (Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire Co.) but my excuse is that I spend more time paddling on the water than driving all day on premium brand rubber tires.

The group's inspirational quote

After varnishing with 5 coats of Glossy Minwax® Helmsman® Spar Urethane (sanding between each coat with 0000 Fine Steel Wool) I used some tan coloured leather lace to tie 3-lead-5-bight decorative Turk’s Head knots for drip rings. These were sealed in place with a little more varnish to prevent the leather from swelling when it gets wet.

The unvarnished and varnished pics

Leather Turk's Head drip ring - unvarnished

Kind of interesting given my Turkish heritage that absolutely no one in Turkey has worn a turban since 1826. That year, Sultan Mahmut II banned the turban as a symbol of growing religious authority and replaced it with the more "modern" Fez which in turn was later banned by Ataturk as a symbol of corrupt feudalism of the Ottoman era. Today only tacky tourists and traditional ice cream vendors in touristy areas walk around with these scarlet monstrosities. On my last visit to the homeland back in '06, I spent some quality peaceful time exploring neglected Ottoman graveyards that were off the tourist trail. Ottoman headstones are amazing works of art with elaborate stone carvings written in the poetic (but now a forgotten old Ottoman Script). I had been studying Ottoman Turkish for about a year before my trip just so I could translate the various inscriptions all over Istanbul. Interesting that each headstone is decorated with replicas of the the headgear of the deceased as a sign of rank and position in society. You could tell who died before 1826 (Turbaned gravestone) with those who passed away after (Fezzed headstones) with those who died in the Republican era (Plain grave marker). If anyone cares to know, there's a Flickr Group devoted to this esoteric artform called Mezar Taslari with some interesting shots submitted by members.

Anyway, I digress...Designing and working on this paddle has been a rewarding experience, especially since it was commissioned for a well deserving recipient who'll hopefully enjoy it during his retirement.

Posing with the work before it's off to its new owner

By the way, if any reader cares to read the previous postings on this paddle, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paddle Edging Idea

While working on my model canoe, I've also been intently following Bryan's Boat Building & Paddling Blog while he constructed a kayak (a Flea) for his two beautiful daughters. He's now moved on to finalizing the production of custom paddles for the girls that began with a creative painting session on the blades.

In his followup post, he documents a creative idea for protecting the edging around the blades - using glued copper wire around the entire edge of the blade which is later protected with epoxy. The pics on his page document the process nicely and while I'm not much of a kayak paddler, his technique has me intrigued for experimenting with the idea in the future. Thanks for the idea Bryan and let us all know how the official launch goes!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Maiden Canoe Voyage

With bright sunny skies and a bit of a brisk wind, I launched the model Attikamek Hunter's canoe into the pristine waters of my cottage lake. Here are some shots of event.

Laying on the grass by the shore

Posing next to a mother birch tree

Wavy & windy start...but she stayed afloat

Floating along the rocky shoreline

Brought into calmer waters by the dock

Coming in for a beach landing

I want to thank John Lindman at the Bark Canoe Store for putting together a kit with the raw materials as well as my wife for letting me hijack the dining room table for the past few months on this build. It has inspired me to want to build more birch bark crafts with serious intentions of making a full scale one. For now, this one is going on the cottage wall with a custom-made frame that I've already made plans for.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mini Pack Basket & Paddle

In keeping with the minature scale of the model canoe, I decided to use some of the left over bark and spruce root to make a miniature birchbark basket. NativeTech has some nice info about Birch Bark containers as well as some sketches. In the end, I ended up with a simple design that contained sewing methods I learned from the lashing of the canoe.

I started off with two pieces of bark, although I only ended up using one (bottom piece in the pic). It was actually a full delaminated outer layer that was paper thin. The panel was soaked for additional pliability and then formed into a basic shape held temporarily with clothespins.

Bark pieces; Forming the shape; Temporary clamping

The top portion would be round while the bottom square with folded up sides. The triangular seams would be sewn with root using a saddle stitch while the upper seams sewn with a stitch identical to the one used for stitching the gores of the canoe.

Stitched up with dark spruce root

To form the rim, a thicker piece of fresh root was coiled into a circle and cut to fit the circumference of the opening. In addition, a thin strip of bark with the white side facing in was prepared to form an additional layer around the top of the basket. Then a coiling stitch was sewn through both bark layers binding the rim into shape.

The rim piece; Clamped into position with outer bark; Coil stitching

The mini Maliseet paddle had been cut out of some scrap poplar stock last time I went to the Carpenter's Square workshop. A few minutes with the spokeshave and the paddle blade was formed, although to even out the grip area, I ended up using the Ferrier's knife I picked up a while back. This was sanded out and using a mini round rasp, I carved out the hollow spots on the grip.

Mini paddle blank; Shaving it down

The paddle makes a great utensil for stirring stews & sauces. I think I might make a bunch more just for fun of it - a good use of the scrap wood. The pack basket is pretty crude by most standards, but I've got a few more pieces of bark to make more when I'm in the mood.

Mini basket & paddle

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gumming the Canoe's Hull

The last step before she's water-ready...gumming the hull! The whole experience of gumming the inside made for a really messy interior that was ultimately covered with sheathing. To make sure the exterior was neat and tidy looking, the gores and lap seams were first bordered with some conventional masking tape.

Masking tape on hull

There was some gum left over in the can from when I originally tempered the mixture a while back. It had hardened considerably (left outdoors) but with a quick re-heating the gum was syrupy again. To seal each gore, a large gob of gum was placed at the bottom end of the gore (positioned on top in the flipped over hull). Rather than smear it all over with a thin cedar stick (like in the interior), I wet my thumb and gently pressed it into the seam and stitching holes while dragging it down the side of hull. This left the majority of the gum below the waterline while leaving a thinner coat well above the waterline were the gum doesn't need to be as thick.

I had to work quickly as the gum would set and begin hardening after a few minutes. This meant only sealing about 3 or 4 gores before the gum would need to be reheated. To hasten the process, I left a candle burning out on the balcony and would simply reheat the can of gum by carefully suspending it over the flame and then run back inside to do the sealing. Going back and forth like this and sealing with my hands created quite sticky fingertips, so I didn't stop to take pictures along the way, but only after the job was finished.

Finished seams

Should mention that the ends received the most amount of gum which resulted in a very dark amber. In these areas, the gum was pressed into the cracks and sealed any other minor openings. Unfortunately, I noticed some new tiny hairline cracks in the bow where some eyes had opened up, probably after the hull dried after placing the ribs under tension. This meant a rather sloppy appearance at the bow end, but it was necessary to prevent any water seepage. After that was done, I let the gum sit for about an hour and then proceeded to take off the tape revealing some clean looking seams.

Removing the tape

With the hull still inverted, I gummed any remaining spots, including a tiny blemish on the bottom and the huge knothole on the port side. With the inside gumming and extra bark pressured with sheathing and ribs, some of the interior gum oozed out so I didn't need much to perfectly seal this area.

The gummed hull including knothole on the side

It was then time for the leakage test in the tub to see if I did a good job. After letting it sit empty, no leakage was seen, but when I pressed into the center of the boat (mimicking the weight of a paddler) small droplets were seen at the bow end. I also pressed down the stern but no problems there and even heeled the boat over onto each side to spot any gore leaks and there were none. The bow was sealed with another layer of gum over any suspicious spots and after a second test, she sealed up completely even when weighted down almost to the gunwales.

Testing for leaks in the tub

Even though the main project is done, I still have ideas for this model. I'll be carving some minature paddles to go with the design as well as making a background frame & wallmount to display the work at the cottage and inspire work on the "real one".

Gummed up and ready to rock!

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