Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Carving & Decorating Permanent Thwarts

So far, the inwales have been spread apart with temporary cedar thwarts loosely tied to the structure. Once all lashed in, the inwales needed to be spread with permanent thwarts mortised into the inwale structure.

I've seen some beautifully carved thwarts and I wanted them to be both functional and decorative, rather than just plain horizontal braces. I managed to find some online plans from the 1948 article "Canoe from the Penobscot River" by Wendell S. Hadlock & Ernest S. Dodge reprinted on the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association's website. Using photoshop to adjust to appropriate width for my smaller hull, the patterns were traced on onto some 1-1/8" yellow birch cutoffs from previous paddles and cut out with a handsaw.

Birch cutoffs; Thwarts cut out

Following some guidelines from Adney's book, I intended on shaping to the centre thwart to 7/8" thickness tapering down to 1/4" at the tips; the intermediate thwarts would be 3/4" thick at the centre tapering to 1/4" at the tips; and the end thwarts would be 1/2" thick tapering to 1/4". All this involved some marking with the combination square and carving down with a spokeshave - skills easily adapted from making paddles.

Carving with spokeshave

In the end I was left with some decent thwart blanks whose ends will be further shaped when it comes down to mortising them into the inwales.

Sanded down; edge view

Given that yellow birch lends itself pretty well to pyrography, I thought it would be a nice personal touch to add some woodburning images to the centre thwart. I decided on a simple wildlife scene with a black bear and a bull moose confronting each other with a familiar boreal forest shoreline in the background. Who knows, maybe when it's finally installed and I take the canoe paddling, I may come across this very scene on one of my paddling trips.

Bull Moose; Black Bear

Completed centre thwart


Mungo said...

Murat - you HAVE to look at this great movie about building a birch bark canoe... I just came across it. I think you'll love it:


Direct link to .mov file



Murat said...

Appreciate the links, Mungo. C├ęsar's Bark Canoe is a classic movie from the NFB. I first watched this film many years ago at the Film Boards free viewing centre at John & Adelaide and was totally mesmerized for the hour. Loved it so much that I bought the DVD. I've referred to it many times for my build so far. Thanks for thinking about me and enjoy your Algonquin Trip!

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