Monday, January 14, 2008
It was a big weekend of work on the canoe. A while ago Andy Orsini, a buddy of mine from Santa Cruz and a fine woodworker/ wicked surfer, convinced me that it would be fun to buy the Western Red Cedar as boards and mill it into strips myself. So this past weekend I persuaded him to help me out and we headed over to Jackel Enterprises in Watsonville with a 12 ft long 2x12 plank strapped to the top of my VW Rabbit to pick out some boards. The guys at Jackel were friendly, helpful and meticulous about their grammar. (I was corrected to say "How many boards do you have?", not "How many boards do you got? oops.) We picked out the finest 18 ft boards of WRC they had; one 2x6 and the other 2x10. We also bought a 2x6 x 10 ft board of Port Orford Cedar for the inside stems. Port Orford Cedar is actually a cypress that grows in Oregon, but it is a beautiful and durable and lightweight wood. We strapped the 18 ft boards back on top of my 14 1/2 ft long car and headed back along hwy 1 to Andy's shop in Capitola. Now the fun began.
Turning 2 boards into 78 1/4" x 7/8" strips involves a lot of milling. From our careful pre-calculations we determined that we would get 80 strips out, but we lost two due to a couple early mishaps. After practicing with making the stem strips and the two early mistakes things went quite smoothly, most of which I can thank Andy for. WRC handles very well. There was very little fraying or chipping running through the machines and we ran it through a lot of machines. For a while it just seemed like I was turning money into sawdust.
Since we wanted end grain strips we cut the quarter sawn boards into smaller 1" x 2" boards using the table saw and then cut 5 strips exactly 9/32" wide and 7/8" high out of each of these. All of the strips were numbered in order as they came off the table saw so that I will be able to match the grain on both sides of the canoe as I lay the strips on the mold. These 9/32" strips were then fed through the planer once on each side to take off 1/64" on each side and bring the final width of the strips down to 1/4". (We were careful to renumber the strips as they came off the planer as well!) That was it for Saturday.
Sunday I headed back over the hill to Santa Cruz to finish up. It was taking a little longer than we had planned, but so far turning out really well. Today we routered the bead and cove edges into the strips so that they will fit snugly together without spaces. After setting up the table, router, feather boards, making dozens of minuscule adjustments and going through several tests on scrap pieces we finally got started on the last step in this process: pulling the 78 strips through the router once on each side. For those who haven't done the math, that works out to 2808 ft of wood strips! With the router throwing cedar sawdust in the air it felt like I was trapped in a very dry but sweet-smelling snowglobe and the wood just kept coming.
It was 9pm on Sunday night that I finally dropped Andy off at home and headed back over the hill to Mountain View with the wood once again strapped to the top of the car, this time a considerably lighter load. The strips turned out fantastically and I learned a whole lot about wood and woodworking from Andy. It was a great weekend for me, unfortunately it was kind of like work for Andy. I owe him a pair of hands for one of his jobs in the future.
Next up for the project: tracing and cutting out the station molds.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
This is the first post to chronicle the building of my first wooden boat. It will be a 15' cedar strip canoe made from 1/4" x 13/16" strips of Western Red Cedar encased in a single layer of clear fibreglass for rigidity and waterproofing. I bring almost no experience to this endeavour, but I from what I read, this type of project is doable for someone of my level. The plans that I have ordered from Bear Mountain Canoes in Peterborough, Ontario suggest that is should take roughly 200 hours. I'm banking on about double that for myself. The design is called the "15' Bob's Special" and the lines for this boat were lifted off of an old Chestnut design. I like it for its classic look and size.
I like the size for a couple of reasons. First, the finished weight is only 45-50 lbs, which I should be able to portage relatively easily and Tracy and I like to travel light. Second, it is about the only design that I could build in my limited work space (half of a garage). I have read that a builder should plan for about 3 ft of space on each side of the canoe as it is being built. My space is only about 20 ft long by 7 to 8 ft wide. The canoe beam is 3 ft, so I will be a little bit squeezed and I'm hoping things will work out.
Things have started out well at least. I spent a couple weekends putting together the strongback, from 3/4" sheets of plywood and lots of screws. The strongback is the rigid bench that supports the station molds around which the strips are layed to make the hull. There are couple of photos of the all but completed strongback above. The first shows it lying upside down and second right side up. All that remains to be done for the strong back is to screw on the top boards and anchor it to the floor. You can also see in the picture how small the workspace is. I used this first part of the project to gain some confidence and I am fairly pleased with how it came out.