Saturday, October 4, 2008
Finally done with the strips, I have been fitting the exterior stems over the past couple weekends. I had steam bent these pieces out of cherry at the same time as the inner stems back in March or so and they've been waiting for me since then.
First task was to cut the stems rougly to length, then taper the keel-side end slightly so that it would not be wider than the inner stem as I cut away the cedar strips to allow it to fit. Next I cut a mortice into the hull starting roughly at the point where the stems turn sharply toward the bottom of the hull and ending about an inch shy of the end of the inner stem. Going too far would result in a hole through the hull! I used a 1/8" chisel, a sharp utility knife and a narrow sanding stick for this job and constantly dry-fit the stem to make sure it fit as perfectly as possible. The tedium paid off with a pretty good fit on both ends of the hull.
Next task was to epoxy the stems on. Canoecraft recommends using no.6 screws to firmly secure the outer stems while the epoxy dries and then to remove them and fill the holes with plugs. I wasn't confident in my ability to do this skillfully and I have read about other people simply strapping the stems down instead of using screws. This has the benefit of not having to remove the screws and plug the holes. I picked up some heavy duty rubber straps from OSH and tried a dry run. The straps seemed to work pretty well holding the stems in place securely so I decided to go for it. I am slightly concerned that the straps might be too tight and squeeze out too much epoxy, but after the fact I don't think that is the case. I covered the hull with painters tape and plastic too prevent most of the epoxy from getting on the hull. Then I brushed a few layers of unthickened epoxy on the stem ends to allow them to soak it up while I mixed up another batch of epoxy thickened with microfibres to the "consistency of peanut butter". This was painted on one of the mating surfaces and the stem was strapped down. I'll have to wait till tomorrow to see how well it has worked out...