Tuesday, June 3, 2008

One of each, Please!

I've got a goal. I guess you could say that it's one of those goals that makes you say you've bitten off more than you can chew.

I'd like to build small craft in all of the various construction methods used for wooden canoes, kayaks and small skiffs. It's a tall order, really.

I've done cedar-strip and fiberglass construction on both small and large canoes. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Have helped build a small fleet (yes, fleet) of Wee Lassie and Wee Lassie II canoes to Mac McCarthy's designs, a Redbird to Ted Moores design, a Wabnaki to Gil Gilpatrick's plans, and a sea kayak who's name I don't recall. I've literally helped cut miles of cedar, redwood and sassafrass strips.

A Wee Lassie (Not mine...)

I've done restorations on a number of cedar and canvas canoes, but have never built one from scratch. I've replaced ribs, planking, stems, seat frames, decks, thwarts and canvas on a variety of this type of canoe. I've worked on what we suspect is a Chestnut, a Grand Laker, an Old Town Otca and two BN Morris canoes. I suspect that the one of the reasons that I'm actually into building canoes the way I am is paying penance to the Canoe Gods - I once participated in the fiberglassing of a classic BN Morris canoe that was in quite excellent shape. It's sort of a sin and I figure all my suffering through other boats is the pay-back. I would like to build one from scratch - forms and all, but I think I'd like to go take a class with a pro before I approach the intricacies of shaping cant ribs, and goring planks.

A restored 1916 Otca

I'd also like to do skin-on-frame canoes and kayaks. Quite frankly, they look like a heck of a lot of fun and not all that demanding. People seem to be gun-shy about the durability of this kind of boat, but they seem to be quite robust, really. The really impressive part about these boats is how incredibly light they are and how incredibly beautiful they can be.

Two Skin on Frame Canoes
From the Berkshire Boat Building School

I built a lapstrake canoe with my father to Tom Hill's Charlotte design. It was an interesting process and once the strongback, forms and ribbands were in place, it was quite quick to build. My father did the beveling of the stems and he seemed to make quite a meal of the process for some reason. I also couldn't seem to convince him to thicken the epoxy we were using for the seams with Cab-O-Sil, which would have made things much easier. I'm going to build my own boat by myself to apply those lessons that I've learned. I think I'll wind up with a nicer boat. I want to try more boats in this style.

Tom Hill's Charlotte
Thomas J. Hill Boat Designs

I'd like to try a tack-and-tape or stitch-and-glue style boat - either a canoe or kayak. Mik Storer's Beth looks particularly interesting to me. It's a sailing canoe and it looks to be quite the hot-rod with a huge amount of sail for a small canoe. I'm also interested in this method because of the relative simplicity and low cost. Newfound Woodworks has a small Wee Lassie style canoe kit to be built by this method. I think some of the people who've been intimidated by my cedar strip class might be interested in trying this and it might be more affordable.

Mik Storer's Beth

Now just to let you know about the "bitten off more than you can chew part", there are more ways than this to build small boats. Plank on frame and cold-molded come immediately to mind, but certainly aren't the only other ways... Anybody think I'm crazy yet? I know I certainly think I am.

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