Wednesday, October 1, 2008


In my canoe building class, I teach people to build Mac McCarthy's design of the Wee Lassie and Wee Lassie II canoes.

There is a reason for that.

At the school where I teach the class, the workshop is fairly small and is in the basement of the building. The basement is reached via a set of stairs from a lobby and you have to make some fairly interesting turns to get a strongback down into the shop. Across the parking lot from the building is a small barn. In this barn, we get to store materials and boats in progress. This is important as we cannot leave the boats in the shop during the week as it would interfere with other classes, and it would be too difficult for my students to schlep their materials back and forth every week.

The Wee Lassie is about 11'-6" long and the Wee Lassie II is about 13'-6" long. Both boats are 28" wide. The Wee Lassie II gets down into the basement with a bit of difficulty. Once all the material has been milled, we move aside some of the power tools and can just fit 6 canoes in the shop to work on them.


I've had a student who purchased plans for a Newfound Woodworks Osprey kayak. It's roughly a 16' long, 24" wide kayak. I have real concerns about getting the boat in and out of the shop. Also, because of the differences in the form from a canoe, I've got serious concerns about storing it. It's a neat project, and I think it would be fun to work on, but I think it is too big and too "different" of a project to try to wedge into the class. I worry that it will be a distraction. Kayak builds are also much more involved and I don't think that the student could finish the boat in the allotted time. I've got some plans for some smaller kayaks and would like to propose them, but I still think that building a kayak in a class for canoes would still be an issue.


I have yet another student who purchased plans for a Sandy Point Boatworks Bufflehead canoe. At 14'-6" and 33" wide, it pushes the limits of size, but not technique. We'll have to see if we can fit

If you're tempted to build a cedar strip kayak, I highly recommend Ted Moores' book Kayak Craft - a thorough study on the subject. Also, Newfound Woodworks and other sources have great DVD's to walk you through the process.


Geoff said...

Some thoughts on this dilemma:

"Variety is the spice of life".

1. If One wants to build a 16ft boat then they're relegated to the hallway. Storage might take some tinkering with junk in the barn.
2. We are building boats as a distraction from the "real world" so what if there is are different types of boats being built. It might spark some creativity in others. Besides haven't I heard you say building a kayak is building two canoes and putting them together. I recommend that the first half of the boat goes home until the top is ready to receive it. You are correct in that it will not be completed in the allotted time. This person needs to be willing to go the extra mile and do a lot of the stripping at home.
3. To alleviate some of the space issues the material that is not in use may have to go home until needed.

My 2 cents.

Canoez said...

Well, for the most part, I would agree with you. I'm interested in the opportunity to work on a kayak again - it has been a number of years for me and I've got better resource materials than I did at that time.

The particular desing of this kayak and its strongback is very unique. I don't have instructional material from the vendor which I would like to have at my disposal regarding the set-up for the strongback, so it is difficult for me to assess how much attention this student will need during this part of the build.

Sady, I can't relegate a student to the hallway - that doesn't work as the folks in the weaving class use that space and the noise and dust would be an issue.

Building a kayak is like building two canoes - and the trim is completely different.

I guess I'm mostly concerned about the deviation from the class focus. Contrary to popular belief, classroom environments really aren't democracies. This doesn't work for the others who are there to learn a particular skill. Sure, it's neat to be able for people to see other things, but when it's a distraction from the main focus of the class, it becomes a problem.

I'm still thinking about it.