Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

If you look at some of my posts, one of the common labels that you will see is "Devil is in the details..." I think that the best canoes are those where the builder has thought ahead to how they want the canoe to look when it is finished. Often, the new builder is so wrapped up in what they are doing at the moment, that they're not thinking ahead to the finishing details.

The choices are only limited by your imagination. The variety is really mind-boggling if you think about it too much. There are lots of good examples of how to finish your canoe's details by looking at both classic and modern canoes - it's a matter of taste, really. Pictures can be found by searching online for images using "canoe bow" and "canoe deck".

After the hull is finished and 'glassed, the trim needs to go on. For our small solo canoes, this typically includes the seat, a thwart, decks and gunwales. For those that like the woodwork a bit fancier or are concerned about shipping water over the deck (a serious concern in small canoes with low freeboard) a coaming - a curved lip at the back of the deck to help deflect water away from the inside of the boat is a good idea.

Another good thing to add to the canoe is a footrest. This helps as you paddle the canoe to give something to push against. Often, this is just a stick parallel to the front edge of the seat and tied to the front edge of the seat.

The other concern that people have a hard time figuring out is how to tie a rope to the bow and stern of the canoe. This is important for several reasons. First, you need to be able to tie your boat down to the top of your car to transport it. You also will want to tie the boat up so it doesn't float away from a dock or beach. You may also want to be able to "line" the boat through shallow water where the bottom is too muddy to walk along beside your canoe. This needs to be secure as the forces on your canoe - particularly on the car - can be high as it is going down the highway. You definitely don't want your hand-made boat to go flying off. (See my previous post on transporting boats here.)

There are lots of ways to attach a line to the front of the canoe. You can put in a ferrule like the one below:

It is a hole drilled through the bow of the boat that is lined with a piece of brass or bronze tubing that has rounded edges to keep from chafing the line. It is simple and effective, but you need to do a good job sealing to avoid having a place for water to get in and to rot the wood of the canoe.

A simple way to attach a line and to have a good place to carry the canoe is to add a grab handle at the bow and stern - it just needs to be comfortably rounded - like the one below:

Brass or Stainless quarter round stock can also be purchased and formed around the stem and stern of the canoe. As with the hole through the bow, this needs to be well sealed as you will be screwing into the wood of the stem. The benefit is that it helps to protect the bow from abrasion. Often, as seen below, this metal strip is bent over the top of the deck. Sometimes, a loop is formed at the apex for a painter ring to tie on a rope.

Older boat designs like the B.N. Morris below had custom hardware like the diamond painter ring mounts and the flag socket.

Hardware was often vendor specific, as can be seen from the Old Town painter rings below:

Personally, I don't like the painter rings as they bang around on the boat damaging the deck unless there is something to protect the deck. To avoid the loose rings, a solid pad eye can be screwed down to the deck. Along with another version with a loose painter ring, here are 5 different versions:

There IS a reason that stuff like this is known as "canoe jewelry". Pretty, isn't it?

It is also possible to mount hidden hardware beneath the deck - such a a brass, bronze or wooden cleat below the deck. Most people are familiar with a "horn cleat" which looks like this:

Don't let this limit you, however - there are many other types of cleats, such as the very art-deco streamlined cleats here:

Canoe hardware is smaller than that found on most other boats and can be a bit hard to find at an appropriate scale. Be sure to keep that in mind as you look.

Where do you look? Well, that's up to you.

You can make your own wooden hardware from unusual hardwoods - ebony, hard maple, etc. If you've made the boat, how hard can the hardware be?

You can also cast your own brass or bronze hardware. Really. I'm serious. There are classes out there where you can learn to make patterns and actually cast your own parts. If you want something specific, it isn't a bad way to go. Alternatively, you can cut, file and polish parts out of brass - it's fairly soft metal and machines easily. You can also contract the manufacture of custom hardware. One source is the Springfield Fan Centerboard Company which is known for reproduction canoe hardware - including articulated fan centerboards similar to the Radix boards used in sailing canoes of the late 1800's.

You can buy old or antique hardware from dealers, too. One source is a company called Ross Brothers who are active WCHA members. The WCHA also has a list of vendors for canoe building vendors and material suppliers on their website.

New hardware is also available from a variety of vendors. Among them are Hamilton Marine, West Marine, Jamestown Distributors, Bristol Bronze and TenderCraft Boat Shop.

Just remember, you're only limited by your imagination!

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