Saturday, June 5, 2010

No More Teasing...

The school where I teach had their annual Exhibition this weekend. It's a bit bittersweet for me because I love doing this, but it is always the same weekend as the John Gardner Small Boat Workshop at Mystic Seaport, so I don't get to go there, but I do get to have fun showing people the boats I teach my students to build.

The school has once again provided a large tent for us to display the boats under and in front of. This year we occupied the whole tent and then some of the surrounding lawn. The show runs on Friday evening and Saturday morning and while the tent wasn't necessary last night, it was a good thing this morning as it sprinkled a bit as we were setting things up. It was, however, hot, humid and oppressive. Quite frankly, it is a great deal of work to set things up, pack them away on Friday night and repeat it for Saturday morning. I'm very pleased and proud that my students stick it out to do this.

We had boats, materials and jigs to show people what we do and how we do it. My students are always uncomfortable showing their unfinished work, but I think that it is very important for the people who come to the show to see and understand what has gone into building these canoes and kayaks. Visitors to the show are usually very pleased to be able to see all of the build stages.

I really need to tell a little tale here. One of my students confided in me that she'd come to sign up for a furniture making class to learn to make a table and when the class was filled up, she was looking around for something else to do and decided that she'd sign up for my class and build a canoe instead! (Table...canoe...table...canoe...whatever!) The boat in the picture below is being built by that student. Her sister came along and signed up for the class this year and has been building the canoe closest to you in the picture above. The feature strip on the side of both of their boats is a representation of a Fibonacci sequence - one is light on dark and the other dark on light. We just need to screw the trim together on the first sister's boat and I'll probably help her do it over the summer.

People who come and see these boats quickly become captivated. Some simply walk around gobsmacked and can say nothing. One lady this morning walked around like that for about 2o minutes with her mouth literally hanging open as she went. After she finally composed herself, she had lots of questions for us. I can't say that I've had anyone be quite that distracted at exhibition before.

The school really likes it when we have live demonstrations going on. Secretly, my students do as well. The two students building the Prospector Ranger took the time to remove the staples from the hull. Here's one of them sitting down on the job:

The Prospector Ranger is looking nice - we've got stems to go on and some fairing and glassing to do before we get to see how lovely the feature strip will look. I think it will be stunning.

I brought along the skin-on-frame kayak frame that we only had at last year's show in 1/4 scale. People seem to be interested in that too, but I think the finished boat will be a draw as well.

Three students really completed their boats this year. They all have some small details they're still working on - but I'll point that out later. One student finished the Wee Lassie II in the background and this lovely pair of poplar paddles to go with it. The canoe is called the Double Espresso as he brought in a coffee machine for my class's ten o'clock "union break".

Here's a detail of the Double Espresso's deck. It's tiger maple with a mahogany stripe. It's gently curved and has a small scupper at the tip to allow water to drain. He just needs to apply some hardware to the decks to tie the boat down and attach painter lines.

The next boat is the Osprey kayak which has be being built for the last two years. You have to keep in mind that the classes are only three and a half hours per week for little over half a year. The kayak is named Phoenix. The builder is a semi-retired cabinet maker and lost his shop last year to a fire. He was very lucky that he hadn't taken the boat to his shop to work on. He's got some small blocks to mount under the deck for the seat mounting, a piece of butternut to finish the coaming trim and varnish. He'll add some hatches at a later date. A very pretty kayak.

The third canoe that was finished up is another Wee Lassie II. The woman who built the canoe is a quilter and the canoe was named Crossed Canoes for the quilting pattern. She decided that she'd impress us and made a lap quilt in the crossed canoes pattern that is draped in the canoe. We were indeed impressed.

Close-up of the quilt:

I really love it that even though all of my students build from the same designs, all of the boats are unique. Compare the deck in the picture below to the one above. This deck has a cherry burl and a walnut stripe with a mahogany coaming and grab handles.

So, as I mentioned before, the school likes live demonstrations and there were details to be finished - here are the Wee Lassie II builders finishing up a bit of seat caning:

A great day with great weather!


Cat said...

Oh my, what beautiful canoes! And what a good thing the kayak wasn't in the shop when it caught fire!

I think it's a great idea to have displays of canoes at different stages of building. When I finished my first canoe I was often asked about the building process, and it's hard to be sure how much people absorb of the explanation.

A feature strip modeling the Fibonacci sequence is a wonderful idea. I never heard of that before. I wonder what other series could be modeled in that way

I have not (so far) had the nerve to make a feature strip--it's a bit like getting a tattoo. I worry that I will get bored with it later and not be able to change it.

I'm working on my second canoe now, out of white pine (almost as light and flexible as cedar and 40% of the cost here in Tennessee), and I scarfed together some butternut to make feature strips--they don't have any designs; I thought the natural grain of the butternut would be fine. So far I'm happy with it but the acid test will be the sealer coat--until then I won't know how the colors will really come out.

Canoez said...

Cat - the center strip on the sea kayak is Butternut and is just visible at the center of the deck and is surrounded by Port Orford Cedar which I think will look a lot like the pine color-wise.

The downside to pine can be pitch pockets that bleed when the hull heats up in the sun. It can sometimes cause issues with the epoxy/ 'glass coating.

Cat said...

I did not know that about pitch pockets. I got the highest quality white pine I could find, and so far have not had a problem with pitch pockets, but I haven't taken the under-construction canoe out of the garage much! (Except that it turns out early morning slanting sunlight is great for sanding--but the weather here has been such that I only got to do that once this week).

However it routinely gets up to 85 degrees in the garage, which might be hot enough to make the pitch run if it was going to. I will keep an eye out for pitch pockets. I suppose if I spot them before fiberglassing I could (whimper) dig them out with a chisel or a gouge and fill in the hole with wood putty or sawdust-in-wood-glue. And I guess if they cause delamination the solution would be to treat it like water-induced delamination in Gil's book--sand everything back to bare wood, dig out the pitch pocket, repair the gouge, make a fiberglass patch that overlaps with the remaining fiberglass on the hull, epoxy it back down. I hope I don't have to do that, but it doesn't involve any technique I haven't used.

The white pine is a lovely cream-and-rose ...err, if it was sock yarn, the term would be "colorway." I had cream pieces, pink pieces, pink-and-cream pieces and cream-with-pink-grain pieces, which gave me a wide variety to choose from, when it came to planking.

The butternut, on the other hand, is kind of a "cool" brown--a brown with a lot of green in it. If I could have found a wood with a warm brown (a lot of red in it) I think it might have gone better with the pinkish white pine.

But my first canoe got a lot yellower over time, and I suppose my beautiful pink-and-cream white pine will probably end up orange-and-yellow. Which will be okay too, I'm sure. The kayak certainly looks fine.

I have really been enjoying your blog. Thank you for posting.

Canoez said...

Cat - glad you enjoy the blog.

The strips will show the pitch pockets in darker color - they're usually a bit streaky and with a little light you can see them and avoid them. You may have very good quality stock, too.

The skin-on-frame kayak in this post uses white pine stringers and the stock that I was fortunate enough to get good quality stock from a local sawyer and only had a few pitch pockets that I was able to cut around. (At the ends of the stringers...)

My father made us some nice Adirondack chairs that we weren't able to use. He used pine for the stock and we sealed with shellac before painting in gloss green enamel. The forest green color absorbed sunlight and the pitch bled through both the shellac and the paint. I've put the chairs in the basement to wait out the pitch. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to salvage and re-paint the chairs.