Friday, July 15, 2011

Are you round?

Well, maybe I should say "well rounded".  If you're going to build small boats, you will build an amazing skill set.  My students started on yet another skill on their path to becoming accomplished boat-builders on Sunday.  We had a little caning party at the Chateau D'Zaster on Sunday afternoon so that they could learn the finer points of hand-caning their own seats. 

Yeah, we could buy pre-made seats.  We could also buy sheet-woven cane and press it into routed grooves with a spline.  I think hand-caned seats add a timeless elegance to a small canoe and are more durable than the pressed-in cane.  I also think that it's nice to be able to select the species of wood to use for the frame to match other wood on the rest of the canoe other than the ubiquitous ash frames.  Two of my students are using Peruvian Walnut for trim on their canoe and wanted matching seats - where would you find pre-made seat frames made of it, anyway?

We started the afternoon by pulling strands of common cane from the bundles that we ordered and soaking them in glycerine loaded hot water to make them slippery and pliable.  While I'm not the most masterful cane weaver, I can instruct the weaving of a basic square seat with a little bit of effort - because over time, I have learned to become a well-rounded builder and continue to become more well-rounded over time.

It was a very pleasant afternoon that was enjoyed with warm sunny skies, a soft breeze, good company, snacks and cold drinks.  We managed (for the most part - with some fits and starts...) to get the seats ready to weave the diagonal sections of the cane at our next session. 

I was reminded today about just how well-rounded my students become in building these small canoes.  My students learn to:
  • select materials
  • work safely with a variety of hand and power tools.
  • prepare and align strongbacks
  • rip and mold strips
  • laminate and shape stems with a rolling bevel
  • create feature strips
  • strip the hull
  • fit the bottom panels
  • cut back stem ends and install outer stems
  • fair a hull
  • glass the hull
  • make a seat frame
  • varnish
  • cane the seat
  • trim the hull
  • build a paddle - at least those with the ambition to do so...
That's a pretty significant resume, really, and it only skims the surface of what they really do while building the canoe.  We get into more detailed discussions of things like thinning first coats of varnish, epoxy technique, cloth handling, surface preparation, clamping and stapling.  The minutia is really mind-boggling and the students don't always realize how much they are really absorbing.

Another good session and they'll all be ready for binder cane!


Cat Sittingstill said...

I use the plastic cane for canoe seats, figuring that they're going to be wet a lot--which I have read makes natural cane stretch out of shape-- and spend a certain amount of time baking in the sun. It's harder to get, though, and I have had suppliers tell me, four days after it should have shipped, that they didn't have any, or ask me anxiously if I'm sure I want the plastic.

So I haven't had to soak in hot water, but conversely for the weaving stages of caning I do have to use a little petroleum jelly so the friction doesn't head the plastic to the point where it melts.

By the way, I finished my latest canoe last Friday. The post with pictures is here:

My dad and brother are coming to visit in less than a week, but I think I just have time to move the seat in Constance. And clean house and such, of course. (Company is coming! Must mop the boats!)

Canoez said...

I have to admit to being a traditionalist for the most part when it comes to materials. This is why I prefer the natural cane as opposed to the plastic stuff. In terms of availability, have you tried ordering the plastic cane from HH Perkins?

Cool canoe! Congratulations on completing it.

Mopping the house, boats or both? ;-D

Cat Sittingstill said...

I have not tried HH Perkins, but will keep them in mind for next time I need plastic cane.

Thank you for your kind words about Moxie! I'm pleased with how it came out, though there are some things I might do differently next time.

Mopping the boats, mostly. The house--meh, vacuuming is good enough for that, with the possible exception of the kitchen floor.

Gary Loucks said...

I found this page while checking your blog and found it an amazing collection of information. You have a great blog Cat! Gary

Canoez said...


I'm not sure if your comment is for me or Cat, although I will say that I have enjoyed her canoe building (and using posts) over at her blog -