Cape Falcon 66: Adding Color

Today I dyed the boats. I chose a range of colors in consultation with Brian and asked everyone to choose their color. My youngest went back and forth. What he really wanted was a blue. So I showed him the course videos that discuss color so he could understand the constraints and get behind the process in general. After hearing Brian’s explanations about color fastness, etc., he jumped on the gold. Glad I ordered some.

In general, the process went well. At any rate, it went much better than it did the first time I dyed a canoe (the one I built last year, before watching Brian’s course, which wasn’t out at the time). For my own boats, I boiled the water in a paint can. It has a coating inside, which I thought would prevent potential interactions between the dye and the metal. Also, I set it on a hot plate when I was doing the actualy dying, to keep it hot through the whole process. Probably unnecessary, but there you go.

And now that they’ve been baking in the sun all day and are pretty dry, we should be all set for goop tomorrow.

Cape Falcon 66: Skins On

I probably overthink most things, but since we’re in a heat wave and both Brian (Cape Falcon Brian) and Corey (Skinboat Store Corey) mention that skin should go on cold, I (1) put the skins in the fridge for a few days and (2) set up for skinning in the dining room with air conditioners pointed at the boat.

The process here is pretty much as prescribed: Drape the fabric, pin the ends, cut with a hot knife (I use a soldering iron), and whip stitch the ends.

I don’t usually use so many pins. Usually I use a third of this. But this skin was, for some reason, being unruly.

Once I finished a boat I shifted it out through the window to get wetted and stapled.

Cape Falcon 66: Frames Finished

All the frames are lashed and finished. There may be a few details left, like rounding over the leading edge of the stem, removing bits of glue, and maybe another round of oiling just to catch any spots I missed.

In terms of finishing, I have an opinion. I varnished the smaller boat completely. The other boats I oiled, and I plan to varnish just the gun’ls. The problem I’m trying to solve is that the gun’ls will get super dirty and dinged up, and if left in the weather the rub strip will turn an ugly gray. I base this on the fact that it’s what happened to the first canoe I built, about a year ago. That canoe is stored outside, under a tarp to mitigate weathering, because it’s too big to go inside anywhere. These canoes hopefully will go under the big one, or in the garage, or in the basement. Still, I’d like more protection for these parts beyond oil. What I’m worried about is that I also know how varnish starts to peel away, and the thought of doing “bright work” on these ribs and stringers from the inside, with the skin on, seems a dodgy proposition. The gun’ls at least will be easy to sand down. So we’ll see what hold up best.

In the mean time, I’ve got everything I need to start skinning, and almost exactly two weeks until our vacation. Let’s see what I can pull out of my hat.

Cape Falcon 66: Trimming and Setting Stems

Now that all four boats have stringers it’s time to set up the stems, trim the stringers, and lash it all up. Including the keels. Smh. More lashing.

From the beginning I was wondering about the angle of the stems. The curve of the sheer is pretty even, but over the length of four boats the tangents are different enough that as the boat increases in length so does the angle at which the stem sits against the bottom edge of the gun’l. So I cut all the stem notches to pattern, but I figured I would have to tune them. This was the case, in fact. In some instances, the angle of the notch was too acute. I wouldn’t worry, except that I think differing angles would interfere with nesting. So I used the big canoe as a reference and sighted the stem angles of all the other canoes against it. The angles aren’t perfect, but they should be close enough. And if they need to be further tuned after lashing, then I can do that with a plane.

Also, I wanted to curve the inside of the stem. So after setting the outside curve with a bucket, I flipped it over and used the smaller circumference to make the inner curve. Something else I did was to trace both the top and the bottom of the keel against the stem piece. I then lined the bucket up to the top line. This means that part of the curve will get cut off when I trim the stem piece, giving me the opportunity to continue that curve into the keel itself. This will give me a fair curve through the transition through the stem piece to the keel.

Cape Falcon 66: More Ribs and Stringers

Stringers are lashed on all boats. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to lash thirty six stringers to one hundred ribs. One of the problems I always have with lashing is the mess the sinew makes on the stick around which it’s wound. So I came up with another method, which I dislike a little less than the stick. This is just a bolt with some washers nutted onto it. There’s enough bolt at one end that I can chuck it in my drill for winding.

Unfortunately, I did find myself replacing a few ribs that for some reason came out too long or too short. I’m sure the discrepancies were due to measurement errors along the way, but rather than tracking that down I just added or removed length to ribs that needed it and called it good. The center photo above shows me assessing a too short rib further down by clamping the stringers down to neighboring ribs. I clamp starting from the gun’ls, alternating sides, just like I would for the lashings.

In a more egregious instance, one of the boats was badly hogged, so I pulled loose the first three to four ribs on either end, pulled the keel down to reestablish the rocker, trimmed the ribs, and pegged them in.

Also note that while I generally have no interest in mowing my lawn, I have even less interest when there are boats to build.

Cape Falcon 66: Ribs and Stringers

I ribbed the last canoe this week, and no I’m ready for stringers. I had to do some adjusting of rib lengths to keep rocker under control. Also, perhaps because of measuring errors, some of my ribs were perceptibly too long. Also, I noticed that some of my ribs relaxed downward, so that I ended up with some serious hog in the L canoe. I believe I have fixed this by clamping tension back into the rib and steaming the area I wanted to reshape. More on this later. But for now, enjoy these pictures of four canoes, finally in one place, ready to take shape and come alive.

A few notes:

  1. If I’m not mistaken, I may have managed hollow bows. Let’s see if the 840 Xtra Tuff sucks into that hollow.
  2. I’m using a spacer block to ensure the stringers are equidistant from the gun’l. I made a 3” one for the XL and then reduced the rest proportionally. So the L pictured here gets a 2 5/8” spacer, the M gets a 2.5” spacer, and the S gets a 2 5/16” one.

Next: lash a few stringers and see how we feel.

Cape Falcon 66: Rocker and Sheer, the final word

It’s been a long time since the last post, because I’ve been through the wringer on the rocker. To review: I tried taking apart the gun’ls to trace them out on paper to get the sheer. I tried running string lines at various stages in the process. I’ve run all the numbers multiple times. I’ve measured, calculated, remeasured, and recalculated. I estimate that more than half of my time building these boats was spent trying to nail down sheer and rocker. But in the end, I think I’ve found a method that works reliably for me.

First, the reason this matters is because unless sheer is right, rocker won’t be right, and if rocker and sheer are wrong then I cannot reliably calculate the lengths of ribs. So here’s how I do it:

  1. Turn the deck upside down on the horses. For reasons I’ll explain later, it’s necessary to cantilever the canoe a little more than half of its width off of the horses. To do this, I attach rails to the horses that extend the required distance to one side, as illustrated in the pictures below.
  2. Clamp sticks to either end of the deck, and in the center. I use old window sash weights to hold the center down, though I never actually observed it rising. This just felt like a good way to work against any bowing under the tension of a string.
  3. Attach stems, and run the keel over them.
  4. Run a string from stem to stem
  5. Use a story stick to take the depth, from the string to the keel.
  6. Transpose the marks by as much rocker as I want. In the case of this boat, it’s 1.5 in.
  7. Use the story stick to set the height of the keel on the stems, and mark a cut line on the stem, along the bottom edge of the keel.
  8. Remove the string, remove the stems. Cut the stems.
  9. Reattach the stems, and re-run the string.

By clamping sticks in (2) I lock in the sheer so it won’t move on me as I pull the string tight and add the weight of the stems. By cantilevering the boat over the edge of the horses I give the string room to run without the horses getting in the way. The string is critical, since it’s used first to set the rocker, and then to take some other measurements later. The story stick is a quick and sure way to set the rocker without fussing with numbers.

Once the stems are set and screwed to the keel, and the string re-run, I use a clever little pair of sticks held with rubber bands to run the width of the canoe at each rib station. The stick that matters is the one that crosses the deck on the bottom of the gun’l. In a previous version of this process I clamped this stick. But moving those clamps got to be annoying.

I’m going to take two measurements, here:

  1. I measure from the string to the bottom edge of the gun’l (the edge closest to me as I stand over the upside-down deck, the edge that faces the ceiling.
  2. I measure from the same edge of the gun’l to the facing edge of the keel (top edge, the edge facing toward the floor when the boat is upside down on the horses.

From these two measurements I can derive everything else I need, starting with sheer and rocker. To do this, I use another story stick. As I move along the deck I line up the bottom of the story stick to the string, and I mark it beneath the topmost horizontal stick. Then I use a small square to mark just under the keel. Once I’ve done this, my stick has a series of marks that I can use to take the measurements I need. I record these in my spreadsheet for the formulas to do their work later.

I’ll do a similar process to get the width of the canoe at each station. Marking on a story stick, ill take the measurements off that and record them.

Once all of these measurements are taken, I can get ready for cutting ribs.

Cape Falcon 66: Stems and Rocker (update)

After taking the gun’ls apart to get a better sheer measurement, it still was off. I went from being almost a half an inch too low to being almost a half an inch too high on the stems. So I tried again with the string. But this time I weighted the string and hung it over the ends rather than tying it to the ends and tensioning it against a clamped on batten. The new sheer measurement, taken against the string, worked out to give me the rocker I want, plus or minus 1/8. But now, of course, I have to reevaluate all of my rib offsets. I’m definitely going to rib this boat fully before doing anything else to the other three.

Cape Falcon 66: To the Mill for Rib Stock

I tentatively was planning to buy my ribs from Brian. But then I called up the guy I bought rib stock from last year to find out if he has anything. He is like a lot of folks out here who have a portable mill and some land, so they slab logs and sell them as a side hustle to support their other hobbies. This guy makes Windsor chairs. So when I tell him I want good bending stock, he knows exactly what to give me. This time he told me he had a freshly felled White Oak hanging around, which he’d been planning to quarter saw because it’s so clear and wide. He agreed to saw out a slice to order for me for 5.00 / bf. So for about $300.00 I should have enough material for all the ribs I need. And since I told him to take out 8′ sections, I should have plenty enough for some kayak cockpit comings besides.

So now the Oak is ready to be picked up. I’ll head out there this Saturday:

As an aside: if anyone is wondering how one finds such a person as this, who has land and a mill, here’s how: you jump on Craigslist or FB Marketplace and search for people selling rough sawn lumber or “live edge” slabs. The other thing you can do is go to the Wood Mizer website and look for folks in your area who have registered their mills. Usually they have contact info, and by my lights it is fairly up to date since some of the people I use are listed there. And don’t be frustrated when the first few folks turn you away. Clear, straight grained white oak isn’t a premium material in a market that favors dramatic grain patterns for bar tops.

Cape Falcon 66: Stems and Rocker (Oops)

I’ve skipped ahead a bit on the smallest of my four canoes. Turns out that’s the guinea pig boat where I make my mistakes and refine techniques that I’ll apply to the bigger boats. Having cut out the stem patterns I’ve encountered a few troubles:

  1. The notch I cut in the bow stem does not fit neatly on the gun’l end, even though it’s identical to the stern stem. This is after leveling the boat and using a plumb bob to trim the ends. So my sheer must be flatter at one end than it is at the other. I’ll have to investigate this further.
  2. The first time I set it up, the rocker was way off. We’re talking by as much as a inch and a half from plan.

I tried to update the depth to sheer measurement by running a string from end to end and measuring up from the bottom of the center spreader to the string. I braced the ends against one another by clamping the keel on, and this was supposed to prevent the string from pulling the ends together when I pulled it tight. Still, when I kept coming up with slightly different measurements, I decided I needed to take more drastic action

So in an attempt to walk back through all my dimensions i’ve decided to take the ends apart, lay the gun’ls flat on butcher paper, trace the curve, and recheck the sheer that way. The ends are lined up to one edge of the paper. To measure sheer I’ll measure the distance from the top edge of the gun’l to the edge of the paper. And while I’m at it, I’ll use another piece of butcher paper as a straight edge to draw a line tangent to the bottom edge at the deepest part of the gun’l. I’ll use this line to re-check my rib offset measurements.

Also, I bought digital calipers since my eyes were starting to hurt from reading the tape so much, and since I really don’t’ trust tapes anyway.

Now I have to put all the gun’ls back together. And in the mean time, the mill emailed to let me know my oak is sawn. Woot!