Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boat Beginings

The Freedom 17, an asymmetrical trekking canoe designed by Bear Mountain Boats is the project my Dad is taking on. The forms were given to he and I by Geoff McKonly. Thanks Geoff you saved us about 200 bucks! It's not exactly the boat that I wanted to do. I like Bear Mountains' "Bob Special" and my Pop I think wanted to do "the Hiawatha" or some other Native American inspired design, but hey, these forms were free and we are experimenting so no big deal! The project actually started 4 years ago when I moved back to Philly. It's been most of that time just organizing the shop, which isn't easy when many different people have their "stuff" in there. We have actually had the wood for the project close to 20 months now, but there are constant interferences and delays. But now we are neck deep into the project and I'm hoping that we can speed up the process to make this years' boat shows in time. I'd love to be able to bring a canoe and another surfboard to Mystic this year to show them off! Mystic is pretty cool although last year it seemed about 30% or more smaller than the previous years events. So my dad, Cork, and I are about 2/3's of the way through the planking which is probably about 1/4 of the way through the entire project. Maybe more. Sanding comes next and that should go pretty quick. Then it is on to epoxying, which may prove to be tough for a few reasons, one being the large surface to fiberglass and epoxy, the other being that the epoxy itself has been sitting on the shelf for two years and may be losing it's fluidity. I am not sure on that. It has not been opened, but it has been exposed to temperature extremes. Past experiences lead me to conclude that there is a good chance that it may not be as good as it should be. Let's cross our fingers.

One of the longest bits in this process was the beginning stage of setting up the strongback. The strongback is a frame that runs the length of the canoe in which all of the forms are attached to. And to the forms go the planks along them, the planks taking the desired shape of the individual canoe and being held together with Titebond 3 glue but not to the forms. This way the planked canoe can be lifted off of the forms before fiberglassing and epoxying.

That is called a strongback. It is made level and everything is squared off at 90 degree angles for the placement of the frames or forms that form the shape of the hull. The taught line on top helps line up the frames better. This is my dad's baby. He's really getting into it now. Setting up the strongback and the frames seemed to be the biggest pain in the azz so far.

Me Da just after we clamped up the steamed oak stems for the the bow and stern of the canoe. The bow and stern "stems" are made of oak because it is a really tough wood. The oak was cut into 1/4" thick strips and then piled on top of each other so they can steam better and faster than just a solid piece of oak. Also notice two of the forms on the strongback at the bottom of the photo.

Here you can make out the layers of the wood. This will actually be an inside AND outside stem for the bow of the canoe. The layers will be epoxied together to make two solid pieces out of these 6 or 8 layers. The inside stem are what the planks will be glued to and the outside stem will add protection to the bow and stern of the boat as well as give it a nice look from contrasting colors.

This is our makeshift steambox. A steel can sits atop my beer burner and the water inside is heated till it steams up into the PVC pipe inside which we have our oak strips to be bent. They sat in the steam for 15 to 20 minutes and were placed on the frame in the above picture and clamped into place. After letting them sit there for a day, they were removed and let to completely dry before they were epoxied together. The whole process up until they were epoxied took us about two weeks off and on, with the strongback and all combined. But to work straight through it was probably about 20 hours of work. Something to think about if you want to take on a project like this someday. Also keep in mind that you will have to procure all the tools as well if you don't have them, which is time consuming.......and money consuming! My recommendations, get them at a flea market if you can, then try ebay and craigslist. You most likely will find used tools that are of better quality than that of 80% of the new ones.

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