Its not about what you build, where you do it or how good you can sell the product. Its about making something

So, another woodworking blog? Why? Well, mostly because I don't want facebook to own my pictures. Secondly, because even if I have read a hundred blogs about building a canoe, I still want to read the hundred and first one, and I suppose I am not alone in this. We all learn from each other, get inspiration from the photographs of a little detail and take part in great stories of how something came to life. And I hope some of that can come from this blog as well....

canoe, part 14: finish line and putting the canoe in its element

After the canoe was out, the living room felt really empty and it was as if a flatmate had moved out. The next steps were to sand the gunwales and decks and then the whole of the hull. This took much longer than I thought, because now, whenever I wanted to work on the canoe I had to actually leave the house! When the hull was sanded inside and outside it was time to aply the varnish. this is important for the UV protection, otherwise the epoxy would start to become milky. I had set a date for the big ceremony of putting the canoe in the water and it was approaching fast. at the same time, with now three kids I could only really work late at night. The result, an awful finish job, with running noses everywhere. My fault was that after applying the first layer, I didn’t pay enough attention to how equal the varnish was and after the second coat there was no way to repair the damage. So I finished it, and most people will never see it because its only really visible from certain angles that I did a bad job. But I will redo all the varnish at some point, that is for sure.
The last thing to do was to install the seats and thwart, I did that the morning when the big party was to start. We had a great time with lots of rum (the one I often drank during the winter was called Coco Kanu, so that fitted very well), a puja and a proper speech by my girlfriend.
Obviously after so many hours of thinking, dreaming and then building the canoe it was a big moment to sit in it and see how it would fare on the water. It was really nice and I could not have been happier that day….

even in the garden there was great use for the canoe

even in the garden there was great use for the canoe

the big moment

the big moment


our renault espace with the canoe on top. no limits to where we could go.

our renault espace with the canoe on top. no limits to where we could go.

canoe, part 13: getting the canoe out of the living room through the window!

Its not often that a canoe gets lowered out of a second floor window in the middle of the street, and it did attract quite a crowd. We made a pancake torte and bought drinks and invited as many people as we could for this enterprise. Secured with four ropes the canoe was lowered to the ground. We had three people upstairs, myself in the first floor window trying to keep the canoe of the wall, and a bunch of people standing on the street to receive it…everything was over in a bout five minutes. Enough time for a fully loaded bus to make a short stop because the bus driver needed to see what was going on…

looking good

looking good


and action

and action


the scary part, when the canoe left the hands of those in the second floor window...

the scary part, when the canoe left the hands of those in the second floor window…


a canoe in the wrong element

a canoe in the wrong element

canoe, part 12: making the thwart and the seats

from the same piece of ash I used for the gunwales I cut out strips of 3 by 3 cm pieces for the seats, and a thwart for the middle that I shaped like a yoke for easier portage.
For the seats I used parts of an old sail from the sailboat my parents had had. I sew them so that the cloth went over the seat and then could be tied up under the seat, which worked well. The only problem I had was that I tried to color them red, which didn’t work at all because the sail seems to have some coat on it. They where now PINK!!! Yeah. Later I used a different color that got painted on and that worked…
I did not install the seats before the canoe was out of the living room, but prepared them. The thwart was only installed temporarily to get the canoe out and was also finished later.

sewing can be fun as well...

sewing can be fun as well…

trying to find the perfect position for the seats

trying to find the perfect position for the seats

canoe, part 11: installing the gunwales and decks

I didn’t buy the gunwales from Stefan Kraus but instead cut them out of a 3cm thick 5m long piece of ash. I cut the strips in our backyard with a circular saw, but now they were 2 by 3 cm and I needed them much thinner. In the living room that meant cutting them again, this time by hand with my Japanese saw. It did a great job, but what an effort to cut 5m by hand. Not recommended!!
After they were cut to the right length the next problem was to get them attached. for this they really need to be bend a lot at the bow and stern and that is only possible with a good amount of clamps. to be honest I didn’t have enough and that made installing the gunwales a lengthy project…
For the decks I originally had planned to make a handle in them, but then I went with the simplest design instead, cutting out to boards to make one triangle. I should have been a bit more precise, because this is a part of the canoe that is really visible…

attaching the inner gunwales. twice the clamps would have been good!

attaching the inner gunwales. twice the clamps would have been good!

and the outer gunwales...

and the outer gunwales…

canoe, part 10: turning the canoe, sanding and glassing the inside

After a couple of days letting the epoxy cure (it doesn’t need that long), it was time to turn the canoe around. When doing that for the first time I realized how light this thing was. It is also still fairly flexible. Taking the strong-back apart gave me enough wood to build two stands for the canoe and now the inside sanding started, a much tougher job then the outside. The same applies for the inside glassing, which was even harder because I had to do it alone. I strongly advise not to do it alone!!!

turning the canoe around

turning the canoe around

a really beautiful shape

a really beautiful shape

canoe, part 9: glassing the outside of the hull

When thinking about building the canoe in the living room, what I was by far most worried about was how to deal with the epoxy, and how good an idea it would be to use epoxy inside our living room, after all there are three children and a baby living in that flat. After a lot of research I decided that it would be OK to work with the epoxy inside if I could ventilate enough. We arranged it so that we did the glassing the day before leaving for a weekend trip somewhere and everything went really well. Glassing needs a lot of preparation and then a lot of concentration for a couple of hours. My dad had been working with epoxy quite a bit and it really is straight forward as long as one does what is recommended!!! One problem was to get the room to always have a slightly declining temperature, I did this by heating it up over night and then opening up the windows occasionally. There were only very few places where the epoxy had some air inclusions. when the hull is glassed it looks absolutely amazing…

father and son glassing a canoe

father and son glassing a canoe

its good to have overlapping fiberglass cloth because it soaks up the epoxy running down...

its good to have overlapping fiberglass cloth because it soaks up the epoxy running down…

after a whole day of work the canoe really looked different now

after a whole day of work the canoe really looked different now

canoe, part 8: sanding sanding sanding

Once the hull was finished, the glue needed to come of and the hull had to be planed and sanded smooth. This would normally have taken a day or so with a sander. However, this was not an option in the living room. Instead I used a plane and mostly scrapers of different kind, as well as 40 grit hand sandpaper. It took ages, but the kids could help and so did my patient father, who loves these kind of jobs (he’s a painter, and if you see his work here, you will understand).
By this time the canoe had been with us for a couple of month and it was still causing a lot of surprise to everyone entering our flat. It also redefined the worldview of our kids. Repeatedly I had told them, that unfortunately they could not help me take the dried glue off, because this glue can be harmful, and that only grown ups are allowed to do it. One day when my daughter was asked what the difference is between a kid and an adult she confidently answered: “a grown up is someone who is allowed to take the glue off the canoe!

my dad, patiently scraping of glue and getting the stern in shape...

my dad, patiently scraping of glue and getting the stern in shape…

canoe, part 7: finishing the planking

Planking is one of the things that starts easy and then gets more difficult as you go. The shape of the hull requires the strips attached in the middle to be bend in several dimensions, which makes handling them really difficult. This is where I really wanted a better stapler that could take much longer staples (or I should have chosen wood for the molds that holds the staples better (my staples where 14mm, and got ripped out by the force of the bending wood very often)). I used clamps, old bicycle tubes and a lot of gaffer tape (yes, every project needs some gaffer tape) to try and force the strips into the shape and often I got frustrated, but somehow you manage to get past that part.
SONY DSC

However, then starts a new challenge which is to bend the strips along their shortest edge, and in my case to fit them to the exact length. To close the hull most people close one side, then cut down the middle and then close the other side, but I wanted the strips to run into each other as you can see on the photograph.

getting closer...

getting closer…

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

To add the final strip took a lot of tries, but when it was finished, what a moment!!!
the last strip goes in

canoe, part 6: installing the outer stems

When the planking has reached the point where the inner stem ends, it is possible to attach the outer stem. This needs some preparation on the inner stem that isn’t easy. After the outer stem was glued up with epoxy I ended up with some big (big menas 3-4 mm) holes in the hull, that I had to fill with epoxy and saw dust as filler.

The point when the planking doesn't really run against the inner stem anymore but on top of it is where a lot of frustration happened

The point when the planking doesn’t really run against the inner stem anymore but on top of it is where a lot of frustration happened

Trying to apply presure to the outer stem while waiting for the epoxy to cure

Trying to apply presure to the outer stem while waiting for the epoxy to cure

canoe, part 6: planking and inlaid work

After the first plank is attached, glue is added to the cove of the strip and the next strip is attached. I used staples even though there are a number of ways to do it without, but I actually like the look that it gives, and it makes life a lot easier. I wanted some inlaid work and made some drawings, the design I came up with in the end was a result of the coincidence that I had some cherry wood lying around, that had the exact shape to fit into the strips. I think most people glue all the different parts of the inlaid work together first and then put the two or four strips onto the mold together. With limited space I went for a different approach and attached the pieces to the hull bit by bit, which worked well. Doing inlaid work is really easy, because in the area above the waterline and close to the centre of the canoe the bending of the strips is only  minimal.

much easier than one would expect: adding accent strips and decorative features to the canoe

much easier than one would expect: adding accent strips and decorative features to the canoe

and finished

and finished