Monthly Archives: July 2015

26' North Canoe

Unconventional Adventure–Building North Canoes

…For an Unconventional Adventure

by Ron Frenette
Epoxyworks 37

Cover Photo: Modern voyagers traverse the water in a 26′ North Canoe.

Canadian Canoes has been building wood-strip epoxy canoes for some 35 years. We’ve produced many thousands of western red cedar canoe strips from clear planks which originated in British Columbia. Eventually, we realized that ripping the strips one at a time then adding on the bead and cove profiles was terribly inefficient. With valuable input from Peter Feindel from Taurus Craco Woodworking Machinery, we used a milling machine to produce consistently accurate canoe strips. What once consumed five hours of monotonous work producing the strips for one canoe now takes about four minutes on the milling machine. This huge increase in production allowed us to offer, along with Ted Moores and Joan Barrett from Bear Mountain Boat Shop, canoe and kayak building kits for home boat builders.

In February of 2011, a gentleman in Milan, Italy ordered our 17′ Nomad kit. He launched the boat on a beautiful lake near the Swiss border with towering mountains as a backdrop. Shortly after, he told me about a traditional trade route from Venice to Milan when the Venetians controlled the trade of goods, mainly spices, from the east and south. He asked if there was any possibility of some Canadian paddlers joining him in paddling the Ticino and Po Rivers from just below Milan to and through the Grand Canal of Venice itself.

Around that time, our friends and colleagues at Bear Mountain Boats were reporting that they had several inquiries about plans for a reproduction North Canoe, not in birch bark but in wood strip epoxy construction. It was not a great leap to the possibility of combining the suggested canoe route with the much larger North Canoes as the craft to be used on this paddling adventure.

Another friend and colleague, Glenn Fallis who operates Voyageur Canoes in Millbrook, Ontario, has been making similar canoes in a fiberglass and resin matrix for many years. In addition to the 26′ North Canoe, Glenn and his workers make a 36′ Montreal Canoe. When I outlined the trip and project to him, Glenn generously provided a significant amount of offset data which went into naval designer Steve Killing’s design program. Steve then produced image renderings and CNC files which would allow us to make the station molds.

Steve Killing’s station mold rendering.

I promoted this adventure to find a group of a dozen or so friends and colleagues to join my wife and me in building these canoes, providing training, shipping the canoes to Italy and paddling the 400 kilometers to Venezia. To our great delight, a group materialized. (Along with some of their hard earned spending money!) Fourteen people have signed on to the voyage.

Construction of North Canoes

Glenn Fallis produces North Canoes as a composite product. Because our background is in woodstrip construction and we wanted to offer these canoes as kits, we invited Bear Mountain Boat Shop to get involved. Bear Mountain helped popularize the construction of strip-built canoes sheathed in fiberglass cloth and epoxy, and are a resource to many home boatbuilders for boat building kits, plans, instructions, how-to videos and classes. Our version of these North Canoes employs woodstrip construction with epoxy.

In October 2102, Voyageur Canoes cut 12 sheets of 5/8”-thick high-density particleboard on a CNC machine to produce the station molds for this project. It took a long Saturday work session to assemble all the segments then attach them to a floor-mounted oval. We built three North Canoes in four different spaces (which is why the background scenery is inconsistent in the photos). The image below shows a black floor platform and a series of leveling bolts. The floor in this shop was not flat so we made and leveled this platform then assembled the floor oval and all the station molds.

High-density particle board ebing cut on a CNC machine to produce the station molds.

Station mold

Station assembled and leveled with leveling bolts (where indicated by white arrows).

Bending the stem pieces around the mold.

Strips being applied to the stem of the canoe.

One of the first tasks in woodstrip boat building is to use steam and muscle to bend the stem pieces around the stem stations. These canoes follow the same process, but there are many more laminations and heftier pieces.

Preparing the strips of wood turned out to be a lucky opportunity for us. Generally, we produce long, clear strips of red cedar as our customers are looking to have a handsome craft with all the graining and colors red cedar displays. In our case, the hull was going to be covered with 10 ounce cloth, WEST SYSTEM 105 Resin/207 Special Clear Hardener with 3% pigment added to simulate the inner bark of the white birch. Over the years, Ted and I had accumulated a good pile of shorter lengths of eastern white cedar which had limited applications in our shop processes. We had a substantial pile of 15′ planks. We ripped and planed these to ¼” x 7/8″ then we used our routers to add the bead and cove profiles to the edges.

profile gauges

Profile gauges for shaping the stem.

profile gauge

Profile gauge.

One of the real challenges was to create the somewhat triangular shape of the stems; this process creates a flat place for the canoe strips to connect to when they “land” on the stem. On all of our other watercraft, the stem is very accessible and the fairing process can be done mostly with the builder standing upright. But the North canoes have their stems tucked under and located about six inches above the floor. Our first canoe was shaped/faired using the conventional fairing batten and block plane. (After a mere seven visits to a chiropractor, my spinal column was realigned.) This was a valuable lesson. We asked Steve Killing to create some magic for us and he produced drawings which allowed us to cut a series of profile gauges, which made it possible to shape about 90% of the stem on the workbench. What a difference!

Adding the many rows of bead-and-cove strips progressed quickly with a team of four. On one occasion, we were able to attach 26 rows on each side of the molds. The hull of the second canoe was filled in and awaiting fairing with block planes followed by a machine sanding with 80-grit discs and a final hand sanding with 120-grit paper.

Adding the rows of bead-and-cove strips to a North canoe.

Adding the rows of bead-and-cove strips to a North canoe.

Once the hull was well cleaned, we ran full-length sheets of 60″-wide 10-ounce fiberglass cloth overlapped along the midline. We then began the long process of applying three coats of WEST SYSTEM 105/207 to saturate the cloth while bonding it to the hull and filling the weave. We were not going for a clear finish, and added white pigment at 3% by volume to each batch of epoxy and brushed this coat onto the cloth. With appropriate waiting periods between coats, it took about six hours to apply three coats of mixed epoxy with the pigment.

Painted with a birch bark pattern, the North canoe receives another coat of epoxy.

Painted with a birch bark pattern, the North canoe receives another coat of epoxy.

To simulate birch bark, we added slightly overlapping layers of 50″ wide 6-ounce cloth with Glenn Fallis’s cleverly painted bark pattern. We then wetted out the top layer with two coats of WEST SYSTEM 105/207 epoxy. That was one very long day.

Patiently applying the curved end sections to the North canoe.

Patiently applying the curved end sections to the North canoe.

Next, we lifted the hull free of the molds and turned it right side up for the first time. After scraping the interior with curved paint scrapers, we sanded it by machine and hand. All this was in preparation for laying in more 10-ounce cloth and then wetting it out with tinted epoxy.

Once the interior epoxy coats cured, the canoes became noticeably stiffer. It was ready for us to add the trim elements. Steve Squelch was a patient worker when it came to installing those sweeping curved end sections, which proved to be very challenging to complete. When those were in place, we attached the remaining sections of the inner and outer gunwales. This is one situation where the builder cannot have too many clamps.

testing flotation chambers

Testing the foam flotation chambers

By early spring 2013, the North canoes were fully constructed, with only some decorative features to be completed. The canoes were all decorated by mid-June and have been paddled regularly. We added pour-in-place foam chambers at both ends and submerged the canoes to test the efficiency of all the flotation.

As this article was being prepared in mid July 2013, the canoes were secured inside a steel container somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, headed for the Port of Genoa and then on to Milan to await the arrival of the paddling teams in early September. The Ticino and Po Rivers and the Lagoon of Venice and finally the Grand Canal in Venice now await us. This is certain to be a most unconventional paddling adventure.

A traditional voyager salute in a successfully completed North canoe.

A traditional voyager salute in a successfully completed North Canoe.

SLIVER Project

At the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building
By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

After attending the 2012 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, I visited the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, Washington. School instructor Bruce Blatchley was excited to show off their one-of-a-kind boat project, Sliver. The 62-foot double-ended daysailer was designed by well-known yacht designer Robert Perry and commissioned by Kim Bottles of Bainbridge Island, Washington. The Northwest School students of the 2011 and 2012 contemporary boatbuilding classes worked on the project. For a school that teaches traditional wooden boat building, learning to build a hybrid of wood/composite construction using epoxy was a unique challenge. Continue reading

Advantages of 879 Release Fabric

By Mike Barnard

Much ado is sometimes made regarding amine blush but it’s easily avoided and easy to remove— especially if you use 879 Release Fabric.

When most epoxies are exposed to the atmosphere (especially cold and damp conditions) a secondary chemical reaction can occur at the surface of the epoxy, leaving a waxy-looking by-product called amine blush. This water-soluble film appears only at the end of the cure cycle, and never at all when WEST SYSTEM® 207 Special Clear Hardener is used. Continue reading

Replacing a Small Boat Cabin Sole

By Jeff Wright — Vice President of Technical Services

The amount of wood used in a production fiberglass boat is significant; it is used for many things such as stringers, bulkheads, floors, and backers. Higher quality production boats often use marine grade plywood for these applications but it can still be damaged by long-term exposure to water. Continue reading

Improve Wooden Paddles with G/flex

By Tom Pawlak — Retired GBI Technical Advisor

Wooden paddles and boat oars are known for getting dented in service. While G/flex 650 is not optimized for use as a coating, we found it was worth the extra effort it takes to apply to wooden canoe paddles and boat oars to deflect impact and prevent cracking the wood beneath.

G/flex epoxies weren’t developed with coating in mind, but early on in applications testing, we discovered they were excellent at dealing with impact. This became evident when we used G/flex 650 (the unthickened version) as a coating and when we used G/flex 655 (the thickened version) as a protective buildup. Continue reading

Small Projects and Repairs

On an older fiberglass boat

By Jeff Wright — Vice President of Technical Services

I believe we have many customers who, like me, use WEST SYSTEM Epoxy simply to keep an older fiberglass boat in good repair. The following are examples of repairs and small projects that I have completed on my personal boat, a Formula 242 LS, over the last ten years. These would apply to many aging production fiberglass boats. Since WEST SYSTEM Epoxy has a shelf life measured in years, it is easy to keep it on your shelf and tackle these tasks when it’s convenient. Continue reading

Smaller Can Be Better

Tips for mixing small batches of epoxy

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

My favorite way to mix small batches of WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy, when less than full pump strokes on the mini pumps are required, is by metering resin and hardener into a graduated cylinder made with a plastic syringe. The 807 Plastic Syringes, in our product line, can be modified for this by cutting off the end of the syringe body so it looks like the end of a clear piece of plastic tubing. Continue reading

Time is Everything

A last-minute ski repair

By Grant Hilger

On the evening of March 19, 2013, I inspected my 217cm Atomic™ downhill race skis in preparation for race day. Because of the early ending to winter in 2012, these skis have not seen the light of day in almost two years. The only real chance I get to ski with them is at the annual Boyne Highlands Downhill Race in Harbor Springs, Michigan. This late March tradition is usually the grand finale of Michigan’s ski racing season.

This year the weather was shaping up perfectly for outstanding conditions, and I was chomping at the bit to ski fast! Much to my surprise, when I picked up one ski I found that a section near the tail was delaminating. On the inside edge of the left ski, a 1.5″ x 0.5″ area of the top skin was bubbled up from the ski’s sidewall. The bubble was 3/8″ of an inch high. I was less than impressed with this find, knowing that in order to race I’d need to repair the ski.

Delamination area on the ski.

Delamination area on the ski.

Some of the steel inside the ski’s core corroded, causing the top sheet to lose its bond and bubble up. This corrosion was most likely accelerated by salt, which is often used in late-season ski races to keep the snow from softening in the intense sunlight. The salt and water must have made their way into the ski’s core during the 2011 race. It then had almost 24 months for the corrosion to occur. With the issue identified, it was time to plan a repair. The clock was ticking.

I had a cartridge of WEST SYSTEM Six10 Epoxy Adhesive in my repair kit, and I thought that this would work for the application. I rounded up acetone, pipe cleaner, mixing stick, mixing cup, small flathead screwdriver, paper towel, gloves, safety glasses, wax paper, wood blocks, and a C clamp to complete the repair. My plan was to attempt to salvage the top sheet and re-bond it to the ski’s core. This is the procedure I followed:

Step 1: I gouged out the corroded metal from the bubbled-up top sheet. I was careful not to damage the top sheet because then I’d need to repair that as well. I used a shop vac to help suck the metal shavings out of the hole in the ski. Once all the corroded metal was removed, I blew out the void in the ski with compressed air.

Step 2: I used a pipe cleaner and acetone to clean out both the inside of the ski’s top sheet and the ski’s core to aid bonding.

Step 3: Once the area was dry, I mixed a small amount of Six10 adhesive and brushed it into the void on all surfaces with another pipe cleaner. I then used the plastic mix stick to fill in the void as much as possible. This probably added more epoxy than was needed, but it was such a small area that I wasn’t too concerned with waste when it squeezed out. I was more concerned that the repair was robust.

Step 4: I applied wax paper to the skis so that the epoxy wouldn’t get anywhere that I didn’t want it to, and then I clamped the ski as shown in the photo.

The ski repair, clamped and curing at 68°F

The ski repair, clamped and curing at 68°F

Step 5: I allowed the epoxy to cure for 24 hours before removing the clamp.

The repair seemed to be sound, and time was of the essence, so I prepped the skis for racing by hot waxing them with the race wax. I was concerned that adding heat to the ski this quickly after curing might compromise the repair. To my delight, everything held fine. Hurdle number one, cleared.
Now the ski had to hold up to the stresses, vibration, and temperature of a 38 second, 60+ mph run down an icy ski hill. The ending to this story is a happy one. The repair passed its first trial with flying colors. No ill effects were observed in the ski’s performance, and following the race run I inspected the repair. It looked like just as it had when I removed the clamp earlier that week. If you’re at all interested in the race, the skis allowed me to complete the race run in 37.99 seconds, hit a top speed of 66.1 MPH as recorded on GPS, and win my age class by 0.5 seconds (a significant margin in ski racing).

A timeline of the events:

• 3/19/13 (6 pm) – Discovered ski delamination
• 3/19/13 (8 pm) – Ski repair complete, epoxy clamped and curing
• 3/20/13 (7pm) – Hot wax skis for race day
• 3/24/13 (1pm) – Race

Ski repair complete, ready for wax, and then the race.

Ski repair complete, ready for wax, and then the race.

For this repair, time really was everything!

 

Kitchen after remodel

Kitchen Remodel with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy

By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

I told my wife that I planned to remodel the kitchen because we were replacing our appliances. The first thing she said was, “Not another project!” She has learned over the years that I will always be working on something. Continue reading

What’s New at Staudacher’s Shop

An Enclosed Racecar trailer

By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

Aircraft designer and builder Jon Staudacher’s newest project is a wooden enclosed trailer for his new racecar. Jon designed a trailer to be suitable for hauling his racecar and living in over a weekend at the race track. The trailer was built by scarfing and gluing together individual pieces of wood to form a beautiful natural wood-finished racecar trailer. Jon always surprises me with how innovative he is with projects. After Jon built an open-wheel race car he had a design in mind for a new plywood trailer. Continue reading