Steam bending stems for canoe

I finished steam bending the stems for the Freedom 15. It was really easy. I grabbed our kitchen kettle and taped down the on switch to keep the kettle boiling. Over top of the spout I placed some ABS tube with my stem pieces. I didn’t worry too much about stuffing rags around the spout to trap the steam. The kettle was ejecting steam in all sorts of directions. The top end of the ABS was already sealed with a cap. In fact, the ABS I was using is actually my home made rod case for our 8wt fly rod. After 20min of steaming I grabbed the strips and slapped it on the stem mold. The wood bent extremely easy. Time really wasn’t an issue. All I had to do was clamp one end, pull the strips down and put on more clamp on. Voila. After that, I put more clamps just to secure the whole thing and to minimize recoil.

My stems consist of three strips of wrc for the inside, and walnut/AYC/walnut for the three strips for the outside stems. I’m not sure why a person would need hardwood for the inside. I’m not even sure why you need hardwood for the outside, the whole thing is wrapped in fiberglass and epoxy. I guess it doesn’t hurt, and I hope the AYC stands up to the abuse. One of my wrc strips actually cracked during the bending. I’m not sure why, but maybe there was a knot in it. I didn’t use particularly great wood for the insides stems.

stems are bent

In conjunction with the steam bending, I’ve also been working on a yost style SOF kayak. The design is a Sea Rider, and I’m putting together the frame while I still have space to assemble it (prior to stripping the canoe). It’s been good to work on this project because I need to wait for some sunny weather before I can rip strips outside with the table saw. The plywood I used for the Sea Rider frames was pretty low-grade and that was a mistake. It was impossible to trace/draw the correct profile on the wood because the ply was so rough. Secondly, the wood was very prone to tear out. Thirdly, there are quite a few voids in the ply. After cutting out the frames I ripped some cheap cedar on the table saw. This gave me a good chance to practice ripping strips using the saw and board buddies. I’m feeling pretty good about it, and after a few tweaks on the setup I’ll be ready to go on my 19′ clear wrc.

I tried scarfing the wrc, using a jig set up for the table saw. It was an awkward process on the saw because the strips were clamped to the jig (a sled with an angled fence), and the long 10′ length of the strips was forcing the sled to tilt up and rise off of the table. I managed to get all the scarfs cut, but I think they are all at a slight angle. After gluing with epoxy and clamping, there are some gaps in the scarf. I think I will fill these gaps at the same time as when I fill the voids in the plywood frames. If I have to scarf some more boards I will be inclined to build a jig for hand planing the scarf.

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