Finished the stripping

Over a period of a couple of weeks I hit the board hard finished the stripping. Once I rounded the bilge the stripping went pretty fast. The bilge offered a few challenges in needing to twist the strips at the ends. Once the strips flatted out for the bottom of the hull it went pretty fast.

I did my best to match strips on either side of the hull. For the last 10 strips or so I decided to use staples. I didn’t really do it for any reason other than just to do it.

Once the port side was complete I had to draw the centerline. I tried to be careful, tracing a line using a string pulled taught across the top of the hull. As well I checked the drawn line by projecting the center of the forms using a jig, as suggested in CanoeCraft.

Next up was the nervous task of cutting the centerline. I cut next to the centerline with a utility knife and then cut up to the line with a chisel. For the most part a got a nice straight line. However, I was unable to do this without a few wobbles. The line was straight but every now and then the chisel wouldn’t cut plumb or maybe I’d dip the chisel in a bit too deep. Look on the web it seems like a lot of people get these centerlines almost perfect. I guess I’m just not a true craftsman with wood (actually, I don’t have to guess).
cut centerline

The last stripping task was to fill in the starboard side. To do this, each strip has to be individually fit with tapers on the ends. For the most part I would rough cut a taper with a utility knife and then use my apron plane to finish the taper. It was easier than I thought it would be. Again the quality of my work wasn’t perfect but I was happy with it. The last few strips were a bit tricky. For some reason the strip widths weren’t quite matching from side to side and I had to fill in some gaps. I think what happened is that in a few cases a strip on the starboard side would be a bit thinner but the angle at which it fits against the opposite side of the hull would really accentuate the difference. I had a hard time bending the 2nd to last strip. It was a pretty short stip so it was difficult to bend. Furthermore, it was prone to bending at one point instead of a gradual arc that runs the full length. The last strip I decided to not bend but actually carve the curve. I used my apron plane again and it actually worked out very well I think.
tune fit and beveltest-fitHull bottom finished

satisfaction and the odd challenge

Adding strips to the old canoe is a bit of love and hate. Mostly it’s fun to work and very satisfying to see the shape of the boat come together.

The not-so-good stuff includes little frustrations such as gaps between strips and a few small challenges. One sort of big “oops” was when I realized that my stems were too high. When I originally put the forms and stems together, the stems sat about 3/16″ higher than the adjacent forms and I figured that was great because it matched the thickness of my strips. As I progressed with the stripping it became obvious that this was wrong. Very wrong.

I did a bit of detective work to figure out what had a happened. I think it was combination of a couple of little things (slightly off in tracing the stem pattern, stems not sitting quite flush on the strongback, etc). All of it would have been easily avoidable if I was looking out for it when the forms and stems were assembled. That’s history though, the question was what to do about it?

I decided the best thing to do was to shave down the top of the stems by 1/8″ or so to match the forms. This would ensure that the hull was fair.

I wasn’t too sure what would happen with fitting the outside stem later on, but I’ll deal with that when I get there. If it’s a problem I’ll add some wood to the outside stem or maybe a bit of epoxy + wood flour to fill the gap.

One of the last challenges with stripping was the twist in the strips at “the turn of the bilge.” This is where the strips are fairly flat along the bottom of the hull in the middle of the boat but as the strip nears the stem they need to twist almost 90degrees where it ends at the stem.

Some creative clamping helped fix this. I also hit the ends of the strips with a heat gun in order to pre-shape some twist in strips before attaching them to the boat.
clamps for stem twist

Accent Strip

I decided to put some accent strips on the Freedom. For this, I am using a thick band of American walnut with thin strips of Alaskan yellow cedar on either side of the walnut. These woods should contrast nicely with each other, as well as with the wrc of the hull. I used the same wood (walnut, ayc) for the stems).

Since I couldn’t get full length strips of walnut and ayc I decided to use butt shorter strips to each other. I had all of my wood cut from when I ripped strips of wrc, so when I got to where I wanted to put in the accent I was ready to go. Almost. Upon closer inspection it became obvious that the walnunt was planed super great and there were a few “kinks” in the strips. I had to take my 7′ strips and cut them into shorter strips to get rid of the kinks, so they were going to be more butt joints than what I’d like. I wasn’t too concerned about looks, I find it’s easiest to use only 1 butt joint: it’s less work.

For the first side I worked on, I decided to glue down a 1/4″ wide ayc strip. This turned out to be pretty tricky. I got it in place and let it dry before gluing in the walnut strip. I thought this was needlessly difficult so I decided to change to a new tactit. I took all of the remaining strips and pre-glued the 1/4″ ayc strips to the walnut. After a few days of gluing and clamping strips on the bench I had something like 7 different sections of various lengths (because of the walnut strips that were shortened) ready to go on the hull.


I put one or two sections on at time. The clamping was difficult because the 3/4″ wide walnut + 2x 1/4″ ayc sections were quite stiff for bending.

The accent strip was looking pretty good but there was another problem. By doing the strips in sections, all of the butt joints lined up together. I hadn’t thought about that. It doesn’t look ideal but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

The end result was quite satisfactory for me though:

I’ll need to spend some time cleaning it up when I’m sanding the hull. For example, I have one section where the ayc is not flush with the adjacent strips. Either the strip was too thin or it was glued on incorrectly (most likely cause). I’ll just glue another thin ayc strip over top of it and then plane/sand it flush.

Another thing I first started noticing at this point was some gaps between strips:

This is caused by two things. As I think I’ve mentioned before, some of my wood was not planed all that well. This resulted in having strips that weren’t of uniform width. Secondly, the stiffness of the ayc/walnut/ayc sections made for some difficult bending even in areas where there are only gentle curves.

In the end it looks good. I don’t know which method I would use again in the future: build sections or glue in thin strips separately. In hindsight I think I would return to gluing in separate sections.

First Strips

With the stems shaped and everything in place, it’s time to start stripping the boat. The Freedom looks like it is quite a straight-forward shape to build and I’ve decided to try out some different techniques for this part of the building process. I figure I can try different things on the Freedom before I go to build a more complex boat (if I build another boat). The basic plan is to go stapleless using hot glue to clamp the wood, and to use a rolling bevel using a hand plane (instead of bead & cove).

The shear line is almost straight so I decided to have the first strip follow the shear. This puts a bit of curve into the stripping pattern with the strips curving up at the ends instead of being horizontal. Given the straight lines of the Freedom I think adding a bit of curve might be visually interesting. As well, I won’t have to worry about cutting a shear line later. I’ll use staples on the first strip.
The real first strip

Not only do I use hot glue to hold the strips against the forms, but between the forms I also apply hot glue to hold the strips together while the PVA glues dries. I’m using Titebond III PVA glue on this boat. I would actually prefer to use regular yellow carpenters glue because it is cheaper and lighter in color. However, I know that I’ll be gluing in cooler weather and yellow glue should be used above 15C. The Titebond III is good down to 5C I think. Titebond III is also supposed to be waterproof but that doesn’t really matter since the boat is going to be covered in fiberglass and epoxy.

hot glue clamps

With only three strips in place it is already pretty exciting to see the canoe taking shape.
fair curves

Shaping the stems

Once all the forms were in place the next thing I needed to do was shape the stems. The idea is that the outside of each stem is 1/4″ wide and the strips lie flat on the stem as they run out to the forms. Typically a spokeshave or plane is used to put a rolling bevel on the stem. The “rolling” refers to the fact that the angle of the bevel needs to change along the length of the stem.

Working the stem with my spokeshave was a bit tedious and frustrating at first. I was planing through 3 laminations of wood and not all of the laminations had the grain running the same way so it makes for some tougher cutting. It was also obvious that it would take some getting used to before I would become efficient and proficient in using the spokeshave for this job. In order to assist the work, I made a sanding stick. The basic idea is from John Michne’s website. Instead of attaching short pieces of strips to my stems, I just draw lines marking where each strip would run and then move the sanding stick within these lines. It works well, but it is better to do most of the wood removal with the spokeshave and finishing touches with the sanding stick.

stem locator marks

When I first started with the stems I found it quite tedious and was wondering if I could handle building a strip boat. Once my technique improved the job became more enjoyable. I decided not to shape the stems all at once but I make sure that at least 4″ of shaped stem is showing above where the top strip lays. This gives me plenty of room for shaping more of the stem. Waiting for strips to be attached also helps a lot in stablizing the stem while shaping.

Strongback for the Freedom

Holy moly batman, I haven’t updated my blog with canoe stuff for a long long time. Where to begin… Well, I should say something about the strongback. I first started with a 6×5 boxbeam setup that is typical for kayak building whereas canoe builders often go a bit bigger. I created two 8′ long sections and a 4′ long section. Hot glue was used to hold the plywood boards in place while everything was nailed together (brad nailer). I then added a few screws to help secure everything. The 4′ section sits inside the the ends of the 8′ sections, joining everything together. As I had anticipated, this nesting of beams wasn’t super easy. Well, it was sort of easy but that is because I was a bit sloppy.

I then mounted the boxbeams on some stands that I had made, and leveled the stands. When this was done I realized two things. First, not everything was level. Secondly, the box beam was way too high.


After a bit of thinking I decided to re-do the stands. This time I did them exactly as described in CanoeCraft. I made the legs and cut out sections in the box beam to accept the legs. Because my legs were wider than the boxbeam (since my boxbeam was narrower than specified in Canoecraft), I was able to cut slots in the legs and slide the legs into the boxbeam that way.

strongback from underneath

Prior to mounting the boxbeam on the legs, I reassembled the beams on the floor making sure everything was straight and level. While still on the floor I screwed the sections together. Once the boxbeam was lifted onto the legs, it was easy to level the legs and bingo! everything was golden.

strongback is fixed

With the strongback assembled, adding the forms was dead easy. I just took my time with the spacing and working the for/aft level. Since the strongback was dead straight, the forms were extremely easy to align.

aligning forms

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