Joan's Canoe... A Work in Progress


Home from Newfound Woodworks on a February Day

The "canoe" arrives home as a 17 foot long bundle of cedar strips about 6" x 6" plus a few cardboard boxes with the miscellaneous pieces.

The Newfound Woodworks web site is fun to look at too.


The Strongback

In order to build a 17' long canoe, one needs a 17' long workbench!


Setting the Molds

The molds determine the shape of the canoe. Basically each mold is a cross section of the canoe at a fixed point along its length. They are spaced at 1' intervals and need to be aligned precisely, otherwise you get a crooked canoe.

We bought our molds precut by Newfound Woodworks. They have a compute controlled router that cuts them from a 4' x 8' sheet of MDF with great precision. Way cool!


Bending the Stems

Inner and outer stems (for both the bow and the stern) are formed by the "bent laminate" method. Thin strips of ash are glued together while clamped to the curved form, resulting in curved stems!


The First Strips... View 1, View 2 & View 3

The "stripping" starts at the gunwale and works towards the bilge. Each strip is glued to the one before and "clamped" in place by stapling to molds.


More Strips... View 1 & View 2

In order to get a good looking boat... red cedar strips are used heavily at the gunwales and just below; where they will be most visible.

  Joan Trimming a Strip

Making Progress... View 1, View 2 (from here down added: 26 Apr 03)

As one progresses to less visible areas near the water line one uses white cedar strips which are less expensive and more flexible than red cedar.

Planning ahead

Here Joan is laying out a pleasing pattern of red and white cedar strips for the bottom of the canoe... which, of course, is also an area of high visibility.

Rounding the "corner"... another view
The long view (Joan at work.)
Closing in... the close-up, the long view and the side view

Getting ready to glue in the "football" (from here down added 25 June 03; things slowed down some while we got the gardens in shape!)

The "football" is the last piece needed to close up the hull. Instead of adding the last few strips one at a time, they are glued up separately, trimmed carefully to fix the football shaped gap in the hull and then glued in place with epoxy.

Here, Joan is adding the blue masking tape to keep the epoxy off of the surrounding area.


The "finished" hull... View 1 & View 2 (Well, OK, it is not completely ready for the water yet!)

Here is the intact hull. It is still rather "bumpy" since all of these flat strips were glued together to approximate the curve of a canoe.


"Fairing the hull"... here Joan is sanding the hull using a "fairing board" in order to get the hull smoothly curved (or as they say in the boat business, "fair").

This was preceded by some work with spokeshave and plane to knock off the corners of the strips and followed by sanding with a random orbit sander to 100 grit.


Gluing on the outer stems... View 1 (getting ready, notice the blue masking tape again) and View 2 (done!).

The outer stems were bent, along with the inner stems, in the first days of the project. Finally they are attached!


The punk canoe!

The outer stems were temporarily attached with screws since there is no practical way to clamp them. Here we were plugging the holes left by the screws with dowels. Shortly after the photo, the dowels were cut off flush.


Ready for the epoxy! (Photo taken on 24 June 03)

Things don't look too much different from the "finished hull" stage above in this photo, but the outside of the hull is now beautifully smooth and ready for the epoxy and fiberglass. Now all we need is three straight days with time to do it!

The first layer of epoxy... View 1, View 2 and View 3 (from here down added 30 June 03)

Here, Joan is adding a layer of epoxy directly to the wood. One now gets a feeling for how the canoe will look when it is done!

  Adding the fiberglass... a single sheet of fiberglass cloth is laid over the canoe. Here Joan is trimming the cloth to size. The final result, before adding more epoxy.

The second layer of epoxy... View 1 (just starting out), View 2 (a closer view) and View 3 (the more-or-less completed job).

When one wets the fiberglass cloth with epoxy it becomes transparent. Since these photos were taken (on 28 June), Joan has added three more coats of epoxy to completely fill the weave of the cloth. Since things do not look significantly different in the photos at this point I have not added any.

Once the epoxy has completely cured we will lift the boat off of the molds and finish the inside similarly... stay tuned!

A milestone is reached (7 July)... the canoe has come off the molds and now resides right-side-up in its slings... see view 1 and view 2. Also a close up of the inside of the bow.

Joan is on to scraping and sanding the inside surface in preparation of more epoxy and fiberglass... eventually!


The molds reappear and are quickly stripped from the strongback... we need the space in the garage to get the canoe out of the driveway!

The strongback is now pushed over to the side and the canoe (in its slings) resides back in the garage. I guess that the truck will never see the inside of the garage again!


It seems that Joan can not own too many boats... here is her latest acquisition!

We had been talking for some time about replacing the Snark we bought for $300 while in graduate school... good price, not too good at sailing! Joan won out and we bought a Sunfish last week. (We spent the week of the July Fourth at camp... just the two of us, like the "old days"!)

I wanted a bigger boat, say 35 feet with a wheel not a tiller! But I guess that I would have to get an industry job, or worse become a Dean before I can afford that!

After a five month hiatus (she got distracted with outdoor projects and activities), Joan got back to work on the "Greggoria" during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. (Stuff from here down added on 5 Jan 2004.)

After sanding the inside, Joan applies a coat of epoxy to the raw wood. This coat was used to seal serial numbers and other information (printed on rice paper) onto the hull permanently; larger version here.

Here is Joan admiring (inspecting?) the finished coat. Sometimes Joan gets ahead of herself and want to add the finishing touches now!


The next step is to add fiberglass and epoxy to the inside... View #1 & View #2.

Here, Joan is trimming the excess fiberglass at the gunwales (the right side has year to be trimmed. You get a good view of the more-or-less finished interior.

On a relatively warm (for the end of December!), we moved the hull outside to sand the epoxy surface (inside and out) in preparation for the eventual varnish top coat.

Sometimes Joan really wants to move ahead... here (close up view and another) she has "dry fit" all of the trim (inwales, outwales, decks, thwart and seats) that will need to be fit before she is finished.
Time to get back to work... Joan trims the stems flush with the hull in preparation for fitting the inwales and decks. View of the trimmed bow stem.
At both the bow and the stern the inwales are tapered down and the decks carefully trimmed to fit... view 1... view 2

Finally, we had a weekend (21 and 22 Feb) warm enough that the space heaters could get the garage up to 60 degrees... i.e. warm enough to epoxy!

Thus, Joan was able to glue on the inwales (detailed view; think that we have enough clamps!), the decks and the outwales (not shown; the picture would look pretty much like the inwale photo... lots of clamps!).

Before adding the decks Joan carved her initials in the underside of the bow deck and added the federally mandated Hull Identification Number (HIN). The underside of both decks were also precoated with epoxy to seal them.

  It has more-or-less stayed warm enough to make progress... The outwales have been epoxied in place (detailed view). Here Joan is shaping the outwales to their final taper at the stern (detailed view). Everything (inwales, outwales and decks) was given another sanding and then sealed in epoxy. This really brings out the beauty of the cherry decks.
Decision time... the locations of seats and thwart/yoke need to be determined. Joan contemplates these decisions using the plans. But there is no doubt that the best way to do this is simply to try things out (good thing it was nice and sunny, but still chilly, on the weekend of 13/14 March)... first the stern (view 1 and view 2)... then the bow! But sitting up on the gunwale is not exactly right, so we jerry-rigged a lower seat.
The thwart/yoke needs to be placed so the canoe is balanced (i.e. at the center of gravity) so we made a temporary one to find the proper spot.
  Joan spent the rest of Saturday (13 Mar) giving the hull a final (before varnish) sanding. On Sunday, she spent most of the day installing the seats. Here is the bow seat in process and finished (detailed view) and here she is beginning to measure for the stern seat.

Almost there... As I write this (on Monday, 15 March) both seats are installed, but the yoke remains to be done. After the yoke is installed, Joan will temporarily remove the seats and yoke, give everything a few coats of polyurethane and reinstall the seats and yoke.

The Greggoria should be ready for her maiden voyage just about the time Gregg Lake thaws out... in June at the rate things are going! (The forecast is for 4-8" of snow tomorrow and a similar amount again later in the week.)


The finishing touches... Joan spent most of last weekend (20 and 21 March) and some of the ensuing week, applying three coats of matte finish polyurethane varnish to the inside of the hull (view 1 and view 2).

The photos detailing the installation of seats and yoke (see above) are still in the camera. The photos you see here (of the varnishing job) were taken with my new digital camera. I am trying to finish up the roll of film in the old film camera but having a taste of digital makes it hard to want to go back!!! Instant gratification is wonderful!

  Today (Sunday, 28 March), we turned the canoe upside down once again and Joan began the first coat of polyurethane (high gloss this time) on the outside of the hull... she started at the stern (another view) and progressed towards the bow. Here is the finished first coat... this is pretty much how the boat will look when it is completely done as adding another three or four coats of polyurethane will not change things visibly.
1 May 04 -- DONE at last!!!! After struggling (two broken screws and other minor problems) for a few evenings, the brass bands on both stems are installed.

The launching... 2 May 04, after fifteen months of work the cedar strips are back where they started, loaded on top of the truck. (They do look a little different now!)

We headed to Lake Nippenicket ("The Nip", as it is know to the locals), a large shallow lake at the southeast corner of the Hockomock Swamp and on the west side of Bridgewater. I took a few photos (view 1; view 2) of Joan and Freckles near the ramp before we headed off for a circumnavigation.

The bird life was interesting (geese fighting; great blue herons, purple martins and red-winged blackbirds, to name a few). The canoe worked perfectly even if the dog shifting almost tipped us at one point!

Next photos... from Gregg Lake as soon as schedules permit. Stay tuned!

  Outing number two... Still haven't made it to Camp, but we did find some time to put the Greggoria into Carver's Pond, another local "hotspot" on the monring of 23 May. Upon our return the Greggoria "posed" for some formal portraits on our lawn... view 1, view 2, view 3 and view 4.

The Grande finale (as far as this website goes!)... Memorial Day weekend, 2004. We finally got up to camp for the long weekend and the Greggoria received its initiation to Gregg Lake. Here is a view of the canoe beached outside of camp and another of Joan returning from a solo spin around the lake.

Owning a craft like this certainly attracts attention. (We were warned to allow an extra twenty minutes for discussion with bystanders each time one launches the canoe!) Our first experience with such attention was Saturday when, while out for a cruise, a passing motorboat slowed down to offer a complement. While Joan was out for her solo run on Sunday, she ran into a number of people down at the "civilized end" of the lake who offered comments. Ben Pratt's initial comment was simply "Robert would approve!".

The comments continued even during our trip home. Our drive home, via Amherst, MA, to drop off Katrina, put us at the Mass. Pike toll booth at the junction with I-495 at about 9 PM. The toll collector commented on the "good looking canoe" and shook my hand after I commented in return that we had spent fifteen months building it. Needless to say Joan complained the rest of the way home, moaning "How come he did not shake my hand?"!!!!

Last update: 04-Jun-2004