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Thread: Stitch & Glue Canoe - The Blogg!

  1. #1
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    Default Stitch & Glue Canoe - The Blogg!

    Caution! This is a long post, but Iíve tried to make it as detailed as I can, so that others can follow my bad example if they wish. Also, Iíve had all sorts of bother with the photos displaying too big or too small, so if Iíve still not got it right, please accept my apologies!

    I first had the notion of building a canoe a few years ago, but put it to the back of my mind, where it might have stayed had it not been for our holiday to Canada. Suddenly there were canoes everywhere, and being used for all sorts of things Ė transport, camping, fishing, sailing, you name it!

    Of course, when we got back home I started to look into buying a canoe. Now again, I probably should have stuck with this, forked out a sum equivalent to a second hand car for something made of Royalex, and lived happily ever after. However, Iím not quite that sensible, and like so many others it turns out, I found myself surfing the Selway Fisher website.

    The pics looked great, and suitably enthused by the marketing blurb about building my own canoe in 2 weekends flat, at a cost of no more than 50p, I ordered the plans for the Fisher Prospector.

    Now, hereís the rub. You must understand at this point that the only thing Iíve ever made out of wood before was a rather fetching egg rack which I made at school (I seem to remember getting a D for that even!). So, this blogg is posted purely to say ďIf I can do it, so can youĒ. It is not a tutorial in the finer points of, well, anything really! Right, thatís the scene set, letís start building!


    1) The plans came in the form of two A1 drawings, plus a few sheets of A4 on the building process. The canoe is symmetrical, with 5 planks per side. This means that you need four of each plank to make the hull. This is made easier by marking out one of each only, and using this as a template for the other three. All four planks can then be planed up together (take your time over this, itís one of the best bits ).



    2) The next job is to join the ends of the planks together to give the full length of the canoe. There are lots of different ways to do this, but I settled for tacking them down on a sheet of sheathing ply, with acetate sheet underneath to stop it sticking. I found that I could lay all of the planks side-by-side along the sheathing ply, so that all of the joints were in the same place. I then primed the join with epoxy resin, and slapped down some 3Ē glass tape, and waited for this to cure. I was then able to cut the tape between the planks, turn them over, and repeat for the other side.

    3) Now the fun really starts, as the canoe starts to take shape. By laying the planks together, and starting from the centre of the canoe, they can be Ďstitchedí together. This is the Ďstitchí bit of stitch and glue! You can use cable ties or copper wire to hold things together. I went for the wire, and it worked perfectly. The photos below show the hull starting to take shape. Getting to this stage is incredibly quick (2 weekends maybe?), but donít open the champagne yet Ė youíre only 20% of the way there!




    4) Now the Ďmouldsí are inserted to give the canoe its proper shape. I didnít get a picture of this bit, but basically these are like bulkheads made from scrap ply, which are wired in vertically to give shape and rigidity. Itís then well worth spending time checking that everything is true and to the right dimensions before anything is set in stone (or epoxy). As you can see from the right hand photo above, the bow was distinctly squint to begin with, and needed quite a bit of work to get it to behave!

    5) The next job is to tack weld the planks together using epoxy resin, so that the wire stitches can be removed. It is possible to leave the stitches in, and just epoxy over the top of them, but Iím glad I removed mine. I had to leave a few in at the bow and stern, and these gave me all sorts of bother when fairing the hull later, so all in all, Iíd recommend the tack-welding, prior to removing the stitches. For the tack-welds, I used a countersink drill bit along the joins to make a small hollow, every 6Ē or so. I then filled this with thickened epoxy, and it worked a treat. The only drawback is that this method is that itís visible in the finished job. However, coming back to the egg-rack, Iím not a perfectionist, so it didnít matter.



    6) Once I had finished the tack-welds, and removed the stitches, I cut up the moulds so that only a single strip remained to give the correct width at the top (as seen in the photo). Even with just the tack-welds in place, the hull is surprisingly rigid at this stage (not that youíd want to paddle very far in it yet of course! )

    7) Removing most of the moulds leaves the length of the canoe open for the glass taping. First, a Ďfilletí of thickened epoxy is applied to seal the join, and give a smooth curve for putting the glass tape over. This is quite a tricky task Ė a bit like trying to apply peanut butter, neatly along a 15í curve, but with it setting and going lumpy as you go! In hindsight some of my fillets are a bit on the big side, but if anyone laughs at them, Iíll break out the peanut butter and challenge them to do better! I then painted un-thickened epoxy over the fillet, and applied 2Ē glass tape to the join. This then has more epoxy brushed into it until it is completely Ďwetted outí (i.e. it goes clear). This is the one place where things went a bit pear shaped, since it was January, and flippiní freezing in the garage! I think this is what made some of the epoxy go a milky colour, which shows up badly in the final finish. However, you live and learn, and I certainly wasnít waiting till June to do it in any case.

    8) The hull is then turned over, and the gaps where the panels meet are filled with thickened epoxy. When they are first stitched together, this is done so that the inside corners of the ply touch. This gives a gap on the outside of the boat, which can be filled to give a nice finish. This was a fairly easy job, but took forever and a day, (laboriously removing the sand from sheet after sheet of sandpaper by hand is hard work!). One tip Iíd give is to wait until the epoxy is half-cured, then go at the proud stuff with course sandpaper. Itíll rub off a bit like when you use a pencil rubber. I managed this for a couple of the joints, but by the time I came to the rest, the epoxy had set hard, and needed LOADS of sanding. The problem is that the epoxy is then harder than the wood, so itís not as easy as it sounds!



    9) Just for good measure, I then sealed the outside of the hull in epoxy. This adds rigidity and water protection, so should ensure the boat lasts a long time. I had always planned to paint the hull anyway, but even so, it was quite a wrench to have to say goodbye to all that lovely wood!



    Post continued below!..........

    Continued from above.....

    10) The next job was fitting the gunwales. This is where the real woodwork began, and I started to struggle! The first problem was sourcing strips of suitable wood. I eventually found a place in Edinburgh who would cut it up for me, but the only wood they stocked in the right size was dressed oak, and opinions were divided on itís suitability. In hindsight, I should have done the inwales in Douglas Fir, and the outwales in Mahogany or similar, but you live and learn. Anyway, the oak does look lovely! I had a real job steaming the gunwales to fit (hereís a picture of my first, entirely unsuccessful attempt!).




    I eventually made a steam box from a section of drainpipe, and just about got it to work. The main problem was that the wood only stayed flexible for about 30 seconds once out of the steamer, so lots of swearing and bending ensued. However, Iím now willing to challenge all comers to a G-clamp speed test! Wonít write any more here, but if I ever build another canoe, Iíll need to rethink the right way to do the gunwales and the steaming process!




    11) Once the gunwales were on, we were home and dry Ė just the seats to fit, then some painting and varnishing to finish off. Being a dinghy sailor, I couldnít contemplate a boat without buoyancy tanks (after all, £5 worth of ply, or £50 for airbags?!). In hindsight, these are less useful than Iíd hoped, due to the huge amount of rocker on this boat. However, they do make a neat place for storing sandwiches! The story behind the design is that I asked my wife to come up with something classy Ė a celtic knot maybe? However, she decided I was taking this boat building lark far too seriously, and looked to a fluffy friend for inspiration. I donít have a decent photo of this yet, but suffice to say, if the Mooseís head ended up on the bow, you can guess what the stern looks like!



    12) So thatís it! A winterís worth of weekends, happily spent in the garage. Iím now a bit wiser in the ways of woodworking, but certainly no expert. However, I have proved that it can be done, and if I can do it..........

    SO CAN YOU!!!






    Just got to learn how to paddle the darn thing now!


    Blutack.


    ďIf you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that was rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.Ē -- W. Beran Wolfe
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 24th-December-2009 at 04:05 PM.
    The Canoeist's prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to walk the portages I must, The courage to run the rapids I can, And the wisdom to know the difference".

    John Muir Trust - Wild Places for Nature & People.

  2. #2
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    Thumbs up Well Done

    Saw your superb canoe at Inchcailloch so I know what is on the stern.

    Your post should be an inspiration to others who are thinking of building their own canoe.

    Selway Fisher were at the boat show in Falkirk last weekend the craft they had on show were well made.

    Maggie
    Maggie.

    ''One is always wiser after the event''

  3. #3
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    Default

    Great job! Good tutorial. thank you for sharing with us.
    The perfect canoe -
    Like a leaf on the water

  4. #4
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    Great post definitely another for the main site.

    I have paddled this canoe it handled very well, I would be really tempted to build one myself but my weekends are almost less existent than my woodworking skills.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutack
    Continued from above.....

    I eventually made a steam box from a section of drainpipe, and just about got it to work. The main problem was that the wood only stayed flexible for about 30 seconds once out of the steamer, so lots of swearing and bending ensued. However, Iím now willing to challenge all comers to a G-clamp speed test! Wonít write any more here, but if I ever build another canoe, Iíll need to rethink the right way to do the gunwales and the steaming process!
    I've spent a lot of time, over the years, steaming wood. I've got a steam box (for large pieces) and a 20 foot piece of well casing, for things like gunwales.

    A few years ago I came upon a very simple way to steam wood. I've yet to break anything I've tried to bend, and it is fast, easy, and gives you all the time you need, as the wood is still being steamed as you bend.

    Simply wrap your work (gunwale, or whatever), in a towel or towels, and pour boiling water on it. Wait just a bit, and go at your bend. Keep more boiling water on hand. If your bend is not going well, you can re-apply hot water to the towels as needed.

    You will want some kind of heavy mitts to work with the towel wrapped wood - or you'll burn your hands. I use welder's gloves.
    The perfect canoe -
    Like a leaf on the water

  6. #6
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    Nice one Blutack. Entertaining, informative and inspiring.

    I've just decided in the last week to have a go at a home build, like yourself I've got next to no woodworking experience so this was just the sort of encouragement that was required, it's quite a daunting thought.

    Having had a good look over your boat and judging by the fact you made it off of inchcailloch in one piece I reckon you've a lot to be proud of there. Way to go!

    Josh
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

  7. #7

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    Thank you Sir! That is just the inspiration I needed to get mine up and running!

    Eric

  8. #8

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    very Impressive,and it makes my plastic "discovery" look like a bathtub,
    Time well spent,you owe yourself a good drink!!

  9. #9

    Default Inspection Hatches

    Here`s A cheap way to add an inspection hatch/Dry box to your self builds` baulkhead.

    Find a bucket or container with a press on/peel off lid. Cut hole in baulkhead to match just below rim diameter. Insert bucket/Pot through hole and fillet/tape into place on inside of baulkhead with epoxy.

    The bucket can be left closed to form a watertight "pod" within the bow/stern space or the bottom of the bucket/pot can be removed to allow access to stem and stern.

    Hope this helps

    Adam
    If God had meant us to build fibreglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees

  10. #10
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    A fine looking craft. Beyond my skills with wood I,m afraid.

  11. #11
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    This was the blog that started me off, I am no carpenter and dont claim to be a woodwork expert,I would recomend a self build to anyone,you only need some basic tools and the desire to own your very own canoe,mine is far from perfect but does the job,I also learnt so much from the build that I would not hesitate to build another better boat in the future,so Guys and Gals give it a go,the satisfaction factor is worth it,its a good feeling when you look at the finnished product and say to yourself "I did that"
    Rain is only beer thats still to be made

  12. #12
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    Not my kind of canoe but that's a good job Blutack.

    TGB
    May the gentleness of morning, greet your silent passage through endless waters...

    May all your winds be gentle. And for ww - May it rain the night before.

  13. #13
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    Default Norton9088

    Hi all, I am new to the forum/site and would like to say hello.

    I have a question for Blutack but am sure that a number of you may be able to reply.

    I have just purchased plans for the Selway Fisher Prospector 16 and am much looking forward to the build and the first paddle. A question thats bugging me is thickness of the ply used and so the final rigidity of the canoe. The plans literature states a weight of 30kg but suggests 4,5 or 6mm ply - I am guessing that 30kg would be with 4mm!

    I saw a thread on another forum where someone had used 4mm but found their finished canoe flimsy. Anyone know any different or have any experience or thoughts on this.

    I appreciate the difference weight makes for lifting on/off of roof bars for example but what about on the water. I have a lot of boat experience but as this will be my first canoe I am not too sure what to expect. My current thoughts are 'the lighter the better'.

    I appreciate any info you can offer, and hope in time to be able to post my own experiences of both building and adventures afloat.

    Kind regards.
    Last edited by norton9088; 16th-September-2009 at 10:42 AM. Reason: bad spelling

  14. #14
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    This is exactly the sort of build blogg I needed to see. I am contemplating a stitch-and-tape build next spring, and having very limited wook working skills, and absolute no experience of building anything as alreg I am gald to see that your were so successful. Expect a bonbardment of querisw early next year .

  15. #15
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    Blimey - never thought this thread would see the light of day again!

    Norton - I used 5mm Robbins Timber marine ply. It was a bit pricey by the time it was delivered, but the quality was excellent (one extra ply compared with the other stuff I could get locally, so nice and strong). Combined with the bilge runners, the hull is nice and rigid. If I had my time again, I might well go with 4mm, and then sheath the canoe with glassfibre cloth I think.

    Generally, the weight makes the biggest difference when lugging the canoe about. When on the water, another few kilos here or there don't make much difference. Mine would have been easier to carry if I'd put in a proper shaped yoke, but I was learning as I went along (when I got the plans, I couldn't even work out which end was the bow! ).

    The other thing I learned subsequently is that the Prospector is a highly rockered, and hence very manouverable design. Great for whitewater (hmmm - in a plywood boat?), but not the best for the lochs I use my canoe on (it's very susceptible to wind, with the rocker and high bow / stern). See the S.F. Raven for an alternative if you are concerned about this.

    Happy building! I know that making mine was the most satisfying thing I've done for many years.

    Cheers,

    Blutack.
    The Canoeist's prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to walk the portages I must, The courage to run the rapids I can, And the wisdom to know the difference".

    John Muir Trust - Wild Places for Nature & People.

  16. #16
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    Blutack,

    Thanks for the reply, think I will go with 4mm and treat it all as a learning exercise. I already am hoping to build a second using clinker ply method. Maybe getting a bit ahead of myself though!

    Kind regards.

  17. #17
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    Looks a grand job! Still, I am not going to attempt it right now! can;t see some of the pics you posted? would like to see the stitching in a close-up photo?
    See what you can do? Happy paddling!

    "Der Hirsch springt hoch,
    Der Hirsch springt weit.
    Es macht ja nichts........
    Er hat ja Zeit"

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sundowner View Post
    See what you can do?
    Sorry!! It was a long time ago - the pics were all taken on 35mm and scanned in, which is why they're so dodgy looking!

    The stitches are really easy - just a hole at the edge of each panel, then copper wire stuck through and back to form a loop. Then you just get your pliers and twist until it's tight. Have a look at some of the other self build blogs on here - I'm sure some will show the process in enough detail.

    HTH!
    The Canoeist's prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to walk the portages I must, The courage to run the rapids I can, And the wisdom to know the difference".

    John Muir Trust - Wild Places for Nature & People.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutack View Post
    Sorry!! It was a long time ago - the pics were all taken on 35mm and scanned in, which is why they're so dodgy looking!

    The stitches are really easy - just a hole at the edge of each panel, then copper wire stuck through and back to form a loop. Then you just get your pliers and twist until it's tight. Have a look at some of the other self build blogs on here - I'm sure some will show the process in enough detail.

    HTH!
    Thanks for that Blutack, but I haven't explained myself very well, I did some stitching before on a small tender. What I didn't like was taping the seams with the wires still in it! Did you take the stitches out before you (sort of 1 by 1?)
    Thanks for any pointers

    "Der Hirsch springt hoch,
    Der Hirsch springt weit.
    Es macht ja nichts........
    Er hat ja Zeit"

  20. #20
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    Yes, I did remove the stitches before I taped the seams. What I did was to use a countersink drill bit to make 'dents' in all the seams from the inside (i.e. not a hole all the way through, but put the bit between the two planks, and spin quickly to make a small depression). These 'dents' were then filled with thickened epoxy, which had the effect of 'tack-welding' the seams together. I then removed the stitches, and taped the seams.

    The 'tack-welds' are visible in the final boat, so not the way to go if you're a perfectionist. However, I would definitely use this method again.

    Hope that helps!
    The Canoeist's prayer: "Lord grant me the serenity to walk the portages I must, The courage to run the rapids I can, And the wisdom to know the difference".

    John Muir Trust - Wild Places for Nature & People.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blutack View Post
    The other thing I learned subsequently is that the Prospector is a highly rockered, and hence very manouverable design. Great for whitewater (hmmm - in a plywood boat?), but not the best for the lochs I use my canoe on (it's very susceptible to wind, with the rocker and high bow / stern).
    I've often wondered about this, the SF Prospector seems very popular with home builders and is a nice boat to paddle, but the design principles somewhat contradict the general use of it!

    Supposing one was to build a ply propector specifically for ww use: maybe:
    Glasscloth inside and out
    Double thickness cloth on the bottom
    Graphite/epoxy finish on the botton

    Would this survive enough to be useful?

  22. #22
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    lovely boat im having problems wiring mine together at the mo its 28 degrees and im sweating madly its back in and try again at 7 pm when its dropped ten degrees
    Wandering hearts meet on the trails of life

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