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Lots of stuff goes on in this shop, located in Lorette, Manitoba.

Primarily it's the building and repair of classic wood & canvas canoes, and the making of premium canoe paddles. I also do custom boat building, composite fabrication, and special projects. A growing passion of mine is the making of classical guitars, I'll post about that, too.

I want to be able to share with my clients the progress of their commissioned work. Later I started thinking that there might be other people who are interested in what goes on inside a wooden canoe shop operated by an artist and a recovering teacher.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by email, phone, or by post. My mailing address is:

Red River Canoe & Paddle
24249 River Rd
Lorette, Manitoba
R5K 0Z6

Saturday 27 December 2008

It's been a little slow in the shop with Christmas happening in the middle of the week. Nevertheless, I've got the Baidarka almost finished being re-varnished. It required a repair tot he forward cockpit coaming, a thorough sanding of the deck and the hull.

Of course, nothing ever goes so smoothly, my old reliable Porter-Cable sander bit the dust when I had only 1/4 of the hull left to sand. I love these sanders because I work them hard and the do a great job, but after awhile some of the parts simply wear out. This time it was the spindle that keeps the sander head attached to the main body. Its just about closing time Monday, and I need to finish so that I can start varnishing, so I drive into the city, deal with rush hour traffic, only to find that the store has moved. I have a half hour left before closing, I call them up to find out where they've gone to, but there is no way that I can get there in time, and the fellow on the line wasn't inclined to wait for me. So I stopped in a Home Depot and picked up a little Ryobi, which ois good enough to see me through. Its a great little sander for $40, but it won't stand up to the demands that I will put it to.

I got the two little guitars that I'm building for my daughters closed. There's still a lot of work left to do, but now they are starting to look like guitars!

They already knew that these were coming, so it was hardly worth wrapping them, but a nice bow really sets them off.

Future guitar heroes? Who knows...they've both been studying music for years and now specialize in voice studies. Every singer should at lease be able to lay a little guitar.

The bodies are of Ash, and the wood came from a tree that was growing in my In-law's back yard. My Mother-in-law passed away last February, of pancreatic cancer, and these will be great souvenirs of the time spent with her. The guitar on the right has a veneer inlay in a geometric pattern, the one on the left will have a black line art vine.

A close up of the rosettes.

And finally, ever since I was a little kid of about 10, I've wanted an electric guitar. Well, one thing lead to another, and I never did get one. So now, after 35 years, I bought my first amp! So now I have now excuse to build an electric guitar. My first will be a good old Telecaster style and I'm already saving my pennies for the parts. The amp I chose is a VOX Valevetronix AD15VT. Its a modeling amp that runs a 12AX7 tube in the power stage so that you get that good tube amp sound that is so desirable. I'm really looking forward to plugging this thing in and rocking!

But for now its sitting very quietly in the living room, waiting...

Friday 19 December 2008

What to do while your epoxy is curing and you still have a few hours in your work day? Well you bring in the next project.

This is a strip built double Baidarka that needs some repair work done to the coaming and then a re-varnish job. This kayak has an interesting history, about 10 years ago it was used for a circumnavigation of Lake Winnipeg is 4th largest freshwater lake in Canada, the 11th largest in the world at 425 km long and 40km wide, covering 24,500 sq. km.

Building a coaming is a difficult job for an amature woodworker to do well. Over time some of the glue joints have started opening up and the new owner wanted the kayak to not deteriorate any further.
Open up the joint, some surface preparation, some epoxy, some clamps, some clean up, and I'm ready for the varnish work. This is a lot easier than the Chestnut!
Here"s the "How-to" of doing a back side rib repair. As I've already got the slots cut, the next step is to prepare the splint material. I used White Cedar as it has the same structural properties as the original rib wood. Its important to prepare them quite thin, maybe 2mm maximum. Thicker than that and the splint will not conform to the rib shape, thinner and it won't have any ability to overcome any distortions that the fractures create in the old rib. 3 splints should be enough for each rib repair.

There are several ribbands held in place behind the ribs. These serve to generate some continuity of shape in the repaired ribs. Once the rib repairs are done and the epoxy cures, the shape is set forever, so we need to ensure that it sets to the correct, fair, shape of the canoe.

Epoxy is used for this repair as it is completely waterproof, strong, and with the proper fillers, has excellent gap filling properties. Its very difficult to achieve perfect joinery in this type of task, so everything that helps is used.

The splints are started to be clamped in place. Also not the stringer clamped in place along the keel line. There was a lot of planking removed for this operation, including the planking along the keel line. With that gone there is no structure left there to keep the canoe shape from distorting; the spaces between each rib can be reduced and made permanent if not attended to.

Some of the broken ribs had multiple fractures, so long repair had to be done.

Clamps! Lots and lots of clamps are needed for this job. The splints don't need to be clamped in super tight, but snug enough to be held in position well. Too often, beginners over clamp epoxy glued joints, squeezing out the epoxy and starving the glue joint.

I only had enough clamps to do half of the rib repairs at one time. So this job had to be done over two days. Its all done now, so the next task is to shape the splints down to the curve of the original rib, and then start putting all the removed planking back. Well done, this repair will be almost as strong as a new rib. I say almost because I haven't had the nerve to stress test the repaired rib!

Tuesday 16 December 2008

I also made some progress on the guitar for my daughters. These are Christmas presents, so some effort is required to make progress. All the body components are made for both of them, and the first one is ready to have the back glued on tomorrow. Then I will set it aside and start the second.

I won't be going into any technical guitar building discussions here. That sort of information is available on luthier forums and in any number of books for anyone interested.

I won't have them completed in time for Christmas, but they will be done enough to present as gifts. I'll have the body closed on both. Still to do will be the binding, the fingerboard, the bridge, and final set up including the saddle and nut. Oh, and applying the finish.

I other words, LOTS!
I finished cutting the slots and preparing the material for rib repair.

Quite a lot of planking had to be removed for the work but almost all of it is in good enough condition to go back on. If there were a number of rib breaks do attend to under one run of planking, I took off the whole piece instead of cutting a bunch of small sections out. Some ribs had multiple fractures, so they require a longer splint. When gluing in the splints, its important to not distort the shape of the ribs. You'll see how that is done when I post the pictures of that stage.

I ran out of time to glue in the repair material, today. That will be tomorrow's job. It's not something to be rushed through. Once the epoxy sets, the new wood will be permanently bonded to the old rib and ready to be shaped smooth the the original contour. Then the planking can be put back on the canoe.

What's great about this method is that the strength of the rib is restored and the interior of the canoe retains all of its original character.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Now that they nasty business of stripping out the old varnish is done, I can turn myself to the task of repairing the woodwork. First step is to identify all the broke ribs. Given that this is a rare and historic 100 year old (approximate age) Chestnut canoe, I feel that it is important to maintain it as original as possible. Therefore, I am going to use the back of the rib repair technique on all of the broken ribs, even ones which normally would be replaced. This ensures that the entire canoe maintains its historic look and feel.

To repair rins this way, first the planking in the affected area needs to be removed. As you can see, there are a lot of rib fractures. If I were to replace all these ribs, what of the original canoe would be left?And these aren't all of them, either.

Next step, tomorrow, is to cut out slots across the fracture, along the length of the rib. Into this slot I will glue new wood. I'll use epoxy for this.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

While it may seem that work has been going slowly, I've been busy. I had to take a few days off to continue work on my basement. I had gutted and rebuilt the entire basement, mostly to deal with some mould problems that were the result of less than great original construction. The last major portion of the rebuild was to remove and replace the stairs. The original builders did not leave me much headroom, so it took some clever figuring to get the best fit for good headroom and tread/riser size.

The old stairs were not well built, and on top of that, they were built right up to the cement wall, leaving no room for the insulted new wall to be built. So, to build the new stairs, I had to move them about 8" over, which meant that the floor/ceiling had to be cut. and on and on it went.

Now that that portion of work is under control, I am bale to get back to work in the shop. As the NRC is finished, I was able to put up some shelving to help deal with the eternal storage crisis that plagues every small shop. I also built a room air filter which cleans airborne dust by circulating the room air through a stack of furnace filter. I'll post photos of that when Its completed. Its close now...

I pulled the old Chestnut back into the shop to start stripping the old varnish. This is a task that you need to steel yourself up to. Wearing the vapour mask to deal with the fumes, and the gloves, and the tedium. There is no way around it, just do it.

Here is the before shot. Tools all at the ready: stripper, putty knife, brush, tin cans, mask, gloves, and plenty of coarse steel wool. I'd rather be doing this outside, but its December in Manitoba. I might be crazy, but I'm not stupid.

You can see how dark the old varnish is compared to the stripped portion

And finally a shot looking along the canoe showing all that remains to be done tomorrow. At some point, even with a vapour mask, you've just had enough and have to call it quits. I've stripped out plenty of canoes, If I never do another one, my life will not be lacking. I'm sure that there will be more...there always are.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Here is the finished NRC. Well, just about finished. I just have to get the foot pads for the foot braces onto the adjustable brackets and voila! Done!

Here is a view of the bow end with interior and seat. the seats are set on bars called "risers". This allows for future location adjustments, low seat height (the center depth of this canoe is 20"), and the seat also acts as a thwart. Slats are used on this canoe for solidity, and in anticipation of padding being used by the racers.

The bow seat may look like its set in backwards, but remember that these canoes are raced with the bow person rowing. There will be an outrigger assembly added to the canoe around the bow person. The stern paddles/steers. the races are 3 days long, 30km per day, and the crew switch position at the 15km mark.

Interior view of the stern

It's amazing how much there is to do on a boat like this that isn't actually part of constructing the boat. To the uninitiated, building the hull would seem to be "it". So much is devoted to getting the details right: the deck fit and shape; the seats solid, level, comfortable, and correctly positioned; thwarts shaped right and correctly located; transom; stem bands drilled correctly, fitted, bent, screwed, sealed; varnish the interior and trim; paint the exterior smooth and "shiny" if that's the look the client wants; keeping the whole finish clean and free of dust.

Almost nobody notices these things if you do it right, but everybody will be sure to notice if you do it wrong or sloppy!

Who doesn't like looking at a nice rear end?

Notice that the keel joins to an outer stem which meets up with the transom for a nice continuous shape. There is an interior, structural, transom, and an exterior transom cap.

Finally, an long shot showing the exterior of the hull from the stern.

Now I get to move this canoe out of the shop and get started on the next project. I have a couple of smaller jobs that I need to tend to, and then its back to the early 1900's Chestnut that I showed earlier.