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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

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Newest photo of the field across the road. This one is from about 30 meters west of my usual spot.

And here it is from the usual spot.

And if you turn a little and fast east...

One more...

This is a new Hellman canoe. Its a nice all round canoe that suffered some sort of stem crushing damage during transport. This is the "before" shot. Its a current project, so I don't have the "after" shots yet.

Some repairs are nice and straightforward, just a gelcoat fracture on the keel near the stern. This is an Evergreen "Envy". It is a nice little kayak intended for casual day paddling.

Grind off the "bad".

Put on the "good". Let cure, then sand an polish.

I seem to be having a run on composite canoe repairs. 4 of the 5 repairs that are in right now are all NEW canoes!! Transportation damage is usually more of a risk that damage from use.

Poor storage is the biggest cause for canoe damage.

This one is an Evergreen that had a pretty bad gelcoat fracture. Step one is to grind off the bad.

Then mix up the colour. I've been waiting about 6 weeks for Evergreen to ship the original colour gelcoat, but they are notoriously slow to do this sort of thing. I can't wait any longer.

Wet, the colour looks pretty close.

The gelcoat dried slightly off colour. Part of the problem is that the yellow pigment I have has the slightest amount of black in it. I hate having to match colour when the pigments are not pure.

All sanded smooth and polished. Pretty close, but not "perfect".

Got a little more done on the thickness sander that I am building. I am converting an old Delta Super 900 radial arm saw that I picked up at the dump. I had to make up some plywood discs to mount the drum to the shaft. It was critical that the holes be perfectly centered. So, after a bit of head scratching, I figured out how I was to do that.

Mission accomplished, I then mounted the drum on the bracket, and cut a hole on the saw base. The belt is there just to check the clearances. Next step is to mount the motor. After that is to make the dust collection shroud and table/feed device.

The Huron is now getting the varnish on the trim. 2 coats so far. The photos show the canoe just before varnish.

This first photo after the old varnish has been sanded off, ready for varnish.

And before:

First step is to get some new fabric applied to the inside of the hull. This closes up the hole and makes it look seamless on the inside. This is a Kevlar/carbon fiber blend. Kevlar does not sand well, it just goes fuzzy, and is a real pain to work with for repairs.

A view from the inside.

Its not too difficult to get the structural work done on laminate canoes. The real "work" comes with the cosmetic aspects of blending and polishing. With a pattern weave like this Kevlar/carbon fiber blend, it is difficult to get the weave to blend in invisibly.

Not too bad.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

This is a brand new Bell Canoe Works Kevlar/carbon fiber canoe. Somehow it received a great big hole right beside the bow seat. This is the side that was to the inside of the canoe trailer. Will mysteries never cease?

Broke the seat hanger, too. How much of an impact does it take to do this?

In contrast to the Tremblay, this old Huron came in. Its a treat to work on canoes like this one. The hull is in good shape, just sand and re-varnish, a little stem tip repair, canvas, fill, paint, etc...

This is how she came in.

Huron's are known for their crude construction. This one is one of the rare one's that received extra craftsman attention. Notice the nicely shaped decks. Other details matched this quality.

After the fresh varnish.

Canvas is on.

And filler applied. Now I have to wait about two weeks for the filler to dry thoroughly, then I can paint it and get the rest of it put back together.

Some canoes you can only do the minimum, just what the client wants.

This old 14' Tremblay came in last fall. The gunnels were shot, that was obvious. But the canoe needed so much more...half of the rib ends were so rotten that they were barely holding to the gunnel, and the gunnel ends were completely gone in one end, just the face of the wood was left. That's just the start...

So, all I did was remove the old gunnels, make new ones, and put them on.

Monday 10 August 2009

Gunnel bobbing, one of the simple joys of summer...if you are young enough to actually be able to do it. Sadly, my days for this pleasure are behind me.

We were walking along the path at camp when I say the girls out on the lake doing this. In addition to being fun, it teaches balance and confidence with the canoe. This activity is immediately followed by teaching canoe over canoe rescue.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Last Sunday, while pulling weeds, I heard a strong buzzing sound. At first, I couldn't see the source. Then, I found it. Hovering around my old Ford F-47, I saw a swarm of bees.

They seem to like the cab...

Actually, they like the gas tank. They hive has taken up residence in the gas tank.

On my last pick up of cedar, I grabbed these big boards. I thought that they were cedar, they look exactly the same in this state. However, on the first cut I could smell that they were Pine. Pine is not what I use for canoe building, so I put them aside until I could figure out what to do with them.

Frequenting a Telecaster guitar forum, I came to realize that many builders highly value Pine for bodies. Aha! So that is what I did with them. They are cut down to body size or drying until I need to process them further.

Here you can see my Tele sitting on top for scale.

They take up a lot less space this size, too! Storage i one of the reasons that I cut them down now.

Forgot to how the next MPC canoe restoration project. This one is an old Peterborough Champlain. That big hole in the side did this canoe in. It got blown off o fthe canoe racks, and got impaled by the arm of the next row of canoe racks. Ouch.

MPC has a fiberglass Canot du Nord, a 26' voyageur canoe. Thought that you'd like to see a few photos of it.

One of summer's traditions is to go to camp. My two oldest kids have been going to camp for a few years now, but this year my youngest was old enough to go. Manitoba Pioneer Camp, ( is the camp that we have associations with.

Given that the kids were away, that left my wife and I with 12 days essentially to ourselves. 21 years of marriage, and we finally have 12 days! What to do, what to do? Well, we decided to spend a few days at camp too. Instead of working there, we decided to have a bit of vacation for ourselves. MPC has set up on of the cabins as a retreat cabin, and is available for a nominal rent.

Coincidentally, for canoe enthusiasts, this cabin has long been known as the "Stuga", and is the cabin where Bill and Joyce Mason stayed right after there wedding. It was more rustic in those days, it is fixed up quite nice for its present role as "Gem's Retreat".

I have an arrangement with MPC that I will take some of their wood canoes, the basket cases that no one else can fix, restore them and pay for my kids to attend camp in trade. Its a win-win situation.
A rare photo of me paddling. Rare because I'm usually the one working the camera.

I have started naming the canoes for camp. This is to aid in the oral history that accompanies each of these old canoes. 18 wood and canvas canoes remain at camp, and each has lots of history. To most of the campers, they all look the same, just old wood canoes, specially if they are all painted the same colour, and they are: red. So, by naming them, they each are identified individually. this canoe is called "Grace".

I also put the camp name on the side. Here is Chris Milne, an MPC staffer and wood canoe advocate, taking Grace for a launching paddle one evening.
Summer is a time to get some outdoor gardening done. We are almost finished a project that we've been wanting to do for years.

The people that built our house set up some very small planting areas, and they did it in a way that the driveway comes right up to within 24" of the front of the house, and a sidewalk is right against the side.

That's fine in a city lot, but we live on a rural lot that is 1 1/2 acres. We have some space to not crowd the house!

So, we pulled up whatever plantings were in these zones, built up some retaining walls, filled it with fresh soil, and put plants back in.

Here is just after we start putting the plants back in. We've added some more since the photo. Its looking a lot better, and will look better yet, as they grow in.

I've wanted a thickness sander for quite awhile. I have a thickness planer, but once you work the wood to less than 1/4" (6mm) it gets scary! Sometimes, depending upon the wood, you can go thinner. I have gone down to less than 2mm, but that was lucky, and it was a low risk situation.

The planer uses blades set while a sander uses abrasive paper wrapped around a cylinder. The blades can really rip apart thin pieces of wood, and if your wood if valuable, then you risk ruining all of it.

I'd been collecting some of the parts for awhile, then I found this old Delta Super 900 radial arm saw at the dump (my second saw find there). With nothing to lose, I brought it back to the shop. It is solid, and already has a great height adjustment mechanism. A bonus is that I can make an open end sander for when I need to run wide stock through.

Primarily, it will be used for guitar parts, so it is wide enough for that.

I'm at the point of making the discs to attach the steel cylinder to the shaft. I don't get a lot of time to work on it, just a bit at a time.