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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

Tuesday 26 January 2010

The back linings and back braces are done. The photo shows that there are just two back braces. I will be using just two back braces, but its the back brace near the slipper foot that is to be removed, not the middle one. This is remedied now. Lots of head scratching to do on this guitar!

I have decided that, before I close up the back on the FE17-ish guitar, that I need to have the bridge and the fingerboard made. This is because of the Tornavoz. You can see it sitting in place and you can see how it will interfer with clamping the bridge on later. Well, I can.

I have decided that, before I close up the back on the FE17ish guitar, that I need to have the bridge and the fingerboard made. I may choose to glue on the bridge before installing the tornavoz and closing the back.

I had a scrap of Brazilian Rosewood that I bought in an offcut table at a local lumber vendor, but it was not the right dimension for a bridge so I had to re-cut it and glue it up the way that I could get a bridge blank out of.

So, after I cut the basic shapes out I find myself wondering how hard it would be to do it like the original? You can see it in the lower left photo of my notes, note the decorated wings. So I'm thinking I have some laminate leftover from making my herringbone that I could use for the little borders-just sandwich it between some veneer, border an offcut of the bridge, and inlay it in the wings.

Here is is just sitting on top of the rough cut bridge wing. The original had a lozenge shaped pearl inlay in the center. Here is my paper pattern sitting in place. I don't have any pearl, so I'm thinking that I will use some figured maple instead, and the colours will blend in nicely, too.

After the epoxy bonding the new gunnel and stem wood cures it is time to shape it.

The ribs get cut down and cut to fit the underside of the gunnels. This is to allow the planking and outer gunnels to fit fair to the tip of the canoe. If it is not done then there will be a great big bump here.

The rib repairs are shaped fair to the curve of the canoe shape and then treated with some boiled linseed oil before the planking goes back on. Even though there remains some visible sign of the cracked rib from the inside, the rib is as strong as new, and still retains all the aura of the original canoe. The work should be nearly invisible - unless you know what you are looking for.

While I am putting the old planking back the planking, I take this opportunity to replace 4 pieces of planking that were too deteriorated to keep. These had to be matched for grain and then stained to match the old planking.

Here is the canoe's interior all back together and with two coats of varnish on. Each coat has to be sanded prior to the next, that means every rib and every span of planking between the ribs has to be sanded by hand, there really is no fast way to do this.

Two more coats of varnish should complete the job, then I can get the canvas and filler on.

The decks are still left out at this point in order to make it easier to varnish in the confined areas at the stem.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Here is the progress made on the old Peterborough. I have the planking opened up for the broken ribs, recesses chiseled out, and splines made to rebuild the broken wood.

Once the splines are glued in with epoxy I flip the canoe and start working on the topsides...

...because this needs to be attended to. While this looks pretty drastic as far as damage goes, its actually pretty common. Over the years condensation collects on the canoe. Even though the canoe is stored upside down, this condensation collects and stays longest where there is the least drainage and air flow for the wood to dry. Slowly, slowly, over the years, the rots sets in and this is where it usually does its worst.

So I remove the decks and open up the planking to allow me access to work here.

And I prepare new wood to match the existing wood and use epoxy to bond it in place. Four gunnel ends, two stem ends, and five rib ends. Could have been worse. While the decks are out I repaired them as well. Next step is to clean up the new wood and match it to the existing structure, put the planking back on, and close up the ends.

The heel on this old neck was originally carved for a slightly deeper guitar, so I had to cut about 6mm off the bottom, which required me to re-carve the whale. Which is OK because I feel that it is more refined now. But it did take extra time, which is something that I wanted to avoid.

Oh well. It serves us no good to count the hours in the service of Art.

Finishing the carving allowed me to get the neck installed.

One small "modernization" is my use of the double wedge instead of just the skinny slits. It is a little more work, but getting the little slits "just right" has its own complications. I really like how tight you can get the sides against the outer portion of the heel.

Freshly glued in, I'll be cleaning it up later. Or not. Haven't decided. The Tornavoz will eliminate any opportunity to see how nicely shaped it is.

I tried something new on this build. I've been thinking that it would be easier to glue in the harmonic bar after I get the sides on. I was right, it is MUCH easier to fit it into the sides than to fit the sides to the bar. Gluing it in is the same process either way.

And now I'm gluing in the dentellones. Its easy to do, and is as fast to do as you can pick them up and glue them in.

I'll be continuing this today, we'll see how long it takes. Once I'm done I'll be fitting the lining for the back.

I opened up the hot pipe yesterday and this is what I found inside. It is some kind of heater element and is rated at 250 watts. It didn't work because the wires were disconnected from the terminals for some reason, either the broken or burnt.

Reconnected, the element heats up nice and hot. I think that I will put it back in and continue to use it, unless something better comes along.

Good enough for free!

Thursday 14 January 2010

More work on the old Peterborough High End Champlain canoe. Lots of sanding of the old varnish residue, went through a lot of sandpaper and made lots of dust. The trim had been painted over, first red then green. As I sand through the paint on the deck I can start to make out where the Peterborough decal would have been.

I have been disappointed with my humidification in the shop. I have been using an old Vick's vaporizer, it works, but not well. I have been looking a the commercial units available and am not really impressed with any of them. Most higher capacity units are using wicks and fans, but the wicks mineralize pretty quickly and have to be replaced, at a pretty high cost!

That got me to thinking about rigging up a unit myself, using the same basic ideas but using readily available hardware store and aquarium parts. Here is something that I rigged up using supplies that I had a around as "proof of concept". A tub of water, a pump, and a furnace air filter. It is sitting just at the out-feed of my room air filter with the air blowing over it.

It works really well! Time to put together something proper.
I was at my favourite woodworking store today, picking up some glue. They have started a fleamarket table, and I found this on it. I bet hardly anybody else had any idea what this thing was. Its a hot-pipe for bending wood for musical instruments. I had the clerk test it out to see if it worked, it has an electric element inside. It didn't warm up, so they let me have it for free. I think that I can get it to work!

Here is the Peterborough canoe that I am working on. It may seem that I am spending more time on the guitars than on the canoes, but in reality I am just taking more photos of that work.

7 broken ribs to start repairing and rotten gunnel and stem ends. Tomorrow's work...

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Somehow I got it into my head that a carbon fiber Tornavoz might be a good idea. So...of course I had to make one to find out! Carbon fiber fabric cut to the pattern.

CF Tornavoz off the mold, sitting beside the copper/fiberglass one that I just made.

This is how the first one looks in place.

Both sides in place on the solara waiting till I can get all the parts ready to assemble.

While I was in the mode of bending wood for the bindings of the $100 Challenge guitar, I decided that it was time to bend the rest of the sides for the viola da Gamba. I'll let them sit for awhile before doing the fine joining and gluing. All those clamps are simply holding them in place.

Monday 11 January 2010

Got some brace wood cut. I'll wait till I have all the body parts prepared before I start to assemble.

The copper fits inside of the Tornavoz laminate like this.

It gets epoxied to the inside of the laminate like this. The laminate acts as a clamp pressing the copper against the mold. This is just a dry fit, I wouldn't do this over the soundboard for real!

FE17 has a Tornavoz, which is a section of cone mounted just below the soundhole. Tornavoz literally means to turn the voice.

It is a controversial device wrapped in mythology. The trouble with it is that we don't really know how to optimize it, how it originally made the guitar sound, and why it stopped being used. There are very few extant examples of guitars with Tornavoces still in place.

Many, many, builders denounce the Tornavoz as mumbo-jumbo. I'm putting it in anyways!

Some copper sheeting and some mold making material.

Draw the diameters of the cone section and cut it out on the bandsaw.

Sand it fair and cover it with packing tape. Packing tape is my universal mold release agent.

And wrap it in fiberglass, about 4 layers do the job.

The laminate is off, the pattern made, and the copper cut to shape.

I've finally decided upon what to do for the neck. I will be using a old neck of mine, this is the first neck that I made for my first ever guitar build back in 1987. I never used it because when I cut the slots for the tuning machines they were seriously wonky. Wonky is a technical term meaning awful!

About 2 years ago I cut of the old head and glued on new wood and shaped a new head.

I wasn't planning on using this neck as it has a Panormo shaped head which doesn't leave quite enough room for the arches of the Torres shape. As expediency is the name of the game, I've decided to use it anyway.

It does, however, have a little something extra. This is why I never tossed it out years ago.

Not having a fancy specialized rosette cutter, I've been using a drill press mounted "fly" cutter. I don't have much to cut, so I just spin it by hand a couple of turns, then chisel out the inbetween.

Glue in the rosette and plane it smooth.


The Green Ash that I am using bends so easily, just wet it, let it sit, then bend it cold using only hand pressure. Then clamp it into the form and let it dry. Once fully dry it is "set" to the bend.

I made up some brackets to mount on the solara so that the sides can be moved here, allowing me to free up the side mold for other tasks.

Just when I thought that I was done with the guitars I decided to get involved in the Musical Instrument Maker's Forum $100 Acoustic Challenge. The idea is to build a playable instrument for less than $100 expense. I've decided to build an exploration of the Torres FE17 guitar-Francisco Taregga's first and most famous guitar.

Start date is Christmas 2009, completion is March 14 2010. Not only is cost an issue, but so is expediency!

Step one is to gather the material. Don't worry, I'm not using the saw for this stage! It is just a convenient table.

Ash body, Pine top. There is some evidence that Torres may have used Pine on some of his guitars, so that is good enough for me. The Pine that I have on hand is nice and it was cheap-I bought it right from the sawyer.

Here is the drawing for the plantialla (body shape), and bracing. The drawing was prepared by Luca Waldner who performed the restoration work on the original. The drawing is sitting on the plantilla that is prepared for the high 5mm dome that FE17 has.

I will be using some of the rosette material that I had made up some time ago.

I was going to make up a rosette like I used on the SE117s, but ended up making one that uses three of the herringbone lines rather than just the one.


Friday 1 January 2010

A few more details.

My guitar was fitted with pegs, in keeping with the original instrument. The tow little holes at the top of the head would have traditionally been used for ribbon, which I plan on adding. The ribbon was used to hang the guitar from a peg on the wall.

While small in size, these guitars are NOT small in sound! They sound great! The small body is a treat to hold, and the short, 604mm scale, is a treat to play. Especially if you have small or weak hands.

The two other guitars were fitted with machine heads to make tuning the strings easier and more precise for the girls. I used a Selmer style head shape as it is smaller and fits in well with the size of the guitar.

The heel on the maple guitar.

And the tail graft on the maple guitar. Cocobolo bindings were used. Cocobolo is a rosewood.