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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

Monday 26 April 2010

I haven't been posting much as I've been busy with paddle making. Many of the steps are pretty much the same as I've posted before, so I'm only showing what is interesting and new.

Rest assured that there has been lots of sanding going on. Lots and lots of sanding...

But now I'm varnishing!

I walked into the shop the other morning and the spring sunshine was pouring in nicely.

Wood is so unpredictable...but, the second set of stems bent much better than the first set!

Plan "B" worked too, so I have a second set on hand.

Thursday 8 April 2010

I have an order for an Esprit canoe. The Esprit is a 13' solo "Freestyle" canoe.

The first step is to prepare the stems. This involves milling the stock and steambending them to the required shape. I have been having good success using local Green Ash, air dried.

Here are two pieces that have been wetted and wrapped so that the wood picks up some extra moisture.

I swapped out the larger steambox that I use for the ribs for this smaller one. This ensures more hot steam is in contact with the wood.

The bending form and clamps are all at the ready. However, steambending is not a guarantee of success, both of the pieces failed.

This sometimes happens. This time it looks like the fibers failed, perhaps the wood was "over cooked". I have two more pieces prepared and I will try again today. Sometimes you get lucky with your stock of wood as it nearly guarantees success, sometimes not. That is the nature of woodworking, and it is the nature of craftsmanship to expect it and to not get discouraged when it happens.

I don't go to the casinos to gamble-every day at work is a gamble.

And, just in case, "Plan B" is to laminate new stems. Here is the first part of the laminating jig being prepared.

Now here's an interesting paddle project.

A few years ago I was contacted by a fellow in Edmonton about making a special paddle using some walnut that was cut from a tree that was growing on the family farm.

Edmonton Alberta, as you may know, is not within the normal growing range of walnut, so this tree was small and had quite a few knots. It was quite a challenge gettting a paddle out of the wood that was supplied. The client was very satisfied and recently sent a few more boards from that tree for me to make a paddle for his son. Unfortunately, this batch of wood was not even as good as the first, at least as far as getting a good straight piece prepared for the central paddle shaft. The wood had knots in the wrong places, and was warped so much that there was not a straight section within it.

Here is a shot of the wood as it arrived. It looks OK in the photo, but you can't see what I see.

What to do? I had no choice but to resaw the biggest piece into smaller slices and laminate them up into a straight paddle shaft. This eliminates the defects from the structural paddle shaft, and ensures that it is straight. Working this way I was able to get 2 shafts made instead of none.

Once the glue cures I mill it straight. The lower face has been passed over the jointer and now the other side is ready to be evened with the planer. After this I will be preparing the wood that will form the blades and grips.

The 1948 Chestnut Bob's Special is done. Seats and new yoke are all bolted in and the stem bands are polished and installed.

Monday 5 April 2010

The Bob's Special is looking nice and green these days. It is finished now and ready for me to bolt the seats in, as well as the nice new portage yoke that I just finished making for it.

The owner of the Tremblay square stern canoe, the one that had had the stern cut off, decided that he'd rather that I get the painting and varnishing done. The place that he was going to do it in wasn't going to be ready for him in time to use the canoe this season.

So, on goes the blue paint and the varnish! Three coats each. He will still be doing the interior of the hull.

More paddles are taking shape. Not as many paddles these days as in the past, perhaps I'm not promoting them as much, or the changing US-Canada dollar value is affecting things? This is a trend that I noticed even before the recent economic troubles.

Its always nice to hear back from owners of canoes that I have built. Especially when they are happy with the canoes!

Here are a few photos sent back to me of a Red Fox canoe that I built 7 years ago for a fellow in Michigan.

Looking at these photos sure makes me want to get out on the river!

The peg boxes on viols are typically the subject of personalized decoration. Sometimes they are sculpted into heads of people of animals. Sometimes they are scrolls a little like what we see on violins. When scrolls are used, the scroll is open between the coil of the scroll creating a lovely light feel. Also, the back is often the subject of the decorative carving.

My wife wanted something relating to cats. So I offered "Celtic cats?" She said "Yes."

So, after establishing the size and shape of my panel into a 2D shape on paper, I started drawing away, then refining, and refining, till I arrived a this:

Of course, I then had to fit it into the slightly smaller actual panel size, which required some shifting of the elements. It will require some more shifting to get everything in balance-there are some spots where it feels squished- but its very close to its final form.

Now I need to sharpen up my carving chisels!

Good thing that there is no deadline on this thing...