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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 22 November 2010

The gunnels and keel are made and the backsides have received a coat of varnish. They are now ready to be installed on the canoe. The canoe has the canvas trimmed down and that are of the filler has been sanded for painting. Its a lot easier to sand it before the gunnels are on!

I'll be poking away at this project as I continue to work on the guitar. This schedule allows the filler to be completely cured before painting.

Saturday 20 November 2010

The depth of the guitar body usually is greater at the tail and less at the hell. Most contemporary guitars determine this taper as a section of an arc. Based upon my readings of the some documentation of Torres guitar, I believe that Torres tapered his guitars as a wedge shape and introduced the back doming in the back braces.

So that is what I am doing here. But how to establish the taper? I am using a panel of plywood cut to the outside shape of the guitar and blocked to the correct depth, which in this case is 96mm at the tail and 90mm at the heel

And a pencil line is transferred to the guitar side. The wood above the line will be trimmed away.

And done, ready to receive the back linings. The tuning machines visible are newly received Gotoh's and are set into the head to verify the fit.

This guitar is being fitted with a Tornavoz, which is a conical section tube fitted below the soundhole. Torres seems to be the first maker to use this device. The tornavoz fell out of favour sometime during the early part of the 20th century and is only now being used again by some makers.

Traditionally made of brass, this one is using the carbon fiber tornavoz that I made last year for my `FE17 exploration` guitar. I didn`t use it as the black of the carbon fiber just looked like ordinary black inside of the guitar body.

But with this thin copper sheet inside of it! Well, it lights right up.

The neck gets glued to the soundboard before any further work can be done.

And the sides are glued to the neck using these double wedges which force the sides tightly to the heel as the are driven in.

Held up to a strong light one can see the braces through the wood itself!

The `go bar`deck has become pretty much the standard method for gluing in the braces to the guitar top. I used to use an upper deck mounted about 24 inches above the solara but found it to be always in my way. So I got rid of it and now run longer go-bars against the ceiling. I just happen to to have a plate mounted there for when I canvas canoes, so I decided to work below it.

The braces serve to support the guitar top as it is subject to the stresses and torque of the string tension while allowing it to move as freely as possible. I am building this guitar following Torres patters, so fan bracing is being used.

After trying a variety of tools to carve the braces I am finding this little carving chisel to be my current favourite. It is very sharp and the slight bend in the blade allows excellent control of the cutting edge.

The braces are carved to a gable shape.

And then the ends are tapered. The soundhole opening is reinforced with a donut shaped piece of Spruce which has the grain running perpendicular to that of the guitar top.

Another part of the guitar that would seem to be pretty simple is the heel, but it, too, requires a good amount of attention to get to look `just right`. It really should be approached as sculpture. Beginning guitar makers often overlook the elegance of the shape and produce a very clunky heel.

It starts off like this...

And ends up like this...

The head is pretty much done, just a few small refinements to do when the time comes for such things.

I have this miniature shoulder plane from Lee Valley that really is a great piece of work. It does have limited applications, but detailing the sides of the head slots like this is one of them!

Geometrically, this a pretty straightforward guitar head shape. However its simplicity requires that the proportions be `just so` to look `just right`!

Friday 12 November 2010

The head of the guitar must be carved prior to assembly, so here it is with the slots cut and ready for refining. I use a head based upon those of Louis Panormo, a builder based in London during the early 19th century, and who was working just prior to Torres.

I decided to try something a little different on this rosette. Instead of applying glue to each strand of wood, I bent them all in place dry and applied the glue afterwards, letting it wick down between the strands. In this case I used epoxy.

It worked very well.

After the epoxy has cured and cleaned off of the rosette, I start cutting the channel for inlaying it into the guitar top.

I think that next time I make up a rosette, I will cut the channel and bend and glue the strands dry directly in. That will make it much easier to fit precisely!

A sharp block plane is used to level the rosette.

A detail.

Here are all of the strips for the rosette.

The will be glued around this round block which determines the inner circumference.

Gently, gently, around we go. Sorry for the out of focus picture, it is the only one of this stage and I didn't notice till afterwards.

All bent round!


Lots of tiles are required, I need 16" of them set end to end like this.

Then they are glued to a slip of veneer to hold them all together. Then they are ripped to 2mm strips. Carefully! A fine tooth 1/8" blade works well for this. Anything coarse will rip it apart.

And the finished result. When being glued up in the rosette a matching line of veneer will go on the opposite face of the one already glued on.

So what good is a log of alternating coloured wood? How do you use it?

Like this.

First the log needs to have 1mm thick slices cut off of the end. Exacting work and risky. I set the blade so that it does not cut all of the way through, leaving a small amount of wood intact to keep the slice that I want on the log, preventing it from getting destroyed.

Looks like this.

Then, using a Japanese style saw, and using the slice itself as a guide, I cut through the remaining bit of wood.

Leaving me with a 1mm thick slice of striped wood.

I am going to use some decorative lines in the rosette. For this I need to laminate up a stack of alternating colour wood. So, I rib some Birch and Walnut, and them run them through the thickness sander to ensure a uniform 1mm thickness.

After laminating I have a log that looks like this.

This style of bender has become nearly universal for guitar makers. A hot pipe used to be the standard, but this style of bender ensures a greater degree of consistency. Both require expertise but you choose your poison, as it were.

The heel stack of the neck being glued up.

And the headplate being glued on.

The first side in place on the solara.

And the second.

Lest anyone feel that all is fun and games around here...

Here is the racing canoe getting its canvas skin on.

The interior with its ribs all repaired, planking replaced, and new paint. Check back on how it looked when I started.

And with the filler on. While the filler is drying I am working on my guitar commission.

Yesterday was Remembrance Day. I took the day of work. After attending the community commemorations, and after completing the day's chores, I decided that this was as good a day as any to finish converting the big aquarium in the house over to the Natural Planted Tank approach that I have become such as fan of.

Step one, make space to work.

Step two, take down and clean the tank.

Step three, clear out the stuff by the window for where the tank will go and put the new stand in place. I wanted a clean and simple stand, and shorter than the existing one.

Step four. Put the cleaned tank in place and start putting garden soil in. About 1" depth is what is desired.

Step five. Some time ago I found this really cool driftwood stump along the river outback and brought it home in anticipation of finally using it. I've had it soaking for about two months now.

If the stump makes the tank look small that's because the stump is large. The tank is 48" long, 20" wide, and 22" tall.

I stole some of the plants from the shop tank and planted them in the soil, then put in about 1" of gravel over top of the soil. I saved a good bunch of water before striking the tank, and put it back in. Then the fish go back in. Mature water and wood and plants fully colonized with bacteria equal a nearly fully cycle tank, so this works OK.

I still need to do something about the lamps. I haven't finished my decision about that. I want something that will leave the top of the tank open for access and to allow for emergent plant growth.