Contact me at: or by phone 204.878.2524

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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 31 October 2012

Having finished the two kevlar canoe repairs requiring gunnel replacement, I am now working on yet another Huron?Bastien Brothers/Big Chief canoe.  This one is not too bad, actually.  Opened her up, 4 rib repairs, stem repair, sanding and two coats of fresh varnish, re-canvas, paint, etc.  Pretty straight forward for a change.
But that's not what I want to show here!
Tadaa! Two demi-globes successfully made!

Now to turn my attention to the screens. I had thought of laying in random strand but then thought about drilling them in another globe screen made for the front. So I drilled some test holes in the sample piece that I had made in order to test my mold and fabrication process. Three sizes of holes. I just aligned these by eye just to see how it looks and how strong the shell would remain. At this point my son is still trying to talk me into making authentic style aluminium shells. He has no idea how much work that would entail, especially as it isn't him that would be doing it!

So, how to drill all those myriad holes in a pattern? Some head scratching all weekend provided me with this idea. A drill in an old drill/drill press tool, that I had inherited from my father-in-law and couldn't throw out, is mounted on a pivot allowing the drill to arc around the globe, which in turn will be mounted on a disc which rotates on a centre pin. I'm still working on this, not quite done, but enough for you to get the idea.

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The back bracing is all done on the bass viol and the top is all assembled, cut to shape, and ready for carving.  In the photo you see it just sitting on the ribs, not glued yet.  There is a lot of work to do before then!

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Sunday 28 October 2012

I've been running this tank in my dining room for a few years now, but it had always been a kind of catch-all.  Last week I decided that enough was enough!  Time to get serious and have this tank be "something".

I have increasingly  become a fan of lots of wood in the tanks.  Not just a few giant pieces, or a few small pieces, but lots of branches in a twisty tangled kind of way inspired by looking at some of the videos that can be found on youtube, especially the "fishfromvenezuala" channel.  For example, this one about the Diamond Tetra (you cans see the look that I like about 1:30 in)

Over the summer I had bee collecting interesting branches from around the yard and left them to soak in a large plywood tank that I use as a kind of outdoor pond/tank.  I also had a surplus of Giant Vallesneria and decide to use it as the only plant species for the tank.

Last Saturday I emptied the tank and reset it as a "Natural Planted Tank".  I am a fan of this low-tech approach and I am having the best success with it compared to any other approach that I have ever used and I've been at this for decades.  So, everything out, then in.  I kept the water as I emptied it, so everything went right back in, including the fish, and I was done withing a few hours.  No new tank syndrome to speak of as the plants and driftwood were thoroughly colonized with bacteria already, and 75% of the water was the old tank water.

Fish in here are 4 Blue Acaras, 3 Pristilla Tetras (which I've had for 2-3 years now), and one Festivum.  I would like to add a school of Diamond Tetras as they are often found along with the Blue Acaras, and a school of Corydoras.

One simple HOB filter for particulates and water movement, and a 2 bulb 48" shop light are all that are driving this tank.  I may add a bit more lighting, but will wait to see how the plants do over the next couple of months.  These Vals are pretty tough.

I'm really liking the look!

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Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Kevlar patch on the Souris River canoe is done.  Sanded all nice and smooth.  The owner didn't want to get into all of the work and expense that a near invisible cosmetic match would require, he was happy with a well done functional repair, so that is where I drew the line on this job.  He is considering painting the canoe in the spring.

The patch is done in fiberglass alone as Kevlar, for all of its wonderful attributes, is just inpossible to shape and smooth after laminateing it.  New gunnel on this side, and new webbing for the melted out bow seat and she's done.

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For those of you who have been following my Clairtone Project G project:

Well, after nearly screwing up catastrophically making the mold (wouldn't come off of the pattern!) I finished cleaning and polishing the mold in order to make a laminate for my repro Project G globes. Monday I made up a small test sample to see if it would come out OK...And it did!
Next, I gathered up my courage, laminating a full demi-globe, risking total failure. My son asked me, "So, what's the worst that can happen?" The worst would be that the laminate would NOT come out of the mold and I would have to start over. Do-able, but wasting a great big pile of work that I would rather not do again. So, buying new mold release wax and using polyester resin this time, and carefully and gently spreading the gelcoat so as not to work it into the wax...I made a full laminate.
Left overnight to cure, I pried along the edge, and pulled. All of a sudden...POP! out it comes! All nice and smooth. I cut more fibreglass pieces and tomorrow I'll laminate the second globe back. I could have done it today but I really didn't feel like facing the wonderful aroma of polyester resin two days in a row. Plus, I had paying work to do in the shop.

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Saturday 20 October 2012

This Kevlar canoe got a little fried on its maiden journey.  A note to paddlers: canoes are not shelters for your cook stoves.

Any, rip off the old heat distorted gunnel, make up a laminate using Crazy Carpet as a backer, clean up and polish, put new gunnel on.

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I jointed and glued together the rest of the staves for the viol top, and cut it down to the outline of the ribs.  That means that I can continue the shaping.

I also scraped down and sanded the inlay on the back in preparation to gluing it to the back of the ribs.

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Wednesday 10 October 2012

The three center staves of the viol are bent.  They've been sitting clamped in place for about a week and the bend is nice and stable now, so its time to joint the edges and glue them together.

The gaps are a result of the center of the two side staves being bent upwards on one side.  To bring the edges together I need to joint the outer staves.  However, if I just joint along the entire length the grain lines will be cut at a kind of angle that will make the glue joint too obvious.  The solution is to shape the staves into a long taper, jointing the inner edge at the top of the instrument.  This allows the grain lines at the outer staves at the lower bout to remain parallel to the grain lines of the center stave.  To further disguise the glue joint, the center stave is slightly tapered bringing the glue joint in under the fingerboard.

I made up a box which holds a hand plane upside down like a kind of jointer, but I found this awkward to use.  I found that clamping my staves slightly elevated and running my plane sides ways was much easier to work and get good joints.  I used fish glue for the glue up as it has all of the advantages of hot hide glue but with greater working time and ease.

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Finally, after weeks and weeks of working on this old boat, she's finally ready for installing the seats and thwarts.

Now that she's done, she's ready to move out of the shop. Yes, I know that there is no canvas on it but the owner will be doing that part.

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Tuesday 2 October 2012

I was looking out the patio door the other day and noticed this old table sitting in the screened in deck.  I got to looking at the legs and got to thinking about how they would be perfect for my new "S" shaped coffee table.  So I took them off and installed them on the new table.  They look great, excpet for being too long, they are 21" but would look better at 16".  After seeing it all together, my wife expressed that she had some nostalgic feelings towards that old table and wasn't ready for me to re-purpose the legs.

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Today the first stave of the viola da gamba is bent. 6 more pieces to go!

Yes, they really were built this way. The next two are the tricky ones as they have to be bent with a twist in them. I'm going to leave them like this to settle and hold their shape before jointing the edges and gluing them together. I'll have to check for springback as I don't want to build stress into the instrument's top.

The center is bent first, then the next two which continue the belly. The 3rd & 4th are basically flat. This won't quite make the full top, I'll have to add some wings for the very edge.

Once this is all assembled I can establish a nice flat bottom edge for gluing the top to the sides, called the "garland". Then I can carve it into nice flowing curves. The advantage of this method over carving regular violin family tops is that all of the grain follows the surface. These tops can be made thinner for the same stiffness. So I've read!

OH! That scorching is typical! Nothing to be alarmed at. Its tough going bending 1cm thick spruce on the hot pipe. It'll carve out.

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