If you want to make something big, start making the right tools.
Within some time - once I've got the right log - I'll make another canoe. No more duct tape & pvc, but big solid wood. Dugout style. Back to basics.
Making a dugout canoe is one of those projects that are haunting me for many years. It's like one of a few dozen power-safe circuits in my head - something I think about when I just don't want to think about something. If ever you'd see me staring at nothing - don't disturb, I'm thinking about my canoe. Or peeing. But don't disturb anyway.
Making a dugout canoe isn't something you can just do in a few afternoons. There's quite a bit of planning & craftmanship for involved - a lot, in fact - and during my research I learned that one of the have-to's for this project is the adze (dutch: kipkap, french: herminette, german: dechsel). An adze is like an axe, but with the blade perpendicular to the handle - like a flesh scraper, if you want.
Making such a tool sounded like the perfect start for my project - the very first step in the canoe that will bring people together. Making it own your own is fun, but making it with a group is much better. Projects, in the future.
Adzes are among the oldest tools men ever made. Or women, who knows. The first adzes were build with natural wooden forks, flintstones and sinew. Later on, forged heads replaced the wooden fork, making the tool more compact and more powerful.
During thousands of years, adzes were standard gear in men's work-caves.
Adzes are beautiful tools. There are big ones, and small ones. Some have curved edges, others flat edges. The flat ones are often used to rectify beams, like a huge plane, while the curved ones are used for sculpting and bowl making.
A canoe is like a big bowl, in fact.
So instead of ordering an adze on the big big web, I thought that this kind of lazy behavior wouldn't bring good karma to my project. Neither to my bank account, btw, since the prize of a nice forged adze is always something with 3 digits.
I thought that, if people are using this tool for thousands of years, it's probably not because it's just beautiful. If it's one of those great inventions that stood the test of time, it would surely stand the test of my canoe.
So I decided to do it the old way. With a few bricobartistic mods, indeed.
Step 1: Fries on My Pizza
Making a traditional adze is like having fries on your pizza - you won't be sad because choosing one would mean losing the other.
No need to choose pizza OR fries. Just put the second on the first - which is the way I prefer my pizzas, btw. About my beers, I prefer them separated.
Making an adze involves real woodworking, AND real metalworking. And some real thinking, also.
First of all you need the right steel to shape the blade. Carbon steel is fine. Like blades from old lawn mowers, for example - easy to find, large and cheap. If you don't have such a thing, try old leaf springs or just an old knife. The local scrapyard is the place to go.
I'm not that saturday lawn-mower guy. So I sacrificed ours for the right purpose.
Cut the blade in three equal parts and you're done. 5 inch long, 2 inch large.
Step 2: Tunnel to China
Then you'll forge that piece of steel into a gutter-like something.
Depending on the work you'll do with it, you can leave it just flat, also. Flat adze blades are often used instead of planes - the tool, not the thing that flies.
I needed a 'digging adze', and therefor a 'curved' blade was the way the go. Curved edges are perfect to remove big chips.
To shape the blade that way, you definitely need a forge. If you don't have one, build one. Or use a barbecue and a hair dryer. Links below.
I decided to do it the wild way: some carbon pellets, a transformed dust buster and a very windy day. The whole setup generated enough heat to burn a tunnel to China in our backyard, and to make the steel blades red hot - tunnel fire, you know. No matter how you do it, that's the only result you need.
Use an anvil to hammer the blade into the right shape - flattening one side and making it curved.
I didn't have an anvil, but I had some heavy steel profiles hanging around - perfect to use as a kind of 'mold' to hammer the blades into the slight curve I wanted. Very bad blacksmitting, I know. But very effective, nah.
After the shaping I made them nice red again and quenched them in vegetal oil. When the salt melts, it's time to quench. The sisseling of the hot metal was just to die for. And the good smell of fries all over the place even more.
At the end, the blades were set a while in the oven to temper.
Last action: the sharpening on the grinding wheel.
This type of adze has to be beveled on the outside - contrary to sculpting adzes, where the bevel is on the INside.
30° is the way to go. You ask it, we sharp it. Note the unegal thickness on the cutting edge. Dirty forging, payed cash.
If you're not familiar with forging technics, these collegues may be helpful:
Step 3: Wild Pooping Starlings
Traditional adzes can be made out of natural forks, natural elbows or just a piece of solid wood.
Instead of setting up a whole database of parameters to find that ultimate form, I decided to get my eyes wide unshut and to let the decision up to the inspiration of the moment. So while I was walking into the valley of the shadow of death, I suddenly found a whole platoon of young cherry trees aka the biggest pooping spot of starlings on earth, I guess.
One had just the fork I needed - the tree, not the starling.
Once cut, it measured 15 inch long and 2 inch thick. No cheap jokes, I'm trying to be serious.
Two inch was right what I needed for that blade I forged the day before.
Some debarking, rough shaping with axe & knife and drying. Greatful I felt, that day.
Step 4: Better Than Porn
Besides porn, you can also find useful knowledge on the net.
I learned, for example, that a good adze design is based on a few geometrical parameters. I highly recommend to have a look at the site of the Jayhawk Institute. It must be the first site of which I read every word. Twice.
Like shown in the first picture, the blade edge needs to make a 90° angle to the top of the hand holding the tool. The adze will pivot from this point, and respecting this rule will make it a good cutting tool. I can't tell you if it's true, but untill proven false I'm ready to believe it.
This doesn't mean you need to cut the excess at this point, it means you need to cut it about two or three inches above it (red dashed line).
Once the short side is cut right, you need to cut a 'shoulder'. This prevents the blade from moving backwards while eating the chips out of the trunk.
Finally, at the downside of the short side you need to remove some stuff because that's where the cord will be attached.
Let it dry a bit more, and finish it to its final design. All tools alowed.
Don't sand it too smooth. Real cavemen like it rough.
Step 5: In Your Face, Picasso
Unless the fact that I'm probably the downest of all down-to-earth-cavemen on earth, I do appreciate nicely decorated womens nails, for example.
Whatever. Adding synthetic gloss on finger- or toe-nails is something of all times. I'm pretty sure that even wild cave-women coloured their nails, to please the wild cave-men. Or other wild cave-women, I won't exclude anyone.
Nail-art is hot, these days, and I'm so lucky since the other person in our smoky cave is pretty skilled in that sort of body-decoration. Instead of making just one painting at the time, she's making ten paintings in a row. Or twenty, depending on the season. In your face, Picasso!
Simply Red is out. Wild Nail Art is in.
So, since the tool I was building reminded me of a hughe hallux, I decided to give it a whole new twist.
Guess which woman has a hallux of that size. She-Hulk!
This thousands or years old tool would become The Famous She-Hulks Hallux.
Before I asked my wife to set free her wildest fantasy on my tool (never thought I would ever write this one), I coloured the wooden handle with green colorant. I intended to do it like this, but since I couldn't find the green coloring I used a magic toxic marker.
Of course it works.
Then I fixed the 'nail' to the 'toe'. Yes I used magic toxic glue, yes the authenticity of whole project became contaminated, but don't you think it already was from the moment I coloured it green? Advantage: the glue filled the slightly uneven contact zone between the shoulder wood & the blade.
Craftmanship is in the details, always.
Ten meter of flashy green paracord & a well tighted fishermens knot finished the fixing - don't underestimate the length you'll need.
Rock solid, ready to dig.
Finally my wife let the beast go, taking this cavemens invention to a whole new level.
She chose a sober & stylish nail art. On a cave-tool.
You didn't see that coming.
Step 6: Out of You
After the dust had settled, the best is yet to come.
There's only one ingredient missing to get this recepy right and calm the demons in my head.
You are out there, somewhere
And you're hiding my canoe
In your belly
I'll find you
I'll cut you down
And I'll dig that canoe
Out of you