Step 4: Skin!

Picture of Skin!
This is where I doubled the cost of the project.  Before covering the frame I wanted to waterproof it to avoid rot problems with the wood.  To that end, I picked up a quart of spar urethane to coat all the members.  I prefer to avoid getting plastic shopping bags when I can, so I put the quart can in my backpack and put that in the back of the car.  When I got home, I found a can with a new dent and only about 1/3 of the original contents.  Sharing space there were my emergency clown nose and a Panasonic Lumix camera my parents had given us the previous Christmas.  Don't worry; I was able to salvage the nose.

To cover the frame I used 10oz cotton canvas.  It turned out to be easy to rip if I pulled too hard, but I was able to adapt and overcome.

After laying the material out over the frame, I aligned it so it was centered on the keel.  To assist with this, I folded the fabric in half lengthwise and ironed a crease down the center.  Be careful if you do this on the dining room carpet.  Hot irons will not play nice with synthetic carpet fibers when set for cotton.  I've already made this mistake - go make your own.

Once I was comfortable that I had sufficient fabric on each side of the canoe, I started tacking it to the keel.  I started in the center and worked fore a few inches, then aft a few inches.  This lets you adjust the tension as you go and keeps things uniform and relatively unwrinkled.  I put my bar clamps on each end of the fabric and let them hang loose to keep it from bunching up.

After only a couple of tacks I switched to staples.  The tacks I had were too soft for the pine and the points would just curl under instead of setting in the wood.  The staples make the work go more quickly and held just fine.  The question will be whether they rust away over the winter and allow the fabric to shift or tear.

Folding the fabric over the stem took some trial and error, but eventually I got it done and minimized the cutting.  I didn't want any seams below the water line, so the folds probably resulted in an odd pattern if I were to lay it all out flat.

When everything was stapled along the keel, up the stems and along the gunwales, I was ready to flip it and trim the excess fabric.  At this point it is really looking like a canoe and my neighbors stopped giving me the ole stinkeye.