Introduction: Carving a Cedar Dugout Canoe - the Souquillou Project (1)
The coming months, I've decided to be busy.
I've decided to do exactly what a few, well, 'dreamers' in ol' times wanted to avoid at all cost: fighting on multiple fronts at once. Historic stuff, you know.
So, instead of concentrating my efforts on one single project at a time, I'll be busy fighting on the worksites in The Green Fields Of France & In The Dutch Mountains, I'll be busy fighting zombies in & around our house & I'll be preparing The Invasion Of Great Britain.
Yep. The Invasion Of Great Britain.
On my own.
It won't be a surprise, it won't be at night, it won't be in silence & it won't be stealthy.
It will be me & maybe, a handful of lucky Brothers In Arms - against their will, probably, but lucky anyway.
We will arrive by daylight, we will be highly visible, we will be extremely noisy and we will have no fear.
Dear People Of Great Britain, Bricobart will come your way. I will come in peace and I will not stay a 100 years. Only one day, or so - the time to refuel & to bring some democracy - and then I will turn my bow and push it back to where I came from.
Don't try to stop me - I'll reach your coastline anyway since the coming months, I'll be busy building Souquillou - my cedar dugout canoe.
Wanna follow it on facebook? Go ahead!
Step 1: Sooky You
'Le souquillou' is the name used in South France for the small & hard vine twigs that are cut every winter to rejuvenate the plants. These dung-like pieces of wood are superb fuel for grilling and spread a wonderful smell while they burn.
I cut thousands of those souquillous, a few winters ago. For almost no money I ruined my back and blistered my hands to blood in those wonderful vineyards. Snipsnapping 12 hours a day, enjoying the smell of the land and the promise of new life. Since this project is somehow born over there it sounded like a respectful idea to call my canoe that way.
The Souquillou Project is not just about the building of a canoe, it's a project about transforming a tree into a seaworthy vessel and get it about 150 km (about 100 miles) from the inland of North France to the white cliffs of the stormy coast of South England.
This crazy project will cover many months - even years, maybe - and the progress will be documented in many Instructables.
La Bassée (France) - Folkstone (UK) in a dugout canoe. No kidding.
I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do, and I'm looking forward to your support!
Step 2: Wazawidu - With the Drunk'n Sailor
Building a wooden canoe is one of those projects I've been wanting to do for many years.
You know, it all started with a powertape kayak I built in our small appartment in South France. 'Wazawidu' was a 4m long vessel, made with a pvc structure & almost 1/2 km (!) of powertape.
Not the building was the greatest challenge, it was the 'how the hell are we going to get this outside?!' which was the most painful - knowing there was also the pressure of a 'you've got one hour to get this outahere!' and a 'what kind of man decides to build A KAYAK in the living room without talking to his wife BEFORE?!'.
Wazawidu behaved great. We took it almost 10 miles into open sea and it was a small miracle that we didn't cross the coast patrol - though I heard afterwards that I should have got it registered, passing through piles of paperwork and having to pay hundreds of euros to get my own creation in the arms of Mother Sea.
Whatever. That pvc adventure tasted for a lot more and my dreams of a real wooden boat even had a great influence on our choice of a new home.
'Bart needs a barn for his boat', and so we searched for a house with a barn - my wife is very comprehensive, I must say...
Finally, we found what we were looking for and what started as a wild dream became hardcoreality.
But, having a barn is one thing, building a boat another.
'Bart needs a cedar', also.
Problem: we're living in Europe. Not in Britisch Colombia.
So I asked my best friend - he's in the wood business - to find me a cedar, anyway. You never know, you know.
One week later he called me. 'Bart, I've got your cedar. No questions.'
I didn't ask any. The only thing I can tell is that we had to be 'very fast & very furious' to get the job done.
And that we had to use false names. And a car from someone who had it from someone who knew someone.
'FIND CEDAR': DONE!
'CUT CEDAR': DONE!
'DRIVE HARDER': DONE!
Ready for the next episode.
Step 3: Why Britain?
A journalist asked me 'why I would take that canoe all the way to Britain?'
'Because to America would take me too much time' I answered. Too bad, he didn't see the humor it.
Building a canoe is one thing. Traveling with that canoe another.
Building a traditional wooden canoe will be the most ambitious wood project I've ever done by now, and it would be a missed chance to stop the project at the end of this.
Building Souquillou is only the beginning.
This canoe will be built as a tool, and not as a display. Aim is to make speed, not to make selfies.
Since we live nearby a series of canals that can be followed about 84km to reach the sea, it sounded like a decent idea to travel into salty waters. From the inland to the coast.
But. Every day multiple ferries use these waters to go to England, crossing about 65km of open water.
If a ferry can do it, Souquillou can do it - craftman's logic.
Yes I know, The Channel is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Of course I know there's a high risk of collisioning with, let's say, an oil tanker. Of course I know I need a permit and I won't forget to find an assistance boat to keep an eye on us.
Details, to be worked out. Step by step.
Step 4: When a Cedar Is Not a Cedar
When the trunk was finally dropped in our barn, I started to read everything I could about that fascinating tree species the First Nations used to build their famous vessels.
The more I read and the more pictures I studied, the more I felt that something seemed terribly wrong.
My cedar didn't look like those cedars on the Pacific West Coast.
The bark looked different, the needles looked different, the size looked different and the looks were totally different.
Definitely, we weren't talking about the same tree and whatever it was that was laying in our barn, it wasn't what I asked for.
I figured out that the species in Britisch Columbia is known as the 'Western Red Cedar' (Thuja plicata) - a member of the cypress family, while I had a cultivated version on the 'Lebanon Cedar' (Cedrus libani) - a member of the pine family.
Yes they're both trees, yes they're even both conifers, but beside a common ancestor - and weird enough the same English name - they really have few things in common.
Just when I dialed my friend's phone number to question his botanic competences I read that also the Lebanon cedar was used in commercial & military ship building.
Souquillou WILL be a military ship, and so The Souquillou Project stayed The Souquillou Project.
Same name, different tree.
Instead of studying the papers of Lewis & Clark, I'm studying the history of the Middle East now - which is far more complicated btw.
Step 5: The Roof Is on Fire
The biggest property of the trunk is - of course - it's weight: over 2 tons, which is normally more than 2.000 kilograms.
At the end of the road it's weight will be reduced by more than 90% - between 100 & 120 kilograms, which is still quite a lot.
Two tons isn't something you can lift before breakfast every morning, and since I didn't want to play with car jacks I started thinking about building a small crane.
From another project - my wife and I we restored a windmill, in the past - I had a few manual winches left, and those devices are just perfect to build a custom indoor crane.
All you need is such a winch and a handful of pullys - custom made with some scrap steel and 'those steel wheels from a rolling door'.
Fix the whole to the roof structure and lifting you will. With one winch 'Winch 2' you'll manage the Y-axis, with the other 'Winch 1' the X-axis. If ever I need a 3rd winch, I'll probably call it 'Winch 4'.
'BUILD CRANE': DONE!
Step 6: Tools Can Be Helpful
This project didn't start when that cedar went down. It started when I made the first tool to carve that boat out of it.
Despite the use of power tools to speed up the building process, a lot of work will be done using simple and/or custom made hand tools.
Details will be more important than ever - Sooky is a boat, not a coffin.
I really hope my wife will read this I'ble before my birthday party...
'MAKE TOOLS': DONE!
Step 7: More Barn Improvements
Our barn will be a worksite the months to come, and so a few improvements were needed to make it all workable.
I wanted it to be a place where we could have a good time. Friends will come over - or will be forced to come over, we'll carve together - shut up 'n keep on carvin', discuss about wood & The Invasion - but still keep on carvin' anyway, we'll have a few beers or rhums, probably stop carving & likely start to overestimate our chances.
I needed a sturdy table but I didn't want to pay for it. The keyword is pallets - and it turned out to be a very useful feature to store a lot of scrap wood, btw.
I also wanted to make the area open to anyone. Overall, this project is all about having a good time with the cedar trunk as pretext. So I used a few other trunks to make a bench & made another one with more pallets - you didn't see thàt comin' - installed a fire pit and cleared the whole area from zombies.
Storing those blades & axes in a toolbox is good, but throwing them on a stump is better. So rock them, those stumps.
Shopping carts are great to protect vegetables from hungry yaks, but they get perfect when they're used to keep those ash trunks dry - small wood to make handles you know. Some people use them for shopping, also.
A vice in a workshop is nice, but a lonesome heavy anchored vice is one of the best tools to have. So glad I found thàt one, and maybe I'll even add this one. Horespower is what we need.
With all these features I feel our barn is ready.
That (Lebanon) cedar seems ready, also.
'BARN SETUP': DONE!
Now I'm waiting for the next break between two worksites to get started for real.
Dear People Of Great Britain, we'll meet very soon.
Step 8: Makin' Waves
This project won't be possible without sponsoring. Tools are needed, a trailer needs to be built, assistance boats organised and most important of all, I want to install the loudest mist horn on the market on Sooky You's bow!
So I'm looking for partnerships to get the whole financed and the best way to get the mice out of their holes is to open the jar with peanut butter.
Read: I'm mobilising the press.
Here's a list (2 is a crowd) of press releases (French only):
Step 9: Coming Next...
The weeks to come the trunk will be debarked, faceted and the outside will be shaped.
You can follow it here, or patiently wait for the next I'ble.
See you soon!
The trunk is finally as straight as I could get it. One picture every minute. 846 pics or not more than 14 hours of planing. It looked a lot more in reality, though...
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.