Introduction: Building a Wrong Cedar Dugout Outrigger Concept Canoe
A few years ago I started building a dugout canoe. I had fallen in love with sea kayaking the years before, had already made a seaworthy powertape/pvc kayak, acquired a panoply of multiskills during the years, built up some sound woodworking experience and watched every possible vid about the subject on youtube, twice. So I found myself smokin' hot ready for the real work.
From the start I set myself one rule: 'no rules'.
I chose very soberly not to be sober - the 'no plan' approach, the carpe diem mindset, the enjoy the road mentality - probably the only things I did right first time during the whole process. Plans are restricting, lines are limiting. I had enough experience to know that things never go as they're supposed to - woodworking - and instead of facing a process of backsteps I chose for an organo-creative approach.
I set all sorts of expectations aside. Artists hate borders. If you're following a blueprint you're burning the personal surprise and I just wanted that, that surprise. Creating in a cage ain't creating. Building something you don't have any clue what it'll look like at the end is embracing the joy of a growing project. Using the winds of change instead of fighting them. I knew I started a learning journey anyway, so my best shot was to offer myself maximum chances to fail, and thus to learn.
Guess what. I learned a lot, those four years. In this instructable I'll take you on a journey through the whole process and share with you a few things I've learned and dislearned on the way. It's far from complete, but it's interesting in the way that this boat has become quite a unique vessel.
I named it Souquillou - say 'sooky you', the name south french wine makers give to the small curly vine branches they cut away during the winter. It was in those vineyards the idea appeared. It was there, on those smooth slopes where the continent slides into the medideterranean sea, that the idea riped of building my own boat.
Every adventure starts by staring at the horizon & dreaming what's beyond.
Enjoy the ride.
Step 1: The Botanical Knowledge Gap Illumination
Initially I wanted to make this dugout out of 'cedar'. I'd been particularly inspired by the Haida people on the Pacific west coast and starting with the 'right' wood sounded like a decent idea.
But, we're living in France. Yep. A friend of mine is in the tree business and I asked him to find me a cedar. At least 5 inch wide, please. Big plans I had in mind. I was thinking about arboretums, private collections, whatever.
A few weeks later Tom called me 'Bartman, I've got your cedar! Ask no questions!'
I didn't. Asking those questions. We drove together to the place, a saturday morning before sunrise, and I admired my canoe with a bit of wood still around.
It's only a few weeks later that I discovered that this wasn't 'the right cedar', in fact. At all. Haida canoes are made from Pacific 'Red' cedar, a cypress species. This was a Lebanon cedar. A pine species. Both are cedars, true, but somewhere someone must have ran out of words to use.
Whatever. I read that more than 2000 years ago these Lebanons were considered premium boat timber and that therefor they were almost wiped out in the Mediterranean bassin.
Those trees have become popular in parks & gardens in western europe by the end of the 19th century because of their structural variety and overall beauty. Not two trees are the same.
So, Lebanon cedar it was.
Step 2: The Gravity Confirmation
Our cedar was situated - apparently - on a future residential construction site. Vegetation & topsoil had to go anyway - apparently - and so from that moment it was kinda virtual no-mansland where jungle laws were ruling.
We waited our moment, sharpened our chainsaws, filed our axes, filled the tractor with gasoil and put the fence wire clippers in the truck, in case.
It was still dark when we arrived. First we cut its two side branches and some upper branches to get the main log nice & free, and at the first light of day the cedar went down.
25m high, 60cm diameter. Substantially smaller than what I hoped for, but you never look a given horse in its mouth, as they say.
Step 3: The Mechanical Limit Awareness
Never underestimate the weight of such a log. Even with a heavy John Deere it took all our creativity to haul that 5m long log in the van. Almost 2 tons of future pleasure.
Imagine the weight of a 1m diameter 8m long log. We'd been out of horesepower, for sure.
Btw, remember that 1 to 8 rule. That's how you make a stable canoe.
Step 4: The Big Southward Migration
It's good to be surrounded by helpful friends, and more important, friends with the right equipment. Glad I had one with some cedar knowledge - well - the chainsaws, tractor ànd truck.
A few weeks after our hit & run the log went into the truck again and traveled from Belgium to France. What bothered us most by crossing the border wasn't the log, but all the fresh roadkill we grabbed from the highway. Two vegans accused of poaching was one of these last things we wanted to happen.
But all went well. The road was smooth, the spirits high and the log arrived where we wanted to.
Step 5: The Trojan Horse Arrival
In the optimal scenario, you'll get a straight log without branches or forks. In the second best scenario, you'll just have a few tiny branches on the sides of the log and in the worst case scenario, you'll have all of it. Big branches growing from the sides ànd the main log splitting into a giant fork. And heavily twisted, while we're there.
Once cut flush, those side branches are called 'knots', that big fork is called 'a problem' and the twist is called 'a future runout violation'.
Knots are weak(er) spots, zones where the wood structure isn't uniform, which can be a source of sleepless nights when you're building a boat. In particular, when you're building a boat.
Forks are even bigger weak spots. In particular when you're planning to build a 'spreading' canoe. You heat it, and the whole thing splits entirely in half like a ripe green bean.
Twist is yet another pain, also, because it makes manual shaving with a plane nearly impossible. You'll always be off the grain, they're always be runout. In particular with quite brittle tree species like this cedar.
To resume: I started to realise very quickly I had literally the worst log ever. The wrong species, in a terrible status.
This wasn't only a cedar. This was a trojan horse coming to me.
Step 6: The Small Victories Awareness
When you're starting a slightly ambitious project like this - everything that sorts out of workbench dimensions - it's good to face one challenge at the time. It's what I call 'organic building'. Of course the macro picture is to build that boat, but since you're off road anyway with that crappy log you'd better make the best of it.
One step at a time. Be a small victory hero and enjoy the journey.
Here you see me celebrating the setup of the cedar. Two tons of wood finally set in position and ready to debark.
Knots, twists, a fissure and a fork. All I could do was at least enjoy the smell of it.
Step 7: The Side Projects Occupation
Another interesting feature was this giant wound you see at the bottom. When the tree was ten years old something hit it severely and created this 1m long stress zone. It got healed by the years, the sides getting covered by repairing tissue, but it left me with another future design challenge.
My mother liked the shape of it, so I sliced a piece of the log for the future table she wanted to create.
Step 8: The Barking Spade Operation
Building a canoe is een greenwood project, definitely. Greenwood is always softer than seasoned wood. Most wood species split better when they're fresh cut, and they carve better also.
Debarking is the very first operation. You can use a bark spud or heavy drawknife, or you can just grab a spade like I did. Works pretty well.
Don't waste anything, pine bark is a great fire starter.
Step 9: The Endless Noisefull Calibration
Everything's fine when you're a cute straight pine. But as I said, this one was a pain. You know you're gonna dig it some day, but before you dig it you'll have to shape it, and before you shape it you'll need to discover who's gonna be up and who down, who's gonna be bow and who's gonna be stern, and to know that you'll have to get it straight like a pencil.
So, grab an axe for the heavier work and switch to other tools later.
Like most builders I used a power plane from the very start. I did try a manual plane tho, but discovered the uselessness of that device on this wood. Too green, too twisted. So planing it went. For hours & hours.
For hours. And hours.
Step 10: The Big Versus Dualism
During this project I started to get deeply interested in hand tools in general, and axes in particular. I've always been an axeman, but sooky's project made it all so much better.
It's one of those questions one might ask 'hand tools versus power tools?' aka 'skills versus shortcuts?'
You know, when I started this project the only axes I had were a big felling axe and a smaller 'bucking' axe. For some reason I stumbled upon other axe types or 'patterns' and I started canoeing another side current.
It brought me in a universe of hundreds of felling patterns, hewing axes, carvers, froes, coopers axes, clog makers axes etc. At the time, nearly every woodworking craft had its own specific axes.
By now, I have almost 20 axes I'm using frequently. A big and two smaller felling axes, a specific root 'miners' axe, three small bucking axes, two carvers, two kitchen axes, one heavy racer, a heavy splitter, a small splitter and three hewing axes, and a bucket full heads waiting a decent restoration.
For every task a specific axe. Most custom, some modded.
Next canoe I'll make will be entirely by hand tools. I won't have the choice anyway since we'll be living off grid, and electricity will be something of a far past.
The use of hand tools is a mindset. Once you bit the baith it'll drag you into a whole new universe.
Step 11: The Unthink Tree Mindset
Before you think canoe, you've got to unthink tree. A canoe is a vessel born out of a nearly perfect cilinder, so that's the reason why you're planing - or hewing - for days.
I produced tons of snippers, we're still using them in our dry toilets btw.
This laborous episode is the reason why a decent log choice is key, at least when you've got the choice.
Step 12: The Sweet Soft Tubularisation
The maximal diameter of your canoe is equal to the smallest diameter in your log, and obviously most of times the crown side has the last word.
In my case, that zone whith the crappy fork. Of course I could have made it all easier by cutting that end. Problem was that I needed that sufficient length very badly in order to maintain future canoe stability. It was going to be a sea canoe, so I needed every extra inch I could grab. 1 to 8. For every inch diameter you need 8 inches length.
Finally I ended up with a diameter of 45cm. I cut two plywood discs, screwed them to each side and started shaping that cilinder into perfection. Some zones got nearly planed, others went deep in the sapwood.
Step 13: The Decisions, Concessions & Compromises Paradigm
Building a canoe with a difficult log is time consuming in the beginning. I honestly spent a lot of time studying that cilinder.
You don't want these big knots at the bottom of your canoe. Weak spots, potential cracks, hello sea water. You want them rather at the top of the log, so you can dig them out.
And there was also that fork battle to win, in my case.
It sounds obvious, maybe, but deciding which part would be bow and which stern took me quite a few beers.
Look, see, study, understand before you start digging. Patience is your friend, especially when you know you don't have a second shot in case of failure.
Step 14: The Twisted Decapitation
Most carvers start shaping the log almost directly when it hits the ground. The fresher the better. Given the complexity of mine I followed a different approach. I had to.
I guessed my best shot was to start from an equally shaped cilinder, not a thing with one side a lot lower than the rest from the start.
Given the fact there was a lower zone on the fork side I decided to get the whole at the same level, and thus to remove the top of the cilinder completely.
Set the circular saw level, make two longitudinal cuts and use a few wedges to remove the slab. That's how you're supposed to do it. Nice & quick.
And that's when I dicovered the pure evil of Lebanon cedar. Twisted like a pool.
It took me half a day to remove that crappy slab. In ten pieces, btw. Pure horror.
Step 15: The Bathroom Project Annulation
Since I was in a cedar mindset these days I got an request from a friend. He wanted a nice wooden pole in his bathroom, a pillar to support one side of the shower niche. The wall would die in the pole, anchored between the floor and the ceiling.
Very nice idea, so I started digging another cedar branch into a very slim canoe.
Finally his project got cancelled, our friendship ended, I never saw him again and all I had was a totally screwed up log and hours of work in the wind.
I hate wasting good wood.
Now I'm glad, kinda, the whole thing went that way, because that pole became my outrigge later.
Step 16: The Compulsive Iceberg Obsession
I had never built a wooden boat before, but I'm totally fine with proportions.
Bow and stern, where?
In fact, the question was more simple: 'bow, where?!'
'Get the most solid part of the log in your bow' my inner voice said.
'You'll probably meet some icebergs at sea' the voice continued.
Getting that part of the boat as solid as possible didn't interfere with sailor logic, to my opinion. So I followed my inner voice and started drawing lines. A big V at the bow, a smaller at the stern - I didn't want the boat to be symmetric. So I went for a speedbow and a more robust stern.
Step 17: The Intergalaxic Vessel Spiritualisation
Once all your lines set you can start sawing. I chose the saw, intentionally, since I wanted to recover solid pieces of cedar for potential later use.
Get yourself a decent carpenters saw and sacrifice a day or two. At the end you'll have something that looks like an intergalaxic coffin.
Step 18: The Spacial Occupation Motivation
Getting a decent place to work is the very first challenge for bigger projects. It's a project that'll take several months, or years, and having a covered worksite is key. A few years ago I built a kayak - just, a kayak - in our appartment in the south of france. Doing big things in confined spaces is a pain. Often I see craftsmen working in their garage, getting the car, trailer, bikes, barbecue & kids toys outside every time they put their project back on track.
Nerve wracking. You deserve better than that. Think about it. This isn't a geeky man cave. This is a naval work site. This is bloody serious. Sailor pep talk.
If you can't get the log out of the woods, because it's too heavy or you don't have a place to work it, there might be the possibility to carve it 'in situ'. That's what most builders do, btw. Cut, shape, drink & dig on the place & transport the canoe when there're only finishing touches left. Some even build a shelter. With a few ropes and a tarp you can easily build what you need.
Step 19: The Obsessive Symmetry Complex
If I would do it again, I'll thrust more my axes and less my power plane.
I'm an axe man now. But I'll never forget what you did to me, dear power plane.
Using an electric plane has the advantage that it doesn't need any skills whatsoever. If there's power, there'll be chips. And it helps to conserve smooth lines. The length of a plane is an often underistameted feature. Especially to carve the bow a longer plane helps substantially to carve the right path, the way water will be deviated from the vessel.
I will do it again, this whole thing. But I'll give you my power plane as a present, anyway. You can do the whole instructable with one axe, technically. Two axes is better. And an adze, a gouge, a drawknife and a scraper. You really don't need them, these power tools.
Whatever. Shape one side of the canoe first. Finish it completely before you move to the other. It's all about symmetry. A canoe that isn't symmetrical will haunt you till your last breath. And it will turn in circles forever, also.
Shape is a personal issue. Remember your vessel has to penetrate the water and move it sideways. Shape the nose like a dolphin crossbred with a plow. I chose the length of the nose/bow to be twice the diameter of the canoe.
Step 20: The Tantric Transformation
There are a few ways to get that symmetry. One of them is by using the 'giant comb of faith'.
It's an investment, that tool, but worth the time. I made mine with steel tubing and a car load of beech dowels. It's heavy, but it works dreamingfully.
How you use it? Clamp it to the already carved side - LEVEL!! - and move the teeth untill they lick the surface. Every one of them.
If you've done this correctly you'll have a prefect copy designed in the comb. Challenge is to transfer this perfectly to the opposite side.
Unclamp, move to the other side and move the comb towards the uncarved surface. Mark where the teeth touch and unclamp.
Start carving/removing material and continue this untill every tooth licks the surface.
You'll repeat this a thousand times. Beers & patience. And some more beers.
Nighttime is right time - for concentration, contrast and inner peace, you know.
Post scriptum. Neighbours are a pain and the police isn't always cooperating.
Step 21: The Digging Commencement
Shaping the outside is fun, kinda, but when you're building a dugout it's all about the digging.
In fact, that shaping is a pain. You've got to be miticulous, and moving that comb from one side to another is nerve-wracking. I wanted 'acceptable perfect' symmetry, it haunted me for weeks. Finally getting into brutal carving was a pure relief.
Axes & adze, that's what you need.
Bigger chips, this time. Perfect firewood.
Step 22: The Reflective Resumation
I expected this to be the longest episode in the journey, but I was wrong.
I was wrong, again. Digging is speed work. It's fun, wild and no-nonsense.
Sounds like the perfect story of my life.
Notice that clamp on the pics? I added it because I didn't want the fork section to spread by removing material inside the log. Once set it would be difficult to reset, and so I secured it during the digging process. Know that the log wasn't seasoned at this stage. During the digging it would dry substantially, and this process make the wood set, so better anticipate than remediate.
Step 23: The Massive Perforation
Digging is fun, but 'how do you know where to stop?'
Well, somewhere in history someone came up with the idea to use plugs. Grab a drill, and perforate the entire exterior with a few hundred 8 or 10mm holes. Next you prepare a batajon wooden plugs of about 6cm long, dip them in some glue and hammer them in, flush with the surface - or drill 6cm deep holes, jam those whatever length plugs in & saw them flush.
First method is best. Since the hole is deeper than the length of the plug the last won't come as a surprise for your adze. First you'll arrive at the hole, and then you'll dig slowly towards the plug.
Every time your adze touches the tip of a plug you stop immediately. Gone far enough, go dig somewhere else.
Step 24: The Unattended Midlife Deception
So that's sort of the moment I stopped digging.
So that was it, I made a dugout canoe.
Installing a few banks, apply some waterproofing and we're done, right?
At that moment, I felt incredibly lost. This thing had the sex-appeal of a box, without the corners.
Spoiler alert: 25 steps ahead.
Step 25: The Conceptual Revisioning Awakening
Building sooky wasn't a chain of good moments. It wasn't facebook. It was more like an ultrarun, a stepstoned struggle, a daily problem solving. I remember clearly I wasn't satisfied with the design on previous pictures. At all.
There was something missing. Volume, I guessed. Character. I wanted something that would scare the icebergs off, not a lowtide vessel that wouldn't even be visible on any radar. Somehow it was a canoe, but I felt I even didn't start. All I had done was coloring between a few lines and if there's really, really, one thing that I hate more than everything on earth, it's this.
I hàd to add something.
So I decided to build a bigger bow. And that's where the removed material from previous steps came in.
I added a big piece of cedar on to the bow, drilled a few big holes all the way through and used big wooden plugs & glue to fix it forever.
At least, finally I started doing something inexpected.
Step 26: The Gritty Orbit Deviation
I said it before, I made the choice of deliberatly running into walls. I chose to make mistakes, some guys only learn that way.
The curious thing is, you only learn a particular decision was a mistake once you're at a certain distance from it.
Wisdom is a creature that feeds on time.
The decision of sanding was one these weird decisions, for example. For some reason I didn't like the raw adze texture in sooky's belly. For some reason I thought a smooth surface would have been better.
That 'reason' was 'classic woodworking'. Conditioning. Role modelism. Society. Box thinking.
Building sooky carved me as a woodworker in a way I didn't expect. I learned to appreciate the real stuff. I learned to care about makers marks. Things don't have to be perfect. Pure is beautiful.
I learned to accept. I learned to be proud of my scars.
But I made it anyway, that mistake, by grabbing a flapping disc of 40 grit and destroying all those marks.
Don't worry, this story will end good.
Step 27: The Respectful Harvesting Investment
This kind of projects need pretty much wood. There's wood for the canoe, the outrigger, the arms of the outrigger, the tail, the banks, the gunwales, the mast and the paddles.
I didn't know I would need all this since I had no idea where I was going. But know that if you're ever about to try this yourself you'll have to keep your eyes ope when you're in the woods a sunny sunday afternoon.
I chose to work with what I found, local recources. I didn't buy any piece of wood. Cut, hauled & seasoned all by myself. Lebanon for the hull & outrigger, cherry for the tip of the outrigger, elm for the tail, hawthorn for the arms of the outrigger, oak for the banks & gunwales and ash for the mast & paddles. It has become a nice panoply of species.
Step 28: The Muscular Deployment
Sometimes loads of effort are going into small things. Before those tiny banks were banks a big oak had to be cut, logged, transported, split, sawed, seasoned and planed.
The oak was beautiful, but growing near a road and disturbing for some. I've always tried to be respectful. For the wood I cut or harvest, for my impact on the local spots, for the environment in general. Water is life. Limiting my ecological footprint was part of the deal. Also that was a reason why my philosophy deviated towards hand tools and ancient joinery during the years.
In this episode I'm sawing one of these knotty oak logs in boards for the banks I would install later. I hate chainsaws, btw.
Step 29: The Cherry Outrigger Typology
Stability is key in boat building. There's a reason why the Haida people spread their canoes and why kayaks are wide in the middle and tapering towards the bow & stern.
That reason is stability. For example, a few years back I made a kayak with some viny & a plastic barrel. It worked, but it rolled like mounted on bearings.
In this stage my canoe was not any better than that barrel. Because of that fork/fissure I already made a cross on my spreading intentions, so the only other way to get the vessel stable was to add an outrigger to the equation. Simple & effective. I reclaimed that bathroom pole project and decided to convert it into a stabilizer.
It was only a straight pole at that time, all it needed was a small bow that would penetrate the waves just like the rest of the hull.
A leftover of hard cherry, a tenon & mortise lookalike, a dozen of plugs and I had it done. If ever I'll do this again, I'd put more effort in finding a natural shaped log.
Step 30: The Laborous Software Upgrade
From the very start I wanted sooky to be a rowing canoe. So I needed extra software. I had to start carving paddles.
Traditional Haida paddles are made of cedar just like the canoes, but in the old world ash is quite popular, too.
I found a few tutos on the net - proportions are important, made a template and gave it a go on the ash boards I had prepared two years before.
Carving paddles is one of these fun side projects in the whole. Ash is solid, but ash is also incredibly heavy. You'd better carve a few pine or cedar paddles than to put lots of effort in one ash paddle. It takes one hour to make a decent light pine paddle, and two or three hours for an ash one. Timber pine grade is just perfect. Some tar soaking & you're done.
Step 31: The Maiden Outrigger Presentation
When you've done the hull, when you've done something that looks like an outrigger and when you're holding your first paddle it's just a matter of assembling, right?
At which distance are you gonna fix that outrigger? The further away the more it'll be stable, but the more power you'll need to keep the whole going. Somewhere there's a point where those two graphs interphere, so you'd better be right on that spot.
Let's hope I guessed right. Gut feeling. Fingers crossed.
Step 32: The Incredible Moisture Absorption
Lebanon cedar is a species I probably won't recommend in the future, for a number of reasons I already cited before.
During the building lots of cracks appeared in the hull, showing off its twisted structure and making me sceptic about my future sea projects.
In order to know this wood a bit better I decided to do some science. I took a piece and threw it in the water, outside, for more than a year and let it dry again.
Wet weight: 750grams - dry weight 1.500 grams. Inner texture after sawing: nearly unchanged.
It's heavily porous and soaks up its own weight of water. But it's light and apparently fungus proof, which is why naval builders at the time liked it a lot.
So I thought that if I would be able to seal it entirely it would have a chance anyway.
Step 33: The Setback Frustration
It's perfect okay to admit you've been wrong. It's not when you try to live with it without at least having tried to do something about it.
The more I had my hands on traditional building, the less I liked what I had done in sooky's belly.
That sanding episode had been a disaster. It hàd to be erased from the story. So I grabbed my adze again and reworked the whole. The hull was more than thick enough, no risk of disturbing the overall structure.
Wise decisions always come in spring time. I you can't live with it, get rid of it.
Step 34: The Outrigger Arm Preparation
On previous pics you probably saw both arms seasoning on the ceiling, here they're ready to be sunk in the hull.
I harvested these curved trees intentionally for this purpose. Naturally curved oak & hawthorn.
Forked or elbowed wood is a gift to work with. Ancient boat- or building builders & naval carpenters had a natural flair not to waste anything of the trees they harvested. The stem used to be split in planks, the crowns were used for the inner structure.
Modern carpentry has lost this. Everything has to be straight, sized & calibrated. The pain of standardisation.
Get the hull & the outrigger both at the same level, brace the arms over both and think about a decent connection.
Step 35: The Bittersweet Hull Violation
In contrary to classic outrigger structures, where those arms are pretty straightforward rope-fixed to the hull, I decided to go for a joinery approach. Ropefixing means drilling. Drilling means structural weakening. Stuructural weakening in a twisted log - allround outrun - is asking fror disasters.
So these arms became my tenons, the notches carved in the hull my mortises.
The arms were sunk in the notches and covered by the gunwales later. Rock solid.
Step 36: The Stern Collapsing Anticipation
Do you know the feeling of being aware that you're dreaming in your own dream? That you're intentionally doing things since you know you're in a dream anyway?
I remember clearly that day I was in the operation center of an Israelian satellite. It was up to me to land our first moon visitor correctly on the moon. I knew it was just a dream, so guess what I did.
Whatever, inspired by pics of pirates I decided to offer sooky a crow's nest. I decided to build as I was in a dream. So crazy ideas can come thrue.
Principal reason of this decide was structural reinforcement of the stern, in fact. Right in the softwood heart of the fork I carved a rectangular cavity I filled with glue and where I jammed an elm beam in. The beam forced the glue further in the fissure, sealing if on its way. To end I inserted a large oak dowel right through the entire hull and hopefully manage to both sides a bit better together than before.
A small oak plank served as a bank. Fun & functional. I had my crow's nest, and the stern was in better shape.
Step 37: The Glorious Gunwales Ecartation
Sooky's gunwales (the sides) are playing a multipurpose very important role in the structure. They keep the arms of the outrigger in place, make the hull higher, reinforce the whole and give it a decent finish.
I made them from one single straight almost 10 year old oak. Stem seasoned, perfectly split in half.
Small victories. They do you good.
Step 38: The Drippy Consolidation
This episode was one of the most rewarding. It's also one I would do differently in the future.
Since I was working with different species - oak versus cedar - and since both have different mechanical behaviors, I didn't want to take any risk during the consolidation.
It had to be rock solid. And I didn't want tu use nails, screws, plates or pins. This was a full wooden project.
So I went for plugs & glue.
First I screwed the planed gunwales temporay to the hull. Then I drilled a series of deep 14mm holes through oak & cedar for the plugs and I trimmed the side of the gunwales. Small details, but they count. Then I poored the glue in and smashed the plugs to consolidate.
Those plugs pushed the glue through the multiple fissures in the hull, which added structural strength.
It didn't expect the glue to drip everywhere all around. It didn't expect it's behavior too.
In fact, for this purpose I had bought an industrial grade wood glue. A 'polyurethane' glue. At first use I was happily surprised about it's behavior. Viscuous, transparant & very sticky. After a few minutes this alien turned white and started to expand. Of course it filled all those fissures, but since I'd been very generous it gave sooky the looks of a guano island. White stripes all over it, pure horror.
I learned there are four types of glue: the organic ones (made from plants, rawhide or fish), the white ones (style elmers glue), the polyurethanes (which expand in contact with air) and the polymeres (which give kinda rubber joint between the glues pieces).
In the future, I'll stick to the first two. Intelligent building, few glue and a decent waterproofing at the end.
Step 39: The Change of Perspective Deployment
The difference between those pics is the height of the canoe. Make it yourself comfortable, work at height.
Step 40: The Flame Thrower Mistaking
Those glue traces kept on haunting me. Sanding them didn't much help, so one day it sounded like a crazy idea to burn them away.
Burning is a widespread used technique on itself. It crisps the wood fibres, makes the wood denser and less appealing to fungi.
But did I do well?
Nope. Those glue traces were still there. Less visible, but there.
I realised I made a mistake. Again.
Step 41: The Last Winter Reflection
Sooky passed it's last winter waiting for the mast to season - see later - and some decent ideas to finish in style.
Snow came, snow went.
Step 42: The Micro Scale Paradox
As I said, I wasn't pleased with sooky's 'finition'.
So when the sun started to climb again I decided to test something completely different.
Carving scales, everywhere!!
I didn't even give it a test. No risk no fun.
And that's when the magic happens.
I read somewhere that the initial finish on traditional Haida canoes was effectively 'rippled'. Those adze marks were not only beautiful, they were also functional. It seems they catched air bubbles while the canoe carved the waves, which improved the canoe's floatability. So instead of limiting the speed because of the higher amount of surface and thus friction, those scales are triggering just the opposite.
I needed them scales! So I grabbed my gouge and spent a few days on sooky's surface again. All over it. Even on the inside.
The result turned out amazing.
Small victories. I repeat.
Step 43: The Smart Space Occupation
During the process sooky's been turned around a few times, and even though it's got gradually lighter along the way, it's still too heavy to be comfortable with. It's even heavier than two years ago since I've added quite a bit things lately.
Get a winch. Or two, even better. One for Y-axis and one on the X-axis. Add a pully and you're the king. Glad I fixed this setup almost immediately. Saved me a lot of troubles and pain.
Step 44: The Mast Pole Development
Pragmatic thinking is always been a friend of mine. It's perfectly okay to take a step back, look at what you've done and correct along the way. Or simply start over again.
The initial idea to build sooky wasn't the building itself, it was the crossing of the English/French channel. From the moment sooky's got it's outrigger the use of wind as power source became a potential player in the equation. Why rowing when you can just let yourself drag to the other side?
I don't have any sailing experience, either. Been on a small catamaran once and manage to capsize ten times in 5 days - an absolute record according to the furious instructors. I also knocked another boat out - my 'priority to the east-rule' wasn't yet widely accepted these days, apparently.
So I didn't set the stakes too high, literally. No big sail, just big enough to do some easy cruising.
I cut an acceptable straight ash last year, managed to season it on time and carved a nice profile to it. If there's any wind you bet I'm gonna use it.
If there's not I'll wait a few days more at the harbor of St.-Valéry sur Somme. No worries.
Step 45: The Equinox Ressurection
First days of spring brought a fresh load of ideas & inspiration. I'd finally found peace about the overall finition, was definitely satisfied about the looks, started to feel something like proud, satisfaction, inner peace, whatever, and ringed the bell for the last stretch. I wanted sooky in the water in the summer. I wanted to test it before I started the second part of the project, preparing the Channel crossing that is. Sailing to Hastings & back.
Needless to repeat that sooky's stern had definitely been my biggest concern of the whole project. If there wasn't that fork in the log I had probably tried to spread the canoe, Haida style, but given the brittleness, twistedness and just the fact it's only 4m long, this attempt would probably have failed.
Never thought I would say this one day, but I've got to admit I'm happy there was this fork thing, now. That fork turned out to be the wall I asked for. Without it the overall satisfaction wouldn't have been the same.
But, unless the fact it was already structurally reinforced and I didn't worry too much about a potential split-down at sea, the awareness of an inviting fissure was more likely to be a potential problem than an advantage.
It had to go.
Step 46: The Massive Fork Penetration
There were a few ways to get rid of this canyon.
One was to fill it with bicomp resin, which had become incompatible with my philosophy.
One was to stuff it with hemp or cotton and soak this giant pit with pine tar, which was actually a very good idea.
Another was to plug & glue a load of wedges in it before the overall sealing, which was an even better idea. The wedges would penetrate deep into the bark & soft sapwood, take that glue with them and reinforce the whole even more.
So I took this task quite serious and turned sooky's stern into something really artistic. Cut off the excess; sealed it with white glue and blew some saw dust over it.
After that, I glued two layers of linen cloth over the nicely stuffed fissure.
Waaaay much better, no?
Step 47: The Pine Tar Submersion
Birch & pine tar have been used for thousands of years in wood conservation. The stuff's easy to extract, anticeptic, and it makes wood almost completely waterproof.
It's sticky at room temperature, hard when it freezes, very sticky, very smelly and highly inflammable.
Some historians suggest it was thanx to this stuff the vikings ruled the world some thousand years ago. It made their boats waterproof, we know the rest of the story.
I discovered accidentally that pine tar dissolves amazingly in methanol - burning alcohol or alcohol whatever, use peated whisky if you like - which makes it a dream to use in all your woodworking projects. It penetrates way much better, and the visual result is amazing since it reinforce the natural nervature of the wood.
The discovery of this made it the perfect choice for sooky. If it was good enough for the vikings, it was good enough for me.
I brewed a nicely saturated mix and applied it generously all over sooky. Cedar is highly porous, as I said. I learned to take advantage of that.
Step 48: The Groovy Remediation
To fix the higher ground on sooky's bow I'd been using heavy wooden dowels, and a professional white flexible polymer specially brewed for naval woodworking.
Dirty stuff, however. Another bead in the chain of shame wrapped around a part of this project.
Learning curves. Stepstones. Collateral damage.
Turned out this stuff wàs effective. Even though the hull and this upper structure behaved differently according to changes in air moisture and temperature - same wood, different parts of the tree - the sealing stayed perfect, at first glimpse. Deserved credits.
But it was visible, that horrible white line. It was there. And it would only get worse when the whole got tarred.
So I decided to hide it, at least. Router & dove tail bit - the perfect groove to insert some heavy hemp rope. This rope absorbed quite a lot of tar which made it dilatate, forming a perfect watertight joint between the two wood bodies.
Step 49: The Hemp Cord Reinforcement
You just can't build or finish a canoe with a least some rope work. In an dream scenario I would have made my own, but since I was running out of time I bought some factory made hemp cord.
I know a few things about plumbing, and there's a reason why hemp strap was widely used at the time to get all sort of connections water tight. So the choice to use hemp cord for more than just connecting and rigging was legit.
First I tarred the whole. Than I rigged the connection between the outrigger and its tip, the connections between outrigger & arms and I payed extra attention to the connections between arms & hull. I used a pole to get tension on fishermen's knots & all kinds of techniques to get the few crucial connections secured. Then I soaked them in tar again and inserted a few wedges here & there to get some more tension.
I should have soaked the cordage in water first to get some benefits of the shrinking, but since the crucial connections were already doweled ànd the inner first (inner) rounds of cord would never be ableto dry, I prefered a dry tar soak.
Step 50: The Next Episode Organisation
Building sooky was the first part of the journey. But before we'll set off to Hastings - the third episode - there's still a lot of work to do.
Sooky will see water the coming days. Maybe it'll sink immediately, maybe it'll be highly unstable, maybe it'll be impossible to row, maybe all of this was just one big mistake.
Or maybe it'll be surprisingly high on the water, perfectly level and move with the slightest breeze on its maiden voyage.
Needless to say I feel quite confident in the whole. I have to, also. I gave it the best shot I had and even if there might be a few points to works on I'mpretty sure we'll find a way to deploy that sail and enjoy the wind taking us away. Problems exist to be solved. Been there, done that.
So I need to build a sail yet, figure out a decent rigging setup and mod a trailer.
First Manhattan, then Berlin.
It's gonna be an exciting summer.
First Prize in the