Hand Crafted Cedar Canvas Canoes and Restorations

West Country Canoes
PO BOX 247 Eckville, Alberta, T0M 0X0 1-403-348-1731

HandCrafted cedar canvas canoes and restorations.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Spring is finally here

It has been a very longggg winter here in Alberta. Being injured and restricted to the house for 7 months only made it even longer. So with a heavy work load before being hurt,, nothing has changed at all.

I am the luckiest guy to have such a amazing wife who took over all the things I did in the winter. The most amazing of which was the starting of the snowblower for the first time of the season.

The first snow storm was relentless it did not let up for 2 days, with the wind producing massive drifts.

We also have a amazing neighbor. He seen Alex  making her way through the massive drifts came by with his 8ft wide snow blower on his Kubota. Hearing that I was injured, either him or one of his employee's snow blowed our drives for the rest of the winter. Truly a amazing guy.

So with a few huge drifts still trying to hang on, it is back to canoe work. It will take about another 6 or 7 months for my leg to be back to full strength and normal hopefully.

Thank you to all the customers who have waited and been patient while I recovered.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

owww my knee

I have been side lined for a while here. In August I missed a step in the night and tore my quadriceps tendon off my knee cap.  It was as painful as it sounds.  I had to have surgery to reattach it.

So 6 weeks into recovery I fell getting in the shower and tore it again,,,sighhhh.
So below is knee after second surgery, I think it has now surrendered!
So I am now 12 weeks past the second surgery,, knee is getting better everyday. I am hoping to start a few hours in the shop, and see how it goes.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Shaving horse

Most people who come into the shop look at him with a quizzical look, not really knowing what he is. Half bench, half horse with a weird head? 

I have had this faithful steed for almost 30 yrs and have made so many thwarts and paddles on him I couldn't begin to count. I can not think of a better clamping device for making paddles, thwarts or anything that you need both hands free to use a spoke shave or a rasp.
The beauty of it, is how little pressure needs to be applied to the treadle to secure the work.

I have leather wrapped around the bottom of the head. It helps soften the edge so that the wood being held isn't damaged to much.

The head is adjustable and held in place with a wooden dowel. It can be moved up or down in roughly 1 inch increments.
The basic tools I use when making paddles or thwarts are spoke shave, rasp and a small plane. About 80% of the work is done with the spoke shave. I have a few different ones but prefer the one with the convex face on it.

I can't imagine not having my shaving horse it is such a versatile and basic piece of equipment.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Antler Grip paddle

Last year I went to a outdoors man show, I was looking for antler to make hand thwarts for a canoe. I admit I have some crazy ideas. I wasn't able to get any but the antler Carver there gave me one. The base of it I am working on for a knife.

I don't like to waste material of any kind whether it is hardwood, canvas, leather or antler.  So the main body of the antler it self is sort of flat. I figured if I could saw out grip size pieces then split it,, it may just work as material for a grip.

The antler is not really that hard to cut,  but splitting it was a bit of a challenge. I tried the band saw but it was a little to aggressive. What worked best was a hand saw and the reciprocating saw very slowly.
Once I got a feel for the material, the speed of the saw, it went very quickly.

I use Titebond 3 when gluing up materials on other paddles, but i was unsure how the antler and the glue would work. So to make it bomb proof I used my other favourite G2 epoxy. 

Once glued up the antler was not that difficult to work using the spoke shave or rasp. Sanding it was amazing and it finished smooth as silk. It is nasty stuff so a dusk mask is needed especially when sanding.

I wasn' sure how it would turn out or how it would be to work with. I didn't want to take any chances though.  Just  in case I loved it and it was perfect. I wanted it to be on my favourite blade shape and have the grip I favour as well.

A all yellow cedar Algonquin blade with a smaller grip was what I chose. The pictures below are of the finished paddle showing the grip.

 The last 2 pictures are of the grip beside my other Algonquin paddle.

All in all I was amazed how the antler grip turned out!


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

More Paddles

Its very satisfying making paddles.  I have 4 spruce with ash on the go, 2 -6" Beavertails, small Voyageur  and a Cree style paddle. I may just do some decorative paint on the Cree. 

I also have 3 all yellow cedar paddles, a modified Cree Style, small Voyageur and a 6" Beaver tail.  All of the yellow cedar paddles have yellow cedar burl.

Tomorrow i am going to make up a paddle and use some Deer antler for the grip, we shall see how that turns out?

The photo above are from left to right
2-6" beavertails spruce with ash
cree style spruce with ash
6" beavertail all yellow cedar
all yellow cedar modified cree
all yellow cedar small voyageur
spruce with ash small voyageur
yellow cedar algonquin with deer antler grip
Yellow cedar burl

3 coats of varnish and they are done!!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Paint and Varnish Room

I have always had a separate room for doing the varnish and paint on canoes, so I had to build a new one since moving. I wanted it to be large enough to be able to paint and varnish any size canoe, even some of the very large freighter canoes. 

So a room was built in the building right beside my main shop. It size was built around some of the buildings internal structures. The shop is 60ft by 40 ft so the paint and varnish room would be 30ft long by 12 ft wide, more than enough room for paint and varnish work. Double doors were put in to have a opening of 5ft.

 When finished it will be fully insulated and heated. As long as it is well insulated it wont be difficult to keep the room at 55 to 65 degrees. Paint and varnish needs a minimum of 50 degrees to dry. All of the varnish is brushed on, but for applying the  paint I prefer to spray it on.

HVLP Spray gun and overhead hose reel

You can never have enough light when painting and varnishing, so even though there is a centre track light and 3 double spot lights I may still add some more.

With such a air tight and enclosed room ventilation would be a concern. I had tried a box fan to draw it out when the door was propped  open, but it wasn't that effective. So a proper exhaust fan was installed in the back wall.

exhaust fan

After it was installed I made a frame to attach to the wall to hold a basic 16x16 furnace filter to filter out the paint over spray. Other wise the fan and blades get lightly coated over time with paint.

It took a bit of time to get it done and there is still some insulation to finish, but its a great room to do the finishing in!

paddles seats and parts varnished
1926 Old town freshly painted


Nothing feels as good as a well made paddle that becomes a extenson of your arm.

I made my first paddle when I was 22, at the time all I had was a spoke shave. It was also the first woodworking tool I ever bought as well. That is how it all started. Over the next 30 years I worked in all kinds of materials and have done many different blade and grip styles.
Various blade shapes

I wish i had kept track of all the paddles I have made over the years, at the time it didn't seem that important to keep that information.

I am very partial to native style blades shapes. The Algonquin shape is my favourite, it just feels comfortable to me. Also it is part of my heritage, my grandmother was full blooded Algonquin, and my father was half. Just another reason I am fond of the blade shape.

I have also worked in many different materials, cherry, ash, walnut, yellow cedar and sitka spruce. In the last few years I have been making many out of spruce. However spruce has a flaw of either the grain running out oddly or it kind kinks or fold when pressure is put on the shaft.

So to cure this problem a additional piece of other material such as  mahogany, ash, walnut, yellow cedar etc, is laminated to the face.  It also gives a nice contrast to the paddle.

Paddle grips can be as varied as the blade shapes themselves, and everyone has their own personal preference.

So if your a serious paddler or not, find yourself a builder or paddle maker near you and have a paddle made for yourself. It will be a joy to use and something you treasure your entire life!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Faber canoe

There are 2 brands of canoes which are my least favorite to do restoration and repair to. Faber and Tremblay, no fault of the canoe or design both very well built canoes. The 2 companies used Verolite as the material to cover the canoes with. It is a vinyl impregnated canvas, and this is where the trouble begins.

The Verolite doesnt let the canoe breath like regular canvas does, it makes a perfect enviroment for mold and rot to begin. When I lived on Vancouver Island , it being a wet climate to begin with made this a nightmare. Allot of the times the ribs actually rotted so badly they turned to dust. The varnish was the only thing keeping the dust in the shape of a rib.

Below is a picture of a piece of Verolite from this Faber canoe. The canvas itself is gone and all thats left is the vinyl material.

In most cases the Verolite canvas will cause the top row of planking as well as the rib tops to rott badly. However in this case the rib tops were just a little soft so epoxy saturating them was needed.  Anywhere the rib was damaged badly a mixture of epoxy and saw dust was used to build the top back up.

This canoe also had a few cracked ribs, but were not causing any stress on the planking. So to try and keep the ribs the same, repairs were done to the back side of them.

Allot of planking was replaced in the bottom, new outer gunwales,sanding and new varnish brought this Faber canoe back to life.