Monday, November 28, 2016

I am thankful for canoes!

Welcome back to the blog!

We have seen snow, we've eaten turkey and we have once again assured our family members that yes, it is true:
We build canoes for a living.

I am so thankful for my work, my co-workers and all of the customers of Northwoods Canoe Company. For the past three years, I have been learning about white cedar and steam-bending, stretching canvas and clinching (thousands of) tacks. And getting paid for it! Can you believe my luck?

I apologize: enough about feelings!

Here's what appears to be going on in the shop. I was absent last week as I drove the winding and beautiful and never-ending Route 2 to Vermont, but Stephen and Rollin kept things moving.

Stephen is sanding a boat that is one family's only transport to their camp.
The sander with its vacuum attachment is a great tool!

In the shop, we have a number of canoes. The (temporarily) transom-less boat in the center is an Old Town belonging to Mr. Perkins. Keep watching this week for transom installation! Rollin is working on the ribs and rails of the canoe to the left, making sure that all the woodwork is finished before canvassing. It often happens that once we begin working on a canoe, we find much more to do than it seemed from first glance... I believe the canoe to the left was one of those! One step at a time...

Happy Thanksgiving, happy building and happy reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Canvassing: One, two, three, four, five!

I got a compliment this weekend: one of our customers said that I was a speedy canoe-canvasser. Amazing! I have rarely been told that I do anything quickly! Of course, it does go a bit faster on the canoecam's end-of-day video than in person in the shop, but I can't resist the compliment. So, here: I will show you just how fast it can go!*

Step one: Measure, cut and fold the canvas

The canvas must be cut about three feet longer than the boat to allow for some extra to fit in our vertical canvas clamps. Then we fold it up lengthwise and hang it.

Step Two: Vertical Tension

With the canvas hanging from the clamps, it creates a perfect envelope for the canoe hull. Boat in! To keep it from popping back out when we stretch the canvas, we use a couple of adjustable posts for some downward pressure. There are two wooden "beaver boards" (as, I am told, one would use for skinning a beaver) in the bottom of the canoe to keep the posts from punching right through the hull.

Step Three: Horizontal Tension

A come-along hooks onto one of our vertical clamps. We crank it until there is no more slack in the canvas, right below the gunwale. Ready for tacking!

Step Four: Tack along the gunwale

Stretch the canvas with the canvassing pliers and it's two tacks per rib, right below the edge of the planking. I always have to make sure my tacks don't sneak in under the inner gunwale - those make for a painful surprise later... If you squint really hard at this picture, you'll see me tacking the canvas!
The large clothespins you see help bring the canvas closer to the canoe at its ends. 

Step Five: Tack along the stem

We cut the canvas right down the center of the stem once it is out of the clamps. We lap the canvas across the stem, pulling it tight across the stem for each tack. This is one of my favorite parts, which the canoecam can't quite capture: the neat line of tiny copper tacks down the stems once both laps are attached.

Fill the canvas and voilá!

There. Wasn't that speedy? Wasn't it??*

*The shop record is currently still held by Peter Wallace and Rollin Thurlow who both insist that they can canvas and fill a boat, "no sweat," in four hours. "Yeah," says Peter. "One before lunch, one after lunch!" So, there you have it. It's all relative!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You want ribs? We got ribs!

The new year means not just stripping, but a restock of our materials. Rollin went up north to visit a couple of sawmills last week. He came back with over 600 board feet of cedar. Time to make ribs!

Over the past three days, Stephen and I have cut the cedar to width and sanded the ribs to thickness. Our progress covered the shop with dust but we ended up with a beautiful, clean and tidy stack of ribs, ready for your canoe!

Watch the dust billow in the shop
and see the piles go up and down: progress!

Suited up and already dusty!
The piles form! These pieces have already been cut once and are ready for slicing.

The ribs are cut to width on the table saw
In and out of the thickness sander

Ribs? Check.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Week We All Became Strippers

Luckily for you (and us!), stripping at Northwoods Canoe means we put on more clothes than usual! Here is part of the crew, suited up to deal with toxic chemicals.
Rollin gets in the "tank," ready to scrub methylene chloride - fun!

Rollin scrubs while one canoe drips dry from its rinse

Elisa power washes in The Suit

Each canoe is rinsed thoroughly, revealing the bare wood.

Every canoe slated for restoration we disassemble and and strip of varnish. Once the old, peeling varnish is gone, we start to see the real color of the wood inside. The inside of one boat had to be stripped of three separate layers of paint!

This is the one time of year when all of the canoes on our roster pass through the shop within one week. We have a lot of work to do! Now every one is all stripped down to a bare wood hull, ready for repair and a new skin.

For the canoe shop, the new year begins now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Blog is Back!

After three years of working at Northwoods Canoe, I have decided to take on my responsibility as Shop Millenial and to write about the shop... on the internet!

If you missed the blog, have no fear!
It's back: news from the shop, a little background on our projects and even more pictures than you might catch on the web cam.

If you are not yet a follower of our canoecam, check it out here and watch the progress!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Write your way to an Atkinson Traveler

Over the last 36 years I have been very fortunate to be able to make my living doing what I love in such a specialized and admittedly old fashion occupation as custom building and restoring wooden canoes/boats.  I have been able to restore almost every type of old classic boat, build reproductions of some of the best boats ever built and I have also been able to build and sell my own designs.
My shop has always been no more than a one, two and in some very busy years, a three person shop.   I have been extremely lucky to have the help and assistance of Peter who has been my shop partner for over 20 years; Pam who does all the mail order shipping and book keeping and Andrea my supportive wife! 
In the near future I will be taking the order for the one thousandth boat to be restored or built in my shop.   To celebrate this milestone I want to build a special canoe that means a lot to me, the 17.5’ Atkinson Traveler.  It is the first canoe I designed; named after the village I live in and designed for the wilderness paddling that I enjoy.  It has been a very successful design which I am very proud of. 
While I want to put all my years of experience into this canoe I also want it to be a canoe that is used as the design was intended.  The Atkinson Traveler needs to be in the water, a few scratches on it, maybe a cracked rib or two from hard use, mud on the paint and a smile on every face in the boat.  This is a boat that I want to build to my own specifications and I want it to be used as the canoe was designed for.
Because my customers and the WCHA (Wooden Canoe Heritage Association)  have been such a important part of my professional  success, I want to celebrate this one thousandth boat by offering this commemorative Atkinson Traveler completely free of charge to either;
 1) A past or present member of the WCHA.
 2) Any one of my past canoe/boat customers.
 Cost of any shipping not included!
 There is only one stipulation: The owner of the boat must promise the boat will be used  as it was intended as per the original design; and the harder the use the better!

To be eligible for this boat please send me your name, your; contact info and a brief description of how you intend to use the boat.  Please, no more than 300 words and be sure to include your WCHA membership number or NWCC customer number.  Peter, Pam, Andrea and I will choose the top 25 essays and then have a drawing for the winner. There is no cost for the boat or to enter your essay.  The boat will be on display at the 2014 WCHA Assembly where the drawing for the winner will take place. You need not be present to win but of course that would be nice. Sharpen up your pencils and plan on attending the 2014 Assembly!
 Thank you for your years of support.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

 The Brad Fox family form Chaplin CT. drove up to Maine for a short vacation and to visit the shop.  Brad and his wife have been bitten by the wood canoe restoration bug and have started to accumulate a small fleet.  Their two kids came along but mostly for the chance to visit with Bean.  Unfortunately Bean spends the week ends with Peter, since its his dog and was not at the shop.  So here is a picture of Beans usual position in shop during the winter, laying on his blanket next to the stove!