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  • Alick Burt

Peterborough's 10 and 11 Or How My Canoe's are Made.

The Making of Peterborough 10 and 11 or How I make my Canoes!

This is going to be a blog of many parts over many weeks as I have just been commissioned to make two fifteen foot Peterborough Canoes and this will take some time to complete.

The process begins with making moulds which are cut from ply or MDF and shaped to suit the design of the canoe you are to build. These are then set up on a strongback upon which the canoe will be built. All has to be level and straight as this will dictate the shape of the finished craft.

I have two different strongbacks in the picture but the idea is the same, to produce a level support for the moulds.

At bow and stern there will be laminated stems and these are one of the first parts of the actual canoe to be made. The strips are prepared and then soaked or steamed before being bent and glued over the stem moulds.

It might not look like much work but to reach this stage has taken two days and there are no short cuts as everything else that follows relies on these pieces being right. This is a theme with this work as if you rush one thing and a small error creeps in it invariably effects a later part of the build and makes more problems.

The next part of the process is to shape the stems with a rolling bevel. This is done using a spokeshave, block plane and if the grain is particularly curly a rasp can be handy. To test the bevel as you work a spare strip is held against the moulds and stem.

As you get towards the top of the stem (remember the boat is upside down) it helps to make a shaped block to hold it still.

This is tricky work and if you find a bit of grain that is particularly awkward you can remove the stem put it in a vice and work on there a little as long as you remember how you want it to be shaped to suit the angle of the meeting strips.

Next comes the preparation of the timber for the planking. These long planks have to be planed and thicknessed with care. The edges have to be absolutely straight as the planks will be ripped into strips and if the edge is curved you won't get a straight cut and the resulting strips will be of uneven thickness I test them by placing two against each other.

like this.

Next time I will be cutting them into strips for the planking.

Ripping the planks requires an extra long take off board at the back of my saw and I have also invested in a new thinner blade that will give me less waste and more planks per board. It is also important to keep the board tight against the fence or the planking will be of an uneven thickness so I have made an anti kickback jig to help achieve this.

Several hours later I have around 150 strips of planking carefully cut and ready for bead and cove moulding.

Bead and cove planking is the type of planking I use because the edges of the planks can be glued together and regardless of the angle between them the joint will not produce a large gap. One edge of each plank has a bead and the other has a cove so they fit together. Some people use a router but I prefer to use my spindle moulder which is a bit quicker.

The bead is moulded first to avoid damage to the delicate cove and the pieces are handled with care.

Once this step is complete then planking can begin. The first planks are stapled to the jig and glued to the stems at each end then the following plank is also fitted in the same way but with glue on the edge to glue the two together and the sequence is repeated.

Here is the first and second plank fitted note the strip of scrap stapled to the top of the forms. This is to keep them upright until a few planks have been fitted.

Here is the hull as work progresses.


The ends of the planks are trimmed off flush with the stem edge as each is fitted. This is an exciting stage as you begin to see your canoe grow before your very eyes!

Planking continues and upon reaching the bilges it can become a bit slower and trickier because the planks have to be twisted to conform to the shape of the hull.

I find it helps to add a few nails to the awkward areas or use screws to hold the planks tight to the form. Bungees and clamps can be used at the bow and stern to help pull the planks into alignment.

As these two canoes have different patterns on their bottoms I will be using alternate strips of pine and Cedar on one

and pine only on the other except for one cedar stripe.

On each boat the planking of the bottom proceeds right across the centre on one side only to begin with and this is left to set before cutting so that is where I shall leave it for now.

This blog continues in Peterborough's 10 and 11 How I make my Canoes Part 2.

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