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  • Alick Burt

Felix's Canoe steaming ribs.

Felix's Canoe, Bending replacement ribs.

Hi folks

Although I am still unsure what the ribs are made of I have been getting some steaming practice in as it is not a process that I have used often.

At first I examined the ribs and noticed they have very little discernable grain or character which prompted me to think they might be poplar.

I prepared some bits of poplar from my off cut pile by planing to thickness, rounding the edges and routing them to a semi circle before slicing them off on the circular saw.

They were then put in my steamer as before and left to cook for a couple of hours.

I found they bent relatively easily and I was able to bend some and leave them to set inside the hull held by a pair of clamps like this.

The following evening as I was still unsure about the type of timber I asked the question on the w.c.h.a.(Wooden Canoe Heritage Association).see:-

The problem is that as the ribs are so thin it is difficult to see the features of the timber if there are any.

I had a post back from the very knowledgeable Dick Persson.He said they would most likely be oak or rock elm. So next day I decided to try bending some oak as I have plenty of oak off cuts.

I prepared some pieces

and left them to steam.

After two hours I managed to bend one but the rest were not having any of it and I broke a few.

I was out of time for that day and decided to try a different piece of Oak the day after as it looked like the breaks were due to the grain crossing my pieces badly making them weak.

I found a bit of oak with straighter grain,made up some pieces and left them to steam even longer.

At the end of the day I took them out and found they were much easier to bend and soon had four more ribs bent and left them to set.

I kept looking at the originals as they still don't look like oak because the grain is not coarse enough. Elm also has coarse grain so as I was still unsure I decided to proceed with removing one of the damaged ribs to see if it gave me any clues.

Removing the rib was easy as it is quite worm eaten.Luckily the woodworm had stayed in the rib and didn't fancy the taste of the planking.This is probably because woodworm don't generally eat genuine mahogany and I don't think they are keen on cedar either!

I took several pictures of the removed rib and posted them on the wcha forum. Hopefully someone will recognise the timber. They almost look like cedar to me but I am still not sure.

I also realised at this point that I will need some rather special tacks to fit my new ribs.Tacks for canoes are generally made of copper and have points that are specially made to bend over for clinching on the inside of the boat.

I contacted my friend Nick as I knew he had some for his wood canvas canoe he was working on as they are difficult to find in the UK. Luckily he has a few so is bringing them over to me tomorrow.

Another of my w.c.h.a .friends Sam also put me on to some tacks I can buy in the UK that might work so I have ordered some too from

Thanks for reading.


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