February 2005

Bark Canoe Store

2317 West Fairview Avenue
Spokane, WA 99205



John Lindman


1. News - Class Update
2. Building Tip - More on Miniatures by Ted Behne

News - Classes

Build Your Own Canoe on Lake Temagami - The Land of Grey Owl

Lake Temagami is located several hours north of Toronto. It is a large deep lake with 1400 islands. No homes or cottages per se are built around the lake, only on the islands. It is a land of old growth white pines, loons, and bear. It was prominent during the fur trade and you may be familiar with it as the home of Archie Belany - Grey Owl.

Grey Owl spent his early years in Canada with the Bear Island Ojibwe. Here he learned to hunt and trap from the viewpoint of the Ojibwe.

We will be on an island just north of Bear Island. Last year one of the leaders of the Bear Island Ojibwe came to help us on the canoe we were building. Most likely we will have some of them present with us this year.

The place is called "North Waters". It is a canoe expedition camp and the site of this year's "build your own canoe class". The class costs $3700 which includes the tuition of $695, the home study class, the book The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, all the materials for a 14ft canoe (your choice of style), the building site prepared, all tools needed, lodging in one of the cabins and delicious meals served in the lodge. You are allowed to bring others to assist in building your canoe. They only have to pay a reduced meals/lodging fee of $900 for the 15 day program. (they would be your assistants not my students so their questions would be directed to you - no free class). If you plan to fly to North Bay, Ontario which is 1 hour south of Temagami we will arrange to pick you up and drop you off at the airport. Shipping of your finished canoe can be arranged.

In summary you will do the home study program in which you build a scale miniature of the full size canoe you wish to build at the class. It includes all the study materials, the materials for your miniature, a building form and frame, and a crooked knife. You will be picked up at the public boat launch or airport and be shuttled to the island where you will be fully accomodated (bring sleeping bag, work clothes, etc.), enjoy two productive weeks of canoe building, and leave with high morale, tired knees and hands and a canoe of which to be proud. If at that time you wish to sell it we most likely will be able to find a buyer and recoup your investment. You still walk away with memories and the skill to do it again on your own.

Space is very limited and enrollment will close as of June 1. Drop me an e-mail if you have interest or questions. Hope you can join us.

Building Tip - More on Miniatures by Ted Behne
Making the Gunwale Frame

The previous two articles outlined the process for selecting a canoe, reducing its dimensions to one-quarter scale, making a "blueprint" of the canoe, and constructing a reusable building platform. To review those articles, go to "Tips" and sort through past issues of "The Bark Canoe Aficianado."

This article and others to follow will focus on making the component parts of the canoe; gunwales, gunwale frame, thwarts, ribs, sheathing, etc. Preparing these skeletal elements make up at least 50 percent of the work of building any canoe. Each can be done separately, at any time and in any sequence, then stored until you are ready for assembly. It should also be noted that all of these procedures are identical to those for making full size canoes.

Gunwale Frame
Most tribal styles use a double-gunwale structure composed of an inwale frame and outwales, which are lashed together with the bark sandwiched between them to form the gunwales. Micmac, Ojibwe and a few other tribal styles use a single, continuously lashed gunwale frame, which requires an entirely different discussion. For the double-gunwale structure, the goal is to create a canoe-shaped frame, with thwarts mortised into the wood, to hold the canoe shape along the top edge of the canoe. Tools required: razor utility knife, crooked knife and small, low-angle block plane.

Making an inwale frame is a tricky and crucial step in building a canoe. Many things can go wrong. Start by determining the dimensions of the inwales from your -scale "blueprint." Orient the wood so the grain lines run lengthwise on the top and bottom edges and not on the sides. Ideally the two inwale blanks should be split from the same larger blank to ensure identical strength and bending properties and thus a symmetrical inwale frame. Note on the blueprint that the inwales are thickest at the center thwart and gently tapered toward each end. In cutting the tapers at the ends of each inwale, be sure to remove wood only on the inboard edges. This will prevent the inwales from splitting when they are bent into canoe shape. Mark each inwale for thwart placements, using the "blueprint" for guidance.

To make the inwales more flexible and less likely to break when bent, soak them overnight in water. Using the "blueprint" as a template, make temporary thwarts from cedar that span only the inboard edges of each inwale. Drill a small hole into the ends of each temporary thwart and pass a string through each hole to tie the thwarts to each inwale. The temporary thwarts will be used as holders while the inwales are being bent to shape. Tie the center temporary thwart in place, then the quarter thwarts and finally the end thwarts. Cut a miter joint in the ends of each inwale to form an arrow point. Slightly notch the outside edge of each inwale to form a stop for an end wrapping. Jam a triangular shaped bit of wood into the gap behind the arrow point to ensure that the tie doesn't distort the shape of the ends. Before tying the ends permanently, stretch a line from tip to tip to verify that the stretched line precisely covers the center mark of each thwart. If not, adjust the tips from side to side until the centers line up and the frame is perfectly symmetrical.

Allow the inwale frame to dry for at least two days. While waiting for the inwale frame to dry, turn your attention to making the permanent thwarts. That process, and how to install them into the inwale frame, will be described in next month's newsletter.

You can view Ted's work here.

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