Category Archives: Things to try

Canoecraft cover

Backyard cedar strip canoe: Part 1, Introduction

So, I’ve done it!

Cedar strip canoe example

An example of the beauty of cedar strip canoes, photo courtesy of Dan Iggers.

[The Story so far]
This is the first in a series of posts about building a backyard cedar strip canoe. Follow along as I research, cost, plan, schedule, and possibly fumble my way through an urban build of one of the most loved forms of backcountry transportation. 

Well, to clarify, I haven’t done a damn thing, yet.

I’ve gone and decided to make a cedar strip canoe. As of a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know much more about them than how they look (pretty darn beautiful, if, like above, they turn out well).

Had I paddled one before? I could count the number of times without using fingers. I had very little idea of the history and actual construction details behind this particular boat-building technique.

I’ve since dug around a bit, read a few things on the interweb, some encouraging, some dismaying, but nothing yet that told me I’m wildly unrealistic.

Challenges

I’m a city dweller with no garage or basement, but a nice little yard space behind the house I rent, so my goal will be to build this canoe in my backyard with zero boat-building experience, few carpentry skills, fewer power tools, and limited time outside of my full-time office job.

I have to take the seasons into account, this being Canada, with a two-season climate (Winter and Construction). So to account for my inexperience and current lack of research, I’ve decided to give myself a goal to be paddling a finished product in 2016.

I want to research and collect resources this winter, so I’ll have a good idea of the costs, skills, materials, and equipment needed.

My research will influence how I schedule the build, since there are climate/temperature-specific stages to the process. The key here is to be flexible based on what I learn and to tailor things to my particular circumstances.

Resources

At this point, I’m not going to list my resources — the list has gotten very long, very quickly, but to be of any use to you, I want to post only what has been of use to me, and that will start to become apparent the more I progress down this road.

At this point, however, almost everything I’ve read and seen online points to the book Canoecraft, by Ted Moores. I’ve picked it up and have started reading, and judging by the inspiring first pages, I expect it to be a good read, and a good reference for the rest of my journey.

Reading a page from Canoecraft, by Ted Moores

A page from “Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction” by Ted Moores

I hope that by following along with my successes (I hope there will be at least one, and it floats) and failures (I expect at least a few — but ones we can learn from), you will learn what might work for you, should you decide to do something similar.

If you have no intention of doing something like this, I hope to inspire you, or at the very least entertain you.

In any case, I’ll document as much as I can to bring you along for the ride.

Visit again soon for the next part, “Research”.
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Knife-making with Dean Piesner and Robb Martin

Knowing as much about my tools as I can has always been the way I’ve been wired. It’s the reason I took up an interest in blacksmithing in the first place — I took a one-day historical society course on how to make a traditional Native neck knife (the pocketknife of the fur trade era). That cemented the fact that if you know how to make your tools, you adopt a mindset that is very versatile, very flexible.

This lends itself well to survival, to bushcraft, and to daily living, in or out of the city.

That course was a revelation, and started me down a road that had me seeking out new teachers, building my own forge, and realizing how tough it is to actually spare the time to get good at anything. I tried to keep moving forward nonetheless, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to bring the past few years of occasional smithing experience (including studies with Robb Martin of Thak Ironworks) together, and learn how to hand-forge the ultimate general-use tool, the fixed blade knife:

I’ll be writing a bit more about the process involved from start to finish, but for now, I still need to finish and haft the first of these knives, and of course, I’m looking forward to making the sheath. After that I have many more to make, and still much to learn.

Mike Zimmermann - Forge work

2013_icestorm

Winter Power Outage Tips

 

It’s December, 2013, and although it usually means mild times in Toronto, a severe ice storm has left a good many residents without power, and by extension, heat. The temperature as I write this is -10° C (about 14° F), and will be dropping, not rising throughout the day. #icestorm2013 and #darkTO are the only things on many people’s mind. Many people have been without heat and power since Sunday morning, and will continue in the dark until after Christmas.

Not cold by Canadian winter standards, but with an urban dwelling and no alternative way to heat it, many people are left unprepared in a dangerous way. Assuming you have a half-decently stocked fridge and groceries for the week, the cold is probably going to be your most immediate challenge.

There are, of course, many things to keep in mind like turning off appliances, stockpiling water, etc., but here are some quick and dirty tips for those caught in the cold and dark: Continue reading

Making a classic bow-frame saw

I’m the first to admit that despite my love of the outdoors and the woods, I’m relatively unschooled in the fine art of woodworking compared to some. Natural wood has a life and character unlike any other material, and it’s hard to ignore those who make this craft their pursuit.

I love to listen and learn from passionate people, and this past week, I had the pleasure of learning how to make a classic frame saw from Steven Der-Garabedian (see his work at blackwalnutstudio.ca). Steve is absolutely fanatical about woodworking, and it comes through in every action and every word he utters. Not only is he patient and accessible, but he has that other quality that distinguishes good craftsmen from good teachers—his love of his art is infectious.

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Time for a wanigan

 

What I carry is nowhere near as nice as this, but the concept is essentially the same.

(What I carry is nowhere near as nice as this, but the concept is essentially the same. These are from J.a.G Woodworking)

I’d like to talk about one decision I’ve made when it comes to kitchen on a canoe trip. There’s a part of me that wants to go as ultra-light as possible, knife and a flint striker and some rope, and improvise from there, but there’s another, more obsessive side that wants to bring every gadget possible. Somewhere in the middle is the ideal camping kit. That ideal pack obviously is different for each individual, and indeed, changes for me on a constant basis.

One peice of kit that has started coming with me on any canoe trip longer than three days is my version of a wanigan. Bill Casselman’s “Canadian Word of the Day” site describes it better than I could.

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