Canoe #8: Varnishing and Maiden Voyage!!!

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Blog entry by Woodcanuck posted 05-14-2010 08:21 PM 1744 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Final assembly Part 8 of Canoe series no next part

With all of the assembly in place we were down to getting the final finish on it.

Just as it is all looking like it’s “this” close to being done, we get to revisit our friend the random orbit sander! I had thought that sanding the hull was a lot of work…but sanding the epoxy was an entirely different experience. Not only is the epoxy that much harder, but you can’t go too hard at it or you’ll get through the epoxy to the fiberglass. Once you hit fiberglass you end up with ugly white crosshatching that won’t go away. Ok, so I had just a little bit of it on the outside of the stern….caught it in time that you only see it in certain light, but it’s there!

With the sanding done…the magic really starts to happen. The epoxy gave us a really good look at what it was going to be like when it was finished…but doing that sanding and throwing on a coat of spar varnish just blew me away.

The decks and handles just popped with the varnish.

But the real test was the outside of the hull. There’s something inherently artistic in the look of a glossy canoe flipped upside down. For me, this was the ultimate reward in the entire project. Even more than the maiden voyage, seeing what this canoe looked like with it’s final finish on it just took my breath away.

There is that sweet spot when the varnish first goes on and is still wet where everything looks like it’s shrouded in glass. I think I stood there and looked at it with sticky varnishy hands for a good 20 minutes. Of course….the fumes from the spar varnish might just have had something to do with that.

To be honest, all these years later, I don’t recall how many coats of varnish we put on it. I think it was 3, but may have been 4 with successively lighter sanding between coats. I have heard that you have to be careful about not doing too many coats or as the varnish weathers it will delaminate and come off in big flakes.

The only things we had left were to mount the yoke, seats and stem covers. I was impatient at this point and chose to buy the premade yoke/seats (in cherry). Someday I may make my own…but for now they work fine and look good.

The stem covers are strips of brass to protect the stems from bumps and dings. These were bent around the stems and up onto the decks. We secured them with brass screws. Note to anyone doing this….get some steel screws the same size as the brass and install them first so that the brass screws don’t get stripped off and break. Once it’s all in place, replace each steel screw with a brass one very carefully. Putting a drop of epoxy into the screw holes also adds a bit of extra protection.

Here it is at home. My wife and daughter were very excited and even decorated the house with streamers and had mock champagne. We Christened her ‘Hope it Floats’....and thus far, it does!

Shortly after we took her up to a lake and here is the maiden voyage, across the lake and back.

Thanks for following along…it was a great project, very satisfying and something we can keep enjoying for years to come.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

7 comments so far

View Woodcanuck's profile


128 posts in 2966 days

#1 posted 05-14-2010 08:27 PM

The canoe handles very nicely in the water for the most part. The only catch is when there are headwinds. With no keel and a wide hull it can be a challenge to steer into the wind. Of course, maybe it’s the fact that the bow acts like a sail when the stern sinks lower in the water while I’m at the helm. :-)

For soloing it’s pretty nice to paddle from a traditional kneeling position at the yoke….for a while anyway, my old bones don’t much like kneeling for too long though.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

View northwoodsman's profile


242 posts in 3712 days

#2 posted 05-14-2010 08:34 PM

What a beautiful canoe!!!

-- NorthWoodsMan

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3081 days

#3 posted 05-14-2010 08:35 PM

I thought it was a build along serie you did
sorry I didnĀ“t saw the dates on your pictures
anyway the canoe still looks dam beautyfull


View dbhost's profile


5705 posts in 3197 days

#4 posted 05-14-2010 08:43 PM

Fan-freaking-tastic canoe! Your build may just serve as an inspiration to build one for me… I currently have a plastic 14’ 6” canoe (Pelican, with the ash seats / thwart etc…)...

FWIW, I found that for solo paddling, I tend to sit on a dry bag stuffed with whatever is comfy under the backside… Coolers work too, but tend to put your center of gravity up too high…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 2906 days

#5 posted 05-14-2010 09:29 PM

One beautiful boat! I used to earn a living building boats, so I can appreciate the work and effort. Man, this is touching a soft spot, maybe should change careers again!!

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3551 days

#6 posted 05-14-2010 09:52 PM

That is some canoe absolutely wonderful.Out of a point of interest since these types of canoes are more or less non existant in the uk,what would such a craft cost to buy new from a retailer? It must be many thousands surely and worth every penny.kindest regards and well done once again.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Woodcanuck's profile


128 posts in 2966 days

#7 posted 05-14-2010 10:14 PM

Alistair – Thanks for the kind words. The guy who ‘guided’ me through the process used to sell them starting at around $3000-$4000 (Canadian) each, but went up as high as 8 or 9 thousand depending on how much custom work was required.

Canoes of varying quality are rather easy to find here in Canada, but you do get what you pay for. Big heavy plastic canoes are cheap to get and cheap cheap cheap! The canoe enthusiasts today would probably go with a kevlar canoe, but I personally find their hulls too bouncy. On a long trip across a big lake you lose a lot of energy to the hull flexing. They are very light and tough though…typically under 50lbs. (vs 65+lbs for cedar/fiberglass)

If you’re keenly interested in finding canoes in the UK, let me know. My brother lives in England and has sourced canoes and canoing gear somewhere near Cambridge, I can get the details if you want them.

-- Ian - Life's a game, if you don't play, you can't win.

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