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 Post subject: Building Scherzo
PostPosted: August 10th, 2007, 5:37 pm 
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Hello, folks.

I've been away for awhile at a boat building class. The class was in lapstrake canoe construction (ala 19th century Adirondack/Rushton/Nessmuk) and it centered on making a copy of a very special boat named "Scherzo". The original is now 118 years old and is still in fine shape. She was made in 1889 as a "one off" design by the St. Lawrence River Canoe and Skiff Co. in Clayton, New York. For over fifty years it was assumed that she was built in the Rushton shop in Canton, N.Y. because the original owner wanted so much to have a genuine Rushton boat that he removed her maker's plaque. Finally, the original brass plate that once graced her bow was discovered and her true identity was revealed. Just recently, she was gifted to Geoff Burke after he suggested that he could teach others to make "babies" from her original lines. This was his third class involving the reproduction of this boat.

It was an awesome experience. I got to paddle the original "Scherzo" and it is a very nice boat. I can't compare it with other double paddle boats because I've had very little experience with that style of paddling, but I will say that it could achieve a cruising speed rather effortlessly and get there very quickly.

Geoff Burke has been making small lapstrake boats for 25 years and he proved to be a great teacher, clear in his explanations and extremely skilled with his hands as well as knowledgeable about the history of lapstrake boats.

Lapstrake construction is at least a few thousands years old, and reached its height with the Viking ships over a thousand years ago. Geoff claims that there is research on lapstrakes that shows that there is air trapped under the laps while the boat is underway, and that this actually reduces the friction on the hull, thereby making them faster. I haven't read that research, but I will say that I was very surprised how fast that little 12'10" canoe can go. It is also a fairly high capacity canoe for its size, and it only weighs 38# to boot. Most of all, though, the boat just has a certain rightness to it, a kind of good vibe that's hard to describe.

We started out by "lofting" (drawing in three dimensions) the entire boat on two sheets of 1/4" ply painted white. We referred to the lofting constantly during construction, occasionally "taking off" shapes for the various parts and then laying them down to see if they matched the original drawing. I was amazed how much that helped in understanding how the boat went together. Most of the fitting work was done with a dozuki saw, a block plane and a razor sharp 2" chisel.

After we "got out" the stems from a natural tamarack root bend and attached them to the pine keel (creating an assembly known as the "backbone"), we "spiled" (transferred) the first plank (called the "garboard") shape with the help of a little wooden device that Geoff whimsically shaped like a fish. After the garboard was attached to the backbone, we spiled each succeeding plank shape from the inside edge of the preceding plank directly onto a piece of scrap planking known as a "spiling batten", then got the planks widths from the "lining marks" Geoff had previously drawn on the station molds. After that we drove nails through the spiling batten and into the cedar board, then we "connected the dots" with a pencil line drawn along a long piece of spruce (an ordinary "batten") that was laid against the nails and drew the plank outlines only after everyone agreed that the lines were sweet looking and "fair". It was amazing to see how a 1/16" tweak (a "dyte") at the end of the spruce batten (coupled with Geoff's experienced eye) could sweeten up a line like magic.

When we were all satisfied, we "struck" (drew) the lines and cut out the shape (usually very weird looking until we got it wrapped around the molds and fastened to the previous plank) on the band saw, then back in to fair it up with the block plane. When it was sweet looking and fair (no lumps or flat spots anywhere) we split it into two slices on the band saw and then planed both planks to 1/4" thick with a planer (these were the only operations where we used machines). Tapered cuts were made in the ends in order to blend in the thicknesses, then the plank was fastened to the previous plank with 5/8" canoe tacks bent over inside the hull with a steel block. This action is all that is needed to keep the planks together and watertight. No glue is used (although the ends are "bedded" and screwed into the stems for security. Each set of matched planks took almost a whole day, but a lot of that time was spent getting instructional talks and demonstrations.

Finally, on Wednesday of the second week we had her all planked, and on Thursday we got out all the ribs and got them bent into the hull. On Friday, we had a flurry of activity fitting the gunwales, breasthooks and thwarts, but the near 100 degree temps and high humidity had us beat and we realized that we weren't going to get her all done by the end.

The boat was to be raffled off to a lucky student at the end, and Nancy Jerome (who gifted the original to Geoff) was on hand to draw the lucky 1 x 3" cedar chip from a box. And the winner was...

Moi.

Ya, she's sitting out under my canopy right now, awaiting the finishing touches.

Rolf and Deb Kraiker were in our area last weekend and stopped in for a visit. Rolf said the canoe reminded him very much of a cedar-strip Peterborough he has (lucky Rolf). Small wonder, since you can practically spit on Clayton from Peterborough. He applied some finishing touches to the gunwales, and in doing so, added a little bit of his own spirit to "Scherzo 9".

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: August 10th, 2007, 6:21 pm 
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Joined: January 29th, 2007, 10:19 am
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Location: Just outside the Blue Line
Here's some pics of my canoe in progress:

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Backbone assembly set up on molds.



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Garboard plank is clamped and ready to be bedded and screwed in place (get yer minds out of the gutter, guys!)



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Hood end of garboard ready for fitting to stem.


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Garboard end fitted and pre-drilled.



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The strange shape of the broad strake (one next to garboard) as it lies on the bench awaiting end bevels (gains) to be cut. After it folds onto the hull it looks normal.


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Planking went quickly once we got the hang of it. The ugly brown stuff is 3M 5200, an industrial strength bedding compound used to seat the delicate gains at the planks ends.. Be nice if the stuff came in attractive colors.


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Upside down view allows seeing the flow of the lines (we used a mirror held at eyebrow level).


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Scherzo 9 shows off her beautiful lines.


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She's finally all planked and ready to turn over. Sheer strake (plank nearest to gunwale) in an awesome piece of cherry for contrast. The original was all Northern White cedar.

From left are James, Ben, Dale, Geoff, Patrick and myself. The two youngsters worked hard. They were a change from the crop of geezers like myself who usually dominate these types of classes.


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Ribs gotten out and ready to bend into hull.


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Patrick bends in ribs while we clamp them in place.


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She's all ribbed out and ready for the gunwales.


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Scherzo 9 as I took her home. From left are Ben, Patrick, Dale, Geoff and Nancy Jerome (who drew my lucky fid). Absent are James and the lucky winner (who was holding the camera).

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: August 20th, 2007, 9:18 am 
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Joined: March 5th, 2007, 9:53 am
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Location: Belleville, ON
Nice lines... Very nice looking.

The ribs are probably necessary with an unglued planking system like was used. If the planks were glued, you could probably do away with the ribs.

Glad you enjoyed the class. I guess this maybe means you won't need to build/buy a solo for the missus now... :D

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PostPosted: August 20th, 2007, 1:15 pm 
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Location: Saskatoon
Wow. Thanks for that post & congratulations!
Cheers,
Bryan

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: August 21st, 2007, 12:56 pm 
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Joined: January 29th, 2007, 10:19 am
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Rapt wrote:
Nice lines... Very nice looking.

The ribs are probably necessary with an unglued planking system like was used. If the planks were glued, you could probably do away with the ribs.

Glad you enjoyed the class. I guess this maybe means you won't need to build/buy a solo for the missus now... :D


Thanks Rapt and Bryan. Yeah, it's a sweet looking boat. Geoff has an unbelievable eye for fair lines, and it's really his boat...made with his eye and our hands.

Ribs would definitely be needed even if the laps were glued. The flex of an unribbed hull would cause the unsupported planks to crack, most likely right at the glue lines. Doing without the ribs is only possible with the use of marine ply instead of cedar, a construction method Geoff unaffectionately calls "crapstrake".

I don't share his disdain for glued ply, but there is definitely something going on with Northern white cedar from a builder's viewpoint. It's a marvelous wood to work with and it cuts like butter (smells yummy too, unlike Western red). It is one of the lightest woods known, it's very strong and quite durable as far as rot goes. It would outlast marine Okume (rated by Lloyds as only moderately durable) by a stretch in the same environment. And, of course, it will never de-laminate. :wink: I love Joel White's Shearwater and many of Iain Oughtred's designs for glued lapstrake, but I will go to the time and expense to do them in traditional cedar if I ever make one of them. And if I ever do build a stripper, I would like to use Northern white cedar and go to the trouble of making tons of scarfs just to get the lighter, stronger wood.

It's a lot cheaper, too, as cheap as $1.50 Bd/Ft for 4/4 live edge planks.

As far as the ribs go, they don't add that much weight. This same boat in marine ply glued lapstrake construction would probably weigh in at about 30-35#. The original Scherzo weighs 38#, oversize thwarts and all (a few pounds more could be shed by slightly thinner planking, ash ribs and gunwales and a lighter breasthook material). Plus, I think the ribs look awesome, and they are never felt underneath since there will be a bottom board covering the user's seating area.

Incidentally, Nancy Jerome, Scherzo's owner for over 60 years, said she also owns one of the Tom Hill's Charlotte canoes and she says it can't hold a candle to Scherzo in the performance department. Geoff said he routinely paddles her against tandem canoes and they can't significantly outdistance him.

As far as Mrs. BK goes, she'll have to wait until my eye heals (injured it bad :cry: last week in a stupid table saw kickback incident, ALWAYS wear the safety goggles) to finish it, but I gave it to her when I got home (the most expensive gift I've ever give her, Geoff gets $6000 for the same canoe) and I just might build another for myself when I'm up and on my feet..

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