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Fairing Question

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by ssommers, May 3, 2005.

  1. ssommers

    ssommers Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    As of the last year, I have been constructing an Atkinson Traveller Form and canoe, purchased in kit form, from Rollin Thurlow. A group of my Eighth Grade students have helped helped along the way, as well. Rollin has been an invaluable aid, via email, in coaching me through various steps---and the form is nearing completion. Rather than hammering Rollin with further questions, I thought I might ask the canoe building community some of these questions as the answers might help other struggling amateurs like myself.

    First of all, is there a detailed book about the process of producing accurate forms? I have poured over the chapters in Rollin's and Jerry Stelmok's books--but I have specific questions that might be addressed---such as: how do you accurately fair a completed form? What is your favorite fairing tool? Any tips in this process that you have developed that you might share?

    I have just joined the WHCA and I am proudly wearing a t-shirt bearing (our) group's insignia. Any help with my fairing ponderings would be appreciated. ---Sam
  2. Woodchuck

    Woodchuck Woodworker


    Hey Sam... The last sentence looks like bribery... You just joined and are wearing a T-shirt, send me help! Just kidding... GREAT QUESTION... I'm in the slow process of building a stipper but yours is such a basic question that it never gets asked. Even though it doesn't apply to a stripper, I'll be looking for a good reply just like you. :) CYA, Joe
  3. cbntmkr

    cbntmkr Canoeist, Scouter

    Hey Guys, I have yet to start fairing my canoe, but what I intend on using is a long plastic sander I picked up at my local auto body store. It is about 16" long and 3" wide. it is fairly flexable in the long way but not across the 3". It is used to sand autobady work when a "straight" curved appearance is required. I have used this successfully on several curved projects with amazing results. It also has two handles on it like a jack plane so is really easy to use with little fatigue. Hope this helps.
  4. sumpscot

    sumpscot Curious about Wooden Canoes


    The long-board, like the auto body one mentioned, is a traditional tool for this. Its a sweat inducing tool but you can't screw up with it like you can with a scraper. Do the big obvious mounds with the scraper then move to the long board. A golden rule I have found in the trades ,as far as critical tolerance and perfectionism goes, is that if your work doesn't piss off the next guy in the process you're probably okay. This applies equally when you are the next guy . Keep moving around the boat and try to see it in different light angles as that will show you more of the totality. It just has to take the canvas fairly, but the paint job will show hard plank lines in a most unforgiving way. And of course by then its too late. Take YOUR time.
  5. cbntmkr

    cbntmkr Canoeist, Scouter

    Thanx for clearing up the name of the tool. I have had it for quite a while now and never knew what it was called.
  6. Mark Adams

    Mark Adams all wood nut

    I used....

    I used a block plane first and then a longboard sander with 36 grit paper. I wasn't really concerned with the looks of the form (the scratches) but rather the fairness. The block plane got rid of all the angles formed by the strips and the sander smoothed everything out. I then totally saturated it with linseed oil before I put the bands on. It is STILL thirsty for oil and it has been 6 years since I built the form.

  7. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

    As you can tell from these posts, fairing is more of an art than an exact science. The accuaracy of your form depends on the care you used in shaping the stations and in taking care as you attached the strips. Fairing just refers to making nice smooth curves with no waves or bumps. The sweat producing 36 grit long sanding board with good stout handles does the job nicely and the advice given here should get you through the job without any serious problems. In addition to looking at the form with various incidents of light, trust your hands. You can tell a good bit by running your hands over the form as the work progresses.
  8. OP

    ssommers Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    many thanks

    Thank all of you for the information. Fairing does seem to ultimately reside in the realm of art. Many of your comments have already focused my thinking from the general head scratching of a neophite encountering an art to particular ways--and tools--into the fairing process. A few moments ago I had a quite lengthy email quoting many of you and thanking you for particular comments but rather than that I will say:

    Hey, I still have on my Wooden Canoe Heritage T-shirt and I am grateful to be joining this group. ---Sam
  9. Paul Scheuer

    Paul Scheuer LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Mark Adams said "...with 36 grit paper". That's probably the key. Don't be timid. You want to knock off the high spots not smooth up the low spots
  10. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    ...and don't forget that the best results from long-boarding on curved, boat-shaped surfaces are often obtained by moving the board diagonally, rather than fore and aft or crosswise to the keel line. Take it easy though with coarse grits as deep diagonal or cross-grain scratches can take a lot of further sanding and/or wood removal to clean up in cases where you're shooting for a smooth final surface.
  11. anthony

    anthony Arrowslinger

    well, question was on fairing form not canoe but input on both is good! Not trying to be smart...just pointing out we have ideas on form fairing and canoe fairing.
  12. OP

    ssommers Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    yes, I got in trouble moving parallel to the keeline

    yes, I did get into trouble fairing parallel to the keeline. So much so that I had to replace several ribbands that I had inadvertantly slightly flattened in the quarters. It seems that the quarters are where careful deliberate work is most needed.

    I got some fair results by using circular motions with the block plane, cutting on the radious of the stroke that is diagonal to the keel-line. This was a completely intuitive approach and the second half of the planing stroke is really not cutting but a recovery for the next stroke. Sort of like a circular stroke with a canvas mit that I employed to fill a canvas skin some years ago.

    I wonder if anyone has experienced or observed the following: In the quarters, I discovered right in the quarters that there is one ribband where the hull definitely "turns the corner" if you will. To my mind the ribbands from the stealers to this point at mid-quarters depart from the horizontal plane. Then there is this ribband--some of which references some of its contour from the horizontal and some of which references its line from the vertical plane toward the sheer. Once I observed this point the gradations from horizontal to vertical seemed more incremental and deliberate, rather than some undefined curved quarters with no reference points. While planing now I use each preceding ribband as a sort of "shooting board" {would that be a correct metaphor} and once I get to this critical turning point I reference my planing from the sheer inward. Anyone discover this, or some observations of this ilk that make fairing more a process and less guesswork?

    The tool that I have been using was given to me by my brother-in-law who is a professional cabinet worker. He had a fourteen or fifteen inch---hundred year old plane that is one step shorter than a jointer plane. He tuned it to a razor sharp edge and though I had been block planing for a couple of weeks this tool really has gotten the work going much more consistently. The block plane seemed to follow every scollop and miniscule rise. Anyone else use a long plane like this? For me it works quite well on the diagonal when tuned nicely.

    All this said, this is all simply following my intuition. None of this may have much merit for the traditional way of doing things. As I said, I have ruined five or six good ribbands spanning both sides, before taking a step back, milling more ribbands, and starting over. So again, please send ideas that have worked for you. And incidentally, I won't be so verbose next time.
  13. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Anthony, Other than amount of final surface smoothness desired (as I mentioned relative to grit) there really isn't much difference between hull fairing and form fairing. Diagonal long-boarding is still the standard traditional technique for achieving a truly fair shape, especially in wood where different planks, ribbands, stringers, veneer, strips or what have you all have slightly different grain, hardness and resistance to sanding. The best way to avoid making dips is to cross the softer areas with the helpful support of their neighbors, rather than run the length of them, magnifying the fact that they may sand easier or faster than surrounding material. It may even be more important for forms than hulls. One lumpy hull is just that. A lumpy form can make lots of lumpy hulls.
  14. Charlie Franks

    Charlie Franks Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Jamestown Distributors carries a nice longboard fairing tool, if you don't find one locally. They have a couple styles; the one that flexes is the one I find most useful.
  15. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder


    I made my own "tool" / holder. I saw the "plan" someplace, it's not mine.
    It is just a 3/4 board with a couple 2x ends and 3-4" long, 1 end is loose and held in with a stop. The tricky part is making the end height or total length such that it accepts a std sanding belt. I use a 6" by 36". With this tool I can either sand with a hard surface backing the sand "paper" to get high spots or the other side where the "paper" "floats" to sand curves.

  16. anthony

    anthony Arrowslinger

    Todd.thanks for input.I was refering to an earlier idea where someone had initailly block plained the high points of form where strips butt together,then finished with different grits on longboard.wouldn't want someone block planing their canoe by mistake..planking is thin enough already... ;)
  17. Paul Scheuer

    Paul Scheuer LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I've never tried this, but I'll toss the idea out anyway.

    The car guys, the really good ones, do the final fairing with the work painted gloss black. Every imperfection shows up starkly. Moveable lights also help to show irregularites while they can still be fixed.

    I'm not suggesting that the form, or boat, be painted gloss black, but how about stretching a sheet of lawn bag or similar stretchy dark plastic over the surface being faired.

    I'll try it, first chance I get, and let you know.
  18. Lew's Canoes

    Lew's Canoes Canoe Builder

    Alex Comb, from Stewart River Boatworks, produced and sells a nice video on form building - I found it to be a great addition to the written chapters in the Thurlow/Stelmonk books. You can find his website in the Builders directory of the WCHA website. The device I found most useful for fairing my form was a 4" x 48" sanding belt (40 grit), cut across, with wooden handles attached at each end. With a partner, you draw the belt back and forth - it will nicely follow most of the shapes and curves, and it will cut very quickly! Plan to work outside ( if you can move your form) or wear a mask or respirator. I followed up with a random orbital sander and some hand sanding, but the big belt did 95% of the work.
  19. OP

    ssommers Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you all for these bits of information. Now I have access to a "long board" maker, a video, numerous ideas and insights. I can't thank you enough. I will send a picture in fairly short order...fair enough....fairwell. Jeez, I still have on my new t-shirt. no kidding. ---Sam

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