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Fitting replacement ribs

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Tim Belcher, Apr 21, 2021.

  1. Tim Belcher

    Tim Belcher Apprentice

    I steamed my first rib and clamped it around the outside of the hull a few ribs over from where it needs to go and left it for a few days. It's just a little off from the shape of the hull where it needs to go. I'm wondering what to do with it. I could press it into place with weights and clamps and then clinch it, or re-soak and re-steam it and then fit it in the spot where it will go, perhaps pressing it and clamping it. A related question: other than using weights, how would I press the middle of a rib into the hull to hold it in place while I work on it?
  2. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Well... here's what I do. When pre-bending, the rib's inner side lies against the outside planking, but when installed this side lies against the inner rail. So while the new rib is steaming I go to where the old rib was located on the canoe and measure the distance between the inner rails to get the rib's tip-to-tip distance. Then I look for the first rib where the outside-to-outside planking distance is less than the distance I measured. This is where I want to pre-bend. For most cases this pre-bend spot is just 1 or 2 ribs away, but may not so for ribs near the stem.

    When pre-bending I let the new rib sit in place only for 5 or 10 minutes before wrestling it into its new position. I always try to work while the rib is still wet, hot, and pliable - I even have boiling water available to pour on the rib while I press it to conform in its final position. Also, before I get serious about positioning the new rib I place a flat board under the canoe so that I don't warp the hull's shape by pressing down too hard while getting the rib to conform.

    O - I also like to have the new rib soak in water for several to 24 hours before steaming.
    JClearwater and Tim Belcher like this.
  3. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson Lifetime member

    If you have any of the planking off you can try something like this. 2390B01D-4165-4953-8729-FBE450CD3ADB.jpeg
    Tim Belcher and Rob Stevens like this.
  4. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    I would soak and steam again. My procedure is to soak overnight, steam and bend the rib over the hull, allow to dry overnight, insert rib. The location of the steamed rib over the hull is determined by measuring the beam outside the inwales , and wrapping the rib around the outside of the hull at that exact beam. Of course, this will be outside the planking. Allow to dry overnight with enough weight to keep the rib flush with the hull. Full paint cans work . Hand sand the new rib and install. If the measurements were accurate, the rib will fit almost perfectly.
    I try to always have 2 original ribs between the new ribs being installed. On a major restoration, it is not uncommon to take 3 or 4 days to replace all of the broken ribs.
  5. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Tim, for the one that you have already shaped, work it in were it belongs and then nail the rib to one (not both) inside rail with your ring nails. Use a spring clamp to hold it in place on the other rail. Make sure it in the position you want it in before you nail it but don't get super fussy since you will be trimming it even with the rail when it's in position.
    Simply work your way down the rib clinching and tacking as you go. Hold your clinching iron tight against the rib and the rib will pull in to the planking. Once you get to the bottom of the boat you can go to the other rail and reset your clamp while pushing down on the top of the rib to get it to follow the shape of the hull. Keep clinching and tacking your way to the other rail. Once you are in the right neighborhood you can hammer in your ring nails.
    Tim Belcher and Dave Wermuth like this.
  6. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    good helpful advice here. Now all you have to do is dive in and try your best. Keeping the rib flat to planking and not making lumps is the goal. I start at the center and work toward the rails. clamps are usefull. If you nail the rib to the inwales first you risk a misfit.
    Tim Belcher and MGC like this.
  7. David Satter

    David Satter LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I usually center it with a weight. Then push it down into the curve and clamp it to the inwale. Then do the other side. It's usually a couple of times doing that till I get it where it wants to be. and yes if theirs one spot that just wont conform. Take it out , wrap that section in a towel and pour a kettle of boiling water on it for a few minutes and try again.
    JClearwater and Tim Belcher like this.
  8. OP
    Tim Belcher

    Tim Belcher Apprentice

    You guys are great. This all really helpful. I especially like that everyone on this site has a slightly different approach to almost every problem. I appreciate your willingness to share.
  9. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I was thinking the same after I saw Gil's reply that he must have been typing while I was doing mine. Every one of us has shared a method that works and that we use. If this tells you one thing it is that this is neither an exact science or a process that requires hyper-specific methods for success. What you will eventually experience is that you will need to adapt your approach for each canoe. Restoration is a bit like building a puzzle that is missing a few pieces. Take note of one point that Gill made that is really good to know. You can shoot a shaped rib back into your steamer and re-bend it. If you ever form a fresh rib on the hull upside down (don't ask how I know) you'll find that to be useful knowledge.
    Tim Belcher and Dave Wermuth like this.
  10. 1905Gerrish

    1905Gerrish Loves Old Maine canoes

    All your questions were mine at one time. My father and I started bending ribs in place after some experimenting and have continued for 15 years or so now. No more having to re-bend a not so perfect bent rib and waste time. Most of the time they are bent in place on the floor and a c clamped once center is found. Very little hull distortion being placed on the floor. Being forced and tacked will lead to hull distortion. Certainly much easier to do on open wale canoes and a bit harder on close wale canoes.
    Dave Wermuth likes this.

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