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Wood for guide boat ribs

Discussion in 'Adirondack Guideboats' started by Gary Jacuk, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So I'm the new guy starting my first guide boat and am looking for opinions (I know everybody's got one) on alternate wood for laminated ribs. Spruce (sitka) is rare and very expensive, like $10.00bf here on the west coast and most, if not all, construction lumber is doug fir. I'm wondering if anyone has used alternative woods for making ribs? What has worked for you? It would be a shame to put all the effort into making ribs and find they are inferior, so I'm looking for a bit of help and advice.
    I found a site called Workshop Companion (sorry I can't post a link) with a chart comparing various woods and one wood which compared very favorably to spruce was poplar !! Anybody have any thoughts?
    Thanks.
     
  2. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So here's the info I found on the two woods, sitka and poplar, and according to these numbers, the two are almost identical in properties. Significantly different in price and availability.

    Wood Specific Gravity Compression strength Bending strength Stiffness Hardness

    Sitka

    Spruce 0.40 5.61 10,200 1.57 510


    Poplar 0.42 5.54 10100 1.58 540

    I made a sample rib of poplar and am sending it off to someone who can compare it to a spruce rib and see how it stacks up. It's a number 8 rib for a 16 foot boat and weighed in at an amazing 2.25 ounces. Very stiff, but the laminating and epoxy probably contribute significantly to that. Still seems very fragile to someone not familiar with such things
    My opinion is that the only drawback is tradition......"They've always had spruce ribs". Much like acoustic guitars have almost always have spruce tops. So the saga continues.
     
  3. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    Gary,
    Your post dwelled without any responses...that's unfortunate. The obvious question that was never asked is what are you building? A guideboat built in the traditional way is constructed with spruce knees.... the spruce is selected from root/tree base stock and then sawn to shape.
    If you are building a modern version of a guide boat laminating it to fabricate the ribs the wood selection seems less relevant in which case popler is probably fine..
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    MGC,
    I'm going to build a modern version of a guide boat and was looking for feedback on alternative materials like poplar. I made a poplar laminated rib and it compares very favorably with spruce, so I will go ahead with using that. You are correct in that with laminated ribs the ribs they are probably as strong as spruce ribs cut from stumps, perhaps stronger. So then it becomes a matter of tradition in using the original materials.
    I live in an area where cedar is plentiful and have managed to hook up with a fellow who has a sawmill, some nice, dry cedar logs and is willing to work with me on cutting lumber for making strips. Should be interesting.
    Going to turn this into a build thread and document things along the way. Hope you all find it of interest.
     
  5. OP
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    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So progress is being made on the boat. Using John Michne's book (which is available on Amazon) I was able to use the CAD drawings and have a full size set of plans for the ribs and stems printed. Then off to the bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander to cut out patterns and make up forms for laminating the ribs.....lots of patterns and forms and lots of dust! I also got some flatsawn 8/4 poplar and back to the bandsaw and drum sander to make 2" x 1/8" x 32" strips for laminating. Cutting the poplar from the edge gives me quarter sawn strips which bend more easily and uniformaly as I learned in a recent adventure into luthiery. I was able to use a hot pipe that was used to bend guitar sides to heat the strips and form them to the bending forms, relieving at least some of the stress on the glue joints. Pretty easy to do once you get a feel for the wood releasing. And no sawdust !!! Soon some actual rib blanks.

    A little background. I'm what you would call in the skiing world terms an "advanced intermediate" when it comes to woodworking. Got a nice, if messy, shop and some decent tools accumulated over the last 40 years. My interest in guideboats comes from the fact I grew up in upstate New York and was reminded of these wonderful boats on a visit to the Adirondack Museum a few years back. Now retired in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California with time and a strong interest to be creative and challenged by a project...I think this is a good choice.
    As soon as I'm off probation I'll post some pictures of the progress.
     
  6. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So I'm back. Been busy "cooking ribs" you might say. After a 100+ strips and 1.5 quarts of epoxy I now have 17 rib blanks ready to be sliced and diced. Someone on another forum said that "making the ribs is project in and of itself" and all I can say is that's for sure. All went well, not perfection, but pretty darn well. I could only do 2 blanks a day due to clamp restrictions so it took a while. And since this is a non traditional boat, I added a walnut strip to each blank as an accent. Looks pretty nice on one blank. A whole boat full may end up looking like a zebra!! Oh well, that's why they invented paint. Next up is the stems, the bottom board (1"x 10"x 16' clear pine boards are not too common but I found one), and the work platform. Some pictures now that I'm off probation. The finished rib blanks, my trusty bending pipe, rib patterns, and bending forms.



    P1090573.JPG P1090575.JPG P1090560.JPG P1090563.JPG
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Did ya miss me? More progress being made in spite of a cold epidemic here at home.
    So I got all the ribs cut and sanded to 5/16ths and a couple of inner stems also made and all goes well. My big lesson learned was that sanding or planing the strips to be laminated as smooth as possible (150 or 180 grit) makes the glue lines less noticeable. Also, made a couple of accent strips for the boat by laminating some poplar, walnut and snakewood strips I had around the shop. Working 18' strips alone is a challenge of it's own kind. Kind of like a mouse trying to move a strand of cooked spaghetti by himself! Going to be interesting cutting and shaping all those strips. Also spent some time putting together the work stand to build the boat on.

    EVEN A BLIND HOG GETS AN ACORN ONCE IN A WHILE STORY
    So, part of my time has been spent trying to find stock for the strips. 18 foot clear redwood or cedar is not very common around here. I found one place about 2 hours away that had 1 x 6 x 18' clear heart redwood and was prepared to make the drive. Talking with my friend Ken about the boat one day he said he had some old redwood siding at his house I was welcome to use. Eventually I get around to going over to take a look and about fell over. He had 5 - 18' and 5 - 16' pieces of clear heart redwood vertical grain 1 x 10 lap siding that had been milled in the 1950's up in the heart of redwood country. Wood of this quality is just not even available today, it is just spectacular. I almost feel guilty using it for my amateurish attempt. A bit nerve wracking putting it to the saw, but I will do my very best.
    Pictures:
    My bucket of ribs.....extra crispy
    Accent strips awaiting a boat
    The special redwood score
    "Only" a 16 footer
    Check out the grain count
     

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    Dave Wermuth likes this.
  8. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Okay, so I’m making some progress on my first boat. Got the bottom board cut and beveled according to my pattern. What I learned is that the ribs and the bottom board are a system that needs to match up. I took my bottom board pattern from the Durant book with a small modification and used the rib patterns provided by John Michne. But they didn’t match up, probably because of some error on my part. Matching up the center lines on a pair of 0 ribs comes to 8.5 inches wide, while the Durant pattern for the bottom board, with a bit of modification is 8.75 inches wide. Hmmmmmm. I chose to ignore the center line marking on the ribs and place them where they matched the bevel. Should be okay as I “mocked up” half a dozen ribs and it seemed to look just fine.

    Spent a goodly amount of time cutting strips and picking small redwood splinters out of my hands. Ended up with 46 full length (18 foot) strips and a bunch of 16 footers that will need to be scarfed……and this is where I hit a snag. Titebond III does not bond this old redwood!! Apparently the tannins cause a problem with the glue and the scarf joints I’ve tried just fall apart, even after 24 drying time. Research shows that wiping with acetone will help and I’m currently giving that a try. Film at 11. I wouldn’t mind doing the scarfs with epoxy (which is what I used on the bottom board) but I’m not so sure about having to do all the cove and bead joints on the strips that way. Yikes!

    Anyone have any experience overcoming this problem, or with an epoxy thin enough to be applied with a syringe? HELP!!

    With epoxy’s slow set up time, this will turn this into a loooooong project if it is what I end up using. We’ll see, but my faith in Titebond III is somewhat shaken at this point and I’m not sure what I can do. We’ll see.


    The bottom board
    The aftermath of the striping marathon.
    Old and new redwood. Old on the right.
    My favorite beveling tool, the trusty four in hand. Comfortable and not overly aggressive.
     

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  9. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    For those of you keeping score, it's redwood 1 titebond 0. Wiping with acetone had little or no effect on the bonding so I've been going the epoxy route to make the scarf joints. Every titebond joint came apart as if it was glue starved and with it's quick set up time I didn't think I could let the joint soak up glue for a while and the come back and add glue for a better bond. I know in luthiery, once titebond has set up, the only way to reglue a joint is to remove all the titebond and start over. Ah well...... I had 40 some full length strip, and I've glued up 3 or 4 a day so I'm up to 61 strips so far. Using a heat lamp and I can get the epoxy to set up in 3 or 4 hours, which speeds things up a bit. Just another 10 or so to go. Going to start hanging ribs on the bottom board in the next day or two and routing coves and beads on the strips when I need a break.
     
  10. OP
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    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Just a quick bit. There is something about the lines and all the ribs that is just so appealing to me in a lot of ways. Started hanging ribs on the bottom board and the lines they create just do something for me that is hard to describe. To me one of these boats without the ribs might just as well be a Coleman tupperware canoe (The only other boat I've ever owned, by the way).
     

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  11. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    50 years ago (hard to believe) a friend of mine and I were able to get our hands on similar quality vintage redwood. We built two canoes with it. I still have a few remaining pieces of planking gathering dust in the garage. I don't often work on OT's and the Carleton I have in queue won't need any planking so it could be around for a while longer.
    I don't generally share CL listings but this one isn't for a boat. The knees could be useful for a future build. The traditional materials can be hard to come by.
    https://fingerlakes.craigslist.org/bpo/d/waterloo-wooden-canoe-building-materials/6858695660.html
     
    Gary Jacuk likes this.
  12. OP
    OP
    Gary Jacuk

    Gary Jacuk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Finally, I get to start using up all these parts I've been working on!!
     

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