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Working with Rawhide

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Pook, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    WCHA'ers!

    I inherited a late 1960's vintage 16 foot cedar canvas Langford canoe last summer. Its in good original condition but canvas will need replacement in a year or so.
    So far it's been to Algonquin and Georgian Bay and performed well except..
    the rawhide on the seats was completely dried out and the first time I knelt on the seat, I went right through.

    So for winter project I removed the seat frames and the dried Babiche. I've re-glued, sanded and varnished the frames. And I've found a source for rawhide lacing- Halfords in Edmonton.

    Now I'm looking for hints on working with rawhide. All I can find is that it needs to be soaked to become pliable- is that hot water? And how about lacing tension? KNowing that it will shrink somewhat as it dries how tight do I lace the seats? On the plus side the seats had a very simple lacing pattern which I'll try to emulate.

    Any hints please?

    Bruce
     

    Attached Files:

  2. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    You will soak your babiche in warm water for about an hour before you start lacing...test it when you think it's time to go.
    Your house/shop will smell like a road kill cafe while you work on this project. Keep it in water as you lace. Squeeze the water out as you use the strands (gently, just so it's not super wet and drippy as you work). Lace snugly but do not over-tighten. For a simple seat pattern it should not take you too long to finish.
    Unlike lacing with nylon, babiche tightens a lot as it dries. Once dry you will want to varnish it to keep it from getting wet and re-stretching. Don't be shy with the varnish but don't let it drip off the lacing.
    A key thing you need to know from your source...has it been pre-stretched or do you need to pull it to size?

    I've been putting off doing some shoes I made frames for...maybe this is motivation...nah...
     
  3. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Rawhide things to know:

    (1) Rawhide lacing is often available in either full grain or split grain. For splits they actually split the split leathers into layers. Full grain (in both tanned leather and rawhide) is better and stronger, and what you want for seat lacing. "Split grain" usually means that somebody else got the good part.

    (2) You can soak it for a few hours if needed to get it good and soft, but don't overdo it. If you soak it overnight it usually gets a really nasty dead animal smell that you really do not want to experience.

    (3) There is a top side with smooth grain on every strip of rawhide. As you weave it, you want to maintain those sides as the visible top side that you will be sitting on.

    (4) As it dries completely and shrinks up tight, the strands will tend to curl a bit. Their cut edges can get pretty sharp and actually be abrasive on your pants on long trips. Once you are sure it is dry, take a piece of fine sandpaper, run your hand over the strips to feel for sharp spots and then ease any sharp corners a little bit with the sandpaper. It's a bit more work, but well worth doing. Your pants will thank you.

    p.s. There are much better, more complex but not a heck of a lot more difficult to weave than what you have weaving patterns. They would be both stronger and a lot more resistant to stretching than what you are showing. It would be worth doing a bit of research on them.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Brilliant advice MGC and Todd.

    Many thanks especially for the "dead animal smell" hints. As its well below zero in Edmonton this was going to be my Saturday project in the basement- I'm now thinking it may be better in gloves in the garage!

    An d to both your questions 1. How do I know if it is pre- stretched? No indication on the bundle. Or on the buin I took it from.
    2. And how to tell full grain from split grain? Is it obvious? The stuff I bought looks very similar in size and composition to what I removed.

    So many questions...

    Bruce
     
  5. OP
    OP
    Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    And answered my own questions with a quick call to Halfords directly.

    1. Not pre stretched. So I need to stretch it some?
    2. This is full grain rawhide.

    Bruce
     
  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I have never pre-stretched any of mine, or ever heard anything about doing so from the companies I bought it from. Mine usually came from either Vermont Tubbs or Snocraft, which were the major US rawhide snowshoe makers and I had dealerships for their products.
     
  7. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    This is the weave in my WW....not sure if it's the same as yours but I figure if it was good enough for him it ought to fine for the rest of us mortals.
    Cell Phone 120.JPG
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Beautiful!
    The pattern is very similar, the weave identical.
    Only difference is that lacing holes in seat frame are not offset like yours; mine are all in a straight line.

    Bruce
     
  9. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    This is the most common pattern for canoe seats, snowshoe furniture, and the center section of snowshoes where they need to hold a lot of weight with minimal stretching. Intersections involve three strands, rather than just two. I have seen it done both where the ends wrap around the frame like this, or with lacing holes in the frame that the strands pass through. You lace by following the numbers, which seems a bit crazy when you first start, but soon begins to show the pattern.

    Capture.JPG
     
    MGC likes this.
  10. ticonderoga

    ticonderoga "Just one more"

    I have used the above pattern for a few canoe seats DSC_0292.JPG IMG_1007.JPG as well as for my snowshoes. I find that by treating the babiche with equal parts varnish, mineral spirits and turpentine, I prevent much water absorption as well as getting a more pliable/softer feel to the seat.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. OP
    OP
    Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Todd, Ticonderoga!

    Wonderful information and patterns- and great work.
    Mike Elliott has similar pattern in his "This old Canoe" book.

    As I'd like to keep the l;acing as close as possible AND this is my first attempt , I'm going to replicate the the straight overlap pattern that I removed. The next set of seats though...


    Many thanks!
    Bruce
     

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