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Rawhide/Babiche Canoe Seat

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by greatlakes, Oct 13, 2020.

  1. greatlakes

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    After doing several seats in hand-woven cane -- some of you folks shamed me a long time ago into doing my own rather than using pre-woven -- I've decided to try doing my last canoe seats in rawhide.
    All I can find is full/split grain lacing that has a brown color like any hide would do. Can someone recommend a source for very light babiche that would end like the seat I have below? Thank you in advance.

  2. Gary

    Gary Canoe Grampa

    Hi Frank, not sure if you can order from the States but its worth a try. Here is a link to where I get my babiche here in Canada,
    I use the 5mm thickness but yours looks wider, perhaps the 10mm? 15 meters does a stern seat and 20 meters a bow seat, you'll have to guess for what your doing perhaps 2 15 meter bundles?
    Here is a picture of my seats using this babiche so you can compare for colour, it looks close to me.
    Good luck, Gary

    Attached Files:

  3. OP

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Gary, I spoke with those at you referred me to and they have exactly what I need and they will ship to me in Michigan. The seats I will be working on are much smaller than the chair I attached to my query, so the thinner lacing may be appropriate. Thank you very much for your help. Regards. Frank
  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Things to keep in mind.......
    (1) Do not soak rawhide longer than around 24 hours maximum. If you do, you will probably get to experience a dead animal smell that you won't soon forget. :eek: In most cases, a lot less time is required to get it soft and workable.
    (2) There is an "up" side and a "down" side to rawhide lace, and it will dry with a slight curl to it. The hair side (up side) has a smoother surface and you want that surface up on your seat. The other side will have a rougher texture.
    (3) You may also want to ease the corners of some of the rawhide strips a bit once it is all in place and has shrunken down to its final shape and before varnishing. When it dries, the edges can get pretty sharp and abrasive. On one week-long Quetico trip with rawhide seats (Vermont Tubbs) my bowman and I both wore holes in the seats of fairly new Levis, from the abrasive edges of the rawhide lacing. A quick once-over with fine sandpaper, just on the strip edges looking for sharp spots before varnishing would likely have prevented the problem.
    (4) You will probably need to plan some splices into the pattern. This is not a big deal. You make 1/2" lengthwise slits near the ends of two strips of lacing and pass each one through the other. You do, however, want to make sure that the splices are located in places where they won't be poking you. Sometimes this can mean cutting a couple of inches off of a strip in order to locate the finished splice under the frame or in another inconspicuous spot.
    Rob Stevens likes this.
  5. Gary

    Gary Canoe Grampa

    Todd makes all very good points above and I'd add that I usually only have to soak it for a couple of hours in warm water before its is workable, then keep the water handy so when working with long lengths you can dip it back in to help ease it through the over under weave. When it begins to dry it sticks, so just drop it back in the water occasionally. Mike Elliott in his book "This Old Canoe" has excellent instructions and pictures of a typical weave pattern for canoe seats.
    Have fun, Gary
  6. OP

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you for all those fine points, Todd Bradshaw. I will certainly take your advice on all of them. I surely don't want to end up with a dead, rotten animal aroma in my place!

    Thank you, again, Gary. Base on the comments above ref. length of soaking, what I plan to do is to check for workability/suppleness every hour of so and take it out as soon as I feel it's ready for me to work with it. I'll keep the 2-hour soaking in mind you recommend. I did buy Elliott's book particularly for the seat weaving chapter that includes detailed instructions on the rawhide use. He does, however, states to soak it for 'several" hours. That leaves it for us to figure out how many depending on the condition of the material we end up with.
    I'm looking forward to giving it a try.
    Again, thank you both, and best regards.

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