Sunday, 28 August 2016

Seeking Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration

Once in a while I like to take on a project and last time I got inspired by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall's a Cook on the Wild Side, and specifically an episode about a Coracle boat, so I built one. That led to being inspired to build a canoe after watching a programme with Ray Mears about building a Birch Bark Canoe.

When building something I never do it the same as someone else so things get done my way, with the design evolving out of my head as I go along.

This time I'm trying to inspire myself by building another canoe only this time based upon my canvas Coracle but having the shape of a canoe. A canvas covered canoe. Nothing new, it's been done before, but not by me, and I'll be making it up as I go along. All based upon pictures of what other people have done plus by reviewing my own creations to give me the confidence to just have a go.

Last time, in 2012, I built a Coracle just to see if I could and to see if I had what it takes to start a project and finish it. Once I had proved to my self that I could do it I then moved on to the canoe. I get a lot of enjoyment out of reviewing photos as it brings back all the memories needed to motivate me. Before building the Coracle I had never made anything out of wood / material before. 

The Coracle started life as one piece of 3 or 4 mm Plywood. Cheap internal grade stuff just cut into strips and woven together to form a basket. The pieces needed to be steamed in order to bend them carefully into shape. The steamer was nothing more than one you may have seen for steam cleaning your kitchen, hand held with a nozzle that pumped out steam.

Before long it started to look like a basket. A simple seat was added.
Glued together, varnished to make it a bit more able to handle water.
Wrapped in canvas.
Painted with Bitchumen paint.
A long paddle was made and then it was tested. Very difficult to drive in a straight line but mission accomplished!

Next the canoe. A bit more adventurous, all made from 5 planks of wood sawn into strips and glued together with the basic shape made by bending the wood around "formers".
I forget how many strips where glued together but 70 or 80. The boat is made upside down at this stage.
The bottom was built up.
Heavily Varnished to make it waterproof.
The Varnish gave it a nice golden colour. 14 foot long with a front and rear deck with a little door inserted so that I could attach an electric motor should I desire.
A few more photos because I think it looks good.
My attempt at an arty shot :)
And of course the maiden voyage! It worked perfectly but the main problem was the weight. Although I could lift it above my head in order to put it on and off of the car it was 96 lb in weight and age is catching up with me hence the need to make another one but much lighter. A canvas covered one that should be half the weight.
As much as I liked it, storing it was a problem and living out doors it started to buckle so I gave it away to a friend who still uses it but has a barn to keep it in.

The canvas one will have to be a bit shorter, maybe 12ft long, without decks.

The thing that has stopped me from making a canvas canoe has been the price of water proofing the canvas with the proper stuff, the name of which escapes me, and Bitchumen paint gets sticky and black doesn't look good, but recently I've read about someone who uses exterior grade green paint to seal the canvas with which sounds like a far better alternative.

The wooden canoe took about 300 hours, many beers, but was under £120. A canvas canoe will hopefully be around the same price.

I think I've inspired myself enough now to make a start!


  1. "Once in a while I like to take on a project." Wow, you certainly do. The wooden canoe looks amazing and I'm sure the canvas canoe will be great too. I recently came across a post you might like – about an artist who turned a desk, computer and business suit into a sea kayak.

    1. That's a bit too hardcore recycling for me! Nice idea though.

  2. I agree - the wooden canoe looks good enough to sell. Have you considered canoe-building as a way to supplement your market stall income? I wish I had better woodwork skills - the best I can manage is screwing together bits of wood into rectangle shapes to make raised beds, arches, and hopefully (in the near future) cold frames. Did you teach yourself how to do these things?