Tom Huang – Studio Projects

Progress on the Bamboo Canoe
October 8, 2009, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Bamboo Canoe

Before I continue further into sharing my progress and process on the Bamboo Canoe, I need to state that most of my construction process is informed by Ted Moore’s fantastic book, “Canoe Craft”.  In it, he does a very comprehensive job of describing the process of building a cedar strip canoe.  It has been highly valuable in this journey, and I fully recommend it if you are considering building a canoe of your own. He includes information on how specific aspects of a canoe’s design perform in the water, and he touches upon the canoes’s rich history.  He also describes several different models and includes brief descriptions.

My canoe is modeled after the Rob Roy (a solo, double-paddle canoe) that is described in his book.  I chose this form for two different reasons.  First, I already have  an Old Town 164 (a 16′-4″ tandem canoe), I don’t need another tandem.  And second, because of the form’s history.  As Ted Moore’s describes,

…the origin of the Rob Roy goes back to England and the mid 1800’s. John MacGregor, after seeing our native birch bark canoes and the Eskimo kayak, designed his idea of an efficient cruising canoe, calling it the Rob Roy. Typical of this type of solo canoe were: length 12′ to 15′, propelled with a double blade paddle from a sitting position and often rigged for sail. Early American canoe builders like J. Henry Rushton and W.P. Stephens were influenced by this style.”

For me, the fact that this form evolved from MacGregor’s cross-cultural experience is highly significant.  In introducing a material (bamboo) that has such strong cultural connotations, I feel that I’m adding to the forms cross-cultural lineage.

After the planking is completed, the high spots or ridges are taken down with a block plane, spoke shave or sander.  Because the grain of bamboo moves outward at each node, both planes and spoke shaves have a tendency to tear the fibers out.  Fortunately, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship (CFC) has a Lie Nielson Scraper Plane.  It is an absolute joy to use.  After scraping, the hull is sanded and “faired” to produce an even surfaced hull.

Scraping the hull

Scraping the hull

Amazing tool

Amazing tool

Fairing to a smooth surface

Fairing to a smooth surface

The next step is to fiberglass the hull…


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