Thursday, July 24, 2014

Canoe Paddle I

     Years ago I made a canoe paddle out of an ash board left over from cabin building.  Good wood, bad paddle.  It was a club, pure and simple.  Didn't give it enough thought, research or time.  The poor paddle never had a chance.  Since then it has evolved into a decoration above the shed doors up north.  Good spot for it.
     That the first one didn't work out hasn't stopped me from considering a second one, also from ash. So that's why I was up in the garage rafters yesterday rummaging through leftover boards.  I knew there were some old ash boards up there.  From down below both appeared straight grained and true.  I was wrong.  The grain was fine but both boards looked like they were halfway through a left hand turn and stopped by heavy traffic.  Guess things happen over three decades.
     Lucky for me I'm a scrounger.  Hate to part with a buck or a board if I don't have to.  The wood also carries some meaning in my life.  If I make a paddle, and I will, it'll be from those boards.  The trees they were sawn from were felled by a good friend of mine who passed away a few years ago.  Without his help and a few of his tools the boards would never have come to be.  It'd be nice to have a little bit of his labor in my hands once in a while particularly when the paddle is in places he'd have enjoyed.
     Friday July 25:  This morning I ripped the boards into inch and a quarter strips.  Two five footers for the handle, eight two footers for the blade and grip.  The paddle will be laminated from necessity and with a bonus of strength.  Another friend of mine said I make little boards out of big boards then put them back together in a different shape.  As yet I don't know what the paddle style will be but it will look like something.  Maybe another club.  Hope not.
     Saturday July 26:  The glue has been applied and some of the clamping done.  The two side pieces of the blade are individually clamped as is the shaft.  When the glue dries all three pieces will be joined and a couple of small pieces added to the top of the shaft where the grip will eventually be.  I finally bit the bullet and went for Gorilla Glue since it's waterproof.  Don't want the paddle coming apart out in the boonies.  Doubt I'd get stranded but it sure would be embarrassing.  Tomorrow I'll set the result aside till I bring a beavertail paddle home from the cabin.  The beavertail will serve as a template to trace out the new paddle.
     Evening:  All the wood is glued and clamped.  At the moment she's a real club.  Or maybe a heavy duty pizza paddle.
     Sunday July 27:  No paddle work today.  Happily there's a canoe rack needs building.  I'd had a homemade one on my Jeep.  It was spiffy.  Worked fine at speeds up to eighty miles per hour.  The new rack will be similar but this time made from oak.  The boards came from the same source as the paddle ash.  They'd been sitting in the garage rafters for all of the twenty-seven years we've lived in this house.  Still rough sawn and dirty.  Each had been odd man out at the saw mill and weren't thick enough to plane to a smooth three quarters of an inch.  Pulled them down, ripped them at an inch and a half and hand planed them smooth.  They'll be glued in pairs and joined to form a strong and attractive frame.  At least I hope that's the way it'll work out.
     Honestly, I was hoping this post wouldn't be as dull as it is.  Could be preparation isn't as enjoyable in the reading as it is in the doing.  Don't know about you but I'm having a good time.
     That I now have a September BWCA trip in the offing came as a surprise.  And added to my life.  The canoe trip and El Dean's big backside have given me new life and new projects.  Things to repair and prepare.  Not fading away as yet.
     I've even started to connive a possible Canada trip.  Of course it's only in my mind at the moment.  Over in The Uncle Emil Tales I wrote of a fictitious trip he and I took to an unnamed lake.  Our adventure never actually happened but the lake we travelled to is there, at least it is on the map.  In 2009 my son Allan and I crapped out on finding a way into the lake.  Ten yards of colorful tape instead of the hundred yards I thought I had did us in.  A real woodsman could have made it by simply using blazes and natural markers.  Truth is, the mile and a half bushwhack had me a little nervous.  I wrote the Uncle Emil story figuring the only way I'd make it to the unnamed lake was in my mind.  Fiction imitating life.  I'd like to turn that around.
     At the moment I'm off to the cabin with hopes of finding writing material.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hope Springs (along with potential injury)

     A couple of days ago I e-mailed my nephew Brian with the idea of a near future fishing trip.  These days I have to push myself to include others in my plans.  As I've gotten older it's become easier to not ask others and then whine about having to fish alone.  Brian and I had done earlier trips about twenty years ago and one last year.  Of the three early ones, two came off.  The second of the three was shut down when his four year old son broke his arm in a shopping accident.  The first involved an all day effort to find a camping spot.  The last was the infamous frozen out trip of '97.  All three had their problems but the first was definitely okay.
     In the e-mail I offered an anytime, anywhere proposition to include him saying no.  As it turned out he said yes and thought the BWCA sounded great.  Holey-moley.  Could it be?  I'm hoping.  And a little pumped.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Itching To Do Repairs

     A few entries back I'd mentioned a broken aluminum canoe mount.  Who can say for sure what caused a metal bar to snap?  But snap it did.  I'll leave it at that.  Figuring some kind of repair would be an improvement over using a five gallon bucket to sit on, even if it was only cosmetic,  I ripped down a few scraps of straight grained ash for a new frame.  The ash was left over from paneling and flooring the cabin back in the mid-80s.  Guess it was about as dry and ready as it was going to get.
     The tough part of the job was drilling out the old aluminum pipe frame.  By and large it went slowly and as well as could be expected when whacked at by an amateur.  No blood was spilled and no holes inadvertently punched in the side of the canoe.
     This stage was to be done at the cabin and required all of the tools to do the job right to be brought from home.  Done enough jury rigged affairs in the past to know good enough is sometimes not good enough.  Once in a while it's a pleasure to do a job not only adequately but esthetically pleasing.
      I'd ripped more than enough one by ones to cover any mistakes I might make.  Good thing I did.  Enough said.  All pieces were cut to size and drilled to fit.
     Having the patience to do the job right had a lot to do with having enough mosquito repellant to keep the beasts at bay.  Yeah, she's been a fertile year up north.  Oddly enough the predicted swarm of wood and deer ticks hasn't happened.  But the skeeters are a terror.  To do the job I'd mounted the canoe on saw horses, slathered myself down and fogged around the boat.  Not very organic but it more or less did the trick.
     Long story short, the frame sits at home in the garage with three coats of penetrating varnish rubbed into it.  A few more ought to do it.
     I'm not sure if the ash frame will be as strong as the aluminum one.  Perhaps El Dean and I will go with the Alumacraft next year.  It's not as sleek as the Wenonah but the front seat is industrially strong.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


     The zip isn't what it once was.  Hasn't been for a few years now.  What if my zest for fishing continues to decline?  Where does that leave me?  Been retired for close to five years and never figured this would happen.  I do enjoy my time on the water but not down here in the cities as much as up north.  All the gear stands ready but I'm not.  Seems like too much work to travel four blocks to water much less the trek to the north woods.  A ten foot, eight weight fly rod is now rigged as a spinning rod.  Has been for two weeks and I still have no idea if it will work.
     Don't want to think too deeply about it.  Thinking and fishing don't seem to go together.  A fish in the dark below the waves is more an emotional thing for me.  It speaks to me so long as my brain doesn't get in the way.  Guess I'm waiting for a little rekindling of zing.