A small group of enthusiasts approached MAKLab to help in the creation of this beautifully crafted canoe. This was assisted by our Technical Director, Alan Rochead. He's usually at home around the really big, noisy, dangerous, fun machines at MAKLab. This is the story behind who made the canoe and how:
We’re a group of four; my wife Ewelina and two friends of ours Adam and Jess and I [Daniel]. Hopefully doing them justice and in terms of their experience that relates to this project:
Ewelina is very crafty - she loves making, including sewing and hand-made organic cosmetics and can lend her hand to anything with great success.
Adam is an architect. Currently working in Broughty Ferry he is well practiced at thinking through and managing several related facets of a project at once.
Jess is an artist and gallery technician. Jess has picked up tons of knowledge and interesting ways of working with her experience working on extremely varied creative projects.
I’m a product design graduate and a (not currently) high school teacher with some basic wood working knowledge and experience in making prototypes for uni. I also have a small amount of professional product design experience.
Adam owns a book on making larger wooden sail boats as one of those ‘one-day’ kind of things (I have no doubt it will happen…). It got us talking about the feasibility of such an ambitious project which was low at this point since we had no direct experience. Jess however had grown up on a Native American reservation that is home to the Makah tribe, a whaling community indigenous to the area. The ability to make different types of canoe was a highly valued skill within the Makah - enough so that it was taught in her woodwork class at high school (Jess, incidentally is not Makah). I think because of this we decided on a canoe, a more modest starting point, specifically a strip canoe since it seemed like such a fascinating process and just because the end result looks so good. The other main enabling factor is the willingness for sharing knowledge within the making community online through specialist forums and youtube.
Luckily, Adam and Jess’ house has a disproportionately large front room as used to be a high street bank, complete with vault. We built it there with about 15 cm to spare either end of the canoe and strong back when it was being stored.
After deciding we’d undertake the, what seemed, fairly mammoth task of making our own canoe we bought a book which had plans for several canoes and a step-by-step guide on the build process.
The plans consist of evenly spaced cross-sections; known as ‘stations’ these cross-sections are mounted on a torsion box which is also known as a strong back. This entire assembly provides a dimensionally stable form on which to lay across 16x6mm strips of cedarwhich forms 95% of the canoe. We wanted to produce the stations quickly and accurately, and specifically out ply (man-made boards don’t warp over time).
To achieve this we scanned our plans and traced them in Rhino. In the Rhino file we then had everything we needed to cut out the stations on one of the CNC Routers in the Commerce Street workshop.This was an important part of the process because it saved us time and no doubt a few headaches worrying about cutting them out with a jigsaw accurately and uniformly. Converting the plans into a Rhino file also afforded us the opportunity to visualise what the final craft would look like as a 3D model. We didn’t but had we needed to use it to discuss the finer points of the design it could have easily served as a time saver; making changes or assessing material (therefor costing) needs.
Ten subsequent weekends saw us laying out the strips along our stations until we had the shape of a canoe. we sanded down the interior and exterior surfaces and applied a coat of epoxy on both sides. To finish the canoe we used ash, which is a beautiful almost white and very dense hardwood, to make the seats, yolk and gunwales.
We love this, an amazing piece of craft in Scotland. We were glad to be apart of this and maybe it'll inspire someone else to have a go at that big project they've been debating about but never got around to.
Thank you Daniel, Happy Paddling.