Friday, December 3, 2010

Tippecanoe (no Tyler) II

Well, I have done enough miniature plane work (nonsense. I am rebuilding the rabbet plane now) so it is time to return to Tippecanoe, or Tip for short. My digression with planes was due to the fact that I had to plane the ribs of the canoe to 1x3 mm. This is kinda small. As it turned out, the only way to get the ribs in place is to steam them. The evolved procedure is (1) make a paper pattern. This will give you the right length. Otherwise you will have to take out and recut (and worse, put in) the silly things until they snap into place. Paper is much easier to do than strips of wood. (2) Rig a steamer. My steamer is a piece of plastic pipe with a wire-mesh plug (keep the strips out of the water) stuck into my teakettle. Works. (3) Extract the strip from the steamer. Very hot. Try to pre-bend it. (4) With tweezers and a hemostat get the rib placed. This is an exercise in patience. Being springy it loves to spring out; start all over. (5) Be high-tech. Anchor it with super glue. Forget regular glue. Takes too long to dry.
Above, Tip's ribs are in place. I have made two thwarts -- all canoes have thwarts, and some people sit on them, but long ago I learned to kneel to paddle a canoe. After that, it is all needlework. I made a curved needle for the purpose; I heated it and bent it (if you do that cold, it will break!). So I had a U-shaped needle. Don't need it amidships, but you sure do at bow and stern. After that, it's all stitching. I finally got smart and anchored the stiches with superglue. Tip has about a dollar's worth of superglue in him.
There he is, complete with paddle. The tools of the trade lie about. You can just see the curved needle stuck in the spool of thread.

I was trying to learn how a birchbark canoe is put together and I learned a good deal. Tip's bottom is far from flat. I did not use a bottom former, so Tip would float but not be too stable. The next canoe model will try to account for this, bottom former and all. But it's all good fun, except when your rib snaps out after you have put it in. I wonder how you say %^&_%** in Ojibway?

My troubles are not unique. Dr. C. Nepean Longridge built a 1/4 scale model of the Victory, Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar (preserved at Portsmouth UK). He wrote a book on it, The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships, which I have (q.g.). It took him 12,000 hours or so. The model is some 7 ft long; over 2 meters. And even on such a monster, he had a lot of troubles! The book is wonderful, jam-packed with tips and tricks, and withal very modest. The trouble is that our fingers are not to scale!

And as a final note on the marvels of modern marketing, hemostats (made in Pakistan) are available at Wal-Mart. Yes, Wal-Mart. You have to go to the fishing section, where you find them sold at $3.50, labeled "fly-tying pliers." Sure. I have to tie some flies this winter too. Hemostats will come in very handy.

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