It’s exactly a year since I started building my wooden canoe. It was supposed to be launched in the spring, to be followed by a summer of idyllic days out on a succession of rivers and lakes. If there is one thing I should have learned from my year at IBTC, it is that anything to do with wooden boats takes a lot longer than you think it’s going to. After 3 months it looked like a boat; since then I’ve just been ‘finishing it off’. But that’s the bit that takes the time.
It is said that the art produced in many cultures contains deliberate imperfections as only god can be perfect. I haven’t had to worry about where to introduce imperfections into my canoe, as despite aiming at perfection, they have frequently found their way in. The weekend before last I thought i’d finished the last components, two curved ash trim pieces for the edges of the decks. These trim pieces are a good example of why wooden boats take so long to make. Starting with a lump of ash, they had to be sawn to length, planed to thickness, routered to profile, steamed to fit the curve of the deck and secured in position when they dried out. I was ready for a minor moment of celebration as I secured the second trim piece in place with my well-used g-clamps, but it turned into another mini-disaster as it started to split in two along its length. Another day lost in making a replacement, another lesson learned: making a spare at the same time as making the first two would have been quicker than starting from scratch. I’ve made a new one now, so the hull is now complete. Now I’ve just got to paint and varnish it; just finishing it off.