Birch Bark Canoe build 4, setting out and stitching the bark

So now the build starts in earnest. We laid out the rolls of bark that we collected last week, sorting the pieces and deciding how to get the best from them. Jarrod has a building board which raises the bed 18″ off the floor and gives a level bed to measure and work from. IMG_0052There is a great amount of thought at this stage weighing up which piece to use for the which part of the canoe, we have a good amount of bark and it can be stitched together but some are wider and lesser quality, others narrower but better. Some is thicker which will stretch less at the latter stage which will have a major effect on the finished  design of the canoe. A little like working with green wood which will shrink Jarrod has to guess how much the stretch will be amongst many other variables in order to get sweet lines in the finished canoe.
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Having made the decisions about which piece of bark to go where we start cutting and where the pieces overlap the join is cut as a scarf with the crooked knife. These joints will not be stitched they are held tight by tension and will be sealed over with the spruce tar mix.
IMG_0068Jarrod has several frames which give the base plan for different sizes of canoe. We are going to build a 14 foot Abenaki style canoe. The frame is laid over the bark and weighed down with heavy rocks.
IMG_0082Boiling water is poured around the outer edges of the frame, this is where the bark with fold up to make the sides of the canoe. We build with a flat bottom and vertical sides then late on in the process the frames are hammered in to stretch the bark into the finished shape.
IMG_0110The bark becomes pliable with heat and is bent upwards, jarrod is forming the crease at the end where it would be easy to crack the bark without care.
IMG_0113The ends are clamped and the sides held upward with vertical sticks pushed through holes in the building board.
IMG_0119This is how it looks at the end of the day.IMG_0127

Now we set out a fair line along the side and cut off the excess bark.
IMG_0148Then we add in extra pieces of bark along the top edge, these are called the gore panels. At first they are just pinned in temporarily.
IMG_0201Next up is stitching so we take out the spruce root that we collected and dressed before, this has been soaking in a bucket of water.IMG_0023
We use saddle stitch piercing the bark with a triangular awl.
IMG_0155The root is a joy to use.
IMG_0177Here is a finished section.IMG_0199Now back to the build site more soon.

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One Response to Birch Bark Canoe build 4, setting out and stitching the bark

  1. Brian Keogh June 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Really enjoy watching the building process of the bark canoe. Thanks for the great photos and descriptions.

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