Paddling through Prehistory Pt. 3

It was all hands to the deck  over the last couple of Wednesdays, as work raced on with the canoe. The first task, now the canoe was back the right way up, was to begin hewing and trimming the sides of the boat. This was quite an important part of the build, as getting the angle right is absolutely crucial- fail on this point and the canoe will just want to roll over in the water.

In order to get the two sides straight, we ran a string line up the length of the vessel in such a way as to remove all the sap wood, but not too much heartwood that we end up compromising on the width of the boat. Removal of sapwood is another important feature. Lying just below the inner bark, the sapwood is the most susceptible part of the tree to disease, rot and insect attack. Once we had sorted this aspect out, we ran another two string lines parallel to the outer edge and about two thumb widths in, giving us our initial side-thickness. With this in place, we could begin hollowing the beast out.
Working wood in this way would have come completely naturally to our ancestors roaming the Levels back in Prehistory, to us however, it was a mission of trial, error, blisters and aching arms. We discovered the most efficient way of removing wood from inside the boat was by chopping big v-shaped gob cuts with the axe at regular intervals along the length of the vessel, then hack the bits left standing proud with a small adze. This allows big chunks of oak to literally peel off. It took quite a lot of blood and sweat to learn that little titbit though…

As the hollowing got deeper, we utilised another prehistoric technological technique to ensure we don’t accidentally go to thin on the base. This involved augering out a series of small holes through the bottom of the boat (it felt soooo wrong!), filling them with crushed charcoal and then plugging them with wooden pegs. This meant that as we worked our way down, as soon as we see the hole and the black charcoal spewing forth we know we’ve gone far enough.

 Its feeling a little bit like a hard slog, but we are nearing completion (as long as no one mentions the big crack!!!).

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