Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7 (Part 1)

Day 7 was the final day of Woodlore’s first ever Birch Bark Canoe Building Course and, as you might expect, was full of both tense and joyous moments.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

The first major task was the fitting of two cedar caps; these full-length top plates sit above the inwales and outwales, and protect the root stitching underneath when paddling. The challenge lies in successfully bending these panels to fit the curvature of the canoe and this is achieved by soaking them in boiling water.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

 

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

After patiently bending the first cap into place, everyone’s fears were realised as a loud cracking sound marked a clean break in the middle of the wood. It was hard not to be disappointed but, as Pinock calmly explained, there is never a guarantee of avoiding these problems when working with natural materials.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

So, as the group set to work on fitting the second cap, Ray stepped in and swiftly carved a new plate to replace the broken one.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Throughout the course of the day, the pre-shaped ribs were gradually knocked into place, filling out the belly of the canoe and giving the craft a stunning appearance.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

It was then a case of sealing any gaps to make the craft watertight, using a technique known as gumming. A mixture of fat and spruce resin was heated over the campfire, until a rich brown liquid was produced. This was then applied liberally to all the seams and holes created in the building of the canoe.

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

 

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7

Visit the blog tomorrow for the finale of this momentous course, and the unveiling of the finished canoe.

About Woodlore Team

Woodlore, The School of Wilderness Bushcraft, was founded in 1983 by the British Bushcraft expert Ray Mears.
This entry was posted in Bushcraft Courses, Ray Mears. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Birch Bark Canoe Building with Ray Mears and Pinock Smith – Day 7 (Part 1)

  1. David Southey says:

    Looks absolutely fantastic, what a learning experience to be a part of.

  2. jenny woodfield says:

    Yes it was an amazing week. Pinock Smith is a patient, mild-mannered, humorous and skilled teacher. A unique individual, whom I have great respect and affection for. He made the week a memorable, exciting and never to be forgotten experience.

  3. Katie says:

    Ah, thank God for gumming. And, for the quick and skillful hands of Ray to be able to create a new plate on the fly. Every handmade canoe is a as unique as a fingerprint – every quirk and mar tells the story of its journey of creation. I own 2 myself. One of them is nearly 50 years old (and has seen a fair bit of gumming!)
    Your craft is stunning. A testament to your sweat, splinters, and sore joints! Hopefully everyone in the course has visitation privileges :).

  4. jenny woodfield says:

    Sadly, no mention of visitation privileges. At the end of the course it was strapped to the roof of Ray’s landrover and whisked off somewhere. We all got to try it out on the lake for a few minutes though.

    • Hi Jenny and Katie. Rest assured, the canoe is being carefully looked after and maintained by our team. Throughout September and October, it will tour the UK as part of Ray’s lecture tour, giving thousands of people the chance to see it.

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