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