Once the last seams in the hull were sewn up last week, they were caulked from the inside. All the seams will be finished from the outside with pitch during the final stages. In the meantime, we have had several class visits in the woodshop to learn about the canoe project and Ojibwe culture. Wayne brought several ENVISION students with him from Lac du Flambeau today to help out. Wayne started the day with an inspiring lesson, which got everyone excited to begin work today on the canoe’s ribs.
Work began by dousing the canoe with boiling water to hydrate and soften the birchbark. ENVISION students lent a hand in giving the canoe a sponge bath. Temporary spacers were then placed flat into the bed of the canoe, to help displace the pressure as the ribs were added. Inserting the ribs is a delicate step, as they stretch and shape the hull of the canoe. Whereas previously the canoe had a flat bottom, the ribs give the canoe it’s final shape: an elegant rounded hull that is streamline and efficient in the water. To form the ribs to the hull, Wayne will stand on the ribs in the canoe. For this step, he wears moccasins to make sure he doesn’t slip on the wet wood.
The ribs are prepared with steam and boiling water to make them pliable enough to bend into shape. Then they are placed into the canoe. The fit has to be flush. Wayne stood on the ribs, forcing them into place, while helpers lifted the sides of the canoe and tacked the ribs into place. The canoe had to be rehydrated often while working. Beginning from the center and working out to the ends, the canoe took new form. As the hull stretched, the bow and stern lifted off the ground with grace. That’s what Wayne calls lift-off time.
Once all the ribs were in, clamps and braces were put on to make sure that all of the ribs and the canoe retain their shape while drying without slipping whatsoever. To let the canoe dry into its new shape and to let the ribs do their work, the canoe was hoisted off the ground and suspended from ropes. It was a long day, with lots of good help that brought us a long step forward with the canoe.
Watch a video synopsis of the work, with a final summary by Wayne.