Friday, December 23, 2011

Fixing the Bell

Winter is here!  It's quite obvious from the snow and the cold but more importantly it's time to work on a canoe!  It seems that that is when I end up working on boats instead of the summer months when I have too many other projects going.

This new project is a hull that belongs to a friend.  It's a Bell Wildfire that got toasted on the Soucook River here in New Hampshire.  Scottb somehow managed to catch a submerged log and got all twisted up in it.  It was a good snag as I wouldn't call it a pin.  A thwart got ripped out on one side and the aluminum gunwales took a beating as a result.

Here's a few pictures to show how she looks now.

A few new bends, looks like a Jenson!
There used to be a thwart there, Fugly ain't it?

Crinkle in the gunwale

I have several schools of thoughts on the repairs but am holding off on taking actions until I have consulted with a few of the canoeing gurus.  This could be an interesting project and good learning curve!

More to Come!

December 29, 2011

Even though it has turned out to be this coldest day of this winter so far I felt a need to start looking at the Bell again.  The first thing I needed to do was get the float bags out and that meant undoing the ropes and pulling them out of the hull as well as removing the floatbags.

I ended up having to cut some of the knots out to get the rope going through the holes in the hull.  Some of it was real shit but there is still a lot of good stuff that can be used later on if need be.  I will say there was an interesting swarm of knots on the stern end of the boat.  I gave up after a while, you probably would as well and I wonder about knot tying skills, although I suck at tying them myself!

Gotta love a knot like this!
As I started pulling out the bow lines I came across where the power of the water during the pin had ripped, literally, through the hull.  The power of water never ceases to amaze me.

Oh Crap!

A good 1/2 inch that will need to be repaired.  G-Flex is my friend.

I had to tug for at least three minutes to pull the rope back to the original hole from where it had torn forward through the hull.  Amazing shit!

When I pulled the front, longer, float bag out you could hear the ice rattling around in the bag so ya know it's toasted.  I'll be interested to look for the puncture if I can find it.  I got the back bag out and noticed the D-ring on the bottom of the hull was peeled about half way up and wondered if that was from the event?

Peeled Up

Looks like a replacement is in order and I think I have one sitting around somewhere that would work.  Of course that will become the elusive "where the F did I put that GD thing?" hunt and search mission!

The front one is seems to still be in good shape though and can be use again with no problems.  I tried to get my fingernail and knife blade under it to test it but it was solid as hell.  That's a good sign.

Solid and in good shape
I wanted to attempt a try at bending the gunwale back into shape where the front gunwale had ripped on one side.  I gathered some of the tools I thought that might do it.

Channel Locks, Vice Grips, wrenches

The bolt believe it not was not bent!  I thought for sure it would be twisted all to hell. Looks like it's going to be used again!  Using a cloth to protect the gunwale I used the channel locks to start bending the aluminum lining back down.  It was torn right through and I know that the thwart, if the gunwale can be saved, will have be moved either forward or back by at least an inch.

I put the cloth on the gunwale and slowly started pushing down with the channel locks moving about a quarter of an inch each way of the bend.  It slowly gave way and started pulling down.  By now my fingers were feeling like a piece of ice and burning with the cold.  I called it quits as the sun was setting.  I did notice though that the black covering of the gunwale is nothing more than a covering and that there is a lip that tucks into the aluminum part.  In this area it is now deformed and pulled away.  I am wondering if some heat would pull it back in but think not.

More to Come

New Year's Eve Day, 2011

I have been mulling this project over after looking the hull over time and again.  Today I decided that it really looked like if I popped off the decks I should be able to slide the black gunwale off the aluminum underside, so to speak and have access to the aluminum to bend stuff back to shape.

I called Scott and he confirmed that the black, vinyl covering should pop right off reveling the aluminum insert.  I drilled out the rivets for the deck plates, removing them, and two rivets at the end of the gunwale to hold it in place and all looked good.
Deck Plates Removed

The gunwale piece is a triangular shaped piece of plastic and the inside is where the rivet connects!

Rivets hold the inner side of the triangle in place
Yup, in order to get these off means drilling out the rivets and removing the gunwales altogether so the fix just became much more time consuming and difficult.

The culprits!
So now it is back to the drawing board and discussion making time.  I have a few thoughts that might pan out to make this easier but not as pretty as making new gunwales but would work I think.  Nothing is ever easy is it?

More to Come

January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I have spent more than a few hours looking this new problem over and believe that I have come up with a solution that may work as pulling the gunwales off is not an option to contend with at this point in time.  My thought is to replace the two thwarts that were in the hull, the bow one having to be moved up a bit if need be and then adding two more thwarts from there as well as the carry handles.  Now the reason for this is to try to pull the gunwales in and push them out at the places they need to be.

Now when I pulled the stern thwart off it was rotted to hell on one side but I think that there may be a chance to add some cloth and G-Flex to restore it but time will tell on that task.  The remaining three will have to come from leftover pile or be milled out which truly ain't a bad idea either.  What remains to be seen is how much cutting, pounding and pulling in has to be done.  I do know that there will be at least a dozen or so new rivets put in to it to help with that.

Placement of these thwarts is going to totally depend on where things need to get "twisted" and I'm sure that there will be a fair amount of walking back and forth to the chop saw to make that cut that is just a hair to long and I'm definitely planning on some new swear words! 

You may ask why the approach?  Well, the consensus is that even though the gunwales are a bit nasty they won't effect the performance of the hull and if so it will be so miniscule that it probably won't be noticed.   This coming weekend will be the test as to how it turns out or progresses.  Too damn cold out today to be doing nothing but hugging the woodstove!

More to Come

January 8, 2012

Back at it and I started with the aluminum work.  I have been looking at the aluminum inserts for where all the bends are.  In the stern I could see where it "seemed" to be bent out.  In fact it was just a rivet that had let loose and so that section of the gunwale was pulled out.

I used my deep throat clamp to pull in the aluminum so I could drill a few new holes.  Worked great!

Love these clamps
I spent a fair amount of time drilling that bugger out, I don't know if it was twisted but my drill bit kept binding up as I pushed in and the head did not spin off like usual.  In the end I pulled out my trusty needle nose vice grips and pulled the sucker out like a rotten tooth!  HA!  FU you bastard!  Damn how I do get pissed off at these hanger on's!

You can see where it's flared out
Stubborn Bugger but I WIN! HA!!
Next I started putting rivets in to pull the whole section back in.  It was a crap shoot because I had an assortment of rivets of course mixed all together.  Maybe someday I will get organized with those type of things.  I finally found enough of the same size to get it done and it pulled in nicely.

New Rivets in Place
What I can not figure out is why the black top piece will not fit back on as seen in the pic.  I tried bending the aluminum back up but that didn't do jack and the insert is flush with the hull.  If it was summer I would think that I could leave it in the sun and maybe it would pop back on.  Don't know for sure.  Also I am thinking that is just bent to hell. 

I wanted to start working on the thwarts and trying to place them so they would push and pull the gunwales back into a shape that was familiar.  I got out a tool I've never used before and it was great!

Now I got this from the better half who got it out of auction for a buck.  I have heard of these but never used one so of course had my doubts.  Damnation but it worked like a charm once I read the directions after about 10 minutes of dubbing with it and starting my usual string of cuss words.  Oh yeah, that's what that little wrench is for!  Now it works!

Amazing little strap!
In place and holding steady
Using some old junk 1x3's I began in the bow of the canoe and cut a 14" long piece to play with.  I have enough of the junk wood to keep moving up and down the hull to try this push and pull method of getting the gunwales back to a shape they once were in.

Spacer in the bow

Almost looks a little better!
I have no idea how this will pan out without a lot of jockeying wood around.  It sure as hell is an interesting experiment!  In the meantime I was wondering about that D-ring and pulling it off.  It was easy and came right off without a hitch.  Ugly thing it is all frozen up and twisted.

Spent D-Ring
I did spend a fair amount of time with my channel locks and vice grips getting the insert back to what you might call level from where it had torn out.  Sure as shit ain't going to be perfect but that's what tweaking it is all about.

Now here is one other thing I would like mention.  I have and use a variety of hand tools, I am sure most of us do.  Saws are one of the things that are most important and this saw I have is one of the best and best of all it was a gift!

Cuts great, nice and smooth and the teeth seem to keep an edge to them unlike any other handsaw I've ever owned.  Sweet tool!

More to Come

January 14, 2012

Back to work on the Wildfire.  I started by clamping down the thwart I had previously made, keep in mind that this all junk wood used as templates to try to get it back to a shape it once was and I wondered if the clamps would hold.  When I let loose the band clamp the clamps held and I left them as they were but I sure as hell kept a wary eye on them just waiting for them to let loose.  Damn things are deadly when they break loose!

I'll be damned!  They held!
I wanted to get the thwart in that was at the worst part of the bendage, is that a word, in front of the seat.  I eyeballed everything not trusting any kind of measurement and went for it, eyeball surgery!

I clamped a piece of wood onto the side with the bend and then stood back and tried to figure out how much I need to pull it in by cutting the thwart short.  I pushed and prodded, pulled and tugged just for the hell of it and got a rough idea of what needed to be done.  This is a crap shoot and I sure as hell am not gifted at this.

I moved it back toward the seat about an inch and a half to try to pull in the side where the aluminum insert had torn out.  This would still leave a cockpit area of roughly 27" compared to the 29" I measured out to the old screw holes.  I have an idea on how to add some space when it comes time to make new thwarts but that is for down the road.

I got the thwart in and clamped into place but I didn't dare let loose on the band clamp.  I need to get about four more of those as they work much better then a pipe clamp.  With pipe clamps I need to make a wedge for them to hold otherwise they slide right off.  I was lucky as hell that the gunwales on this canoe are as wide and thick as they are for my clamps to hold.

Next I moved to the bend in behind the seat.  More junk wood and rough measurements got me to about where I wanted it to be.  I sadly noticed that one side of the original bolt holes through the aluminum was trashed so I moved the thwart about an inch and a half toward the seat leaving a gap of about 11".  From the holes it was 14".  I marked everything with tape and labeled each of them.

Marking each measurement

So now I came to a quandary.  I really didn't want to take the band clamp off of the front because I don't have faith in the clamps keeping the thwart in place.  I tried to use a hunk of rope to pull it in and I was grinning as I thought it was working but when I ran my finger under where the wood and metal meets there was a gap so I know it isn't good.  Human strength vs mechanical, well there's a no brainier!  Another dumbass move but hell it was worth the try!

A sad attempt at pulling it together
Another View
So, the next step seems to be go buy some more band clamps as them seem to work the best and from there start milling out the thwarts that are needed to make this all come together.  Gotta love a challenge.  I want to get some measurements and then compare them to someone who has a Wildfire or something in the same design and get it close as possible but it sure as hell will have a few twisted as I'm learning that aluminum inserts are pretty unforgiving!

Some more pictures of clampage, is that a real word?:

Pull and Push is the Theme
Once this thwart is in place and the gunwales are pulled in a second thwart needs to be mounted towards the end of the canoe to push out the gunwale and that is just nothing more than just putting a piece of wood in and jockeying around to get a good width.

The carry handles will help as well and of course when the deck plates are put back on it will make this hull very strong.

An after thought from today's work, I didn't utter one swear word!  Gosh almighty I must getting soft!

More to Come

January 21, 2012

The snow began early but I thought it was a good day to go work on the Bell.  I wanted to place the last template thwart into place and get some measurements and square things off so I can start milling out some new thwarts.  In my last post I had tried to tie a rope on to the hull due to lack of a second band clamp.  I ended up tying it again in a different way and got the results I wanted.  From there I was able to start looking at getting that last thwart into place.

Last Blank in Place and the Clamps Held
 Now somewhere along the line I had riveted in the aluminum insert but the black covering didn't fit right.  I found as I messed around with the piece of wood I was using as the new thwart that the aluminum was bent in a bit, just enough so the plastic wouldn't cover it.  As soon as I pushed on it the covering came back into place so I decided that sure as shit that was were the thwart needed to go and as my luck went it was exactly where I needed to push the other side of the gunwale out!  Sometimes things work in ones favor, not often but I'll take what I can get!

As Soon As I Added Pressure The Covering Fit
 With clamps on all of the thwarts I decided to let loose the rope first and see what would happen.  DAMN IT the rear thwart closest to the seat let loose but the one closest to the stern held!

Off By More Then A Hair!
I then said the hell with it and let loose the band clamp on the thwart in front of the seat to see if would hold with the clamps.  It did so I moved the band clamp to the back thwart that was failing. 

Now here's one piece of advice that I'm sure anyone who uses straps with ratchets has had to deal with, do not get them twisted unless you want to spend a shit load of time trying to get it out of that ratchet setup!  I invented a new swear word today and I'm proud of it but can't post it here!  Twenty minutes later I was back in business and had the thwart in place. I know that that thwart will have to be the first one installed with the clamp in place.  I have been wondering about this and now it's apparent which is a good thing.

With all the thwarts in place I started measuring and taping them to even measurements.  I think it will work out fine as far as storing gear in between the thwarts.  Here's a diagram of how it came out.

The measurements on the right are thwart placement originating from the seat going to the bow and stern as the arrows represent.  The measurements on the left represent the spacing between the thwarts which does not include the carry handles or deck plates.  These are all measurements that involve the length of the hull and not the width.  That will have to come on another day.

Now after all this fussing around with now numb fingers, goddamn it's cold out, I can see one bend that is in the cockpit area that I would like to get out.  How?  I have no idea!  Yet another challenge.

Nice Bend Eh?
I am wondering if I drill out enough rivets before I put the thwarts in that maybe I can bend it in or maybe, just maybe cut a V to draw it in.  Pounding in from the outside ain't going accomplish a damn thing except to hurt the hull!  Hummm!  Time for more pondering!

Starting to look straight again, umm, kind of
The next step is to start milling out what is needed and I do love woodworking!  Nothing is better than the smell of fresh cut wood, making sure it fits and making it all work!  Life is Good!!

More To Come

January 22, 2012

I started on cutting the thwarts.  I decided to use one thwart that I had for the one in front of the seat.  I had mentioned that I thought Scott needed a little extra room as I had pulled the dimensions back by 2 inches.  Here's what I came up with but will leave it it up to Scott to decide because cutting out new thwart will be a no brainer.

Old but solid ash thwart
I had an old carry thwart that the ends were rotten on but the rest was solid.  Since the Bell is a narrow hull I knew I could cut this down and being the front thwart by the seat I figured that the bow would add a little bit of space.  I need to sand it down to get the scraps out of it but that is a quick fix.

Clamped in Place
I had to cut it down from 36" to about 20.5 inches and it fit like a charm.  Before I do any drilling I will measure and make sure it's all good.  I then found a thwart that I had used on my Malecite and wanting to cut down on any kind of extra weight I decided that the two extra thwarts should be made out of this cut down and rounded out ash.

Getting the ash ready for the cut, still need to get another band clamp
Done and clamped in to place
I know from having them on the Malecite for several years and a lot miles these are rugged despite not having a flared end.  I am also thinking that as these are just spacers to try to get the gunwales back to shape they don't need to be wide at the ends.  If that proves false it's easy enough to make some new ones. 

I moved on to the back thwart coming off of the seat and had the old one to trace out on a piece of ash a blank to work off of.  I added about an inch so I have room to play with when it comes to for placement.

I haven't neglected the carry handles and having a piece of Southern Yellow Pine I thought I could carve out two of those.  I've had a piece of untreated SYP on my Disco as the mast thwart for over 12 years so I know it is solid and good wood.  I think it will do fine.

Southern Yellow Pine and Bell's carry handles.
I got out my aging jigsaw, Sears 1994 model, and it decided to get an electrical problem.  Something in the cord.  One of the drawbacks of working in an unheated shed,.  Damnit!  I'm going to take all the wood to my work place where I can use a bandsaw and spend 10 minutes cutting these out and call it good.

More To Come

January 25, 2012

Ol' Scottb stopped by last night to look over the work on his canoe before I started milling and placing the thwarts!  I have to thank Erik for the taking time to take measurements for me on the width of his Yellowstone so I had something to compare to.

So during the course of the conversation comes up the spray covers he has!  Goddamn, I've only been looking at those damn button clips since I started and never thought once about that factor!  If you have a spray cover ya know if that you're off by a fraction of an inch it will be a struggle to get it on.  Now I have read that if one soaks the cover first it will stretch and as it dries will be tight enough to bounce a quarter off of.  Sometimes one doesn't have time for that.  Personally I couldn't tell you either side of the story as I don't have one.

Not sure how to proceed here.  I am thinking that the thwarts should be put on with what I have for measurements and then see how ill fitting the cover is.  From there we can modify the thwarts to meet the needs of the cover.  I just don't know how much that will draw in the hull as I have it pretty much straight as of now.

The kink between the seat and the first thwart is still an obstacle but Scott and I decided to leave it perhaps as a battle scar.  The rest seems to be ok.

So it is on to woodworking and treating of wood which will take a little time with an unheated workshop.

More To Come

January 26, 2012

Well after a conversation with Scott we've decided that he'll bring the spray cover up and after placing it on the hull we'll try to figure out the length of the thwarts before cutting and drilling them out.  Since it a two piece spray cover the plan is to leave the thwarts in from one side of the canoe and take out the others snapping on the spray cover.  I plan on using tape to mark below the snaps to the length of where the thwarts should be.  We should be able to make a measurement and adjust to the tension of the cover.

In the meantime I had a friend cut out the back thwart.  I need to round over the edges and then begin the now all to F'ing familiar task of sanding!  Hate doing it but love how it comes out!

Back to It!

More To Come

January 28, 2012

Today seemed like a fine day to do some woodwork, the sun was out, almost 42 degrees and I didn't need my gloves!  I wanted to get the thwarts ready for the final cuts and drilling.  I got the thwarts two at a time and spent some time routering the edges with a round over bit.  Now that bit is just a hair too small so to finish the round over I hand sanded them and got them as close to round as I could.

For the two additional thwarts I added I ended up using some oak that I got from a neighbor that I think will hold up fine.  It's thin enough of a cut that it doesn't add much weight.  I didn't cut any curves in them.  There's enough room for the bolts when we get the right measurements for the spray cover.  

For the front thwart I went with an old carry thwart I had around.  I had mentioned that I moved the thwart back a bit and thought this might give Scott a little more room.  I ain't saying his belly is big.  If I was doing this for Mr. McCrea I might say that! 

Ash Carry Thwart, a little scratched up and worn
I wanted to get this down to blonde again and my cure was my trusty old belt sander!  Since I have used that on the Courier for grinding off crap I have become aware of how useful this tool is if used carefully.  Little by little I got all the stain and varnish off.  Took a while but I think it was worth the effort.

Coming Clean
Gotta be Careful on those Round Overs
Done Deal
I took all the pieces and clamped them back into place and I thought that it looked pretty nice.  In the event that Scott isn't happy with the carry thwart I have a second thwart of the more traditional look.  I can cut this with enough width to drill through. 

The Standby. 
The Bow\
Cut to thwart that came with the canoe
Oak thwart wide enough for bolts, a twin on the bow

More To Come

February  3, 2012

Scott  came by last night with the spray cover.  I was pretty eager to see how it fit with the extra thwarts in.  On the way to the barn I said to Scott be careful of the ice and I launched.  Feet went right out from under my and the next thing you know is my head slammed down onto the ice and I saw stars!  What really mattered though was that I hurt ribs on my upper back.  I didn't realize this until later though.We started putting the cover on the hull but it was cold out and with a shed with no lights it was a hassle getting the snaps into place.

Putting the Spray Cover On

Moving From Side to Side Snapping It On

In the morning I wandered out to the shed and started snapping the cover on on just one side.  I had to stop when I came to the rope holding things taunt.  I have found with the snap system you really can't be off by more than a hair unless you want to have a fist fight with a snap!

I managed to snap on the cover until just before the seat.  Then I did the other side but kept about a snap behind.  I unclamped the forward thwart closest to the seat and I had play in it.  To me that is a good sign that there is room to figure out how stretched out the cover has to be and what we need to do for thwart length adjustments.  

I played around a little more but can easily see this a four handed job and I need Ol' Scott to help with this part.  He's frothing at the bit to get it all ready for his trip to the Everglades so Sat we'll be doing a bit of shop work.  More futzing around!

More To Come

February 4, 2012

I headed out to finish snapping on the entire spray cover.  It took some doing but I attribute that it being cold out.  I found a few places where snaps were missing but figured Scott could attend to those.  I did cut the more traditional thwart out after some careful measuring with the front cover on.

The Front Spray Cover On
The back spray cover went on much easier so I knew that the thwarts I made were of just the right length.  A good omen! 

Back Cover Snapped In to Place
The entire cover on and snapped into place
 Being a Bell and having a Cooke Custom Spray Cover really calls for all to work.  Fine boat and cover.

In the meantime Scott showed up and we looked it all over and decided it was a done deal.  We took off the spray cover and proceeded to drill out new holes for the thwarts.  I left this to Scott and it went well, quick!

Tightening the Thwart Bolt
 Scott then needed to add the decks.  Of course I didn't have the right size rivets to fit in the existing holes and Scott didn't have a rivet gun so he drilled in new holes and popped in a rivet on each side.

New Rivets

Now when I unfolded the rear spray cover I found a small plastic bag with  spare snaps in it.  He put on in on one side and called it good.  Scott's goal is to take the canoe to Florida with him next week.  In the end we didn't have enough bolts for the carry handles but they are cut and he can add them before he leaves.  It looks better then it did but I did notice that the new longer forward thwart will need some tweaking to pull in the hull in that area.  The thwart I first started with was a hair shorter so it did pull the gunwales in nicely.

Scott will have to take the thwarts off and treat them with oil or varnish when the weather turns warmer.

So, this project is done.  It was a good lesson and I learned a little bit more about fixing canoes! Before Scott left he helped me put the Disco, the Hogged Backed Saint, into the shed.  I need to finish the rudder setup and have left it way to long. 

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