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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Canoe Building: Installing the Seats and Thwart

On New Years Eve I installed the seats and thwart.   Canoe finished.  Woot Woot!  Technically there's still the brass stem band to install, but putting the seats and thwart in means the canoe is fit for use.  Substantial Completion.  Beneficial Occupancy.  Whatever.  All I know is it's ready for a maiden voyage.  It still needs a name, but that  will come.  I need to take it out several times and see how it handles, and I think I'll figure out a name that fits.
I installed the thwart first.  Chances are your canoe will be either slightly wider or slightly narrower than the width specified on the canoe plan.  Cut the thwart to a width that looks appropriate to you.  I made my canoe 1/2 inch wider than the plans specify because I cut my thwart a little longer than the width called out on the plans.  Find a balance point, mark out two screw locations on each side, then drill and countersink the holes.  Drop in the machine screws, and thread the thwart and nuts on to the screws and tighten everything up.

Installing the seats is pretty straightforward.  Mark out where the seats will go, drill the holes through the inwales, then come back and countersink the holes.  You can use a seat height jig to make the seats the correct height and level.  I took a shortcut here and figured the difference between dowel lengths based on the curve of the gunwale, then cut them to the proper length. The ones closest to the ends are a little longer since the ends of the canoe sweep up a little bit.  Out on the water, the seats don't need to be 100% absolutely level since paddling and the movement of water makes it so nothing stays level perfectly.  The seats do have to be even though from side to side and front to back, but there is a slight amount of play to work with.  Measuring and cutting the dowels appropriately for each side capitalizes on this.  Since I mounted the seats the same length from each end,  I cut the four endmost dowels the same length, and the four innermost dowels all the same length that was slightly shorter. Measuring on your canoe is best way to determine what the length difference will be. I put my long machine screws through the holes, then marked on the seats where to cut and place the holes in the seat frames.  After drilling the holes in the seat frames, I threaded the dowels onto the machine screws followed by the seat frames then threaded on the nuts.  Seats installed!

After the seats and thwart are placed, go back with thickened epoxy and plugs and fill the holes with the epoxy, then gently force the plugs into the holes.  The epoxy will help hold the machine screws in place if you ever want to replace the seats or refinish the canoe and need to remove them. After the epoxy has hardened, shave the plugs down and coat each of them a couple of times with a thin coat of varnish to seal the top, as well as help it blend in with the remainder of the canoe.

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