A Different Football
Kayak builders often build their stripped decks with figured inlays, resulting in expressions of artistry ranging from pure beauty to the garish. Why couldn't a similar artistic approach be taken on a canoe bottom? After using the common herringbone and simple straight line closure of the football area on a couple of my canoes, I decided to try something different. I wanted a pattern for the bottom of a canoe that was reasonably easy to make without being overdone. The design I wound up with was not all that difficult, after the second try. This article describes how it was done.
It must be said that overdoing the design will clash with the overall flowing lines of the canoe. Decorative inlaid designs should complement the rest of the boat and not overwhelm it. Feel free to experiment, but don't make a design that is difficult to build or overdone.
The 15 foot Bob's Special was stripped normally to where both inner stems were covered, leaving the entire football open. The open area was then outlined with border strips consisting of a simple dark/light/dark strip built as described in Making Accent Stripes.
Some 1/4" square stock cut from leftover strips was tacked on the forms with small brads to outline the design. Measuring and adjusting the location from the edge of the football to the square layout strips in several places insured the design was symmetrical. A piece of cardboard was laid over one of the curves, and a tracing was made from below from the stem end to the center of the boat and back along the edge of the football. This gave a pattern that would be the same for all four corners, and would later be used to trim the stripping. The forms were then marked where the layout strips crossed them, and the layout strips were removed.
Northern white cedar was used to strip the outer areas, going a bit beyond the marks on the forms. Bungees and web clamps were used for gluing clamps.
The cardboard pattern was then laid over the raw strips and traced over all four corners. The waste was cut off and the edges carefully trimmed to the line with a curved microplane.
It was important to trim the edges square so that the fill strips put in later would be a good fit. Note the gaps where the inner border will later cross, as will be shown later.
The next step was to outline the open areas with a dark/light/dark border, but not with an accent stripe type of strip. The border was built up from individual flat pieces of stock. A 1/8" thick strip of Peruvian walnut about 3/8" wide was first glued all along the edges of the white cedar, held with web clamps. These were followed by 1/8" strips of white cedar and another walnut, both glued in together. This was done to protect the softer white cedar center from bungee and web clamp pressure dents.
The total width of the border was 3/8". Note that the border crossed from one side to the other across the gaps. This has to be taken into account when forming the white cedar areas.
The rest was simply filling in the curves with normal bead and cove red cedar. King plank strips of red cedar were first made with a bead on both edges and installed down the center of each of the three openings. Stripping against these center strips made sure the stripping pattern was parallel to the keel. With all that done came the filling, sanding, glassing, etc. A sharpened Pro-Prep scraper with a convex blade worked great getting the border strips smooth and fair, especially inside.
One last thing - I said this was the second try. The first attempt didn't work - I tried it the way some kayak builders have described doing it, by laying in the field strips and cutting the border, then laying in the outline strip into the border cut-out. Since this hull was stapless ( a few nails here and there), it just didn't go the way I wanted it to. I found it a lot easier to build up the inlays as I have described.