A Well Oiled Face
That face I found in the floorboards? I’m now thinking it’s two faces – both yawning, or possibly in the midst of a conversation. Either way, the oil really brought out the color of the wood and the details – compare to the pre-oiled picture.
On to the day’s activities – they’re just now ending, and it’s pretty close to midnight so this might be brief and / or incomprehensible. (Moreso than usual….) Today everything changes, because the skin finally goes on and there’s no more opportunity to tweak the frame.
It starts with a hammer.
Actually a mallet, because the first order of business is straightening out all the lines. The keel, the six stringers, all the ribs need to be as well aligned as possible. It helps to have two people here – one walking the mallet up and down the length of the Baidarka, and a second eyeing the lines and directing taps up or down .
Then all the little cleanup items: sawing off pegs we used to anchor the first ribs; planing and rasping away any jutting edges; cutting any remaining lash tails. Detail work before the skin.
Sew Late at Night
Now it’s finally skin time, and it’s strange – unsettling, even – to see this frame I’ve spent the last seven days pouring over… suddenly covered up and unreachable. It’s not gone, but there was a very different feeling for me. Hard to describe.
Anyway, the material is not seal pelts this time, but a white polyester weave. It’s crazy strong – two grown men couldn’t expand a cut made in the middle of a sheet – and it stinks when we cut it with the hot knife. It’s not butter, but a hot knife cuts right through it, and seals up the edges, preventing fraying.
First we lay the sheet on top of our inverted frames, then a short section of the bow and stern are sewn, as anchors. We right-side the boat and, starting from the center, sew together the two edges with a welt on either side.
It’s another tough day on the hands, pushing a needle and pulling (yanking!) on the nylon cord. The polyester cloth needs to be tight around the frame; this requires placing the welting cord in a fold of fabric and pulling it towards the center with one hand while the other maneuvers the needle into place. Repeat with the other side of fabric, then jerk the cord down the center line to close the gap. Repeat. Some prior student made these gloves, which saved my hands. I’m considering naming my first child “Some Prior Student,” in his or her honor.
Of course I still had tape on my exposed finger – tape which I just took off a half hour ago while brushing my teeth. I’d forgotten it was on my finger, I’m so used to it.
After hours of this, the top edge is sewn shut, like a cocoon.
Had a little trouble at the stern end, where there’s extra cloth which needs to be taken up. It was problematic enough that Corey took over at this point, and made everything work.
It might not look as smooth as the other parts, but that should self-correct as the fabric relaxes a bit overnight.
The bow finally takes its completed shape. That’s at least ten different structural pieces pushing out through the skin, underscoring just how complex and advanced that piece of the frame truly is.
There was a bit more to do before ending for the night. Those rough seams on the bow and stern (areas without welting) needed a cross-stitch to fold them down and finish the edge. But that waited until later in the evening because my friends Loop and Bee came by to visit the school, meet the other folks (meet my baidarka!), and grab some dinner with me. They got the five-cent tour (this is a very cool place – tons of materials and tools, lots of things to play with, and all of Corey’s creations), and a sample of the tung oil mixture we used on the wood. No surprise, it’s great for restoring cutting boards.
Only downside was that I had to finish the sewing when we got back, so it’s a bit late now.
This day ends with my boat in a metamorphic state, so how appropriate that it looks like a cocooning insect? Not that I’m trying to move away from my anthropomorphizing tendencies – it’s just a connection which jumps out at you. Something wonderful is about to emerge, but right now we can only marvel at the intricate framework suggested by shadows and bulges from within a translucent skin.