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Little Chief/trailcraft/red Wood

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Dutch, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. Dutch

    Dutch New Member

    Hi everyone, I’m Dutch. I have been ghosting the forums for years gaining all kinds of knowledge and thought I would finally join in on the fun.

    For my introduction posting I will start with a bit of my history with canoes. I bought my first and until recently, only canoe in 1984, a 1977 17’ fiber glass Quapaw for $75. She was scratched all to hell with a rip in the bow seat, but no holes or serious damage. I shoved a block of Styrofoam under the seat and used it as it was. The old gal weighs a ton with a totally flat bottom, no rocker what-so-ever, and a keel. To me she was a thing of beauty. All I ever do is flat water, was never into the white water scene, so for a leisurely paddle or a little fishing she is perfect. She’s as stable as a slab of concrete with a 36 inch beam. We’ve seen a lot of water in the past 34 years and the only time I ever got wet was a few years ago when I fell out of her. Preparing to go out I stepped in to put my pfd in where it hung on a gunnel when I tossed it. I hadn’t changed shoes yet and forgot the ones I had on were really slick soled. When I stepped out on a rock I didn’t notice the coat of moss it had. The next thing I knew I was in the water, but the canoe didn’t even wobble. But, alas, recently either she has put on weight or I have gotten weaker. At 65 it’s all I can do to get her on top of the camper shell on my truck when I’m running solo. So the quest was on to find something a little lighter for solo runs.

    A couple years ago I bought a 1958 16’ Old Town Guide for $225. With a cracked rib, a little bad planking and needs new canvas and at that time a little out of my expertise so started the learning process to do the needed repairs. Hence, the valuable information I have picked up here.

    Several weeks ago a guy posted a 12’ fiberglass canoe on the local Craigslist and I went to look at it. It came home on top of the truck as I could easily load it by myself. It’s one of the Sears Roebuck canoes made by American Fiber-Lite and weighs 50 pounds, so the weight is fine. The tubular aluminum gunnels were bent out of shape and had a hole patched with some kind of rubber compound, but was water tight for a trial run. Within a few days I got it in the water, really unstable even with me in the bow seat facing aft the stern end was still pretty high out of the water. Not a problem just needs a little ballast. Brought it back home and went to work. First straightened the gunnels and pulled the bow out of the thwart after which I stripped it down to the bare hull. Glassed the hole and filled a few of the rough places and gave it a new paint job. When I took it back out, afterwards, it took 40 pounds of ballast to trim it out. Was reasonably stable and could propel it with the simple J stroke with no problems. But it just didn’t talk to me like the old Quapaw. I realized if I wanted a light weight canoe I could get along with I would have to build one. Therefore, the name of this posting,” Little Chief/Trailcraft/Red Wood”.

    I started out with the Little Chief plans from the old magazine article and it didn’t take long into it to realize the design doesn’t fit well with the lumber we have readily available. Especially with the curves and twists in the stringers cut ½” by 1” snapping like tooth picks, even after soaking for three days in a make shift water trough. I have incorporated the flooring part of the Trailcraft into it as a ¼ “ piece of ply sitting on the bottom stringers, for a floor, didn’t appeal to me. However the frame, without stringers, was already assembled so framed the floor supports with end caps to screw to the form ribs (added weight), but this is just the prototype. This is incorporated in the new plans I’m putting together for the next one. The tumblehome design for the Little Chief puts a lot of stress on the sheer stringers so I’m redesigning the forms, also, for the next one by straightening the number 6 and number 2 mold forms from the Popular Science Red Wood canoe plans a bit. This will also keep the girth below 60”, the Little Chief girth is somewhere around 66”. This is important because I have a large roll of Ballistic Nylon a friend gave my over 20 years ago with a maximum width of 61”. It’s ridiculous to have to use 10 yards of fabric for a 5 yard project over a mere 5 “, especially when the Ballistic Nylon is currently going for $15 a yard. This one I will cover with canvas that I have about 60 yards of. This part will also be a good dry run to re-canvassing my Old Town when I get started on it. However, I will be doing it with Dacron. Before anyone climbs all over me for using Dacron on a Wood/Canvas OT go read some of the old catalogs from Old Town and you will discover that the 50 pound light weight OT canoes were in fact covered with Dacron to keep the weight down.

    A great thanks goes out to Treewater for the dimensions he previously posted on the forums for the Trailcraft canoes. I will be ripping the stringers for the modified version 3/8 x ¾.The forms and stems will also be cut down to 2” instead of the 3” for the forms and 5” for the stems to reduce weight. Also for the posted pics on the frames which clearly shows the sheer stringers/gunnels to be ¾ x ¾, plenty of meat to hang a traditional caned wooden seat from, instead of putting them on the forms whether they are in the right place to trim the canoe or not.

    I guess I have rambled enough for my first posting.

    Happy paddling and may the wind be at your back, both ways.


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