Choosing Ash (from a tree)

sailorbenjamin

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I'm looking for some nice green ash to bend new stems for my Old Town HW. I met a firewood guy yesterday who said he just cut a nice Ash and I should come over and pick out a piece.
Any advice on what to look for? Should I stay away from the heartwood or the newer wood?
If he's got a big enough piece, I might try making a paddle I've read the Gidmark book, so actually making the paddle should be fun, but again, what should I look for when I'm standing in the woodlot?
Thanks.
 
Choosing Ash

Which Gidmark book do you have? The Warren/Gidmark book "Canoe Paddles" goes into great detail, chapters 2, 3, & 10.
 
Well, I don't actually "have" it. I had to return it to the library. I think I need to check it out again (or maybe buy my own copy). It is the Warren-Gidmark book on how to make paddles.
I'll re read those chapters Thanks.
 
I have not done this for a canoe, but I have done a lot of work with wood, so maybe my advice will not lead you too far astray.

If you intend to bend the stems, I suggest you select a straight section, with no knots, which is large enough in diameter to mill down to dimensional stock thick enough to cut your stem blanks from. You want it thick enough to get the stock out of "heart wood" rather than "sap wood". Once the balnk is cut from this stock, soak it a couple of days completely submerged, then steam it, or boil it, and bend it to a form for drying.

A form can be cut, with a bandsaw, from plywood or regular lumber. I would likely use two or three layers of 3/4" plywood for making the form, so that it would be wide enough to bend two stems at the same time. The parts will need to be clamped, or tied, to this form until dried.

I have heard of people putting laundry fabric softener in the soak water, with claims that this will make the wood bend like cooked spaghetti, but I haven't tried that........Yet.

I have also seen sawn stems, and knees, in larger boats that have grain following the angle of the part.

This is a way to do this sort of thing without steam bending. I would select a section with a fork, or a bend, which allows enough room to cut the stem blanks out of the heartwood with a band saw. The closer the fork, or bend comes to the angle of the stem, the stronger the end result will be.
 
For maximum strength, you could rive/split along the grain rather than saw.
Doing this successfully is challenging, especially with more "stringy" woods, including ash. And the grain sometimes "spirals" (less than some cedar) or doesn't run along a straight line. It is easier to do a smaller dimension like a stem. Even still, I ended up with a lot of waste from a 12 dia tree when attempting to split out snowshoe frame stock.

Birchbark canoe stems are often multiple thin layers lashed together. Whether you split or saw your stem stock, you could build up the dimension you need by laminating thinner pieces. Make the initial piece double size, you can bandsaw it in two to get two matching cross-section stems.
 
I ended up with a lot of waste from a 12 dia tree when attempting to split out snowshoe frame stock.

Rob,
A bit off topic, but I note that you build shoes.
I just finished up a pair and started another.
I am out of Neoprene and can't seem to locate it anymore. I used to buy it from Tubbs but they have since stopped weaving shoes and no longer sell the stock.
Do you use gut/hide or neoprene and if neoprene, where are you buying it?
 
Years ago I bought standing timber cut the logs onto 20 ft lgts. The logs looked perfect. I ended up with eight thousand bd ft of 5/4. I did not get 10 boards that would yeld gunnel stock. All I can say is you might want to find a sawmill and pick out what you need.
 
For maximum strength, you could rive/split along the grain rather than saw.
Doing this successfully is challenging, especially with more "stringy" woods, including ash. And the grain sometimes "spirals" (less than some cedar) or doesn't run along a straight line. It is easier to do a smaller dimension like a stem. Even still, I ended up with a lot of waste from a 12 dia tree when attempting to split out snowshoe frame stock.

Birchbark canoe stems are often multiple thin layers lashed together. Whether you split or saw your stem stock, you could build up the dimension you need by laminating thinner pieces. Make the initial piece double size, you can bandsaw it in two to get two matching cross-section stems.

Splittin ash is by far the strongest way to go. I recently completed a pair of "Fancy Attikamek Snowshoes" and wonderful results using split white ash. Boiled water ladled over the sap-wood staves yielded perfection!
http://lh5.ggpht.com/_NY8jHhBbYRM/S...yktjq97IEYU/s640/Fancy Attikamek 2010 012.jpg
 
Those are some nice shoes. I once came in second in a Boy Scout snow shoe contest. Maybe I shoulda kept up with that.
I've done a fair amount of bending, but mostly on bigger boats and only with store bought wood. I always thought getting it straight from a tree would be fun but now I'm looking at a whole new bunch of stuff to learn. Guess I gotta start somewhere.
I do think I'll get The Book from WBHA. The price is within a coupla bucks of the best used prices on Amazon.
One boat shop I worked at liked to put some unscented Joy dishsoap in the steam. I guess it helped. Do make sure you get the unscented variety.
Thanks again, guys.
Ben
 
Here is a photo of some white ash that Ferdy and I obtained from a logger in north central Wisconsin. Ferdy split the straight grained slabs on the left side of the trailer to get his shoe wood. The rest of the logs yielded everything from excellent to "kindling grade" wood. I can attest to the bendability of green or air dried white ash. There is no doubt more strength in split wood where all grains are paralell. However, as sawn, without knots or severe grain disruption, this stuff bends with relative ease when soaked and steamed or boiled. That is Ferdy in the photo....

photo later....can't get it to upload..! ?
 
the ash photo.....

here is the photo that goes with my earlier post
 

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And here's Ferdy's dragonfly... amazing quillwork.

Denis gathered some porcupine quills last fall. People driving by must have thought this guy was crazy, beating a dead porky with a towel.

Kathy
 

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Arrrrr

Just had to pirate this. Sorry. But here's the dragonfly Ferdie made for me. The dragonfly is framed 3D. The bark is fastened to a frame behind it and it appears suspended in the diorama-like box/frame thingy. And yes the artist who framed it did not want to square it. Ferdie's signature is lower left. It is way cool.
 

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