Half ribs


Trout Bum
Sorry to be such a Nudge, but I'm a slow learner.

Are half ribs used for making the floor more solid, or for structural reason? I'm considering not putting the nice rack back in because I know I'll get stuff caught in and under it whilst fishing. I remember doing that when I was a kid in wooden rowboats at fishing camps all over the upper Midwest with my extended family on vacations (my Dad's generic term for fishing trips). So I'm thinking about using half ribs instead.

How do you install these? Glue? Nails? Both? And are they cedar just as the ribs are cedar?

Thanks again for all the help!
Half ribs are usually white cedar like the ribs and are nailed in as the canoe is being built. These can be added later with some effort. They provide a bit of additional structural stiffness to the floor and will help keep your gear dry like a floor rack does. There is also some aesthetic value since most people appreciate how they look when done well. I would not suggest that you glue them in.

Another reason for half ribs is to provide a "smoother" surface for walking on, such as when standing up and poling.

If you put them in cold, they may also help to flatten the bottom of the hull. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective.
I like the look and having my stuff out of the bilge water is a good thing. Any suggestions for how to install them into a completed canoe? How about using off-sets from the keel screw holes and carrying these across the outside bottom of the boat with a square and chalk line?
Hi Brian

never say never but you should never put half ribs in a completed hull. They are fastened just like whole ribs, with tacks. With the canvas not yet on you can put them in by hand: hold them there, pre drill the holes all the way through from inside to out, put a tack in the hole from Outside in, Grow your arms about 5" on each side and then using a clinching iron fasten them in. Two tacks per plank generally. You should thin the thickness at the ends so they don't make a lump on the outside of the canoe, I thnk.

Having said that I recently fixed up an old canoe that had been 'glassed. the hull was ok and I only put new outwhales and a couple other minor things. When I sanded the hull prior to a coat of paint I discovered that the 'glas cloth had been held in place prior to resin with TACKS. A few here and there. OR, the glass had been power sanded thru to the tack heads after 'glassing, a few here and there. Go figure. The canoe weighs only about 50#'s and is serving fishing duties in the swamps of S. C.
The bottom of this boat is pretty broad and flat. I'll play around with this. Maybe I can steam them and lay them in with some weight on the middle to get them to take whatever bend there is in the bottom so they don't flex the planks out and make the boat look like a starving cow.

The rack I have doesn't look original, there are no clips to hold it in, and it would be much more convenient for car-topping with the half ribs.

Here are some pictures of the canoe after mostly stripping the inside and washing it out with some cheap deck wash. Yeah, I know, but it was laying around. Remember this is going to be a Jeep type boat for using.

My Golden, Brookie, is inspecting the project and wants me to get it in the water ASAP so she can start jumping out of it into the water (it's in her contract). A picture of the metal patch on the inside and the busted rib where the sash weight went through. There is also a picture of the Jordan River (a wild and scenic river, btw.), about 12 miles from my house.

And finally a picture of my Cherokee in the Jordan River Valley to show you that Michigan does have some topography that isn't flat!


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Be sure to shape the bottom of the half ribs. Because they are short they have a tendency to flatten out over time -even if they were steam bent. This can bulge the planking. :(
We have a 15 foot Detroit that had half ribs added. They guy did a nice job and it looks nice. Our Belle Isle Morris also has half ribs.
Shape the underside as close as possible to the curve of the canoe bottom. However, try not to thin it out too much on the ends. A bench belt sander would speed this operation but it can even be done with a plane.
A Plane? Kewl!

I hand plane bamboo fly rods and have a modest collection of old planes.

It would be easy to make a simple jig with the approximate shape of the bilge to place the half-ribs in and then plane down to the form. I've got a great #3 Stanley that will make quick work of that, and no noise or dust, just tinder.
Seems like it would be easier to use the old floor or make a new one. Take it out to clean the boat. Then, if you are not fishing, keep the floor out and paddle lighter.
2 cents worth.
Thought I'd attach a picture of our 15 foot Detroit Boat Company canoe, with added half ribs. The company (circa 1906-1916) didn't offer half-ribs. When examined closely, the work was obviously done by someone with a great degree of skill. This is a case where a restoration- job added something positive to the canoe and is part of that canoe's history... so, even though this work isn't original to "the historic old canoe", we won't tamper with it. We plan to "use" this little boat anyway...

Love the canoe-dog picture... it's like he's thinking, "I can hardly wait...".



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two more cents-

The half ribs would not need any steaming to be installed. the shaping would be to get the very ends of th ehalf ribs to fit the shape of the canoe instead of visa versa. You have to decide how long they should be. If you did not go up the bilge then no thinning at all I think. they'll add great strength to the bottom for the weight gained. Now's the time to add them. Nice river.