Building an Adirondack Guideboat-The Stems

Now that the ribs are ready, the next step is to finish the stems.   I found a red spruce root that gave a nice flow of the grain down and inward along the stem pattern. This configuration will produce maximum strength in the stem, a vital structural member of a guideboat.  I cut out the rough outline of the stems from this over two-inch thick spruce root and then resawed it on the band saw to get two matching stems.  I took these down to one inch thick with my surface planer.  Some further work on the band saw got the stems pretty close to their final shape.  Then I gave them their final shape with hand tools; planes and spoke shaves.  Here I am shaping the inside of one of the stems.

Shaping the inside of the stem with a spoke shave.

Shaping the inside of the stem with a spoke shave.

The next step is to form the stem rabbet, or groove that runs the length of the stem.  It will receive the “hood” end of the plank.  The rabbet must be cut to the depth of the plank thickness.  It must also be cut at an angle to match that of the incoming plank as it approaches its final destination at the bow and stern of the boat.

To accomplish this bit of trickery I have two templates.  The first lays out the rabbet line, or leading edge of the rabbet.  The second lays out the trailing edge of the rabbet, or bearding line.

After marking the bearding line with a pencil, I clamp the rabbet template in place on  top of the stem stock.  It will guide my tool as I form the rabbet.  To form the rabbet I use a technique I learned when being taught how to carve song birds.  It is called “cut and undercut”.

The first step when doing cut and undercut is to cut a line perpendicular to the surface of the stem stock that follows the template.  Here I am doing this step using a utility knife.

The first step in the cut and undercut technique to form the stem rabbet.  The dark brown shape to the left is the Masonite template.

The first step in the cut and undercut technique to form the stem rabbet. The dark brown shape to the left is the Masonite template.

Next, a chisel is used to cut away the excess to form the rabbet.

Using a chisel to cut away the excess to form the rabbet.

Using a chisel to cut away the excess to form the rabbet.

Here is another view.

Undercutting with a chisel to form the rabbet.

Undercutting with a chisel to form the rabbet.

You need to work the chisel sideways too.

Cutting sideways to form the rabbet.

Cutting sideways to form the rabbet.

This cut and undercut technique must be done several times until you get the proper depth and angle.  The depth is checked using a small piece of plank stock. One must be mindful of the bearding line too so that the rabbet angle is kept true.

Checking for proper depth of the rabbet using a small piece of planking stock.

Checking for proper depth of the rabbet using a small piece of planking stock.  Notice the bearding line in the foreground.

As a final step I use my sanding board to smooth the rabbet.

Oops! Accidents do happen.  Somehow during shaping of the rabbet two chunks of material were torn out along one of the rabbet edges.  I was able to shape some small chips  of wood to fit into the voids and glue them in place.

Repair of the edge of one of the rabbets.The wood chips still must be trimmed to match the edge of the groove.

Repair of the edge of one of the rabbets.The wood chip inlays still must be trimmed to match the edge of the rabbet.

Here is a finished rabbet.

A finished stem rabbet.

A finished stem rabbet.  You can see how the grain flows with the shape of the stem.

The final step is to cut out a notch on the stem where it will receive the bottom board.  That is done easily on the band saw.

Cutting the notch where the stem receives the bottom board.

Cutting the notch where the stem receives the bottom board.

Here are the finished stems.

Finished stems.

Finished stems.

The finished stems weighed in at 1.9 lbs. each.  They will be even lighter when the boat is completed. By then they will be tapered to remove the blocky, unstreamlined shape they now have.  That is so that the builder can use a plumb line (or carpenter’s level) to get them plumb (at right angles) to the bottom board during the very early stages of set up on the builder’s gig.

What’s next?  We are about a month away from our return to Long Lake in the heart of the Adirondacks.  I have been working on shaping the bottom board but I’m running out of time to finish it before we leave.  My thought is to get the pair of oars for this boat roughed out and ready to work on up there.  Besides I have been asked to be an Artist-in-Residence at The Adirondack Museum from Wednesday, August 17 to Saturday August 2oth.  This would be a good project to work on at that event.  I will also be making guideboat paddles there too. So if you are in the area then drop by and say hi.

I’ll also be reporting on other items of interest to guideboat fans too.  There are bound to be some.

 

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