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A very long overdue update on rebuilding the Richardson

All those ribs finally done!

It has been five years since my last update. Replacing those ribs was extremely time consuming, each one was a three hour commitment needing helpers, and life just gets in the way. But it’s finally done, and my daughters will never willingly crawl under a boat again. On the right is a picture of the ribs installed with the new inner keel in place. The side keels (unsure what they’re called) are original and are mated to a newly milled matching one on the bottom. The dashboard is the original one as well, trying valiantly to hold the shape together.

The big question for most cedar strip rebuilds is whether or not to fibreglass the bottom. The Wooden Boat forums are full of discussion about that topic. The previous owner told me they’d put it in the water in April to let the wood swell, a day later they’d pump out the water and be good for the season. In its new life the boat live on a trailer, dry most of the year, and with the state of the planks fibreglass made sense to me.

I do love the look of the glass before epoxy, like a wedding dress.

The finished glass and epoxy before sanding.

The only possible color to paint a cedar strip runabout is red. Anything else is heresy. So I painted it red.

A very red bottom

Varnishing the inside was far more work than I had imagined, especially when bending over the boat too long left me unable to stand up straight again. But with some help we put on four coats of varnish before losing patience, and it looks quite shiny. The older wood really stands out with a much darker color adding a lot of character.

Four coats of varnish shining in the sun

Currently I’m rebuilding the seats and deck supports. My dad milled up cedar for the deck, but it’ll be the last thing to be installed after the electrical is done. Where possible I’m reusing the existing pieces, drilling out rusted holes and then filling them with epoxy, or filling larger cracks with epoxy. The seat bottoms and backs were made of cedar and both front and middle seats were too far gone, but all the supports are of white oak and I have resurrected almost all of them.

Next comes the motor question. I sold the original motor for parts since it needed far more work than it was worth. Showing the power of Kijiji, the buyer had the same motor sitting in his garage needing parts. I had the impression the boat was overpowered and just recently found out that the 33hp motor had been bored out and was likely closer to a 40 or 45hp motor. I am leaning towards a newer 20hp motor so no one will be tempted to try water skiing or pulling a tube.

It’s good to remember where the project started, so I’ll end with a picture of what it looked like years before I picked it up. If you look closely you can see the twist in the boat, that’s not an artifact of the camera. When it dried out, either the boat wasn’t supported properly or it just twisted as it dried out. In the process of replacing the ribs I managed to get most of the twist out.

The Richardson about ten years ago looking a bit tired.

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Slow progress

After an extended break due to other priorities, I’m back at slowly installing more ribs. IMG_20141230_170542On the right is the back section of the boat with seven new ribs in a row. It’s exciting to see a small section that’s completely held together with new ribs. We broke three ribs trying to get the last one in (on the left). Unsure if it was just three bad pieces or because that’s where the curve is the biggest. For now I’ve put that one on hold and working on the rest.

IMG_20141129_153536In other news, my driveway is no longer a big sinkhole so now I can roll the boat out onto the driveway and do the sanding out there, which is a huge improvement over sanding inside, with the dust cloud that inevitably arises.

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Rib Fest!

With my Dad’s help, and that of his well equipped shop, we manufactured almost 60 ribs for the boat, close to 500′ worth of ribs! I first ran the 1″ planks through the bandsaw and ended up with (mostly) straight strips of 1″ x 1/2″ by 8′ long ribs. One pass on each side through the planer took out any humps, and then twice through the router table with a one quarter round over bit. It took a bit of finagling to get the exact dimensions, as the ribs need to fit through the holes in the keel that’s already installed. I had a leftover piece of keel to use as a test piece, basically if the ribs slide through and are mostly round, they’re good. Business end of the steamer

To steam the ribs, the original steam generation a-la-camp-stove wasn’t going to hack it, so I ended up buying a wall paper steamer Steam generator and ribsfrom Home Depot. It claims 75 minutes of steam, and has long hose. I concocted up a series of adapters (think me standing in the plumbing aisle at Home Depot putting random pieces together) to bring the 4″ PVC pipe down to 1″ diameter, and then used some water proof duct tape to hold the hose inside the PVC pipe. It worked marvellously, and the condensation managed to find a way to drip through the tape. After wrapping the whole thing in old towels, the temperature at the far end was around 96C, good enough for what I need. On the left is the steamer putting out a cloud of steam (hard to see in the picture) and on the right is the generator plus a pile of ribs. Ignore the mess, my boat shop doubles as storage for roller blades and newspaper delivery bags.

Finally came the nerve wracking part, trying to bend a rib into the boat. After steaming it for 30 minutes (which is probably overkill), Jodie and I bent a rib into the boat. Minus the bleeding fingers it worked perfectly, although I did manage to forget that steamed wood expands, and getting it through the keel was pretty tight. I’ll have to sand the rest a bit more aggressively. Later that day my brothers and I figured out a decent system for getting the nails clinched in, which is good because we estimate there to be about 3,000 nails. And here’s a picture of the first rib neatly bent into place. Only fifty more to go!IMG_20140503_115113

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Stem and Transom

Finally some new wood went into this boat. I took a day off last week and installed the new stem and keel. I don’t have a good picture but it certainly feels like we’re making some progress. The keel and stem are nailed from the bottom, and every hole has to be drilled for the copper screws as they are too soft to break into the oak.

IMG_20140328_174502I removed the transom, as the boards nailed to it had been nailed a few too many times and rather than trying to fix the cheese grater appearance I just cut the boat 2″ shorter. This picture shows the missing transom, along with the freshly installed keel. The bottom of the boat is hogged quite badly, the supports are in an effort to keep the keel straight, and to prevent the boat from opening up too much.

The transom is old, the top is curved a bit, and there are some big checks in it, but it’s still structurally sound. After some thought and sanding I decided to reinstall it rather than build a new one. I’d much rather keep what I can, else I may as well be building a new boat.


And this afternoon the transom was reinstalled again. Because the boat is a wee bit shorter, the gunwales sit a bit higher than the transom instead of flush, but that will be sorted out later. All that’s left on the transom is to cut the boards flush and clean up the sealant.

I sold the old trailer, which wasn’t worth the effort (to me) to rebuild. The father of the purchaser owned a few cedar strip boats many years ago and had a few seats left in his garage. He was so interested in this project that he brought them over in the off chance that I could use them, or at least reuse the wood for some of the interior. I love it, I’d much rather use wood that came from a cousin boat than new wood from the lumber shop.

My brother has the motor apart in his garage, it’s a 1965 33HP Evinrude. Surprisingly all the parts we needed are still available, although some have manufacturing dates from the 80’s. They’ve all arrived so the rebuild can begin.

Next up is removing the ribs and replacing them, half of them at a time. Removing them means splitting them with a chisel, and then prying out the nails. The copper nails were clinch nailed, meaning they were nailed from the outside all the way through the rib and bent to make a “J” shape, and they need to be cut to get them out. This is a very large task, but I have some willing and not-so-willing volunteers to help out.

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First bend

First bend was successful, here’s a gratuitous picture of the wood on the form. It bent quite easily after fifteeen minutes of steaming, 1/4″ thick. You can never own enough clamps!

Laminate bend

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Bending a new stem

The past few weeks have not been great in terms of boat restoration. Every project has its highs and lows, and last weekend saw the project in a state of despair. Lighting a match under the boat seemed like a viable option.

Keel in the jigBefore I get into details, I purchased some quarter-sawn white oak for the keel, stem and ribs. With my Dad’s help we cut the 11′ section for the keel, and made up two blanks for the stem. The keel worked out well, and after drilling out the holes for the ribs, it is ready for installation. Here’s a picture of the keel with my drilling jig.

The despair part of the project came when attempting to bend the stem. The stem is 5′ long and  1.75″ x 1.75″, that’s a lot of wood to bend. I put together a steam box of PVC pipe, wrapped it in blankets to keep it warm, and with this ugly rig managed to keep the temperature at around 95C at the end. The stem was cooked for two hours, and we then attempted to bend it over the form. Unfortunately both blanks broke during the attempt.

Steam box

In hindsight, the mistake I made was to attempt to bend a thick piece of kiln-dried wood. The kiln-drying process damages the cell structure of the wood, which is fine for almost all applications except for steam bending. It’s an expensive lesson to learn, but learn it I have.

IMG_20140217_115813What now? Finding air dried or green quarter sawn white oak is very difficult. Instead with the advice of my local wood supplier I’ve decided to laminate the stem instead, with 1/4″ pieces. They are cut, just need a good sanding and epoxying. I may steam the pieces just to make them a bit more flexible, but I can almost bend them over the form without steaming, so hopefully this will work better. To the left is a picture of the form with the old rotten stem over it. The form has large holes drilled into it for clamping purposes, which were drilled after the picture was taken.

Once the stem is laminated it needs a lot of shaping (my favourite activity, turning wood into shaving) and the installation of both stem and keel. And the move onto the ribs. I’ve decided to replace all the ribs, as there are only ten or so of the fifty that are not in rough shape, so while I’m at it I may as well replace them all.


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Rotten stem and keel

stripped hullI finished stripping the bottom a few weeks ago, which uncovered some “interesting” prior repairs, some of which need to be redone. The hole is quite obvious, and now that the outer keel and outer stem are gone, the rot to stem and inner keel are really obvious.

I managed to carefully pry out the stem, first by taking out any nails that were slight raised, and then by very carefully prying the boards away from the stem and cutting any nails I could reach. Finally with only the bottom boards holding the stem I gently pulled it out. It split in half, the rot was far worse than I imagined.


Here’s a closeup of where the stem simply gave up and broke, that clearly shows the rot. I guess that’s not bad for a 50 year old chunk of wood that’s taken a beating for so long.

The front part of the keel is also in rough shape, so I need to pull that out without further damaging the boat. Because the stem overlaps the keel, I’m going to replace the keel first and then put in a new stem.

Next up is to purchase some quarter sawn white oak and setup a jig to bend it. I have most of what I need to steam bend a new stem, but a snow storm put a stop to visiting the lumber store. Bending wood is a very interesting and somewhat stressful process, but one I’ve done before and am quite excited to do again.

I counted rotten ribs, and from what I can tell 36 of them, about half, need replacing. All of them need to be steam bent as well.

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Here’s the stripper hard at work. I really dislike using chemicals but this stuff is amazing. Put it in, wait 15 minutes, and 49 years if paint scrapes neatly off (with a bit if muscle). Scraping with a sprained wrist really sucks though.

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The mess that is the bow


After taking the remaining bits of metal off that someone had used to repair the bow, I found a mess. And a hole. Both were expected. The inner and outer stem, as well as the keel are all rotten and need to be replaced. This is turning into a rather large project.

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My new (to me) boat

I recently came into ownership of a 1965 Richardson Avalon 14′ cedarstrip boat. The history of the manufacturer is somewhat cloudy, but it appears in 1962 the former General Manager of Peterborough Canoe Company, the company that built most of the cedar strip runabouts, bought Lakefield Boat Co and renamed it to Richardson Aquacraft, also Rilco Industries. [source] The boat has the Richardson name on the side, but the Rilco name on the manufacturer’s tag. It was purchased either new or very new by a friend’s grandfather and was used at the family cottage until the late 1990’s, after which it was stored in a garage.

Richardson Avalon

The boat is more or less in reasonable shape for its age. It comes with the original 1965 Evinrude 33HP motor, which looks to be in excellent shape. My brother has graciously volunteered to have a go at bringing it back to life. After pulling out the seats and hardware, the real work starts to become apparent. While most of the ribs are intact, there is a lot of rot in the inner stem and the ribs in the front. Most of the ribs at the front will have to be replaced, as will the solid oak inner stem, and possibly the keel as well. There is a bit of hogging in the keel, which can be sorted out, and there is a slight twist in the boat which can also be straightened.

Here’s a picture of the boat sitting on its new cradle.

Boat on its cradle

And another random one showing what the inside looks like. The planks and seats and deck are all cedar, and anything structural looks to be either oak or ash. The screw driver is laying on a seat support, and the ugly block is where the throttle assembly hung off of. Pretty much every screw and bolt is original and completely rusted, and each one takes a lot of work to get it out.



I ordered a DVD from Donald Husack on how to restore a boat like this, and it was well worth the money even after watching only the first thirty minutes.

I’ll try keep this page updated as I go along.

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Popup Trailer Roof Repair Part 2

Fixing a rotten roof is an incredible amount of work. After taking the rotten parts off, the horizontal part of the roof is solid, as is the vertical side on the driver-side. The passenger side is entirely rotted out, see this picture for how bad it is.

IMG_20130384This is a picture looking at the top of the side, it’s hard to see but the inside is full of mold. Remember that’s supposed to be a solid board. I’m going to replace the side entirely. A friend scrounged up some aluminum for me, and some hardwood plywood will be the new core.

The next step was to scrape off the remaining plywood from the vinyl (is it vinyl?) roof material without puncturing it. Unfortunately I did go through it a few times, I’m not entirely sure how to fix that just yet.

IMG_20130382The pic on the right is from the inside of the trailer looking back, you can see some of the roof material and some plywood. I managed to scrape off most of the remaining plywood and glue today using a combination of a sharpened paint scraper, and a really long chisel-type tool. I’m not sure what is, but it works really well once it’s sharp.

I still need to clean off the old caulking in various places, then time to start rebuilding. August 1st is looming quickly.


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Popup Trailer Roof Repair

After seeing some odd spots on the roof of my tent trailer, some exploratory surgery showed that the back, front and side of the roof are completely rotten. A new roof will take more than eight weeks to order, and cost aside that puts a damper on the planned East Coast trip on August. So the only option short of buying a tent is to repair it. Thanks to the wonderful people at I feel reasonably confident that this can be done. Further demolition showed the rot to be so bad that I’m not entirely sure how the lift mechanism was still lifting the roof, as the brackets were in completely rotten wood. Two pictures that show the extent of the damage.

This is from the inside looking at the back panel. The white is mould. This panel is so bad that I can just grab the wood and gently nudge it apart.


And this picture is of the side, looking forward. That piece that’s got the nice curve to it is supposed to be a solid piece of side that holds the roof together.


Should be fun.


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BB10 – Google Accounts

Setting up Google Mail works well, but the calendar doesn’t always sync. This is an intermittent issue reported on this thread, and reported in KB33458.

About the fifth entry down in the thread is a workaround that worked very well for me, steps repeated here for convenience:

  1. Remove the previous gmail accounts.
  2. Click on the Add Account button.
  3. Click on the Advanced button.
  4. Select “Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync”.
  5. Enter a description.
  6. Enter “” in the Domain field.
  7. Entered my full email address in the “Username” field.
  8. Entered by full email address again in the “Email Address” field.
  9. Entered my password in the “Password” field.
  10. Entered “” in the “Server Address” field.
  11. Left the port set to the default (443).
  12. Left “Use SSL” set to “On”.
  13. Left “User VPN” set to “Off”.
  14. Left “Push” set to “On”.
  15. Click on the “Next” button at the top.
  16. Make sure email, calendar and contacts are set to “On”.

I see some wonderful irony in using a Microsoft protocol to connect a BlackBerry with a Google service.

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BlackBerry 10 Tips – Sorting Facebook Feeds

I picked up a new BlackBerry Z10 yesterday. The device is very nice, but a completely different beast than the old BlackBerry. Because of that, there are a lot of questions on how to tweak various settings, and not many answers.

Question: The Facebook apps appears to be sorting by “Top Stories” instead of “Most Recent”. How do I change that?
Answer: In the device browser, go to “”, and click on the “Sort” button, select the sort type you want. Open the Facebook app and presto, it sorts as it should.


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Canoe update – June

A few more pictures available. I’ve got the fibreglass and epoxy on the inside, it only needs a final sanding and then installation of gunwales, seats and decks.

I did have some help sanding it…

From Canoe – Stage 2
From Canoe – Stage 2

Here it is. I love the dark accents, they came out very nicely.

From Canoe – Stage 2

The deadline to get this done is August 2, 2010, so the push is on to get it done.

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Art website

My favourite artist now has a website! Have a look at

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WordPress on Mac

I’ve been banging my head against the wall for the past day, trying to figure out why my wordpress install on my Mac doesn’t talk to the database. Setup is simple, enable the built-in apache web server, install the Mac Mysql server and setup as per the wordpress instructions.
. But

When you’re on Linux or any other platform I’ve worked on, one specifies the hostname in wp-config.php as ‘localhost’, or whatever hostname the DB is running on.

Seems that when you’re on Mac, you specify the hostname as ‘localhost:/tmp/mysql.sock’. This is not documented anywhere, but works like magic. Hope this saves someone else a headache in the future.

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Canoe update

The canoe has come a long way since the last update. Over the past few weeks we’ve laid on the fiberglass and four coats of epoxy, and taken it off the molds. Normally you lay on three coats of epoxy, but the third coat was a bit messy so I sanded it off and added a fourth coat.

Here’s my favourite picture, showing the accent strips really well.

From Canoe – Stage 2

And here’s one of the canoe turned over. It’s starting to look like a boat now!

From Canoe – Stage 2

The full album is available here. Unfortunately the canoe is going to sit for a while, as I’m getting sidetracked on a harp.

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Canoe Update

I’ve been working hard on my canoe, and thus not a lot of posting. All the strips are on, the stems are on, and all the staples are out.

The whole album is available here, but here are some highlights.

First the sheer line before cutting. If you look closely you can see the line I drew.

From Canoe

And here’s the sheer line cut with the stems epoxied on.

From Canoe

And here’s the pile of staples I pulled out after the stems were on. I used up a whole liter of glue too.

From Canoe

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Playing with the camera

Fooling around with our new Nikon D90, I came up with these two shots. Click through to see the full pictures.

This first one I took while looking out for meteors. I couldn’t see any meteors (too many clouds and fog) but I did find this airplane. The weird light is from a streetlight that’s a good 300′ behind me.

From Miscellaneous

This second one was taken at Grundy Lake, handheld at 1/6th of a second. Almost impossible to do that without a VR (Vibration Reduction) lense.

From Miscellaneous

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