Earlier this year, Lawrence sophomore Will Meadows found himself searching for a project that was completely motivated by his own goals and passions. A conversation that he had with friend Nate Grady led them to undertake something big: building a canoe.
“Will and I were talking after geology class fall term, and we both thought that we would love a project that isn’t stressful and is separate from our course work,” recalled Grady.
Professor of Geology and Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Studies Marcia Bjørnerud overheard this conversation. She informed Grady and Meadows that her father spent several decades teaching people to build canoes. Consequently, her father Jim Bjørnerud was a very important part of this project.
“Jim had incredible advice and did a lot of work with us, especially in the early stages,” said Grady.
Fellow Lawrentians Daryl Baldwin and Tim Honig joined the group, and a lot of their initial work focused on logistical issues like gathering materials and finding a workspace. During the winter months, they worked in the SLUG shed. The canoe was recently moved to a space in the basement of the Warch Campus Center. This move has been the most gratifying part of the project for Baldwin.
“Taking it out of the shed in one piece, in my mind, turned the fragilely-glued and stapled strips into something whole,” he said.
The group built a form for the canoe and spent a lot of time stapling and gluing long, thin strips of Northern White Pine and Walnut together. The wood has been sanded, and the next steps include removing the staples and creating a waterproof seal with fiberglass and epoxy.
For Grady, completing the sanding on the hull of the canoe has been the most satisfying part of the project so far.
“It made us feel like we were getting much closer to completion, and the boat felt and looked so great,” he said. “I expect the final launch to be the most satisfying in the end, though.”
The exact date of completion is up in the air, but Meadows expects it to be soon.
“Three weeks and she’ll be ready to go,” he said.
And as for the maiden voyage, the group already has a possible location in mind. “Since we spent the winter building the canoe in the SLUG shed, we want our first launch to be right there into the Fox River,” said Grady. “We might take a day trip over Memorial Day weekend on the Wolf River.”
No matter where and when the first voyage in the canoe takes place, the group’s main objective will have been achieved.
“The primary goal was to get the point that each one of us can go out and build a canoe on our own,” said Honig. “We wanted to each be involved in every step of the process, and we divided the work as equally as possible. It is a different kind of work that we were all thirsty for.”