Finish Carving

With the rough shaping completed, the canoe carvers turned their attention towards the finish carving. The alignment of the shear and the keel were both addressed. The boat was upright during the day. Most of the work was done furthering the carving of the inside. This was done primarily by the use of gouge adzes, usually worked with both hands. The swing was at an angle off centerline thereby allowing access to the concave surfaces beyond the shear line.

Some carvers used axes of the smaller type. The method was the same as I had observed when the rough carving in the forest was underway. The swing was started in the usual way but just at the second before contact, the handle of the axe was twisted. This process allowed the cutting edge of the axe to bite in but then with the twist the axe head would bounce off the hull. In doing so, a glancing cut could be done while controlling the depth. The cuts were always done across the flat grain.

Once the interior was getting close to the desired rough shape, the shear lines were once again marked. They had planed the top surface of the shear and it was fairly smooth. The chalk line was pulled out of the toolbox and the marking of the hull thickness along the shear was completed. Again, an unusual method was used with the chalk line. The endpoints were established representing both the inside and outside of the port and starboard hull. Then using the chalk line at each of these points a curved line was achieved by pulling the string off on almost a forty-five degree angle from the center point of the two endpoints. The chalked line was released in this sideways manner and the outcome was a fair curved line of the shear. The person snapping the line had a point on the respective shears he used as targets. I observed this method of obtaining a fair curve done in the forest during the rough carving and during this last time where a more precise curve was desired. The accuracy of this last operation was very good. The two marks they were aiming for were hit and what was left were two sets of parallel curved lines that represented the inside and outside of the hull at the shear.

Once these lines were established they were roughed using an axe and then brought in finely through hand-planing. The planes they use are mostly of the Japanese type. The Kapinga use them in the traditional eastern manner, cutting on the pull stroke as opposed to the western plane where one cuts during the push stroke. I have seen some western style of planes used. Kosen has a low angle adjustable throat block plane that he used for general clean-up of the outrigger poles. Also in the toolbox I noticed a hollowing plane of the earlier western style. It was made by the Kapingamarangis from what I believe to be mangrove wood. No one has used this yet so I'm not sure whether they pull or push it.

Once the shear lines were brought into fair, the hollowing of the interior was continued. During this process the craftsmen were continually checking thickness of the hull by reaching under the hull while also feeling inside the hull. At this point the hull thickness was about 1.5 inches. The day was concluded with plans for the marrow to fit the washboards, or momos.

The washboards are long u-shaped timbers that were made from wood salvaged from the first tree. The log was cut in half and rough shaped to fit the form of the main hull. The builders, satisfied with the shape of the lower half of the canoe, began to rough fit the momos to the dugout hull.

In order to fit the momos, refinement of the dugout exterior was first necessary. This was done with adzes and axes as described earlier. Further refinement was achieved through the use of hand planes. It should be noted that some of the craftsmen were so skilled with the use of the adze that the planing was almost unnecessary. Aisea handled all tools as a master and was responsible for most of the carving direction.

Jimmy and Boaz took off with Retty to find and fall a tree suitable for the outrigger. While they were gone Kosen, Aisea and Bondaig worked to prepare the forward momo. Eventually it was lifted into place for a rough fit. The form of the canoe began to emerge. A bow of the type for rough seas was observed. (This type of boat was much different than the Nukuoro style adopted by the Kapingamarangi in 1920). The rest of the day was spent rough fitting the momos. The others returned with the material to be used for the outrigger. Once the timbers were unloaded a days work was called.

The preparation of the various canoe parts continued. The float was first carved using axes and then hand planes. The booms used to tie the main hull to the float were smoothed and cut to rough length. The line used to lash the parts together was also made. Some of it is here on Pohnpei and more will arrive on the next ship from the atoll.

The fieldtrip ship was to make a run to the southern islands to pick up the high school students coming to Pohnpei. The stops were to be short. At first I considered the trip south of little use. However, with the numerous questions I had come across during the canoe carving, I decided that a visit to the Kapingamarangi atoll would be helpful. I made the arrangements and asked if there was anything on the atoll that was needed to finish the canoe. Kosen asked if I could bring back about twenty freshly harvested mature coconuts. The husks of these were to be used as a gasket type material. The voyage was to take from six to ten days. Linson Head, who had been employed as a translator, accompanied me on this trip.