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How To Cut Stringers Flush to Bow Stem


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I'm not a woodworker and can't imagine how you could accurately cut a stringer so it will lay flat and fair on the bow stem's side. I'm building a skin-on-frame canoe with two "bows." I could probably fudge getting a stringer secured to, let's say, the stern. But that leaves no margin for error when trying to secure it flush to the bow. 


 Are there videos or photos showing how this is done?

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Spring away or remove the actual stringer. Take a short length (12" or so) of similar stringer stock, then lay it on the stem location, hacking away until you get a deadnuts (technical term) fit on this little piece. Place a mark that can be transferred to the actual stringer and use this mark as an alignment (witness) reference of the stringer you want to fit. Naturally, you'll transfer the appropriate cuts on the end of the stringer, measuring forward from the witness mark on your "cheater" stick.


If having difficulty with the fit, it's a double bevel in most cases, possibly a rolling bevel on one or both sides, depending on bow and stem shape. Which design are you building? There's a few ways to do this, but most of us wood butchers use the "sneak up on it" approuch. This simply means you whittle away, a little at a time, checking the fit as you go and to see where and how much more you need to hack off. This is time consuming, but does work well. I usually employ a bevel gauge and find the fore and aft angle first. This would be the rake or angle of the bow or stem, cut into the side of the stringer. I just make a clean and square cut at first. Next I "pick up" the bevel on the stringer landing on the side of the stem. This needs to be paired with the other angle, so you can maintain the relationship. Just sneak up on it and you'll eventually get there.


The reason for the short length of "cheater" stock is, to make things easier to setup for the real cuts on the stringer. I do this often with a miter saw, using a hunk of scrap to fine tune an angle or angles, like a compound miter, recording what each is, once satisfied with the fit. 


Lastly, you could always just fake it. Cut the stringer a few feet short of where it needs to land and cut a cheater to fill in the gap. This means you'd have a 2' - 3' piece landing on the stem and a stringer that stops a couple of feet short of the stem. Once the small piece is well fitted, cut a scarf in both pieces and marry them together with some goo. Under paint and filler, who's to know you scabbed in a piece, to make life easier.


One of the hallmarks of boat building in general is problem solving and "engineering on the fly". You'll soon discover you have to do this a lot, as you work through a set of plans. Folks that are good on their feet in this regard, seem to have a much better time of it. You have to get creative about lots of stuff, so do yourself a big favor and place a comfortable chair and end table next to your building project. I'm not kidding, you'll find it the most valuable piece of building equipment you'll own. The end table is much more useful, if it's a small refrigerator, so you have a place for the beer, while you collapse in the chair crying about measuring twice, cutting three times and still coming up short. Place a good reading lamp on the fridge/table, so you can look over the plans, after clearing the saw dust laden tears from your eyes. Relax, enjoy a beer, forget about the latest confounding incident and move on. After a while, you'll get renewed breath and can freshly reattack the latest issue.

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