Local woodworker crafts canoe for a cause

Published 7:26 pm Monday, August 15, 2016

A furniture maker, an antique car restorer and a handcrafted boat maker — Ed Rhine knows how to work with his hands. Now, the Blounts Creek resident is putting his many skills to good use with a hand-built canoe he’s making to raffle off, with all proceeds to be donated to Sound Rivers, a grassroots environmental advocacy organization.

The canoe in progress is what Rhine calls a “hybrid between a single-person canoe and a kayak.” It’s made of juniper, or Atlantic white cedar, with accent pieces of walnut, and at 14 feet, it will have decks on both the bow and stern. The accent design is rooted in Native American history.

“I went to the Indian museum in Connecticut, and I just started going through books and that particular design caught my eye,” Rhine said. “I put one on each side and one on the bottom. I don’t know what it stands for; it just works for me.”

Rhine constructs the canoe from 1/4-inch strips of wood, then uses a layer of fiberglass and epoxy to seal the outside, and another layer of fiberglass and epoxy to seal the inside. It’s not Rhine’s first attempt, or even 10th attempt at building a water-going vessel. It was a natural extension of a hobby that started many decades ago.

“I started it while I was in the service. We didn’t have much money, and we needed furniture,” Rhine said. “We’d go to the furniture store and find a piece we’d like, and I’d draw it up and make it.”

That was 1964, but it was in the 1970s that Rhine saw a handcrafted canoe first in Vermont, then in a museum in the Adirondacks.

“I built my first one, and I’ve been building it since,” Rhine said.

Rhine said he’s complete 10 or 12 of the canoes and given a number of them away. He’s made a few with his grandchildren. While the canoes look a little too pretty to actually put in the water, he said they are watertight: he and his wife have paddled all over the Adirondacks in them.

Rhine said his attraction to woodwork on a larger scale such as furniture and canoes is primarily due to his past profession. For 20 years, he was a teacher and another 29 years, an administrator, neither of which gives a person any real sense of “closure” or measured accomplishment, just the hope those students succeeded.

“But with woodworking, I start with a piece of wood, and I end up with a piece of furniture,” Rhine said.

Rhine, who lives on Blounts Creek, is raffling off the canoe to help Sound Rivers in its legal battle against a mining company that several experts say could permanently change the ecosystem of Blounts Creek if the company is allowed to discharge up to 12 million gallons of fresh water per day into the brackish creek. In 2013, Sound Rivers filed a petition against the state after the NC Department of Environmental Quality issued Martin Marietta Materials Inc. a permit to discharge water used in the limestone mining process into the creek.

Rhine said he plans to draw his handmade canoe’s winning ticket at the dragon boat races at Washington’s annual barbecue festival, Smoke on the Water, in October. He said 500 tickets, at $20 a piece, will be sold.

Those interested in purchasing a ticket can call Rhine at 252-975-1568.