Kudos to Bell canoe.

My seat raises for my Merlin II fiasco is over, I think fiasco might be overstating it a bit. I had decided back in early fall to get the 2"seat raises so I could kneel more comfortably. I ignorantly went ahead & ordered my seat raises from their website & assumed that I would be able to slap them in and be out on the water within the hour. How wrong I was hahaha, needless to say they didn’t fit, not even close. So I called Bell and was politely directed to the nice lady by the name of Rose. She quickly set up a UPS pickup for the seat raises and asked that I provide my old 4" seat rises as a template.

In about a week I recieved my old seat raises sized to the 2" height which kind of shocked me, I thought what if I want to put my old 4" raises back? I couldn’t now because they had been used to create the new seat raises but I realized that the odds of me using 4" raises again were pretty slim.

Just wanted to make public my satisfaction with Bell & their ability to solve a problem rather quickly even if their solutions to a small problem seem rather unorthadox the problem has been solved and I am happily back out on the water.



Bell/ ORC Manufacturing

– Last Updated: Nov-20-07 2:12 PM EST –

Had a conversation with a Bell dealer just a couple of weeks ago about how things were going with Bell from his view, at the end of the first full season of Bell being owned by ORC. His comments play interestingly against this experience.

His cut was that, while ORC failed to understand what was really involved in making canoes when they first acquired Bell from its founder, they tended to be a company that was capable of making things well. His sense was that they were getting the canoe part down finally, and were likely to have some very consistent quality in their product from here forward. (No comment on whether ORC is likely to be a source of new designs.) He had recently had a visit from a rep for canoes in this region, who was specifically making the rounds to get a better sense of what the dealers needed. That seemed a good sign.

So - back to the experience with the seat - the person Rose who was the contact on this, as well as the folks who actually did the work, may not be paddlers at all. (See below posts - I am NOT referring to any inability to paddle) It might not have occurred to them that having both seats would be an advantage. Also, custom work is not likely their strong suit. ORC has carved out a unique niche in employing people who start out having some minor disability. They are geared to produce a given standard result on a repetitive basis, but a one-up thing like this may be outside of that. Sounds like it hasn't occurred to them to have spare seats around, at least yet.

In a case like this, it may be necessary to get to whoever is in charge of the work crew and make it very clear that what is needed is a second seat that is a copy of the other one, but with a different length in whatever part. Or find a dealer who may be able to press them to create a few spare seats.

A couple of quick comments
Celia - ORC’s production is being run (and was set up) by Dave Kruger, who was a designer for Wenonah for decades. I’d say there is a pretty fantastic chance that new Bell designs will be forthcoming. As far as production goes, ORC did a bang-up job of giving Dave the freedom and backing he needed to set up a first-class facility. There’s also not necessarily a correlation between disabilities and an inability to paddle. Not many manufacturers have rabid paddlers working the production lines. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d say Bell/ORC has a good looking future ahead.

Didn’t mean that - at all

– Last Updated: Nov-20-07 2:09 PM EST –

My comment about the employees being paddlers or not had nothing whatsoever to do with their abilities. Frankly, I'm glad you pointed that out. It never even occurred to me, but I suppose might have to others if that was your take.

What I was referring to was the fact that ORC was and still is a major supplier of military clothing to the government. The business decision to acquire Bell canoes, similar to Redfeather snowshoes earlier, was made to give them something that was in a sector and had a cycle that was different from their original military contract line. (per statements from web site letters and random elsewhere) Bell and Redfeather were interesting to ORC because they each had a reputation for quality in their field.

In sum, I wouldn't count on these folks being paddlers because they have been primarily focused on making military uniforms under federal contract. While that doesn't mean that some don't paddle on the side, that kind of shop isn't going to draw someone who paddles and wants to have a job that closely relates to their avocation. It has nothing whatsoever to do with their abilities.

As to new models - I said that because the dealer really didn't have a sense of where that lay in ORC's plans for the Bell line. I meant more of a not known than ain't going to happen.

Yep, understood
I hoped as I was typing that you wouldn’t think I was being critical of your comments - just trying to add what I know to the unknowns. The canoe shop is actually a separate facility on the campus, and is staffed on its own. I’d guess the percentage of paddlers on site will rise (just like I would guess that the number of snowshoers rose).

In any case, it’s a nice set-up, and will be fun to watch.

good to hear
kruger should be able to handle it well. i was thinking bell may fall off the map, but this is reassuring.

Bell is not falling off the map
They were here in Youngstown Ohio a week ago with 30+ boats on the trailer.

I think bell is in good hands…
with Kruger even though I don’t like his designs if only for the fact he doesn’t take into account the small paddler I can’t think of any Kruger design that I would care to paddle not even the vagabond it’s still too wide. That’s not to say he hasn’t made some great designs…Voyager,Advantage…

I figured as much that some of these people in customer service may not have the paddling experience that we would consider someone should have in such a well known & respected brand such as Bell.I was prepared to never see my raises ever again so I was pretty ecstatic to see them in my mailbox in just a week after I sent them back. Sure they turned my original seat raises from 4"to 2" not my first choice on how they should fix the problem but no big deal. I was never going to use the 4" seat raises again anyways.

But it does bring up a good point why in the hell would they send seat raises when the gentlemen in customer service tells me that each seat raise must be custom made for the canoe?

Apparently the chiefs and this is my guess that the chiefs know what’s going on but the indians who pull orders to ship on Misc. parts aren’t being given the same info maybe? I can only guess

it only takes a few " neck down’s " to screw up simple crap such as this.

Anyways I was pretty irritated at first with Bell but I counted to ten gave them a call and in the end I think I was pretty well taken care of.

Your “problem” is somewhat more…

– Last Updated: Nov-20-07 6:52 PM EST –

...tricky to solve than one might expect at first, and here's why. Since the ends of the seat rails and the gunwales on most boats are not exactly the same distance apart, the hangers do not drop "straight down" from the gunwales. Instead, they are often a little "off" from vertical. The angle by which the hangers diverge from vertical will be different for short hangers compared to long ones as long as you use the same seat in both cases, so if the holes in the seat rails are drilled at the angle necessary to fit one set of hangers, they may not allow the bolts to pass through when using hangers of different length (and therefore different hanging angle).

Before my Bell merlin II ever saw the water, I shortened its seat hangers just as the company did for you, but when I was done, the parts wouldn't even come CLOSE to fitting back together. I had to drastically ream-out all the holes, both in the seat rails and in the hangers, to allow the bolts to pass through at the new hanging angle. In fact, the shortened hangers would NOT even take on the sharper angle necessary to match the seat because the bolt holes in the hangers and the gunwales wouldn't even line up well (yes, the hangers were trimmed at the seat end, not the gunwale end, so on the surface this statement doesn't make sense, but it would take a whole extra paragraph to explain "why" this misalignment occurred and I'm not that ambitious right now). The short version of the story is that funneling-out the holes through the hangers by sticking a drill in there and twisting it back and forth made everything fit just fine. It just took me about an hour instead of my anticipated 20 minutes.

I'm quite certain that when the holes are drilled in the hangers and seat ends, they drilled by hand in a way to make the parts fit. If they used jigs to drill the parts, they'd need a different jig for every different application of the seat hangers (for every model of boat, including front vs back in every different tandem model). I'm sure it's much less trouble to make the hangers fit the boat in question as the need arises, than to mass-produce hangers drilled in all the different ways necessary.

Good point…
I noticed very quickly when I got the original seat raises that it wasn’t going to work. You are right it’s got to be a custom job and I took that all into account when I sent the ones they sent me back along with my old raises ( to be used as a template) But the only problem I came across when I wen to install my 4" original raisesconverted to 2"raises was that that the back arm on the right side (of my seat) was rubbing too much on the canoe when it was screwed up to the bottom of the seat raise (it actually bowed out the side of my Merlin II just under the gunnel ) I quickly loosened the seat from the raise and took the whole seat back off and took it to my Dad’s house and shaved a little off of the side post that is screwed into the seat raise and it installed perfectly WHEW!!! finally can take my canoe back out on the water.

I f I had at least half way decent woodworking skills I probably would have still returned the original seat raises they were so far off to matching the gunnell holes let alone lining up with my seat.

Kruger and smaller paddlers
It seems a common perspective from what little I’ve encountered on canoes so far that a width of 30 inches or, to be most comfortable, even 29 inches ain’t quite it for a smaller paddler (like an average sized female). However, I’m not sure that Kruger being the person who put together the production line means that ORC couldn’t use a design from someone who does design well for women and smaller men.

That is, if they are interested in adding new designs. Time will tell.

The beginning

– Last Updated: Nov-21-07 5:56 AM EST –

Bell uses Ed's seats that have 8" C to C spacing on the cross bars.

Drops, also from Ed's now, are drilled from the bottom: clamp several together, mark the 8" spacing and drill them in gang w/ 13/64" bit.

The drill bit is long, it heats and distorts and wanders some, so the hole spacing on top varies. The drops are held to the rail, front holes centered on an arc from the bow. Stern holes are marked and four holes holes with countersink are drilled in the rails.

When one cuts the drops down, the hole spacing may or may not match the original because it wasn't all that precise. Depending on which remainder of the drop is retained, rail holes or seat holes may have moved a little.

All composite canoes are semi-custom made. When we change something, that may well require another custom adjustment.

OK - I’m stupid there
More things to learn about canoes… spare seats aren’t necessarily a plan.

Not a big deal
Most folks figure out what length seat drops suit them best (assuming they bother to change the factory drops) and just leave them at that length. However, it wouldn’t be very difficult or very expensive to have a spare set of drops and a spare seat on hand if you wanted to swap things around. A regular seat + drops + mounting hardware is only about $36 from Ed’s. You’d have to be able to trim the seat to fit and do your own drilling, but it is pretty simple, although an extra pair of hands comes in kind of handy.

More seat installation info
Production shops have jigs to mark where and at what angle the seat crossbars are cut. Individual, oversize bored drops are them placed across the left or right side crossbars and the a long bit used to drill through each crossbar. Drop machine screw spacing is then marked on the rails, indexing off an arc from the bow or stern, holes bored, countersunk and, with a little luck, 10-24 machine screws fit through their sequence of three holes and locknuts applyed and tightened.

Please note that the machine screw heads tend to pull down into the wood and as wood tends to swell, there is always the potential to split chunks of rail out when swapping seat drops. Trim washers applied between screw head and rail solve that, but gouge other’s rails during boat over boat recovery.

As we only mount a few dozen seats a year, we use a more involved and accurate process than production shops that allows custom placement to adjust trim. This may be the best way for the home customizer to go at the project of fitting a new seat or different drops.

After drops are bored oversize, we swing an arc from the bow, or stern on tandem rears, and bore the front bolt placement 13/64", 1/64" oversize, through the rails. We align the drops with that front hole, mark rear hole and bore it, then countersink all four screw holes.

Mark the caned seat center on front and back crossbars, noting that the crossbars themselves may or may not have uniform leg lengths.

Align the drops with their holes and quick clamp against the underside of the underside of the rail. Arrive at side to side allowable seat width at front and back screw holes, by measuring hull width across the drops and subtracting enough distance that the seat bar ends will not contact the hull. Note angle where the hull tapers to stern or bow.

Halve those distances, measure out from seat center, hold the seat to the hull to check and then cut the four crossbar legs to length and reseal the open grain with sand and seal.

[Note with high kneeling seats the rear bar, being close to the rail, may have minimal overhang past the drop. Leave more overhang past the front bar for strength, Most of our weight is born on the front edge of the seat.]

Then use four quick clamps, one near each screw hole to clamp both drops and the seat on rough place. Adjust placement until seat crossbar overage is the same side to side. Run an arc from bow or stern to the front edge of the seat to make sure it is square to the hull.

If you have a very long 3/16 in bit, and have bored rails and drops oversize, drill all four holes through the seat crossbars, installing the front machine screws before shooting the rear holes. Alternatively, slip a 3/15 rod through rail and drop; tapping it with a hammer to mark all four crossbar hole placements. Then disassemble the contraption and, using the drops to set angle, shoot all four holes through the crossbars before reassembling in the hull and tightening the four through machine screws. salong the to W

Heed Charlie’s advice
"Please note that the machine screw heads tend to pull down into the wood and as wood tends to swell, there is always the potential to split chunks of rail out when swapping seat drops"

The holes for the seat drops on my Magic were countersunk overly deep - at least 1/2 way through the rails - and with my weight I was experiencing “pull through” as he describes. And I did take a chunk out of one rail because the bolt head had locked into the swollen wood. If you experience the heads hanging up in the least, DO NOT force the bolt upward. Instead, use a utility knife to dress the hole, and if possible use a countersink to round the edges.


I love my Bell as she is!
I never even thought about changing the height of my seat. The height seems to suit me just fine.

I am female, about 5’6", average build.

Guess I’ll ask the hubby tonight how his seat is?

–he’ll get a laugh out of that–then I’ll say I mean his CANOE seat!

He is 6’ and about 240 lbs…maybe he does need a lower seat for some reason.

We have a Bell Morningstar, 15’6" and we’ve had it

2 years now and try to get out and paddle about once a month.

No plans to get a narrower canoe anytime soon, unless we unpork ourselves…can’t do that-Xmas is around the corner!