Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

1910 Old Town H.W. just acquired .... Fix to use, sell or restore ? (In Maine)

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Jimcorliss, Apr 27, 2016.

  1. Jimcorliss

    Jimcorliss Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I've been given a 1915 H.W. in remarkable shape except lots of layers of chipped paint on the canvas. Serial#38556 ... All ribs intact. A couple of <1" square holes in planking but not through the canvas. My thought is to smooth and fill the paint and then some rust oleum hunter green and then use the canoe or sell it to someone who really wants this to recanvas/restore. The canvas would have to be calked where it meets the gunwales (3M 5200 ?). I could remove the canvas where there is a 1" square area of planking missing and glue in new white cedar from cedar lath and place a patch in the canvas. This would not be too visible as the joint would be beneath the ribs. I don't really have the time for a pristine restoration and would gladly sell it to someone who wants an earlier Old Town in fantastic shape to start a restoration. It is a classic ! I'd be looking for $500 as is and I live in Columbia, ME. Email me if interested and I can send photos. ... If I still have it this fall I may restore it but don't have the time now. How do my quick fix ideas hold up to those here with experience ?

    Thank You ! image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg image.jpg

    image.jpg image.jpg

    Jim Corliss
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Beware using 3M caulks -- they can be hard to remove later when proper restoration is undertaken.

    Pictures here would help greatly. What is the problem with the canvas at the gunwale? Is it ripped? A thin strip of wood tacked over the canvas might serve your purpose, but can't really tell.
  3. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    If your goal is to sell this canoe then it is usually best to do as little as possible to it. Anything that you do should be easily reversible as Greg mentioned or it may significantly reduce the resale value.

    The Old Town canoe with serial number 38556 is a 17 foot long, AA (or top) grade, HW (Heavy Water) model with red Western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, mahogany decks, mahogany thwarts, mahogany seats, a keel, and a floor rack. It was built between May and July, 1915 and shipped to Maine on July 27th. The shipment year was not specified so it was probably 1915 or later. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.

    This scan and several hundred thousand more were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions. Good luck with the project,


    Attached Files:

  5. OP

    Jimcorliss Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank You ! What is a good caulk then ?
  6. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Where do you think caulk is needed. Caulking compounds are not usually needed on w/c canoes. A bedding compound such a s Dolfinite (Jamestown Distributors or other marine suppliers) may be used when installing a keel, bang plates, or gunwales. But from the photos above, I don't see where you would be using something like that. the seam between the gunwales and the canvas appears to be ok as is in the last of the first set of you pics, and another coat of paint would likely be enough to take care of that join. In the picture immediately above, I don't see where your concern might be.

    I second Benson's comment about doing as little as possible if you are intending to sell it. A coat of paint on the exterior of the canvas wouldn't hurt anything, and might make it more attractive for a buyer (though it might accentuate the chips, cracks, and dings). But the interior is a different matter. The varnish looks to be in very rough shape; new marine varnish is needed, after stripping the old stuff. Putting another coat of varnish over what is there now would only make it more difficult to strip by a buyer.
  7. OP

    Jimcorliss Curious about Wooden Canoes

    There is a separation of the canvas from the gunwales ... It is like the canvas may have shrunk so in placed it is like 1/8" ... For the most part the canvas and wood is adhered but in the bow one the starboard side it can be pulled away some which I would think I could place a glue, epoxy or just caulk or seal it at the gunwale or even use a few tacks.
  8. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Any of the below will reduce the canoes value.

    If you plan to keep it and use it, repair/restore it.
    If you plan to sell it, don't do anything to it, most collectors want canoes untouched. Plus if you do it right,
    you will have more in it in time and money than what it will be worth.

    Take look at the "want ads" on this site, there is no shortage of restored canoes offered for sale. No idea if they ever sell.


  9. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    A basic rule of w/c canoe repair/restoration is to not do anything that cannot be undone. Therefore, you do not want to use epoxy, or any glue that cannot be readily undone -- such as the 3M 5200. When replacing the canvas, which will have to be done in the not-too-distant future, you (or a buyer) do not want to have to deal with glued-down canvas. Water coming in through the small canvas gap at the gunwale at the bow should not be an issue -- splashes high on the canoe should not cause water to enter the canoe in any problematic amount -- you probably will splash more into the canoe from your paddles -- a few small tacks, perhaps through a thin covering slat, to keep the canvas from ripping further is probably the best temporary repair if you are going to use the canoe a bit. Any caulking that would stay in place would create the same problem as glues and epoxy -- difficult to remove. Linseed-oil based caulking and similar caulks that are not adhesive would not hold the canvas in place. But if selling it, I'd do nothing -- leave it to the buyer, who is likely to simply replace the whole canvas without messing around with fixing the small rip. Similarly, a buyer will repair the broken planking at the time of recovering the canoe (probably putting a longer piece of replacement wood that you are considering), making a repair and a canvas patch now pretty much wasted time and effort on your part.

    In the last few years, I have bought two old canoes -- one that needed restoration and am currently restoring -- new canvas, gunwales, some planking and ribs (we used it for a few years before restoration -- see discussion about it in some of the links above), and one that was fully and very nicely restored when we bought it (pictured in my avatar).
  10. OP

    Jimcorliss Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for your advice ... I would have done something that would make it hard to undo

    As far s a coat of paint .... If I wanted to fill in some gouges where paint chips and cracks have made,the surface rough what can I fill with ?. A thin amount of bondo might work then a coat of paint would look nice ... Most primers would not give me the surface leveling I need. A wood putty ?

    Thank you for your help and thoughts.
  11. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I suspect any body bondo would work for a short time,

    but why bother? The 1st thing a person will do during a restore is remove and throw away the canvas.
    And it (paint) will just add weight in the mean time.

    If you plan to use this, make sure it doesn't leak, screw down that lifted bang strip on the keel, and stabilize any breaks.
    Then get it wet.

  12. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Dan’s advice above is good.

    But if you want to paint it, just for fun, or because you want to use it for more than a season, --

    Dont use regular auto body two-part Bondo. Use Bondo Glazing and Spot Putty. Spot putty is one-part, no mixing, comes in a tube (4 oz or 1 lb). Can be bought in auto supply places, or on Amazon. It dries quite fast, and can be easily sanded.

    You can just paint the hull without using spot putty, after a fairly light sanding, working the paint into the cracks. It will waterproof the hull, and pass the 20 foot test,

    sm cr 100_4070.JPG
    small 100_6450.JPG

    but will not pass a close inspection in a raking light
    cr 100_6083.JPG

    This was two coats of Benjamin Moore Porch and Deck paint, water based, no spot putty

    Keep in mind that canoes are usually seen from a distance -- out on a lake, or on a beach or cartop from afar.

    After two years of good service, and ready for a third year, I decided I wanted to modify the design. For preparation, I sanded quite a bit more, with a RO sander, and did use spot putty. A better result,

    sm 100_8757.jpg

    but not perfect, especially in a raking light.

    sm 100_8745.jpg

    Two coats of the same water-based paint.

    Sanding off enough crackled paint/filler material to eliminate the spider-webbing and traces of crackling is difficult, virtually impossible -- you would have to sand off essentially all the paint down to the canvas. You are likely to sand into and weaken the canvas, and even if you can sand to a smooth surface successfully, it would be a huge amount of nasty, dusty work -- for only a temporary fix.

    If you paint, be satisfied with less than perfect, for that is what you will get.

    The current condition of the canoe above:

    sm IMG_0593.jpg

    Awaiting several new ribs, some planking, and new gunwales (already bent, but not fitted), and varnish (old varnish is mostly stripped), before a new canvas, filler, and paint.

Share This Page