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1911 aa Old Town Charles River

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Blott, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Screwing & Plugging
    The outwales have been back on for a few weeks now and had "set" well so I took the screws and washers out at bow and stern, countersunk and then refitted so that they were flush; the bent ends didn't move at all. I then worked along either side of the canoe screwing and plugging. I cut the plugs from the same lengths of new timber used for the outwales whilst the plugs for the larger holes over the seat bolts were cut from older mahogany from the original outwales, sections of which I had saved.

    Where the outwales were fitted there had been some twisting at the ends which gave a raised edge; this grated with me so I carefully took the sander and eased it down flatter. All were sanded again for the whole length so that everything was even.


    I then cleaned everything with fine wire wool and white spirit and when dry gave everything a wipe with some Tung oil. Interestingly, despite being from the same piece of timber some plugs went darker than others immediately the oil was applied. I can deal with the variation in colour and patina using shellac and varnish as I build up the final coats.

    912BDCAF-85A0-4885-B710-541646643727_1_201_a.jpeg 9AE1EEDD-366D-4F28-8131-14001B85B079_1_201_a.jpeg
    My plan to pick up the mahogany for the thwarts this week was banjaxed as the saw mill owner had been diagnosed with Covid; it can wait for a couple of weeks.
    The low temperature means that any painting or varnishing is out of the question so over the week I will do some more woodwork such as the floor boards and mast foot.

    Keep safe

    Benson Gray, MGC and samb like this.
  2. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    The following is quoted from the 1910 Old Town Canoe Catalogue "Mahogany double gunwale construction represents the acme in canoe building art. ....the ordinary gunwale of spruce is replaced by one of mahogany, to which are attached the ribs, planking and canvas. In another gunwale , also of mahogany , by rabbiting the lower inside edge a pocket is made to receive the ribs, planking and canvas. The two gunwales are screwed and doweled firmly together at intervals of six inches, making a tight joint, and when finished they appear to be but one piece of wood." All of that extra work for $2 in 1910 !
    Benson Gray likes this.
  3. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes


    It had warmed up a bit so with some lockdown time on my hands I cracked on.

    I ordered some decorating accessories so that everything was to hand; some brushes of various sizes, some small ,hard rollers for gloss paint, some disposable roller trays and some measuring cups. I also got some Mirka Mirlon abrasive finishing pads of the Scotch Brite variety in ultra and very fine grades as these are smashing for rubbing down between coats.

    I masked up the stems and outwales but left a width of outwale exposed so that the paint would seal the gap between the hull and the wood stopping moisture getting in and rotting from behind.

    As I was educated in Cambridge, it made sense to go with the Cambridge Blue and I will do some detailing in the darker Oxford Blue to keep the Varsity theme going.

    Undercoat in grey.

    Then the first coat of the blue. The build sheet from 1911 which Benson kindly provided showed that the canoe was a light blue colour originally so I am going with that but will be adding a detailed pattern which I like. I am currently pouring over pattern templates to get the design and scale correct which is easier said than done!

    I rollered the paint on working each and every way having thinned it @ 12% so that it would flow and settle easier. I then lightly passed the roller over again followed by "tipping" using a 2" brush which popped all the bubbles and flattened the surface nicely.

    It's a case of watching paint dry now. The floor boards are peeking at me from under one of the other canoes so I should really pull them out and start some prep work and decide how to finish and fit them. Centrally they had some wooden twist fittings but at the board edges I will make and use some clips made out of thin brass bar. I can do all the prep work before turning the canoe over to deal with the finishing of the inside.

    Keep safe.

    mmmalmberg and Benson Gray like this.
  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Short pieces of stem band were often used for these as you probably know. This is looking great,

  5. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I managed to get the 2nd coat of blue on and then started masking and adding some detail. In discussion with Benson yesterday I mentioned the pattern and scheme I was going for. His succinct response was "Good luck with that". I am sure he must know something I don't! :0
    The straight bits are the easy sections. Getting a "straight "curve is a PITA !
    I heated the garage up; thinned the paint and cracked on whilst it snowed outside.
    When that is dry I will give it a 2nd coat but in the meantime I can get on with cutting some pattern templates; if the grandchildren were here we could have made it a craft afternoon!

    Keep safe.

    Benson Gray and samb like this.
  6. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I didn't mean to discourage you but this won't be easy. See for a brief description of my approach to painting the design number four on an Otca with sponsons. Your templates are a great start but there are still likely to be a lot of manual adjustments to make it look right. You appear to be off to a great start.

  7. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    With a big enough hammer I can get a square peg in a round hole so will work this out methodically starting at each end and adjusting the length of each template as I get towards the middle. By adjusting each by a 1/4" or 1/8" it should work. If not, a strategically placed WCHA sticker will do the job!

  8. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Your approach sounds right. Careful measurements of examples painted at the factory indicate that they used a this technique as well, although they started in the middle to have the center triangle line up with the middle thwart. The design number four has the added complexity that you need to make sure to have an odd number of triangles so that each rail ends with a red one. My experience is that you will want to rough it all out in pencil and then spend a lot of time just standing back to see if it looks right. A big eraser helps too.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
    Blott likes this.
  9. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Today there were two questions on my mind:

    1. Why the hell did I set my heart on Old town Pattern 22
    2. Why have I not purchased shares in 3M, the manufacturers of masking tape.

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    I cut my template of the repeating pattern found the centre of the canoe and then divided half that figure by a number of repetitions so that I could get a centre mark for each triangle. Along the shear that was 10.25 inches whilst around the curve I graduated that down to 6" which looks correct. I then pencil marked and masked each triangle and set to with the paint.

    When still tacky I removed the masking tape and was immediately disappointed at the level of bleed which had happened. The yellow paint was from a different paint manufacturer and whilst there was some slight beed on the white and blue it was much more significant this time. My normal trick to remove bleed is to rub the paint edge with a clean cloth soaked in white spirit which will remove the bled area and leave a sharp edge. Here the white is to be painted over again as part of the pattern so I masked up and did another coat of the white. When that is dry I will mask up and do the dark areas which I am doing in a really dark blue. For the fine lines and coachlines I am cheating and have purchased marine grade vinyl 1/4" tape in a matching colour; I have used this successfully before and negates the need for me to drink gallons of coffee to give a steady hand!


    I will mask up the other side tomorrow. I may paint a bit of thinned, quick drying clear varnish over the edge of the masking tape this time to try and seal the edge and reduce the bleed.

    If it looks awful and a dogs dinner I may revert to the Greenbank Pattern :)

    Keep safe and get jabbed!

    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
    Benson Gray likes this.
  10. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    One side nearly done save the fine lines. Then all again on the other side....... 9318EE25-ED45-4D3C-BD27-A0AD9ACA6E62.jpeg
  11. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Mask, paint, peel, mask, paint peel....

    Wasn't it Van Halen who had the song titled " You've got to finish what you started".

    The paint job is a lot of repetition although I do feel like I am winning but tacky tape gets everywhere, you find it stuck on your sleeves, shoes, Black Labrador and it can follow you into the house without you knowing.

    One side nearly done. It needs some minor finishing, tidying up of some bleeds and then at the end I will clean and cut the outer stems back before final varnishing.


    I have now turned the canoe over. I need to make some adjustments to the setting out of the pattern on the 2nd side to ensure symmetry when viewed from the front as its all about the "angle of dangle" with the triangles and although I measured and replicated, a small discrepancy got compounded into a much larger one as you wound around the curve.


    There nothing more time consuming than waiting for paint to dry in the winter despite having a heater in the garage. The urge to paddle the completed canoe will have to be suppressed until the paint has had time to really harden. I might try and paddle her on my birthday which is the 18th of the month.....

    Keep safe and sane!

  12. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  13. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Moving on now that the Beast From The East has relented and we are 13 degrees C warmer here in the UK.
    I am getting there but its slow....
    Building up the varnish on the decks and gunwales with an oil based high gloss. The seats and thwarts will be gloss too but the planks and ribs are satin.

    I have named the canoe "Lilly" after the grand daughter of the chap who gave me the canoe.
    I still have some tidying up of the paint around the outer stems before those get cleaned back and final varnish added.
    7687B586-BA1F-4200-8C29-02D2425F7911_1_201_a.jpeg 32AC6CA8-6524-4BED-8E66-F9BBDDED33A9_1_201_a.jpeg

    I still need to do the thwarts, floor boards and trimmings but we are winning.

    Keep well, keep safe and get jabbed!

    mmmalmberg, samb and Benson Gray like this.
  14. patrick corry

    patrick corry Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Oh my, how nice!
  15. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    That's a great looking canoe! Well done!
  16. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I think we can call it DONE!

    The last couple of weeks have been the final finishing.

    I got the paint finished. For the fine coach lines I did "cheat" as I used high quality marine vinyl tape. The colour match to the dark Oxford Blue was excellent. It comes in 10m rolls. You warm the surface slightly, making sure its clean, apply the tape and then trim. I trim slightly over length to allow for any shrinkage of with the material or the canoe. When it was all on I then wafted a hot air gun over and rubbed the tape down to firmly set the tape and adhesive.

    My woodman is still shut so I poked around in the rafters and found some thin planks of a dark hardwood which I was going to use for floor boards on a row boat but having sold it these were surplus to requirements. I cut them down to 3" widths, glued, clamped and laminated 3 planks together and then left them. I was then able to shape them and using my temporary thwarts as a guide, drilled the holes for the bolts and with a bit of fettling got them fitted. I had cut a couple of bolts a tad on the short length so drilled some oversized recessed holes on the underside for the nits and washers. The longer bolts I will trim down with a Dremel when I have had a couple of shakedown paddles.


    The mast step was glued and screwed in place. I then cleaned the floor boards, gave them 3 coats of shellac for a nice rich colour and then varnished.

    Final jobs were to fit the floor boards. I cut some wooden toggles for the centre and then cut some stem band down, drilled and shaped for clamps and also screwed and washered some. The boards were not screwed in when I got the canoe so the crucial issue was to carefully measure, check and measure again the overall thickness of the boards, ribs and planking otherwise I can imagine that it would be very easy to enthusiastically screw through the canvas. I erred on the side of short and caution. I was 2 slot head screws short so temporarily fitted a couple of stumpy pozi drives until I can find a couple of slot heads somewhere in the garage.


    Final job was to take out the stem band screws, gently countersink a bit more and then with a fine wire wool, clean the brass back of varnish before re-fitting the screws.

    She, like me is not a lightweight; I have added carrying handles as there is no centre thwart or yoke; I used the most expensive bronze diamond headed bolts in the UK which, whilst not contemporary to the canoe are fine for an addition. Overall I am happy with how the double gunwales came out.


    Looking at the photo, the painter eye is skew; I used the original holes so it can stay like that. A lot was done by eye originally and also by me but at times I think I could have a pirates squint!

    So that's it. Of course a canoe is not a canoe until its on the water so I will close this thread off when I have photos of her in action with me as ballast. The sun is out, its mild and the river is down but the varnish is still soft so patience is the order of the day.
    As an enthusiastic amateur with limited space and tools, I am not unhappy with the result.

    Stay well, stay safe and get jabbed!


    Attached Files:

  17. likesmallwoodboats

    likesmallwoodboats New Member

    Great Job! You spent a lot of time on detail. It shows
  18. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Well, the river dropped a bit, the temperature rose over the week, the paint and varnish hardened and there was a sense of Spring in the air. The conditions looked right for a paddle on Saturday morning so I loaded the canoe on the Friday night and at 6.50am I had to wipe the frost off the canoe as I popped her on the Little Ouse at Brandon in Norfolk UK.

    The storms and floods over the last few weeks had washed a lot of sand over the "hard" brick base to the launch area but I still heard a scrape as I put the canoe in. Rather like a new car, the first scratch is the worst. After that they all tell a story.


    It was getting lighter but a mist still hung over the river. It was a real push but I worked my way up to my favourite coffee stop. I could hear and see the Buzzards overhead, woodpeckers were busy and the occasional deer was barking away in the forest.

    The adventure begins...

    I didn't see any otters today but in reality I was not in the most camouflaged of craft!

    AD006F10-6074-4953-B63B-E1719E27AB69_1_201_a.jpeg 282FA254-00A0-4AB7-940D-056DE155121F_1_201_a.jpeg 2BFE8124-FAB6-40BC-BB43-3756E34B9A1D_1_201_a.jpeg CEE5119E-740E-4C83-BE7A-6BEDD36C1FB4_1_201_a.jpeg 769CF4FE-3277-43F9-9C88-F8C6BAC2B50C_1_201_a.jpeg

    All in all a good three hours on the water. She is a heavy flat bottomed canoe but looks good and has great style and proportion.


    Thats my lockdown project completed. I started on 1st September and finished at the end of February so a 6 month project. over the winter. Thanks for following my progress, I am happy with the result; she is not perfect but she is back on the water and not a bad attempt by a Brit with limited workspace and tools.

    Keep well and safe. Waking up each morning means its a good day!

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
  19. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Awesome job, Nick!
  20. OP

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    and finally........
    Grab a coffee, turn the sound up and click on the link

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
    Norm Hein and Benson Gray like this.

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