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

1913 Old Town Charles River 17 (SN 26259)

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by chipfitzgerald, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. chipfitzgerald

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I'm in the planning process of restoring my grandfather's 1913 Old Town Charles River 17' canoe. I need help locating material to replace the original spruce gunwales. I live near Port Huron, MI and was wondering where I might find some spruce that would be 17+ feet long locally or within a reasonable driving distance. As an alternative to using pieces that are 17'+, can the gunwales be replaced in shorter pieces and skarfed together?
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2012
  2. Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Yes they can be scarfed out of two pieces - in fact there is little to no advantage in using a full length piece. Just make the skarfs long, ie. 10:1 or even 12:1 - saw to a line with a bandsaw or back saw and plane the face down to a flat smooth surface with a sharp block plane. Very easy and quick - and, the longer the scarf the less likelihood of developing a crick in the piece after glue -up because of differences in the scarf angle. Just spread some glue on the faces and clip them together with spring clamps. Joint is barely visible if made up well

    Frankly, I would never bother looking for a full length piece.
  3. Bucksaw

    Bucksaw Retired Guy

    Check building supply stores for 20' 2x12's. You will have to look through them to find one straight and clear enough, but it can be done. They cost, but you will end up with more than enough for another set.
  4. ebeeby

    ebeeby Novice Canoe Restorer

    10 years ago I ordered full length outwales from Old Town (ash) They shipped them with a canoe order to the local REI store.
  5. Jan Bloom

    Jan Bloom LOVES Wooden Canoes

    L L Johnsons, Charlotte, MI. They frequently stock 20 ft sitka. AKA Johnson's Workbench. They have a website and you can check on what they have in stock.
  6. Jan Bloom

    Jan Bloom LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Sitka at LL Johnsons is a bit over $9/brd ft 4/4 rough.
  7. Ossineke

    Ossineke Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Chip, Keep in mind, your state of MI has a WCHA chapter of really active folks that can help you with many needs during your rebuilding process. They (we) also host many gatherings for paddling, social, building, etc. You may contact us at for a Newsletter of events, etc. Keep that Old Town going we are eager to see it on the water! Bill
  8. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes


    What is the best glue to use for doing a canoe restoration?
  9. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you. I've made contact with them and they said they can help me.
  10. mccloud

    mccloud "Tiger Rag" back on the tidal Potomac In Memoriam

    For scarfs, epoxy. Clamp it tight and let it sit for 24 hrs. McCloud
  11. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the invite, Bill. This canoe was originaly shipped from Old Town to Buffalo, NY on June 9, 1913. My goal is to have her christened and launched on June 9, 2013, 100 years to the day she was originally shipped! Chip
  12. Ossineke

    Ossineke Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Wow, that's terrific, we would like to do a story on that canoe in our Newsletter. Keep in touch with us at Where might you put in at, you could have company!?
  13. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Well, now that the holidays are over and the garage is cleaned out I'm ready to start working on this canoe. My first task is to replace the missing upper sections of the stems. Does anyone how the profile/shape of the upper half of the stems for a Old Town 17 ft, 1913 Charles River should look? Is there anyplace where I can get this information?
  14. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So after a delayed start to this project, the clean-up and stripping work is well underway. After cleaning up the outwales I'm please to find they in remarkable condition with exception of a few of the holes for the hardware that holds the thwarts and the yoke in place as shown in this photo. For repair, I'm considering drilling out the hole big enough so I'm into good material then plugging it with a glued dowel. Anyone have any thought or different ideas on this technique?

    Outwale hole 1.jpg
  15. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi, CHIP, and welcome to the challenge. Here you have two more cents. Your have a very nice antique, very hard to come by, Old Town.....and Grampy's to boot. So, after 100 years and getting ready for another, why not do as true a conservation and restoration as possible? I would start with finding an accomplished fellow WCHA buddy and not go this alone. You have someone right up the street, I know. To start, consider scarfing if you have closed gunnels, and don't if they are open. Long length material is available, so why not ? Do a superlative interior stripping and Snappy Teak if it seems necessary. Maybe even use copper-plated steel weatherstrip nails ( in most hardware stores )for any plank-to-stem refastening. I won't go on, but done well, your grand kids will be looking at the boat and saying, wow, Grampy really did it right....lets do the same ! OK 11 cents....have fun !
  16. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    No argument with the advice above, but here’s another 2 cents into the pot:

    Drilling and plugging these holes may well be satisfactory, and you will have conserved the original material of the canoe. Instead of dowels, consider using plugs cut by a plug cutter (such as available at,180,42288). If visible, the grain of a plug will look better than the end grain of a dowel, especially if you will be using any stain when refinishing. Because the seats and thwarts are attached with through-bolts, the end grain of a dowel, not good for driving a screw into, is not a strength consideration with regard to attaching the seats and thwarts. If this is a closed gunwale canoe, there will be no visual impact; if an open gunwale canoe, a small plug might be hidden by the head of the hanger bolt.

    Enlarging the holes might minimally affect the structural strength of the inwale, and if located where the gunwale has a significant curve, might affect the fairness of the curve. But I’d be inclined to think that in a canoe this old, and otherwise in good shape, the inwales will hold their shape fine, especially once plugged, and the change in structural strength would be very little. Plugs would be very slightly better than dowels in these regards.

    If strength and/or fairness of the curves are significant issues, and/or if perfect cosmetics are a significant concern, the best way to go would be to bend in a new piece of wood to replace the old inwale.

    Next best would be to cut out the damaged portions of the rail and scarf in new, full-dimensioned wood. Properly done, a scarf joint is essentially as strong as a solid piece of wood, though there may be a cosmetic issue, depending on how well you match the colors of the wood and how sensitive you are to the visual impact of a scarf joint.

    For either plugging or scarfing, I would use a good epoxy, not the stuff from the local variety store -- especially not the "5 minute" stuff. Titebond II or II should also work.

    For some discussion of scarfing repairs, see:!!&highlight=scarf

    For a good discussion of Titebond II and III , as well as epoxy and other glues, see:

    We'd love to see some pictures as you go along, and of course, when you are finished.

  17. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you for all the useful advice. The gunwales are closed so strength is the primary concern over aesthetics.

    The hardware used for the seats, yoke, and thwarts were a type of a steel flathead carriage bolt. The bolts were flathead because of the closed configuration of the gunwales (i.e. the profile of diamond head bolts would be incompatible with a close gunwale) and when the bolts rusted away, some of the surrounding spruce gunwale also deteriorated. The holes for the seats and the thwarts look like new, only the holes for the yoke are compromised. That being said, I'm thinking about using brass/bronze flathead carriage bolts rather than steel. I've not checked my local hardware store yet, but any suggestions on a source for brass/bronze flathead carriage bolts or what was originally used by Old Town would be appreciated.
  18. OP

    chipfitzgerald Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Installed on the underside of the gunwale on both sides there are screw eyes about every 6 inches. Can anyone tell me their purpose? Would they be factory original or a user add-on?

    screw eye 2.jpg
  19. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    These could have been used to tie gear into the canoe, or possibly to hang temporary seats, or... use your imagination!?
  20. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    These show up in old canoes occasionally and do not appear to have ever been listed in any factory catalog. See and for another example with some discussion previously. I agree with Paul that they were probably used to help tie gear into the canoe.


Share This Page