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1922 Charles River CS 17 Restoration

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by monkitoucher, Jan 16, 2018.

  1. monkitoucher

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello everyone,

    Some of this was on another thread. Sorry for the repetition.

    After searching for a canoe project, I ended up finding one a couple of Fridays ago. I bought it from a really nice lady that brought the canoe to Colorado from her family's camp in upstate NY. She mentioned that the canoe was stored in a shed until a tree fell through the roof. A branch poked through the hull. So now there are a couple of really bad bondo/fiberglass patches visible on the interior. She had been storing outside directly on the ground. So there is some rot in the stem tops.

    Benson Gray was kind enough to help me research the build sheet. It turns out that it was a 1922 Charles River CS 17.

    Turns out that the canoe was shipped to E.L. Marks in Old Forge NY.

    He was a Mason with the North Woods Lodge No. 849 F. & A.M..
    In 1878 he successfully hatched and planted the first lake trout ever reared and propagated in the Adirondacks
    He was Superintendent and built the the Fulton Chain Hatchery he Adirondacks N.Y. in 1889.
    in 1907 he was listed as one of the Members of Brown's Tract Guides in the Central Adirondacks
    In the 1910 Census he was 52 has wife was Dorothy S. (46), daughters Betsy K.(8) and Ada (3), and son James H. (10). The census also states that he is the proprietor of a "boat livery".
    He was a "lifetime" member of the Old Forge Fire Department (25 years or more).
    E. L. was also Justice of the peace for "WILMURT, HERKIMER COUNTY, NY"
    In 1935 the state conservation department cited Emmet Marks as the "Godfather of Adirondack Fishermen".
    He lived from 1856 to 1945.

    I imagine the canoe that I have was a part of his livery.

    I intend to use this thread to show the restoration progress.

    Things I'll need to address are:
    • Remove the fiberglass
    • It has a couple of bondo patches that will need to be removed.
    • There's a cracked rib or two or three (Need to see what damage is under the bondo)
    • New thwarts
    • All of the gunwales inner and outer are in pretty bad shape.
    • I'm sure there will be some rotten rib tips and stem tips.
    • And any bad planking.
    • New canvas job
    • and a whole mess of other things I'm sure
    Any words of advice and your insights would be very useful.

    Attached Files:

  2. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I worked on removing the bondo from the interior of the hull tonight. It looks like the damage is't as bas as it could be. It looks like I might get away with replacing two ribs.

    I'm not sure about the planking yet it looks like groves have been warn into the top of the planks. Any suggestions on how to determine if a plank needs to be replaced? Rot? Splits? Bowing? Or wear like I have on the top of the boards? I'm not too sure what to save or replace. I'd like to do the best job that I can on this restoration.

    Attached Files:

  3. charvey

    charvey Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Quite a project, but a good one if you don't rush things. If you haven't already, pick up some of the restoration books sold here on the site, and dive into YouTube for videos, and even Facebook. If the ribs and planking are in doubt replace them now or you will kick yourself later for not giving them attention. Looks like you canoe has good shape, just pay close attention that the wood you replace has good joints and no gaps with the original wood. This takes time, and quite often several attempts but you be much happier with the end result.
  4. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the reply Charvey. I ordered the Mike Elliott book from his site. And I've nearly exhausted you tube. Thanks for the Information on the decking. Should I leave any gap between the boards or between the joint? my canoe has about a 1/32" to 1/16" gap between deck boards.

    Ive had a little difficulty finding anything on how to replace the inner gunwale (I hope the book will cover it). I think my plan now is to sister it to the top of the existing gunwale with clamps and let it set for a week to get the shape. Then I can remove the old gunwale and attach the new gunwale to the ribs and clamping temporary thwarts about every other rib or so. I think this will locate the gunwale vertically and horizontally. Keeping the shape during the process. Sound like a sound plan?

    Last night I had a good ole time removing the fiberglass. The canoe peeled like a blue banana.

    Attached Files:

  5. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Your idea of pre-shaping the inwale by clamping it to the existing one will not likely actually shape the new piece of wood if you merely clamp it there for a couple of weeks -- though your instinct is sound.

    Take a look at

    A traditional steam box can be used, shaping one end at a time (because steam boxes are usually much shorter than a gunwale).

    Clamping it in place after steaming it will shape/curve it permanently. Without steaming, the stick will want to straighten itself out -- no conducive to holding the shape of the canoe.

  6. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Clamp it to the underside of the old gunwales after steaming (or while steaming wit the poly bag). You can't force the gunwale into the curve, but you can wrap it around the curve. See Jerry and Rollin's book for a description of the process.
  7. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Thank you Greg and Dan. And thanks for the book suggestion and link. I came across the steam bag solution the other day. It looked really interesting.

    Clamping it under makes more sense. Forcing around the curve is a good tip.

    I had a bit of luck with Island Falls Canoe. They have a Charles River buck that they are going to pre bend my gunwales on. I'm going to do spruce for the inner gunwales and ash for the outer. I hope that is in keeping with the restoration while giving her a little more durability. Although I was looking forward to bending and building my gunwales. Buying them pre bent also has its benefits.

    We started to do the stripping last night. We are using E-Z strip. It seemed like it was a little less caustic. I think our plan is to do 2 coats of stripper and scraping for the whole boat. Then go back and strip and scrape some more.
  8. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    We got a couple rounds of the stripping completed this weekend! My wife was a trooper.

    Along the way a few discoveries led to a few questions:

    Broken Ribs – I've seen a couple schools of thought on this. Some folks bend the rib @ 1.5 ribs down and some folks bend at 2. Is there a gradient to how this is done? Should the bend happen closer to the original as the taper towards the end increases? Also if the all or most of the planking is going to come off would it make sense to bend the rib in-situ with clamps that would bridge over to the two neighboring ribs (this would run counter to bend over over... not in?).

    Sanding – Should I sand out the ribs? If so, does it make sense to do so after all of the rib an inner gunwales have been prepared?

    Planking – During the work stripping It just became apparent that the planking was mostly shot. In places it was rotten... others weathered where the grain was very pronounced. Other places it was warn from significant use. I measured out the total board feet and came up with 108 board feet. This is about what Terry at Island Falls Canoe said it would take. To replace it with Western Red plus shipping would really put a dent in the budget on this. I was thinking about sucking it up and buying a table saw (of which I have many uses) and ripping my own. My question is this... Home Depot has green rough cut 4X6 Western Red that I could rip down. Would this be a feasible option if I could get a board that didn't look like the Bride of Frankenstein? Or is the fact that it's green and the grain isn't necessarily quarter sawn going to be a pain in the butt?

    Thanks for all of you advice and help.
  9. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Alright... Not to let this thread die on the vine.

    I've been moving along on the restoration. Although I have a hard time remembering to take any photos.
    The Stripping went really well. My wife and I knuckled down and stripped all the ribs. We came to the conclusion that the planking was not going to come out well. it was just too rotted brittle from the fiberglass and years of use without much finish to protect it.

    Another interesting find was the canoe's name. I think I made out that it says "S.S. Sperry". There was a Sperry Family in Old Forge that had a few businesses in the area. Just a little more interesting history.
    More info:

    We used TE-KA to brighten everything up. I'm pretty happy with the way that came out.

    Next, I found some ash and tried to bend replacement stems out of it. I found out that kiln dried ash was really hard to bend. I ended up soaking them for about a week, steaming for 1.5 hours, and then using a compression strap to hold the outside in place while the interior of the curve compressed. This took a fair amount of trial and error I ended up welding up my own compression strap with grip tape along the inside of the strap to keep everything in place.
    Once I Shaped and scarfed the stems in I wanted to add a little more integrity to the inside of the stem curve in case the scarf wanted to let go. Still debating on whether to reinforce with dowels or just depend on the planking to add additional structural strength.
    Then, I started to focus on the ribs. I had some pretty good luck with only messing up on the first one. I bent it over another broken rib that had a bulge to it. Then another rib was bent a little short of the width. I just re-steamed it and bent the rib directly to the interior position instead of trying to reform it on the outside of the canoe. The rest of the ribs bent and fit pretty well.
    Now I'm at the point of trying to match the stain to the old ribs. I tried some oil-based stains that weren't quite matching the age and grain of the original ribs. I'm now playing with chemical staining with either baking soda, ammonia, or ironed vinegar. So far the most dramatic is the ironed vinegar. For the ribs, it's almost a perfect match. Another positive with this method of staining is that it won't fade like some stains will.

    I believe that my next work will be replacing all the planking. Methodically removing while replacing. I feel that this should be done before replacing the inner gunwales. Mostly because I'd think that getting all the structure below the gunwales would be more important than messing with gunwale replacement while some of the ribs are only tacked into decrepit planking.

    Attached Files:

    Kent E. Nord likes this.
  10. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Another update... It took me about 10 days to get the gore and bilge planks on. Took my time and did basically a plank a day. I didn't want a completely new set of tack holes to show up on the old ribs so I pre-drilled from the rib side out. This worked pretty well. There were a couple blowouts from the tips of the old tacks. But I think compared to the alternative I'm happy with the results.

    I had a few cracks in the planking develop. But the original planking had cracks in it too. I used the old town build technique of surrounding the crack with a couple of tacks worked pretty well. Around the bilge, I ended up using some sheet metal welding clamps that I bought from Eastwood about 10 years back. They were pretty useful for doing a pre-bend in the planking to get everything scribed and drilled.

    I ended up with some more cracked ribs from all the clinching. This will be dealt with after I fix with the rib tips and install the inner gunnels.

    Next, will be steaming and bending the inner gunnels and carving some new thwarts.

    IMG_1859.JPG IMG_1860.JPG IMG_1863.JPG
  11. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I bent in one of the inner gunnels against the old gunnel. I think I'm coming up short. I ordered these from Island Falls and I really expected them to run out a couple inches more than they did. I may have enough to make it work or I'll have to scarf in tips to these. Or should I just send them back?
    Does anyone have photos of how a Charles River gunnels and stem should come together? Looking for suggestions.

    Thanks in advance.
    IMG_1867.JPG IMG_1869.JPG IMG_1870.JPG
  12. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  13. OP

    monkitoucher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks, Benson! I think that approach may be the ticket.

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