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1949 Old Town HW model Restoration

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by John Janicek, Mar 30, 2021.

  1. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    That picture looks awfully familiar to me at this point in time.

    IMG_1391 2.JPG

    I also have quite a few rib tips to replace (between 80 - 85 at last count). The good ones and one's with only a minor crack I plan to reinforce with penetrating epoxy. The rest will need to be re-tipped so I'm all ears on how you approached this portion of the job. My plan is to pre-cut the 2-1/4"cedar rib stock into 6" lengths (with the requisite scarph angle) on the table saw. I may also taper them to "approximate" the final rib-end taper and do the final tapering with a hand plane. I figure then on making a small block/jig with the duplicated scarph angle and then clamp that to each rib to use as a guide when cutting the rib tips using a multi-tool. I think this should work pretty well but any lessons learned by anyone who has done this before will be well received. E.g., would a 8:1 scarph be sufficient or overkill for the rib tips?
  2. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    Don't overthink repairing rib tips. After pulling the nails, you can take a drill with 80 grit adhesive backed sandpaper on a circular sanding pad and grind the rib tips at an angle from the outside of the canoe. The exact angle is not important as long as there is a good gluing surface. Using rib stock of the same thickness, cut each new rib tip on the band saw matching the scarf of the corresponding rib. It helps to number the ribs and tips. It is surprisingly easy to cut the angle by eye, and it doesn't need to be perfect. Use thicken epoxy to glue on the tips. fair in the tips' backs and edges with the old ribs. The joint will be behind the rail and most will never be seen.
    Dave Wermuth likes this.
  3. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Gil. I do agree that I tend to overthink things a bit. It's an unavoidable carryover from my past life of 37 years working in aerospace where "precise" and "exact" were commonplace and "close enough" wasn't an option. Since retiring I've been building and restoring wooden boats at a local, non-profit, boat shop and wood joinery practices (e.g. scarphing) are (usually) intended to be "relatively" accurate. Restoring this Old Town canoe however is an entirely new experience for me and I'm continually amazed on the simplicity and lightness of its construction and the resulting relative strength that is achieved in the overall structure. It would appear contradictory but it absolutely works. To me these canoes truly are very simply works-of-art! That being said, I will surely take your advice to heart and try not to overly "engineer" this project. I do like your advice on numbering the ribs and tips. Thanks for the input.
  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    A 1200 DPI version is attached below with a ruler for scale. Let me know if you want a different file format or anything else. It appears that the forum software has scaled it a bit so the full versions are available at and if you want an uncompressed version. Please send me an example if you are able to reproduce it. Thanks,


    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
  5. dogbrain

    dogbrain I can take this, but not much more

    John. Gil described it perfectly. I think I used an angle grinder with a flapper disc on the rib. Since you are replacing the inwale, having it out of the way makes this really easy. A rough cut with a bandsaw on the new piece then fine tuned with a belt sander clamped to the table top. I used tb3 for glue. I made my replacement tips a little wider, then did the shaping with a rasp prior to nailing.

    If you're replacing that many of the tips it would help to put reference lines lower on some of the ribs so you can measure up to where the new inwale will sit. This part of the project is really satisfying since the repairs are almost completely hidden. You may find that it's just easier to replace those tips that are split too. Gluing the splits together may or may not hold.

    Have fun, Mark
    Chris Aman likes this.
  6. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Mark. With Gil's advice (and your 2nd) I think I will simplify my approach and not try to plan everything to be so precise since I already know I'll be doing a final shaping with a plane or rasp. The reference lines are also a good idea to aid in locating the inwales.
    On another note. I was thinking more about your reply earlier that one of the inwales would be bent the wrong way. Went it was recommended doing it that way it was for bending the full length gunwale in one piece. Since I'm doing these bends in two separate operations one inwale would indeed end up being bent the wrong way. Thanks for helping to keep me on track. o_O
  7. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I have a question concerning some of the production dimensions for the HW model Old Town canoe. Are they available anywhere? Specifically, I'm looking for the final dimensions of the inside gunwale (for now) and its inside bevel cut. If I start with stock cut to 7/8" wide by 1" deep and assume a bevel angle of 22 deg (for the tumblehome) then my finished inwale top surface ends up less than 7/8" (a little less than 5/8"). Can anyone confirm whether these dimensions sound about right? Thanks in advance for any/all replies.
  8. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Correction to my last question; the bevel angle is 12 deg (not 22). Anyway, the first inwale bends went well EXCEPT for it being positioned on the form incorrectly (I mistakenly allowed too much overhang). Now when I bend the other end the inwale just “might” end up short one, maybe two inches at most. Question. Is it possible for me to rebend the end (moving it down on the form about 6-8” or so) to give me the extra length needed? I've read that resteaming/rebending is not a good practice but the bend is not severe and I really don’t want to go and buy another piece of Sitka because of this snafu. ☹️
  9. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    D34FF628-0AD4-424C-B1E3-434E52B086E0.jpeg Oops. Here’s a photo.
  10. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    I don't think it's a problem. I've re=steamed before. I think I even did a rib that got bent inside out....
  11. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson Lifetime member

    Here is what I do. Cut whatever angle you want on a scrap of wood. Jamb it in and clamp it and then lay a pull saw on it and cut . All come out the same and I use the same piece to cut the rib stock so perfect match without needing to adjust each one.
    EE10EE60-1733-429D-AB29-74628A92A5DF.jpeg 6196A820-54E7-439B-9BCE-038452710A23.jpeg
    When cutting the rib stock clamp it inside down to the long section and lay the saw on the shorter angled surface.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2021
  12. safisher

    safisher Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Craig, Thanks for sharing your pictures and method. I have a lot of rib tips to replace on our canoe.
  13. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I ended up doing what you suggested Craig and it worked great. Basically ended up replacing all the rib tips as there were only a handful without some serious deterioration. It all turned out ok though. I'm just finishing up sanding and shaping all the tips before installing the new inwales. Then it's on to figuring out the inwale/deck/stem joint!

    Attached Files:

  14. merk

    merk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi How did you join the new rib tops to the old ribS Just glued and clamped?
  15. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Merk. I used epoxy with just a wee bit of filler (West system 105/207) for gluing the rib tips then clamped each one between two bracing strips. It worked out very well. I ended up taking Marks' advice and replaced all the rib tips. Once you got into the groove it was fairly straightforward. Some photos of the effort are posted below.
    I also needed to scarf in two new (partial) stems and added new cherry decks. I/we just finished up the planking.
    IMG_1498.JPG IMG_1521.JPG IMG_1524.JPG IMG_1572.JPG IMG_1763.JPG
    It's taken awhile to get to this point but the results have been very satisfying.
  16. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I know this following question/subject has been a perennial one on this forum but I'm still on the fence on what method I'm going to use. I'm talking here about prepping the exterior and interior prior to canvassing and which comes first or last or what's best to use. So here's where I'm at now; 1)Apply a thinned (50% low VOC mineral spirits) coat of shellac (or maybe spar varnish??) to the interior. 2) follow with another coat about an hour later. I'll then leave this as the prepped base for applying varnish at a later date. 3) Apply a thinned coat of BLO (15% mineral spirits) to the exterior and let dry for a few days. I figure I can do 1,2 & 3 in all in one day. After that she should be ready for canvassing. I know I'm probably opening a can of worms here but I ask; does this plan sound reasonable? Thanks in advance for any/all replies.
  17. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    If you are going to thin shellac, the appropriate thinner would be denatured alcohol.
  18. OP
    John Janicek

    John Janicek Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks Greg. I knew someone would probably catch my snafu. I realized I made a mistake after I reread my post (but it was late so I figured I'd correct it in the AM). Using mineral spirits for thinning was for if/when I used spar varnish instead of shellac. If Ido use shellac though I was planning on thinning it with lacquer thinner (which is what I meant to say) instead of denatured alcohol. I read in Mike Elliot's book "This Old Canoe" that to prevent shellac turning cloudy if/when coming into contact with water you needed to cut it with lacquer thinner and not the usual methanol (or methyl hydrate). He based this on his research into finishing methods used by old-time canoe builders and finding that most of them used shellac as a base for varnish. It sounded intriguing so I thought I'd give it a try. If you, or anyone, has had experience using this approach I would be most appreciative of any & all comments. Thanks for posting.
  19. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I frequently use a couple of coats of shellac on the interior prior to varnish. I find it helps to hide the new wood. I scuff the shellac with 220 grit between coats. I use denatured alcohol to cut it and have never seen it turn white, but of course it is under multiple coats of varnish.

    I do think it is important to use DEWAXED shellac under varnish for better adhesion.

    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
  20. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    I have not used shellac on the interior of a canoe, to prime the wood or otherwise. But I do have a canoe where the outside bottom of the hull has been shellacked rather than painted. Jerry Stelmok, the builder, used Zinsser amber shellac (the label shows alcohols and methyl isobutyl ketone as the thinners), which I have used for minor touch-ups, and there has been no clouding of the shellac coating after some significant contact with water. Jerry Stelmok, at p. 136 of The Wood & Canvas Canoe notes that he does not use "the clear variety that turns white when exposed to moisture . . .."

    Lacquer thinners are generally proprietary mixtures of various thinners, usually including alcohols, acetones, ketones, and a variety of other chemicals, some of which are more noxious than the alcohols that thin shellac, and which are designed to dissolve the various solids such as cellulose and various plastic that constitute modern lacquers but are not present in shellac. There is no good way to determine what the proportions of the various chemicals in lacquer thinners are. Since these thinners, like alcohols, should all evaporate, I fail to see why lacquer thinner would prevent clouding.

    Rubbing alcohol should not be used as a shellac thinner -- it contains as much as 30% water, which will cause shellac clouding.

    Some folks have suggested that only dewaxed shellac should be used, to avoid problems with adhesion of subsequent coats of varnish or paint. I have often used various shellacs (Zinsser's amber, clear, or seal coat) on non-marine projects, either as the full finish, or as a seal/primer coat, and I have not had adhesion problems when using any of the Zinsser products under varnish or paint. Your millage, and that of others, may vary. I do not thin it, because part of the reason I use it is to seal sap/pitch (from woods like pine, maple, fir, etc.) from bleeding through the final finish. I'm not sure what benefit there is to thinning shellac by 50% except to save a few pennies. The standard 2 or three pound cut of commercial shellac seems fairly thin and seems to soak into woods quite rapidly; it is thinner than most marine varnishes, which might benefit from being cut a bit if used as a first primer coat.

    I don't have my copy of Mike Eliot's book handy, so I can't comment on his discussion of who old timers were and what old timers did or did not do. But "old timers" covers a lot of people who did a lot of olden t things, some of which worked, and some of which didn't (and we usually don't see the things that didn't work). "Old timers" certainly did not all do things the same way. The Old Town Canoe company goes back to the beginning of the last century -- old times for sure -- and as far as I know, they never used shellac before varnishing the interior of canoe hulls.

    And old timers may not have had access to, or just didn't like, modern materials such as varnishes with UV inhibited finishes -- depending on how "old" the old timer may be or have been, or how fixated they may have been on their own sometimes idiosyncratic ways -- which is part of why you are asking your legitimate questions.

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