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Another canoe covered with fiberglas

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Dojackson, Jan 9, 2005.

  1. Dojackson

    Dojackson canoe restorer

    We just had someone bring in another canoe for restoration. This one is covered with fiberglass, although otherwise has all the features of a wood/ canvas canoe.
    The question, of course, is whether it was covered with fiberglass when new, or whether this was done at some subsequent date.
    The maker of this canoe appears to be Canoe Stelek, Inc., of St. Alexis Des Monts, in what I assume to be Canada. There is a plastic label attached to the stem in the bow with a number: 155711755STK.
    The fibreglas cover is still firmly attached, and will probably be very hard to remove,should it be necessary to remove it to restore the canoe to its original condition. Furthermore, the job was well done - if it is original I am inclined not to replace it.
    Anyway, here are some questions;
    Does anybody recognize this maker, and can you tell me how likely it is that it was originally covered in fiberglass?

    Assuming the cover is not original and the owner wants to have it replaced
    (and at the risk of stirring up differing views), who has had luck with what methods of removal?

    Finally, (wouldn't you know it) there are some broken broken ribs and cracked planking. In order to repair these, I believe I'll have to remove the fiberglass at least in the immediate area to get access to the tack heads. Any better ideas ?

    Dave Jackson
  2. paufacan

    paufacan canoe builder

    Hi Dave
    I am not familiar with the builder,but there are a number of builders in the east of Quebec who build using fiberglass as a cover.We get a good number of them in our shop as owners decide they want to put on canvas.One of the factors that I have noticed is that most of these canoes have 1/4" thick ribs as the fiberglass adds strength to the canoe.We will not strip the fiberglass & replace with canvas because the structure is too light & very prone to breakage.
    Bill Wilson
    Paugan Falls Canoe
  3. John Greer

    John Greer LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Dave. Don't know the maker of the canoe but I finished removing fiberglass on one of mine this summer and have another one to go. I expect the glass had been on for many years and was a pretty bad job to begin with. Actually came off fairly easy with the heat gun and putty knife taking my time not to lift some planking. Worst part of the whole project was stripping the many layers of varnish where I used BIX Stripper outside in the yard. Good luck.
  4. Mark Reuten

    Mark Reuten Wood Butcher

    Hey Dave,
    I don't recognize the builder either but as far as getting glass off, heat is the ticket. If it was put on with polyester resin instead of epoxy you shouldn't have too hard a time of it. I've never hesitated to just put the propane torch to it rather than a heat gun.
  5. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    If the boat is glassed (bummer) and if the glass is not damaged, why would you repair planking and ribs? The glass alone is an adequate structure. The ribs and planking are redundant to a large extent. They provided the shape and vehicle for the glass, end of story. Unless there is something special about this boat (does not seem to be) then clean it up and throw it on the roof and drive away. Everyone should have a beater canoe for bashing around in. It sounds like this one is ready to go.
    For the time and effort required to strip a boat and repair it, why not work on a good one? There are many legitimate wooden canoes in need of restoration.
  6. Brad C

    Brad C Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Dave:I'm new to the forum ,but i may have some info on the canoe. I worked for American Traders for 9 years and one of our canoe suppliers was in St. Alexis Des Monts.
    When I first started going to this builder, there was an old sign "Stalac Marine" still visible on the building. I knew them as "Sylvain Canoe" and they made some canoes and canoe furniture for American Traders. I know there old canoes were covered with poly resin and the serial numberes were very different. When i finished at A.T. their canoes had improved lots and were starting to use epoxy resin.
    The builder was talking about retiring the last of my working at A.T.but i can't imagine him actually doing it. You may want to contact American Traders at 802-254-1300.
    The new owner (Tim C) may not know much of the history but contact me and i will get some old phone numbers for you.
    Good luck
    Brad C
  7. OP

    Dojackson canoe restorer

    Dear Brad:

    I wondered if this might not be an American Traders import.
    Have checked and can't locate the company in Quebec, so the owner of the company probably did retire.
    No matter, I was just curious what I could find out for the owner. Given what I have seen and learned, it should probably remain covered with fiberglass, since it seems to have been built that way originally.
    I have given the owner an estimate which recommends that we sand away the fiberglass only where needed to access the 2 or 3 planks that really need to be replaced, (not for over-all strength, the fiberglass coatings make it plenty strong enough, but because in several places the planks have been broken badly enough to stick into the canoe). Given that this happened some time ago, the broken areas are so badly contaminated that they will not glue at all well.
    In repairing boats and kayaks we commonly sand down to the wood, scarf in a repair, and put a fibereglass patch over just the area where we removed the fiberglass (plus some overlap). It is amazing how well you can blend in the new and old areas.
    Thanks for the information.

  8. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    A point of clarification for MGC. The fiberglass sheathing on a fiberglass-covered, rib and plank canoe is nowhere near strong enough to make a stand-alone structure. If you took out the wooden ribs and planking the fiberglass left behind would have about as much stiffness as a plastic milk jug. It is therefore just as important to repair the wooden structure on one which will be left fiberglassed as it is on a boat that would be canvased. If the wooden structure of a 16' rib and plank hull weighed 55lbs.-60 lbs. and you wanted to add enough fiberglass to make the wooden part "redundant to a large extent" as you suggest, you would be adding at least another 50lbs.-60 lbs. of fiberglass and doing it with a substantially different layup than one suitable for just sheathing a wooden hull.
  9. OP

    Dojackson canoe restorer

    I agree with the latest remarks re unsupported fiberglass- unbelievably floppy!
    To use fiberglass efficiently you have to create a so-called "composite structure"- a sandwhich consisting of fiberglass (or kevlar or carbon fiber) on the outside and some sort of filler on the inside.
    The main job of the "filler" is to keep the exterior layers of fiberglass apart. As you may know, the filler was originally often end grain balsa wood, but more commonly now is some sort of foam.
    There are really three problems when you fiberglass one side, the exterior, of a wood/canvas type canoe:
    First of all, wood and canvas canoe design presupposed that the wood structure and the canvas cover would be and move essentially separate from one another when the canoe was in use. When you fuse the exterior cover to the structural framework you impose loads on the structure that were not originally contemplated, and thus may induce failures that might not otherwise occur.
    To compound the problem, the structure that is created when you cover a canoe with fiberglass is not a true composite, in that you only cover one side- in effect imposing a disproportionate load on the interior. This probably wouldn't work at all, except for the convex shape of a canoe and the strength in the rails, both of which keep the interior of a canoe in compression.
    Finally, in my experience, fiberglass, which is totally impermeable, slows down the evaporation of any moisture that gets into the canoe. That is bad.
    Thus, I can't imagine fiberglassing a canoe that isn't already fiberglassed, but I appear to be stuck with renewing what is already on this one.
  10. OP

    Dojackson canoe restorer

    As a follow-on to my message of last January, the canoe in question has been returned to its owner.
    It proved to be impossible to patch the fibergass that was on the canoe. When we tried to sand it, some of the existing glass quickly detached, the rest, typically, had to be detached with a heat gun and scraper. The canoe is very lightly built, the planks and ribs much thinner than in the case of a wood/canvas canoe. It has no strength whatsoever without its fiberglass covering.
    Once it was off, we could replace broken ribs (3) and planking, scarf new ends onto the inner rails, and repair the decks. It probably would have been easier to make new decks, but they had the makers name, so I trimmed them down, and soaked them in CPES, a very thin epoxy that is designed to soak in and restore partially rotted wood.
    In the same way, the outer rails were soaked in CPES and reinstalled. The keel, however, was beyond saving, so I got out a new keel of white oak. It was stronger than the original, adding needed strength.

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