Can’t tell if I’m looking at canvas or painted glass


Curious about Wooden Canoes
As the title reads, I’m not sure if the canoe is fiberglass or canvas. I’m a complete newbie here and am appreciative of any advice the members of this forum are willing to share. This is a 16’ 1927/28 Old Town CS OTGA model that I acquired from my mom. It’s been hanging unused in a garage for decades and lucky for me - it’s now mine.

I plan on restoring it, but as I’ve never done this before, I don’t really know where to start. I feel like first thing is knowing what material is covering the canoe. When it was built, it was covered in canvas, but my uncle is sure that at one point it was converted to glass and painted. How do I tell?

Pics attached.


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Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
It looks like fiberglass to me so your uncle is correct, unfortunately. There are many threads here with suggestions about removing fiberglass. Good luck,



Curious about Wooden Canoes
You’ve confirmed my worst fears. As always, thanks for the incredibly fast reply. Much appreciation.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
There’s definitely only one layer. My uncle said he thinks this canoe came from a rental place that stripped the canvas and fiberglassed it. Admittedly - that was at least 40 years ago, if not more. It was very hard to peel off in the one little spot that I tried. I may try soaking it for a week in the water that has accumulated on my pool cover and then try stripping the glass off.

Todd Bradshaw

If it's 40 years old it is almost certainly fiberglassed using polyester resin, which is generally substantially easier to remove than epoxy resin/fiberglass would be. Soaking doesn't make much sense. The resin is by far the most water resistant substance on the canoe and water isn't going to do anything to it, though it may not be so great for the wood. Proper removal is to use a heat gun along with any tools which help and carefully heat and peel the glass off. Sometimes if you're lucky, it will peel off in big sheets. If you are taking more than a tiny amount of wood with the glass, you need more heating before attempting to peel it.

Dave Wermuth

Who hid my paddle?
I think this is the first time i've disagreed with Todd. I think water will do good to soak. It keeps the wood from catching on fire. And it allows for a bit of steam between the wood and glass as you heat it. I think it makes the wood a bit less prone to splitting off as you remove the glass. I could be wrong.......

Todd Bradshaw

It just seems to me that the water, moisture, steam or whatever is unlikely to get to the place where the actual bond between the glass and wood is happening. It is not a void or a space of some sort where you can hold water, and fiberglass is not a substance you can water saturate to strip the way you can with wallpaper. The resin and glass will be down tight to the wood and to at least some small extent the resin will have penetrated the surface of the wood. It's essentially like any very water resistant glue, and not likely to be washed away or damaged much by water. Heat softening the resin (generally about 140 F for epoxy and a bit higher for polyester, though nowhere near wood burning temperature) can allow the glass fabric to peel from the resin on the wooden surface, but it does not necessarily strip all the resin cleanly from the surface of the wood along with the fabric. Do not expect to be left with perfectly clean bare wood, because it ain't gonna happen. It will, however, be much easier to clean up leftover resin by sanding once the cloth part has been removed.

Dave Osborn

I’ve removed glass from a few dozen canoes.
I’ve got to say that with the exception of 4 or 5 , the glass has come off relatively easily. For the most part it has come off without heat. Once the gunwales are removed find an edge and try pulling on it. WEAR GLOVES!
In spots that seem to want to hold fast, heat it up and pull it.
Once the glass is removed, go back over the hull with a heat gun and pull type scraper to remove any resin that was left behind. If you try to sand the resin off, you will likely remove the softer cedar around it faster than the resin causing depressions.
If by chance you get a canoe that wants to fight you for the canvas, prepare to be married to the heat gun for a while.


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Curious about Wooden Canoes
Thanks guys! Really appreciate the advice. I suppose I’ll start like you suggest Dave and go from there.

Chris Aman

New Member
I had to remove fiberglass from a canoe. After the canvas was removed, I needed to use a heat gun and a scraper to get any remnants on the planking. But it came off fairly easily.


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