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Canvas Canoe Restoration

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Tris, Jun 30, 2020.


Fiberglass or Canvas

Poll closed Jul 30, 2020.
  1. Fiberglass

    0 vote(s)
  2. Canvas

    15 vote(s)
  1. Tris

    Tris Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi all! I have a new project in my hands and many different approaches from a few experienced sources. My original idea was to fibreglass and paint because I've done quite fine jobs with fibreglass before, and also fits in the time and cost budget. But to be honest, I haven’t explored other options.
    This is my neighbour's canoe and I offered him to make it functional. He got it as payment for a small job he did, and he had it laying on his driveway for a few years. He’s not very into outdoors either.
    I’d love to hear different opinions. Thank you!
    Update #1: The deal is he pays for the materials, I do the restoration and I then can borrow it from him as much as I want.
    I'm already watching videos of restoring canvas. It's very cool. I might soon feel comfortable doing it. The question now is, how about the rotten bits of wood, here and there? How do I treat it?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  2. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    It will be interesting to see the voting results, however I suspect that there will be overwhelming support for canvas.
    If you decide to glass it, I can only say,.... it’s your canoe. You can screw it up any way you want.
    Rich BWCA and Andy Hutyera like this.
  3. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    I'm with Dave!
    That canoe is still in relatively good shape -very limited repairs required from what I see.
    Don't kill it with glass-re-Canvas it!

  4. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    X3..that boat is in super shape considering how it was stored. It's worth restoring, not destroying...there, I said ito_O
    Greg Nolan likes this.
  5. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I suspect you will get 1 opinion from a bunch of us here.
    That canoe is in great condition and a relatively easy restoration all things considered.

    But, IF it's not likely he will use it, consider selling it to someone who would.
    Many (most?) folks interested in W/C want to do their own restoration and not have to fix a previous owners mistakes.

    Oh, glass usually condemns a canoe to a slow death. (and greatly reduces the value of a W/C canoe)

  6. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Any broken or rotten wood should be replaced.
    If you don't have wood machining capability, check with the pro builders on this site, they sell whatever materials you will need.
    Tris likes this.
  7. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I vote for canvas too. If fiberglass covered it will likely weigh more than if it were canvas covered and like Dan said "a slow death" and painful to watch.
  8. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Whether you glass it or canvas it the wood will need to be sorted. The planking is easily replaced. Materials are readily available. Canvasing is not very difficult and neither is the woodwork. There are quite a few posts on this site that describe the various repairs that are required. There is a listing of places where you can buy tools, tacks, wood, canvas, filler, everything you need.
    If you post your location there may be a nearby WCHA chapter that could help you with the project.
    Most of the regulars on this site (with just a few exceptions) have spent far more time removing fiberglass from old hulls than applying it. They would welcome a chance to help you re-canvas.
    There are several books that you can buy that will describe many of the common repairs:
    Tris likes this.
  9. Norm Hein

    Norm Hein Canoe Codger

  10. mccloud

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

    You didn't mention the builder, or did I miss that. Looks Canadian. Throw those rotten outwales into the wood stove - new are easy to cut. It will probably need some rib tip splices, also easy. Doing anything with the inwale raises the time and difficulty a whole lot, so live with a little discoloration. It needs a really thorough stripping, cleaning and wood bleach to brighten it. You and your neighbor will likely be surprised how nice the old wood will look. You have many hours and months of work ahead, but it will be a nice boat. And by the way, canvas. TM...
    Tris likes this.
  11. OP

    Tris Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you all, you are giving me the courage to do it right. :)
  12. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I would canvas it. It is the way it originally was and it is easier to do it properly than doing a good fiberglassing job, which due to the nature of the surface you are glassing over, is much more tricky and complex than people think it will be. Unless you have already glassed one, screwed it up and learned a lot from all the mistakes and problems specific to this particular fiberglassing job which need to be addressed, your chances of it coming out nice are poor at best.

    That does not mean that one can't be fiberglassed, just that it's an unusually tricky job and has to be done properly. The vast majority of owner-applied fiberglass canoe skins are abominations which should never have been attempted. On the other hand, my 1972 Old Town guide is fiberglassed (WEST Epoxy and 6 oz. cloth, doubled over the bottom) and is hardly showing any signs of the doom and gloom slow destruction which some are so sure will happen to any fiberglassed wooden canoe. The outwales, decks and the cane in one seat have been replaced, but it even still has the original interior varnish. If somebody can tell me when I should expect it to "die" I'm all ears.

    Tris likes this.
  13. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Sorry Todd.
    That was me- perhaps a little over-dramatic.
    I'm still pulling for canvas, but I take back the "kill" comment.

    :) Bruce
  14. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    After 100 years of marginal care.

    "If somebody can tell me when I should expect it to "die" I'm all ears."
  15. OP

    Tris Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Peterborough Crafts (Canada) did the last canvas on her, according to a plaque, but no other clue about the original built... I guess? or perhaps that's the original built.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2020
  16. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Peterborough didn't just canvas it, they built it. Your picture of the builders tag is a pretty clear identifier....or did that tag come from somewhere else?
  17. OP

    Tris Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Yes, you are right. They built it. That tag was nailed on the bow.
    I already unscrewed all the brass around for the initial power wash cleaning. After that, I think I would be able to evaluate better the damaged wood parts and order the materials.
  18. OP

    Tris Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Bad news I think. There is no shortcut for this, I guess. I’d have to replace those ribs all the way, right?

    Attached Files:

  19. mccloud

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

    It is possible to backsplice cracked ribs like these. However with 6+ in a row, I might replace every third rib with an entirely new one. I've done both. Just me, but I'd replace all of them because I hate the looks of a crack when it is not difficult to replace the rib at an early stage of restoration. If you are looking for a functional canoe, usable for floating & fishing, but not necessarily beautiful, do some backsplices. TM...
  20. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Careful with power washing!
    High pressure water and old soft cedar planking is not a good combination and you can eat through wood pretty fast. Ask me how I know...

    Much better to use stiff bristle brush and elbow grease.

    mmmalmberg likes this.

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