Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Chestnut Prospector completed

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Howie, Sep 20, 2021.

  1. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I just completed the 16ft 1972 Chestnut Prospector I was given a few months ago. Pretty canoe.
    DSCN0027.jpg DSCN0011.jpg DSCN0014.jpg DSCN0012.jpg DSCN0013.jpg DSCN0017.jpg
    Dave Wermuth, safisher and pklonowski like this.
  2. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    Envy seize my soul. You do nice work.

    K Now. Questions: As I understand it, Chestnut made about a gazoogle different "Prospector" models. You know which this is? And if you do, how'd ya figure it out? Any idea about the age? Last question: How do you make friends that GIVE you canoes? I missed something important, I guess.
  3. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    Missed a question. (I knew this would happen.) How'd you decide what seats it needed--cane, rawhide or slats? Didn't Chestnut use all three?
  4. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Hi there Mud! Or is it Mr Bug? Thanks for the compliments.

    First question is easy. The fella who gave it to me says that the canoe once belonged to his best friend who had recently passed and gifted the canoe to him. He ad this friend both bought the same canoe model at the same time, se we know the canoe was from 1972 ans is a Prospector. And it's a 16footer, so it's called a Fort - see catalogue page. You can also tell it's a Prospector from its dimensions. This thing has extremely high sides - 14" so it easily identified by Chestnut aficionados (which I am not).
    Chestnut Fort Catalogue Page.jpg

    The seats are a story... When I first got the canoe I noted the front seat didn't fit right - the hanger bolts were canted 'in' quite a bit. Either the seat was too small or narrow, or the seat bolts were drilled too far aft. Since the fella who gave me the canoe still has its twin which has a properly fitting seat. He give me measurements off it, and from this info I determined that the factory must have installed a seat meant for a shorter canoe. Anyway, the old seats were of the slatted wood persuasion, but the front was too narrow and both front and aft were kind shot anyway, so I made my own. I love to hand cane seating so I made them that type instead of the slatted or babiche type. I figure the canoe lost its right to being faithfully restored when the factory screwed up so badly. And anyway I wanted it to be a pretty as it could be.

    And as to how I got the canoe in the first place... Early last year I got an email 'out of the blue' from a very nice WCHA fella from North Carolina who had seen some of the completed canoes I had posted in this WCHA forum, and he wondered if I was interested in being gifted his short wooden canoe (thanks again Gene!). I replied, duh, yes please. He even arranged to have one of his buddies deliver it to me here in western NY. Turns out the canoe was a very badly squirrel gnawed 13' Old Town 50 Pounder. I haven't started to restore it yet. Then he emailed me again this year about gifting me this Chestnut. And again, he arranged for one of his buddies to deliver it to me.

    You know, there are a lot of very nice generous people out there, and some of them have wooden canoes they no longer need. I've owned and restored over 40 w/c canoes over the years (completely as a hobby), and about 10 of them were 'gifts'. Let's see, there was a OT Charles River sail canoe, and OT Molitor, and a few Yankees and Otcas, and some others.

    O - stay tuned to Forums: I'll have an Otca completed in a few weeks that'll need posting (paid for this one though...).
  5. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Mr Bug, you must be a lucky charm. This is absolutely true: this morning I emailed some pics of the completed Chestnut to Gene who gave me the canoe. An hour ago Gene replied offering me his 18' E.M.White. I'm a happy guy. Let's see how we're going to get it from NC to NY...
    Dan Lindberg likes this.
  6. Douglas Kestell

    Douglas Kestell Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Beautiful work.

    I do have a question though. How do you get that beautiful honey color? I used linseed+turpentine and the wood turned dark on my first restoration.
    Would you share your secret?

    Thank you

  7. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Thank you Doug. That's much appreciated.

    I'm believe the key to getting the blonde or amber wood tone is to frequently clean both the wood as well as the scrubber as you strip off old varnish. And never ever clean the wood with mineral spirits, paint thinners, etc. My thinking is that they penetrate the wood easily and carry goop into the wood as they do so. While this wood might look just fine when dry I've found that it can turn quite dark when varnished.

    For the first go-around I'll use a 1" putty knife to get rid of the stripped off goop. I'll do that for a few feet then go over the area again using a semi porous foam scrub pad loaded with TSP & water. This pad can quickly get loaded with the remaining dirty stripped off goop, so I frequently dunk it in a bucket of TSP & water to clean away the goop - it's amazing how quickly and easily the goop dissolves away. Then I resume with the putty knife in a new area. When I'm done or need a break I rinse out the whole canoe thoroughly with water from a hose. And when I'm done stripping the whole canoe I let the wood dry off then note where the old varnish remains. And then I strip the whole canoe again using just the pad. I typically repeat re-stripping the whole canoe 2 or 3 times. or more. Then I'll get frustrated and resort to using a sharp scraper and/or sand paper. Then maybe strip again.

    Now for this canoe I used Dad's stripper until my last gallon ran out - it's a methylene chloride product and no longer sold in NY. I then switched to a 'ecology friendly' Zar product. I was quite surprised to see Zar worked quite well, although it took much longer to soften the old varnish. But with both I used TSP and water to clean up.

    Now, a while back I would have told you the secret was to clean and bleach the stripped wood. I've used Messmer's Part A & B, and sometimes is really seems to make a big difference. But I didn't with this canoe.

    And once in a while you'll run into varnish that the stripping product doesn't seem to touch. I believe these are polyurethane products like Minwax's Helmsman. I'm afraid these finishes need to be sanded or scraped. A heat gun might well help but I haven't tried it yet.

    Hope that helps!
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021
  8. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Very nice job bringing that Prospector back.
    Looks great inside and out.
    Well Done.

    Though I would personally have preferred Chestnut Grey hull...
  9. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Bruce: thing is I have a couple who are interested in the canoe, and they preferred this green. We'll see if they actually buy it...
  10. Douglas Kestell

    Douglas Kestell Curious about Wooden Canoes

    After a coat of cut Linseed, I applied a coat of amber shellac and then Epifanes.

    Maybe clear shellac will give a lighter appearance.
    Thanks for the insight.
  11. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Douglas: Watch out! Most shellacs have a waxy property that varnish won't adhere to. There is a product (Zinsser sealcoat 100% de-waxed Shellac) that you can varnish over but it's clear colored so it won't help you get an amber color.

    Anyway, guess my answer address the basic, and in my mind the most important, step for getting amber colored varnished wood: getting and keeping the wood clean during the stripping process. Equally important is the condition of the wood - ie, how it has weathered. That's where bleaching comes in.

    And I've always been wary of using (boiled) linseed oil on wood that I intend to varnish. Doesn't linseed oil take like 2 weeks to dry? Maybe I'm wrong... In any case I use a clear varnish (TotalBoat Gleam) and figure the wood will turn amber in its own good time as it ages.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
  12. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    When my mom and dad put a branch through the bottom of their '48 Yankee in 1989, we had to replace two ribs and patch in some planking. To match the old amber colour of the wood, we mixed oil paint (tubes of oil paint from my mother's artist days) into linseed. After it dried forever we varnished over it. Wasn't as good as I wanted, and someone else could have done better, but I must say, I tried to find the patch the other day and couldn't. I also did that once on a longrifle I wanted darker. That turned out positively gross. (But it shoots well.)


    P.S. Howie, "Mud" is my nickname from way back when a buddy of mine saw my frontside covered in grime. Then, after I'd gone on my first a week-long survival trip living mostly on berries and mud bugs (crawdads) it took on a new meaning.
  13. Mud Bug

    Mud Bug Hand made things are better

    Hey, I forgot to thank you for the information and the catalog page. That's very interesting. And a great story behind things. Thanks.
  14. merk

    merk Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Howie Im redoing a chestnut Ogilvy, the same rear seat problem. Never thought it could be a factory build issue. Canted seat bolts and the seat seems a bit small for its location... Hmmm been wondering how to right this problem using the seemingly too small seat...

Share This Page