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Clinker built canoe

Discussion in 'Traditional All-Wood Construction' started by samb, Jul 31, 2017.

  1. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have a clinker built/lapstrake canoe. It is of some age and built with 6 mahogany planks each side – 5 at about 3”x ¼” and a wider one at the keel. I understand that in an ideal world, clinker boats are best kept wet but this cannot happen. Most of the time it will be stored at home, outside but covered so in the shade and paddled just a few times each year. Although I’ve worked on, built and restored most other types of wooden canoe, this is the first clinker built canoe to come into my hands.

    [​IMG]IMG_3824 by sambrowning, on Flickr

    Before the other day, the boat last saw water sometime in the ‘90s and some of the planks have splits. Whether they were there in the past and the swollen wood kept water out I don’t know, but now I’m told, it’s like a sieve. Because the boat will never get more than about 5 hours wetting at a time, it will never get time to ‘take-up’ so I’ll need to do something with these splits. At present the boat is painted, so I can’t really see, but none of the splits appear to be open. Most reading suggests cleaning out the splits and then epoxy fill (G-Flex), but others say this could make things worse.

    My question is - if I got the boat dry (about 6mths before I can start on it, kept outside and under cover), I clean out and epoxy the splits, tighten the rivets if necessary, cover all with multiple coats of varnish, then, if I have it on the water for maybe 5 hours each month, will the mahogany swell around the epoxy causing the wood to split further or will I be ok? Advice, opinions and comments (about the boat) are welcome.


  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    A very nice looking canoe. If it were my boat, I would get it into water and paddle it a bit, and see just what the situation actually is, before doing anything. From your description, it's hard to tell just what the condition of the hull is. It actually sounds like it might be fine as is.

    " At present the boat is painted, so I can’t really see, but none of the splits appear to be open. "

    What does "like a sieve" mean? Presumably that characterization is based on an observation made some 20 years ago. Was that before the current paint was applied? With splits that seem to be sealed with paint, where "none . . . appear to be open," how much water might actually come in? Do you really need a bone-dry boat for 5 hours of paddling? Canoeing tends to be a damp, if not wet, activity, and it is pretty common to get some water in a canoe even if the hull is water-tight. A little bit of weeping or leaking over 5 hours might not mean much more than a pint or quart of water -- easily sponged out. A few gallons would be a different story.

    With none of the splits appearing to be open, how would you "clean out" the splits without making them worse? How would you do it without messing up the current paint job, which appears in the one picture above to be pretty nice?

    Keep in mind that your planned use of 5 hours each month is not likely to be the only way this canoe is ever used -- you, or the next owner, may come to have a different schedule in the future that permits much more in-the-water time. Will the mahogany swell around the epoxy causing the wood to split further? It might not, if the canoe is only in the water for 5 hours a month -- but how about in the future, when immersion might be much longer and/or frequent? I don't know the answer under any scenario, but I wouldn't risk a "fix" that might work now, but might cause harm in the future.

    My 2¢.
  3. OP

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for this Greg.

    'like a sieve' means more than a couple of gallons in an hour after overnighting in the river. It was getting better I'm told. But still bailing with a bucket every 15 minutes or so. I'm quite used to 'seepage' with my board and batten boat but this is much worse.
    The paint in real life is not so good. It is flaking and crazing quite badly in places so it will all be coming off. Whether paint goes back on is still to be decided. It is a very good looking boat in these colours.

    I do understand this " . . . . but I wouldn't risk a "fix" that might work now, but might cause harm in the future."

    I have asked the same question on the wooden boat forum, as people there probably have more experience with clinker construction

  4. Mark Adams

    Mark Adams all wood nut

    "Just say NO to epoxy!" I have found a product here in the states that is elastometric, cleans up when dried with Turpentine, is paintable, and seems to be ideal. It is called 'Sudbury 321 Elastometric Marine sealant." I got mine through Amazon.

    The price is absolutely insane there though. it is 9 bucks a tube here in the states. Shoot me a PM, and we can see about getting you taken care of, and come in under ParcelFarce's radar...
  5. OP

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the suggestion. I agree that is silly money. I'll have a look round for similar products at a sensible price when I get time, if I can't find anything I may take you up on the offer
  6. Rollin Thurlow

    Rollin Thurlow member since 1980

  7. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I can't think of an immediate need but I know I need to buy it..
  8. Blott

    Blott LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I use Captain Tolley's on my Land Rovers. Needs small cracks as is pulled in by capillary action to seal.

  9. OP

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Two years on, and it's back on the water.

    Lots of learning new skills done, no leaks despite having dry trousers and a sponge with me.
    No stem/keel band yet as they're still on order.
    67203826_10219572920536149_8038316037910822912_n.jpg 67590818_10219572919576125_2218684430422114304_n.jpg 67662347_10219572921296168_4395981228835078144_n.jpg

    Shari Gnolek likes this.
  10. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Wow! Nice looking job.

    What did you do about the seeping and the leaking?
  11. OP

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I had to do a lot of learning having never worked on this sort of boat before.
    I replaced about 8feet of planking and repaired about 15 feet of plank edge, then the widest splits got routered out and patches let in and the smaller ones filled with gflex.

    Attached Files:

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