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Fiberglass / Structural Strength / Old Town Trapper

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by jrghaven, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Far-fetched as it sounds, that type of thing is almost certainly possible. You could oil the heck out of the wooden hull, let it dry and then fill the cracks between planks and maybe even the tack head dents with something like clay to temporarily plug them and later be washed out. Then you apply a couple coats of PVA mold release (water-based) or maybe even shrink-wrap plastic, let that dry and fiberglass. A couple layers of six-ounce glass cloth, "pre-delaminated" (as it were) would be reasonably tough and abrasion resistant and could be cut off later.

    I have not tried it, have no real desire or need to try it, and can't exactly say there might be any clear advantage to it compared to other more common suspended coverings, but I'll bet it could be done. Substitute a layer or two of something like Kevlar and it might be a different story. It clearly has greater tensile strength and abrasion resistance than cotton canvas and filler.
  2. James Wickham

    James Wickham Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Todd Bradshaw

    I have been trying to find an alternative to linseed for the oiling of my newly planked canoe. Your dislike for linseed and the use of that newer product is very appealing to me, could you give me more information as to that product and your success with it. Thanks Jim
  3. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The Flood Company, the U.S. manufacturer and distributor of Deks Olje, has unfortunately discontinued all of their marine products as of a few months ago. Some of the big marine supply houses still had some, but it might take a search to find it. There are, however, foreign sources still listed for it.

    Deks #1 (the matt, oil-finish) is water-thin and you simply brush multiple coats on about as fast as you can brush until it won't soak in any more. Then you wipe off the excess and let it dry for a day or two. Like any oiled finish, it is only as good as the maintenance you give it, but this one is super easy to apply or refresh and dries faster than most (some take days, or even weeks to lose that sticky feeling, including linseed and Watco). Deks #1 is the easiest classy looking oil finish that I've ever used.

    Deks #2 is more like a gloss varnish and can be applied over a base of Deks#1 if you want a glossy, varnish-like look and more durability. I never thought it went on as smoothly as good marine varnish (I usually use Captain's Varnish), but then again, I'm not a particularly patient varnisher. I stick mostly with #1 and the oiled look. I don't know of any similar products at the moment (household deck coatings, boat oils, etc.) that are a good substitute, though there might be some. Personally, if I have to order a gallon from across the big pond every once in a while, it's probably worth doing.
  4. James Wickham

    James Wickham Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Todd Bradshaw

    Thanks for the reply on the Deks #1 oil. Figures they would discontinue it. I have used the Flood product CWF or clear wood finish the oil formula for decks and siding and had good luck with that . I wish I knew how it would do on the canoe. Also did you every fill the canvas with a paint and silica mixture as opposed to the fillers that they sell ? I just finished the planking today, and will be planing the plank edges and sanding them also, to get a little better surface. Thanks for the help. Jim
  5. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi guys. Just found a old town 1971 trapper Originally fiberglass canoe that i thought was originally canvas. The exact situation as jrghaven. Where I was really sorta lookin forward to canvasing. But it's in the exact shape. Where the wood planking seams very brittle and weak.. So not sure if canvas is the right option...
    Just wandering what Ya jrghaven ended up doing and how it turned out?
  6. OP

    jrghaven Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Project Summary

    I completed the restoration in Spring 2009. Very rewarding - I spent a good 6 to 9 months working on it in my off hours. I ended up deciding to re-glass the canoe, was concerned that the wood was just too fragile. That in itself was a great learning experience, but it added noticeable weight to the boat. I didn't have the right tools to rebuild the outwales or keel myself - the only things I didn't do personally - but I was able to purchase the wood (I think mahogany if I remember correctly) from a lumber yard in Western Connecticut. A canoe restoration shop in Massachusetts (Salmon Falls) agreed to manufacture them for me from that wood, and we installed them at their shop when they were completed. I'm grateful for their help, and highly recommend them.

    I struggled a bit getting the right color - ended up with a slightly dark blue. Instead of oiling the interior I used marine varnish, as I couldn't definitively resolve my concern about the oil interfering with the fiberglass adherence. That also added some weight. It was the first project where I purchased an organic fume mask / respirator for varnishing. No joke, the best $40 I have ever spent. Perhaps the greatest lesson from this restoration.

    The boat was VERY nimble in the water. I paddled it once in the Long Island Sound just to make sure it was sea-worthy.

    Like most projects I've completed (and due to limited storage space) - I decided to sell it and let someone else enjoy the finished restoration. The buyers (a father / son pair) were so excited when I dropped it off. Well worth the effort. I'll try and attach some pics of the restoration to this post. I'll restore another when I have a place with a workshop or garage.

    Thanks for asking about the restoration! Best of luck with your boat. There's wonderful expertise at this site if you encounter any problems...

    Attached Files:

  7. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Up late.. can't sleep.. Thanks for quick reply. First off. Wow! nice job. Perfect color! Really beautiful! inspiring.
    This is my second canoe to restore. The first was a fiberglass that i re-glassed. Wasn't a tough job at all. The inside was was wood but just for show. (like wood very thin shavings) like an old town repro.:) Anyway. loved it! I like to fish so the boat was fine for me even though it was a TANK. I should have named it The green sub. HEAVy but indestructible. I sold it cause we ended up moving into a tiny i mean tiny back yard and the canoe took up all the space. This one I found on craigs list. for a $100 bucks! From the looks of it. I thought is was stripped of canvas then reglassed but after doing the serial search I found out it was original. (Clear glass with the wood to show). I was so ready to canvas it and doing all the research.. mostly to cut down on weight. But now after reading your post, I am also not sure the canvas will make up the needed strength. A couple of my fishin buds are big dudes. The one benefit of the clear glass is the nice wood to show through but again the canvas would be much lighter...?? So hey, I will ponder this over.. I'm stripping old varnish now and probably will be for a while. It was good to see how great your boat turned out and I can see either way will work for me. BUT! I will not be selling This oNe!!!!!!
    Oh and how dis you strip it so well?
  8. OP

    jrghaven Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes


    My boat was small - 14 feet I think. It tracked well, but wouldn't have worked well for big paddlers, definitely a bit tippier than my 16 ft Royalex Penobscot. The original planks were thinner than the replacement stock I purchased to fix a few holes. Had to do a fair amount of sanding and planing to get them flush with the rest of the boat. I think that's why the original felt so fragile.

    Regarding removal of the original fiberglass, that was a deliberately slow process of chipping it away with whatever hand tool (wear goggles) did the job on a given section - took weeks... There must be an easier way, but I found that if the chipping was too quick/aggressive there was more damage to the underlying wood. In the end, I painted the boat to hide any cosmetic blemishes from this process, although it did look pretty unique unpainted. I still don't know if I could have just "glassed over" the residual fiberglass, or if the new glass wouldn't have adhered well. Maybe someone with more experience could weigh in on that issue.

    Perhaps it was psychological, but I didn't "trust" the boat until it was glassed and varnished. Just never felt strong enough until then, but that may just have been due to the condition it was in when I got it.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  9. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Use the search for many, many discussions on the use of fiberglass to help you decide.

    The lightweights/trappers were built with thinner planking (1/8 inch) and thinner ribs (1/4 inch) to cut down on weight. They were meant to feel light. Also, when restoring these canoes, they all feel rather delicate when stripped of their skin. They are afterall only cedar for the most part. But by the time you get new varnish, canvas, filler and paint on them, their life is restored and they feel like new again. You would be surprised at how durable they suddenly feel and in all likelyhood how durable they are.
  10. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Following on Fitz’s comments about the durability of OT’s lightweight canoes.

    We have an OT 50 pounder built in 1931 that has the very thin planking and thin ribs. It still has its original canvas, as far as I can tell, and other than repainting, had undergone no restoration of any kind prior to my buying it. It has 3 or 4 cracked ribs and a small hole in the planking, and some wood missing from the outwales, evidence of some past moderately rough or careless use, all present when I bought the canoe about 4 years ago, but none of which interfere with its having been used over the past four years.

    This canoe was our first useable wood and canvas canoe, and learning to treat it differently than our old, trusty, and abused Royalex Mohawk means that it wasn’t always treated as well as it might have been as we learned how to properly use and care for a w/c canoe -- how to launch and land on a rocky river bank or concrete boat ramp, get in and out, etc. Beyond that, using the canoe has resulted leaving several donations of yellow paint to rocks hidden in the Piscataquis river (very sneaky rocks!), and several paint donations to various beaver dams that could not be portaged around.

    sm canoe and beaver dam.JPG

    But other than scraped paint, there has been no further damage to the canoe -- it has been surprisingly durable, even with its light construction. When I do restore the canoe, I will not even be considering fiberglass (though I may consider Dacron for its lighter weight), because I have found the canoe to be amply strong and durable as is.
  11. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    (1) - By far, the easiest and best way to remove fiberglass from a wooden canoe is with a heat gun and something like a putty knife (though it is still a fairly slow and tedious process). Other methods (sanding, chisels, etc.) tend to tear up the wood. Heat is the only way to get the resin to soften its grip on the wood enough to peel off the glass without tearing out wood and what resin is left can then be sanded smooth without using really aggressive sand paper.

    (2) Fiberglass does not add strength to an old canoe when applied as a replacement outside skin. The strength of fiberglass is when it is put in tension (pulled-on) and it resists that tension, which it does pretty well. A thin skin on the outside of a wooden canoe is not put in tension when you hit something. Instead, it is put in compression - where fiberglass doesn't make much of a contribution to impact strength at all. If you think you are strengthening the structure by adding a fiberglass skin instead of a canvas skin, you are misinformed. Fiberglass is somewhat harder than canvas filler, so you may pick up a certain amount of abrasion resistance from minor canoe/rock encounters - though the glass layer will also be much thinner than canvas and filled canvas is a lot tougher than you might think. In reality, which one will survive shallow rocky streams longer is likely to be a toss-up.

    (3) Properly installed and applied, there shouldn't be any major weight difference between the filled canvas skin and a typical fiberglass skin. If anything, the glass might be a couple pounds lighter, though it will depend on the skills and glassing experience of the person installing it.

    (4) Of course a skinless canoe will seem fragile. Consider what it's made of. Would you stand on a 3/16" thick hunk of cedar with a couple of 5/16" ribs nailed across it? That's basically what your canoe's wooden frame is, yet once you get the whole package together it will all add up to a reasonably strong structure. Expect any naked wooden canoe to be amazingly light and to seem rather flimsy. Once you get used to moving the bare hull around and spoiled by how light it is, you can also expect to cringe every time you have to add something to it that makes it heavier, but most of that is unavoidable and whether it's a canvas skin or a glass skin, you can pretty much bet that once done, your boat will be back up around its listed catalog weight.
  12. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the great info guys. Though the canoe was originally built for the wood planking to show through the Fiber cloth. It still seams the same primus or style of construction as the Canvas. I think where i'm at now is difficulty, cost, and originality. I've glassed my last canoe witch i found a very easy, quick, affordable form. And with the added benefit of the nice wood to show through (on this canoe) Last one was painted.
    But now after research from mainly this web site and books. I can't help to be attracted to the style, longevity durability and mostly quietness that the Canvas offers. That weighed against tools, material and work time. I still need to think on this...:) The wifey of course like the nice planking cedar to show through but also the ease of that on effort and $funds.
    That said i am picking up today at library the "Wood and Canvas Canoe" by rollin thrulow. to put myself under more stress and indecision.:)
  13. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    One factor that may influence your decision is that Old Town commonly used styrene to thin the first layer of resin that was put on a Trapper like yours. This would reduce any unsightly bubbles that would detract from the natural finish and helped bond the fiberglass to the wood. Sadly, this also means that it can be exceptionally difficult to ever remove any fiberglass applied at the factory and convert it back to a canvas covered canoe since most of the planking is likely to be badly damaged in the process. Your easiest solution in this case may be to simply repair the fiberglass on this one and find another canoe to recanvas. Please let us know what you decide and how it goes. Good luck,

  14. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Actually the one side pulled right off! Really easy. I actually stopped there cause I wanna leave the protection on it till i can get to it in warmer weather. But yea, my friend grab a piece and pulled almost the one whole side in one strand..
  15. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Ok guys got it stripped of the old glass. And it looks like it had 2 layers of 3oz or 6oz. Hard to tell?.. I've decided to re-glass the canoe but I wonder if one layer of 6oz would be sufficient? With two layers just on the ends??
  16. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    You could, but it would be awfully fragile. There is a certain amount of flex happening when you move around in the boat and a single layer of six ounce bridging the gaps between planks isn't very much to keep the skin from cracking and water coming in there. You would be smarter to double the six-ounce over the bottom and up the turn of the bilge. You also want to look it over carefully first for uneven levels between planks and then for any sunken tack head dents and plank-to-plank gaps. These will have to be filled with something or the resin will drain out of the cloth in those spots, leaving fiberglass "screen wire" which is damned difficult to fix.
  17. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Ok.. So I guess I should add like what I've read.. a football shape-ish layer along the bottom? Does that go under or over the bigger piece and do you wet them out separate or together hoping the resin soaks through??
  18. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Put the football underneath and wet them out at the same time. Otherwise you add a lot of weight and have a lot more filler coats to apply to hide the transition. Be patient, as it takes glass some time to absorb epoxy, and roll or squeegee with care. Too hard or too fast tends to trap little bitty air bubbles down in the glass. They don't hurt anything, but they show if you want a clear finish. What are you planning on using to fill the plank gaps and tack head dents? That is the part of the process that will make or break the whole deal - and unlike the old polyester resin jobs, this new stuff will be extremely-difficult-bordering-on-impossible to remove if you screw it up.
    Are you sure you don't want to canvas this boat instead? It's a lot safer process.
  19. Tex

    Tex Curious about Wooden Canoes

    This boat was originally glassed clear. I have re-glassed a canoe years ago and found it pretty simple. I was planning on using wood flour-epoxy for fill or the DAP-Plastic Resin you suggest in another thread. I do have about a nickel size hole in it and some small rough spots.
    I have already bought the fiberglass from Infinity composites.. But now for the football I will need more. I only got enough for one layer of 6oz.
    I wan't to keep weight down cause sometimes it's just me loading and unloading. I like to fish and not just lakes but rocky creeks and such so.. I do need it to be durable.
    I'm still really torn on Canvas and love the idea of it. But I also like the wood look of the clear glass.
    Though I want it to be nice, I am not looking for a trophy boat but just a good fishing canoe.
    I saw your yellow fiber glass Trapper and love it.
    Right now I'm just gathering material.. It's still too cold here for any work. I tried stripping the interior with jasco stuff but didn't react do to the cold.. I appreciate all your help.

    Attached Files:

  20. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    If you're going to take it on rocky creeks, you're going to regret fiberglassing it. When rocks meet 'glass, rocks win, every time. It won't be long before the boat gets banged up, and will start to leak -- especially if there's only one layer of glass cloth. Then you're stuck with a leaky boat that'll be extremely difficult to repair properly. Yes, you'll be able to patch it, but then you'll end up with patches on the patches, which gets to looking really bad.

    I've stripped epoxy-based 'glass off a canoe, and it's no picnic. Canvas, on the other hand, peels off nicely, when it's time for re-covering.

    It's your boat, so do what you like, but ...

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