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


Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by dcarey101, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. dcarey101

    dcarey101 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I have an opportunity to buy a '36 Old Town in what appears to be really good shape. Except for the fact that it has been fiberglassed. I have no idea-is this a bad thing? Is it possible to ...unfiberglass it and re-canvas it? Or should I just keep lookin? Thanks for your help!
  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    It's a really good question...
    Would you want to buy the canoe and then remove the glass to re-canvas? If the answer is yes and unless they are practically giving it away it's simply not worth the effort to remove glass unless the canoe is a rare and desirable my opinion.
    I've passed on quite a few canoes that would have been very desirable if they had not been fiber-glassed. It's just not worth the effort. Is it doable? Yes, generally it is, unless they used West Systems epoxies or something equally impossible to peel off. Glass jobs done in the 60's and 70's can be fairly easily removed with heat. If you are lucky and the resin has not wicked behind the ribs and between the planking it is possible to remove it in a few tortured hours...or you could spend a hundred hours with a dental pick, pocket knife, ice pick what have you to get it cleaned up enough to canvas. Been there done that and have one in the garage right now that I am trying to strip.... unless it's a very rare boat its not worth the effort.
    If you want an Old Town, there are quite a few available, many of them restored or restorable. You would be better off waiting for one of those if you want to avoid the extra hassle.
    One thing to keep in mind...when boats were glassed, often it was because they were too far gone to bother with restoring. A glass job can hide split and rotted out stems, bad planking etc.
  3. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I'd say it depends on the price. I wouldn't pay more than, say, $200 for it if you liked the canoe & it was otherwise in decent shape. Free is better! A fiberglassed canoe might be a great way to start getting restoration experience. IMO the canoe is already trashed, so why not get some experience on it...

    I've restored several canoes that have been 'glassed. As MGC says it can be a very tedious process. On the other hand sometimes the 'glass just peels off. I'm guessing the ease of removal depends on how well the epoxy was mixed and how much oil was in the wood when it was 'glassed, or how the canoe was stored. But I've never did one where I couldn't at least pull hunks off with my hands - with the help of a knife. So maybe some cedar siding splinters off with the glass - so what! Often these surface blemishes won't be seen once you put the canvas on, and if some wood needs replacing, replace it! Ok, so you may be doing damage to the canoe. Well that's better than the canoe just sitting there rotting away.

    So I suggest you take a close look at the canoe. If the outwales are missing in spots or gone altogether then tug the fiberglass to see for yourself how well it peels off.
  4. OP

    dcarey101 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks so much for your insight and thoughts! If the boat is in otherwise what looks to me to be excellent condition-it was totally refinished when it was fiberglassed, is there a down side to just using it as is? Is there gonna be a problem long-term with the fiberglass? I'm actually thinking about using as it is, much as I think thats a hateful thing to do to a beautiful old boat...
  5. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    It may be heavier with the fiberglass - but likely not by much. And whatever damage was gonna happen was done when it was applied - the longer you wait the easier it'll peel off. If you get rips or leaks fix it up with duct tape.
  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Actually, a fiberglassed boat can be a few pounds lighter than a canvased boat. The difference in how easy or how hard it is to get the glass off is mostly a matter of whether it was done with polyester resin or epoxy resin. As to the durability and lifespan of a fiberglassed boat it boils down to who did the work, how good are they, what materials were used, how much do they know, and what sort of care does the boat get? Big surprise, and not all that different from any other big repair or restoration job. There is no real proof that a fiberglassed boat can't last just as long. For one thing, if it is done properly, the outside of the planking is going to be sealed and no longer prone to the continuous getting wet and drying out that happens to wood/canvas constructions. That scenario is never good for any piece of wood. You also probably won't be exposing the unfinished outside of the planking to stuff like linseed oil (rot food) to go along with the dampness.

    It is certainly true that a whole lot of the canoes which have been fiberglassed were done by clueless owners using the wrong materials and inadequate experience with them to do a proper job. On the other hand, that doesn't make all fiberglassed canoes junk that is ready for the dumpster or in any immediate danger of falling apart. This is my 46 year old, custom ordered keelless Old Town Guide. It was fiberglassed using WEST epoxy and six ounce fiberglass, doubled over the bottom. It's wearing the original varnish on the inside and weighs about three pounds less than it did wearing canvas. $200? I don't think so. "Already trashed" There is no reason that it won't look just about the same in another 46 years.

    Don't get me wrong, I love wood/canvas canoes, but a lot of the bad rap that the fiberglassed ones get comes from folks with very limited experience with composites. guide2-001.jpg guide-012.jpg
    dcarey101 and MGC like this.
  7. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

  8. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    If you can get it for a good price, go for it. There's nothing wrong with keeping it just the way it is and using it. The hull won't respond to the paddle quite like it would if it was canvased but so what? You'll have a relatively maintenance free boat to use. It could last you a lifetime if you care for it properly. Our family had a glassed OT for quite few was bullet proof and even survived an excursion off the roof of the car.

    Buying it with the intention to remove the glass is a less attractive option as far as I'm's just not worth the effort when there are so many un-glassed OT's available. For perspective, I spent 7 hours trying to get the glass off of a boat yesterday. Some of it came right off and the rest of it, well, that's today's dreaded project. My hands are still itching from the glass fibers from yesterdays efforts. Almost all of the resin has stayed on the boat so I expect to spend at least 40 or 50 hours very careful removing it with a scraper and heat gun. It's not a pleasant job.....
  9. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Mike, I’ll bet that’s no run of the mill Old Town you’re getting itchy for. Occaisionally glass will save a hull as well. The Strickland I had would surely not have survived to be restorable had it not been protected with glass. Peeled more than a few but as has been said, with polyester resin it’s not the worst job. If it’s done well leave it and enjoy.
  10. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Or - I have a 18.5 White Guide that got glassed way back when. Over time there are many cracks in the glass at the joints of the planking.
    The work was done by a guy who worked on a few canoes, though maybe not "up" on W/C.
    This pic is an example of whats covering the canoe. And a bonus pic of early in it's better days.


    Attached Files:

  11. monkitoucher

    monkitoucher Canoe Curious

    @Todd Bradshaw, I love the color of your canoe. I've been admiring it for a couple months now. Would you care if I asked for the paint manufacturer and color code?
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  12. OP

    dcarey101 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I appreciate your thoughts and comments a lot guys- we are goin to look carefully at this boat tomorrow-Old Town #16198 (according to the seller)-any thoughts on what specifically we should look at to determine whether the fiberglass and refinish was done well and will last?
  13. jam010148

    jam010148 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I restored an Atkinson Traveler canoe that someone had glassed and it came out beautiful but, I will never restore a canoe that someone glassed over again! I won't even take one for free if glassed and in need of restoration. You can add at least an extra 40 hours of pain and torture to a restore project to remove the glass.
  14. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    If it looks like the one that Todd has, it's done right.... buy it.
    It's hard to tell how well glass was applied, whether it was properly mixed so you end up relying on what it looks like. Is the hull smooth or do you see ripples? Can you see the weave in the glass and is it even or uneven? How well did they finish the stem and stern? Is there an obvious cloth lap where they went around the stem or is it done nicely and finished correctly? Look at the wood and up inside the good is the wood? You should be able to spot a don't walk if it's not done well.

    Andre..the glass is off and you are right.. if this was an OT I would not have thought twice about it. I'm about 12 hours into removing the glass and on to removing resin. My heat gun died...I was hoping it would survive this boat because I WILL NEVER remove glass from a canoe again EVER.....and after doing Mud Pond Carry 4 times, I won't do that either.

    Howie, I kind of agree that doing a glass strip is not a bad idea for the uninitiated...once and then never again.....this is my third and skin is on fire. I feel like I spent the afternoon rolling in insulation...I will continue my practice of referring the glassed hulls to you.
    dcarey101 likes this.
  15. OP

    dcarey101 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Y'all are awesome. Thank you!
  16. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Point of order, and a touch of fiberglassing 101 for those who haven't ever studied it.....

    "It's hard to tell how well glass was applied, whether it was properly mixed"

    If it wasn't properly mixed it would be in one of two forms. One would be like syrup, the other like sticky rubber. Polyester resin will eventually harden all by itself, and/or you can harden an entire 55 gallon drum of it with only one drop of hardener. It just takes a while for the reaction to get going. If not mixed properly, epoxy resin on the other hand, will never harden. The fiberglass would either fall off the boat or come off in one big gooey sheet with very little coaxing.
  17. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Or you could be lucky and they used polyester.
    I once removed the glass from a Thompson in about 15 minutes, it came off in sheets with just a little coaxing.
    I removed it just to let the canoe dry out, as it was "retaining" water.

    ps, on the other hand, I spent 5-6 weeks scraping the resin off our '58 Seliga, it was a labor of love.

    "I'm about 12 hours into removing the glass"
  18. OP

    dcarey101 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Well that 'retaining water' thing was oone of the things I was worried about-can water get trapped between the frame and a bad fiberglass job?
  19. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    My opinion is it doesn't matter if the glass/resin job is good or bad, either way it's like a bag over the outside the the wood,
    and it comes down to the care given to a given canoe.
    If it gets wet inside and is put away wet, it will stay wet longer,
    if the inside is left up and wiped/allowed to mostly dry before being put away, it will be wet for a shorter time.

    I've seen canoes that were completely rotted out and canoes that were in good condition many years after being glassed.

    It just depends.

    Well, these are the 2 forms that end up on a canoe, the third is hockey pucks. :)
    [QUOTE="If it wasn't properly mixed it would be in one of two forms. One would be like syrup, the other like sticky rubber. [/QUOTE]

  20. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The leftover hardened resin disk in the mixing cup that pops out and often resembles a hockey puck is officially know as a "round to-it".

Share This Page