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

Hello! OT serial number info request

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by Miquel, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. Miquel

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    hello there- just came upon your webite. ive been looking for a restoration canoe for some years now, finally got one today and came upon your organization in researching it... how awesome, thanks for doing this.

    my serial number is 156804 would love all the info that you are willing to give.

  2. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Follow up question; after reviewing a number of the forum threads here, it seems unlikely that a number of you weren't already onto this canoe that I found on NH craigslist. did I get very lucky, or miss something that caused all of you to let this one go? funny story- the guy who sold it to me said he was going to burn it and his mom shamed him into selling it because someone would love it. he halved the listed price when I was on the phone with him for the first time, then tried to halve it again when I was picking it. nice guy.
  3. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    The Old Town canoe with serial number 156804 is shown as 16 feet long, CS (common sense or standard) grade, a Yankee model with western red cedar planking amd open spruce gunwales. The canoe was built between December 1951 and June 1952. The original exterior paint was dark green. It was shipped to Amesbury, Massachusetts on June 25, 1952. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link behind the thumbnail images attached below.

    156804 - 76959.jpg

    This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe.

    I can't speak to whether you were lucky or not -- depends on the condition of the canoe, the price, and whether anyone else was interested right then in a canoe in that area. Perhaps someone else is familiar with the craigslist ad and/or the canoe and will comment.

    But we all would enjoy seeing pictures of the canoe.

    And welcome to the WCHA. If you have any questions about restoring your new (for you) canoe, don't be bashful about asking here.

    Further, whether you plan to do it yourself or to hire a professional, there are three good sources of information that you would do well to get, or at least look at, before making any decision about how to proceed when considering any work on a wood/canvas canoe -- maintenance, repair, restoration (if you have not already seen at least one of them):

    The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok

    Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok

    This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood-Canvas Canoe, by Mike Elliott

    The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an excellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe and its construction. The third was just recently published and has gotten some good reviews.

    Of course, you can always ask questions here on the forums -- don't be shy, even if your question seems simple. We have all faced situations where we weren't sure what to do, but others have faced the same situations and figured out how to proceed.

    You might also want to look at The Old Town Canoe Company by Susan Audette and David Baker, a great history of the Old Town company and its canoes.

    These books are all available from the WCHA store, and are often on eBay, or available from Amazon and other book retailers.

    Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.

    WCHA President
  4. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks a lot Greg. Im happy to share some photos. I ended up paying the guy $100 for the thing which seemed pretty fair/low to me based on a little research. I can see it needs a lot of work, but im a decent woodworker and not particularly intimidated by any of it....except the white lead filler bits.
    Im going to borrow the Building Maine Guides Canoe by Stelmok from a friend and buy The Wood and Canvas Canoe by Stelmok and Thurlow before doing anything to it.

    it looks to me like ribs and most of the planking are ok. there are two planks with impact cracks that ill have to replace, I will look into patching rather than replacing entire plank but suspect its just better to replace the whole thing. the rear(aft?) stem is literally gone so ill have to replace that, though all but the tiny pieces at the top of the planking there are ok so I should be able to use that to cope my new stem so its the right shape(thoughts on that anyone?) though I was going to see if Island Falls has a pattern theyd sell me.
    the inner gunwales(Inwales?) seem ok but the Outwales are obviously gone. I think Ill just replace both with mahogany or ash(I think id prefer the look of ash, but it sounds like mahogany is the best in terms of utility?), I believe I can get a scrap from the outer pieces that's intact enough to get an accurate profile to match...are the gunwales the same profile for the entire length? the little wedge-deck pieces, whatever theyre called, seem like easy candidates to replace though id want to salvage the original old town plate and again would prefer the look of ash or oak but probably mahogany is best? and finally the Keel strip is gone, that doesn't sound like too big of a deal either.
    for the canvas filler...I watched a friend restore one of these canoes on instagram(Reid Schwartz check him out, super talented guy) a while back and was fascinated by the silica filler process but Im very reluctant to be using that stuff, particularly the leaded version. I came upon a guy, Orca Boat works, that appears to use latex duct mastic to fill his canvas. I work in construction and have a fair bit of experience with that stuff and it does seem like it would work very well for that, but obviously would have no antimicrobial properties, plus a very marked lack of cool factor. I will most likely end up doing the unleaded silica filler unless I can find anyone on here or elsewhere that has some actual time tested experience with more modern fillers that don't pose such a health risk.

    I look forward to engaging with this community through this process, and thanks again. feel free to let me know if id be better off moving this to another forum.


    Canoe1.jpg CanoeForedeck.jpg

  5. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    What a great buy for a decent looking canoe...
    A couple things related to your post..

    The planking can be replaced not the entire plank but just the damaged section. You would remove the split pieces. Put a joint line halfway over a rib. Generally you try to piece in across at least three or four ribs but there are no firm fast rules. You may decide based upon where the planks are located on the hull and based upon how much stress those areas may see.

    Looks to me like the one deck that you posted is in good shape except for some black mold...That should clean up with a bit of bleaching/sanding. Perhaps the other deck is the bad one, on the end with the failed stem?
    You may replace the entire stem or piece in a splice. It depends upon how far gone it is. If you are replacing a significant section you might steam and bend that piece. A smaller section might get spliced in.

    I've watched the mastic video and seen others using this approach. I've not tried it preferring (what to me is) the tried and true silica filler. I don't know of anyone that still uses lead in their recipe. Most recipes use paint, varnish, silica, japan drier etc. You can buy filler premixed or make your own.

    Putting the keel back on is a choice you can make. This boat would perform just as well (better) without one.

    This site has OT labels for sale in the online store in case you decide not to save the one you have.

    Looks like a fun project..good luck and thanks for putting some pictures up.

  6. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the input Mike, im sure ill be back for more. ill start a thread with progress once I start stripping, im pretty stoked.
  7. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Looks to me like you did very well for yourself getting that canoe.

    Any of the three woods you are considering for replacement gunwales would be fine.

    Mahogany is the prettiest, and a bit lighter in weight; ash and white oak look much the same, with oak being a tad heavier and a bit stronger. The original spruce would also be fine -- it would be lighter, but not as strong as the ash or oak. I am restoring a 15’ 50 Pound model, replacing the damaged original spruce gunwales with ash inwales and mahogany outwales. The gunwales of the 50 pounder are thinner than most, to save weight, and the original inwales were damaged by the seat and thwart mounting bolts, so I chose the slightly heavier ash for strength, and because it was, for me, readily available from Rollin Thurlow. I was also going to use ash for the outwales, until I acquired a surplus set mahogany rails from a friend.

    As far as I know, no current commercial builder is using a filler containing lead. I have read about some amateur builders who have got their hands on white lead to use in filler, but I (and almost everyone else) thinks that a foolish thing to do. You can find DIY filler formulas on these forums, or you can buy filler from some of the builders listed in the WCHA builders directory. The reports I have read from those who use the modern materials indicate that it performs well, with the advantage of quick drying. I may avoid the filler question by using Dacron on the 50 pounder, to save weight -- still have not decided.

    As to the keel -- it is a matter of different strokes for different folks. My only quibble with what Mike has said above is his suggestion that a canoe might perform “better” without a keel. A canoe may perform a bit differently without a keel, but that difference is not necessarily “better.” I will be reinstalling the keel on the 50 pounder, and there is a keel on our restored 16’ OT Ideal. I have found that the keel has very little impact on maneuverability, provides a very slight advantage in straight-line directional stability, and I appreciate the protection that it gives the hull. (I also paddle a 16’ Royalex canoe without a keel so I do have a point of comparison.) Most of our paddling is on quieter rivers, or ponds and lakes; if I did much white water paddling, I might consider either no keel or a shoe keel for the slight gain in maneuverability. Because I am often launching and retrieving by myself, I especially appreciate the protection provided by the keel in some situations.

    s IMG_0213.jpg sm IMG_0214.jpg s IMG_0217.jpg s IMG_0219.jpg

    The keel, protecting the hull, made this solo retrieval of the heavy Ideal very easy.

    Further, the impounded rivers on which I often paddle have large rocks, invisible just below the surface
    -- more than one of those rocks have a bit of yellow paint from the keel of our 50 pounder, rather than from the hull itself.

  8. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hey Greg

    I had actually decided to do the same thing youre doing with the Gunwales- oak inside and Mahogany outside. I like the way that looks in the pictures ive seen. Are the inwales and outwales the same profile over the whole length? maybe ill do a couple tests with the fillers and see what I want to do-ill post results if and when the happen. I think I agree with you on the keel, I don't see myself ever needing the performance and maneuverability, and I tend to appreciate durability.

  9. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Both the inwales and outwales are tapered at the ends. Here are photos of both ends of my 1931 50 Pound model as I bought it, with the original gunwales, showing the taper in the width of both inwales and outwales, as well as the taper in the height of the outwales.

    sm 100_2566.jpg sm 100_2565.jpg sm cr 100_2532.jpg sm cr 100_2536.jpg

    Here is a link to an earlier thread discussing the condition of the inwales on this canoe and showing why they are being replaced:

    Here is a link to a thread which gives some gunwale dimensions from a 1936 Yankee, including the taper, as well as the process of replacement:

    Of course, you can measure the gunwales on your own canoe.

    The next post shows similar photos of a 1936 50 Pound model that was in my possession for a while, also showing the tapers.

  10. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

  11. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks Greg. I was looking at the outwales on mine- they are very punky, I was able to get a piece off the deck end, and from the middle and they aren't tapered, and look a little coarsely shaped, im thinking maybe they got replaced at some point by someone who wasn't so concerned with doing a perfect job. I got an end of the keel strip off too, about 3 feet of it, and that thing is tapered to nothing and crisply chamfered- im surprised they would make that as nicely as they did knowing it would take a beating I guess it survived the rocks and such fine only to fall prey to the dirt sitting.
    Im still waiting on the book I ordered, which I figure probably covers a lot of the questions ive been asking. I started cleaning out the interior of the loose finish and did discover a few broken ribs, so this thing will be a little more of a project than I hoped, but it will be a good excuse to build a nice steamer. I should be able to start it in late may. ill start a thread for the process then. Thanks for all the support guys
  12. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I wouldn't waste much time trying to salvage that Old Town name plate since it does not appear to be the original one. This style first appeared in the late 1960s and would have had the serial number typed in the silver section as shown below if it had been put on at the factory. Your canoe probably had a decal like the one shown at when it left the factory. Good luck with the restoration,


    Attached Files:

  13. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    The keel does very little to protect the you note on the ends where you are most likely to need it it tapers off to nothing. Keels don't (normally) take a beating. The keels primary purpose is to make the canoe easier to track in a straight line...if you are a decent paddler you might find that the keel is an impediment that will keep you from being able to turn and steer.
    Generally dings on a keel come from the keel catching on things that a keel-less boat would simply slide over. Filled canvas slides pretty well over things without getting damaged. Often when a keel catches it's while you are broadsided to a rock or's a good day if you don't dump when the keel catches. .
    The stem bands (brass or copper affixed over the canvas on the stem and blending to the keel) do protect the hull from some landing dings.
    If there are outside stems on the boat they normally blend into the keel where it thins out. Outside stems really do protect the boat from careless or accidental groundings. Nine times out of ten when you have outside stems you will also have a keel.
  14. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I think we should be careful not to highjack this thread about the pending restoration of this canoe by re-hashing the keel vs no keel argument, but having said that there are good arguments for both positions. If you and your partner can not paddle a canoe without a keel in a straight line the addition of a keel will not solve the problem. Conversely, leaving off the keel on your canoe will not cause it to constantly turn in circles. I have to store my canoes on the second floor of my barn. In getting them in and out through the loft door the keels rub on the door sill saving the bottom of the canoe from paint scratches. Greg is also correct in stating that dragging a canoe out of the water with tired arms onto a dock will scratch the hull less with a keel installed. If you decide to leave the keel off you will have to do something with the screw holes through every other rib. Short of leaving empty holes you could cut off all the keel screws and glue the screw heads in the holes. However, if it were my boat I would re-install the keel, but that’s just me, it’s your canoe do as you please. All that being said you are a long way off from installing the keel so you have plenty of time to decide what to do.

    If it has not been said already I would encourage you to seek out the WCHA Chapter closest to you and visit with one or more local members. I would also encourage you to come to the Annual Assembly at Paul Smith’s College in July. Even if you have no canoe to paddle there are always plenty there to borrow from willing owners.

    Best of luck with the restoration and have fun in the process.
  15. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    The ends of a keel are tapered to allow the protecting brass bang plate that wraps around the stem to the bottom of the canoe to fit easily over the end of the keel (on a canoe without an exterior stem), to protect the keel and keep the canoe from being suddenly hung up on an underwater obstruction. On some canoes, the bang plate runs along the keel for the full length of the hull, but that is not usual and was an extra-cost option when the canoe was new and extra protection was desired. Properly installed, a new or reinstalled keel will be tapered and the taper should end under the bang strip. The thin wooden taper should not be left uncovered and unprotected:

    keel end 1 cr.jpg keel end 3 cr.jpg

    Keels (and outside stems) do not necessarily get “beat up” in use -- even years of use. Our two Old Towns date from 1922 and 1931; both have their original keels (and exterior stems). The 1931 canoe had its share of hard use before we acquired it, evidenced by several cracked ribs and some planking, gouged canvas, and broken gunwales. Keels do not provide absolute protection
    -- but if the1931 canoe had been lacking a keel, I expect I would be replacing more ribs and planking now.

    Whether to reinstall a keel as part of the restoration of a canoe without exterior stems is an open issue, with no really incorrect answer. As Jim notes correctly, a keel will not make a poor paddler into a good paddler -- and it certainly will not be an “impediment that will keep you from being able to turn and steer.” A keel will provide some protection, but will not prevent abuse or protect against all accidents. It will provide a small amount of straight-line stability, but it will not prevent even a novice from turning the canoe.

    Many people have left of the keel when restoring a canoe, and have been happy with the result. Many others have reinstalled (or replaced) the keel, and have been happy with the result. There is no one best, or even “better” way. As I have said (and Jim confirms), it’s different strokes for different folks, and your call to make after you have weighed the pros and cons.

    I second Jim’s recommendation to get in touch with the local WCHA chapter in your area -- the Norumbega chapter is active in your area; some of the members are experienced canoe restorers and all are friendly folks who are happy to give advice and/or help out. Get in touch with Steve Lapey, the chapter head, who can fill you in on chapter activities -- 978-374-1104;

  16. OP

    Miquel Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello all-

    thought id let you guys know that after all the helpful input from you guys I finally started my restoration project about a month ago. only a year behind schedule, no biggie. I was able to find a white cedar log and had a friend saw it up for me last spring, its been aging in the the rafters of my shed. all the canvas and special fasteners and fillers i needed i was able to get from Jerry Stelmok. As of now ive got the stem tips remade and ready to be glued in I used hickory because I had some. 8 replacement ribs are made up and bent on the hull, ready to install, new decks are made too. I elected to make tips for the inwhales instead of complete new ones, I had some green spruce which I think will match the existing pretty well, and it seemed a shame, and alot more work to redo them completely, we'll see how it works out, but I think it should be fine, ive got a hefty scarf right at the first screw into the deck ,so it should hold well
    right now my plan is to clean any loose finish out then install my new ribs and a few small planking patches, THEN I will strip the old finish, my thought is that this will give the new stuff a more even patina with the old stuff as it will surely get some goo on it during that process, anyone think that's dumb? the only things so far that I would definitely do differently a second time were my inwhale bending jigs. using the actual decks then just ovebending by jamming some shims in here and there did seem to do the trick, but it was a seat of the pants type of situation and could have been much better. and using a cedar log I got, I probably found about 7% of a 12" diameter log to be useable for ribs, incredibly knotty. ill just buy rib stock next time. I don't know what my problem was on that. As of now im still planning on using mahogany for my outwhales, ive got a piece but its just a piece of decking I had laying around, not air dried as far as I know, but I hear its nearly impossible to find non-kiln dried mahogany, and my experience definitely bears that out, so I will soak and steam and see what I can get, its not that bad of a bend really, so im hopeful itll be ok.
    anyway, thanks again for the encouragement, and look for finished photos sometime in the fall

    Attached Files:

  17. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Looking good. My restoration of our 15' 50 Pound canoe, started quite a while ago, is now about 2 years behind schedule, so you are doing well. And as for "but it was a seat of the pants type of situation," that's just par for the course when restoring an old boat.

    I don't know what you did for bending your inwales, but for you outwales, you might consider using the poly bag method of steam bending --
    < >

    keep up the good work, and keep the pictures coming.


Share This Page