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Restore a glass boat to canvas?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Brad Fisher, May 14, 2021.

  1. Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I'm thinking of fixing up a Northland canoe for someone. Planks and ribs etc. are all wood, just like a wood canvas boat. From the photos and what little there is about these boats on the internet, I'm pretty sure it was originally covered in fiberglass. I'd prefer to do restoration in canvas. Would that work? Is it worth it? IMG_6599.jpg
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Yes, fiberglass can usually be removed from canoes and replaced with canvas but it typically takes a lot of work. The "Is it worth it?" question depends on how much you value your time. My suggestion would be to keep looking until you find a canoe that hasn't been covered with fiberglass. There are several listed at now. Good luck,

  3. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks! The good news: not my boat. This is a friend's family boat that he wants restored, and he is willing to pay. With the woodwork, it's going to be expensive, I think.
  4. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder

    Having stripped many canoes of old resin and glass, I would factor in at least 6 hrs. to remove and sand the hull.
  5. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

  6. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I'd figure on a whole lot more that 6 hours. I've had several that took me well over 100. Removing the lions share of the glass can certainly be done in one day but that is just the beginning of the job on some hulls. If a layer resin has remained on the planking sanding is not going to remove it. You will need to painstakingly go back over the hull with a heat gun and putty knife to remove the resin before you sand. If the resin has flowed between the planking and behind the ribs you will need to painstakingly pick it out using whatever tools that you can find that will do the job. This can take days to do on a hull that was glassed with gaps between the boards. If you leave this stuff in and don't remove it it will loosen and pop out and pucker behind your fresh canvas.
    If the tacks were deeply set the resin may also be embedded over the tack heads. You will need to pick it out in order to re-clinch the tacks and again, if you don't these little chips of resin will pop off as you use the boat and end up behind the canvas.
    Glassed boat are often handled less carefully and dropped. Since the hull can no longer flex properly the force from dropping it will pull the tacks into the wood. When you remove the glass you may find that the planking is no longer tight to the ribs due to this. The only fix is to re-clinch all of the tacks.
    Sanding before addressing proud tacks can remove brass from the tack heads. You don't want to do that.
    One other thing to consider when you re-canvas a glassed boat is why it was glassed in the first place. I have stripped quite a few of them that were glassed because the stems would no longer hold tacks. Rather than repair the stems the hull was glassed. This tends to be more common on really old boats so yours is probably not such a case.
    Beginning in the 50's fiberglass was that magic stuff that lasted forever on your canoe. Consequently many good boats got glassed instead of re-canvassed.
    This is not a fun job that you can always blast through in a day or two.
    Benson Gray likes this.
  7. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

    It just depends on how the job was done to begin with. On the other end of the spectrum I recall watching Bill Miller remove fiberglass expeditiously with an ax! I've done it myself and it worked great. Probably the luck of the draw.
  8. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder

    Yes. It will depend on whether it is old poly resin that comes off pretty easy or newer epoxy that will be more difficult to remove. As for residue in the planking, I would not try to get it all off as you will sand right through the thin planking and as stated sand off the heads of the tacks. Maybe just need to get it out from between all the cracks and maybe even not that. Depends on the finish desired, I guess.
  9. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Is it worth it?
    Only if it’s close to a family’s heart and they want to pass it on to the next couple generations.
    95% of the canoes I’ve restored cost more to restore than the value in an informed market.
    MGC and Dan Lindberg like this.

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