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What to do with two vintage Old Town canoes? Value?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Canoeguy, May 22, 2009.

  1. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    No they don't all share that issue. Those that do are invariably fiberglassed using polyester resin. Unfortunately, there is not a single polyester resin on the market that is, or ever was, formulated with sticking to, or sealing wood in mind. Boat graveyards are full of old fiberglass motorboats containing a sheet of polyester/fiberglass-covered plywood in their transoms that has delaminated, begun to rot and basically killed the boat. Back in the early days when polyester was all we had available for boatbuilding there were fairly drastic differences in the adhesive strength between different types and brands of polyester, and getting a good bond that wasn't prone to delaminating on impact was a huge issue.

    On the stripper boats that Norm and I built, we actually ended up sealing the bare wooden hull with a lacquer sealer before the resin was applied. The lacquer penetrated the wood better than the resin did and stuck quite well, and the polyester resin stuck better to the lacquer than it would have to bare wood. That is how we handled the delamination issue, combined with using a specific formula for a specific brand of resin (Techniglass 329-2 unwaxed polyester laminating resin which we had shipped in from Oregon) that had proven to adhere tenaciously to the lacquer-primed hull. Even so, as soon as boatbuilding epoxy resins became available, the switch was a no-brainer.

    As long as you can do fairly decent quality work and follow directions, delamination and water intrusion under modern epoxy/glass laminates are simply no longer an issue. The epoxy bond will exceed the grain strength of the wood - meaning that if you go to tear off the glass, it will take wood with it because the wood itself is now the weak link in the system. Epoxy resin is also the most moisture resistant sealer you can possibly find to apply to a piece of wood. In addition, boat building epoxy in the form it is used for a layup or sheathing is formulated to slightly exceed the flexibility of the wood it is adhered to. Again, the wood breaks first. So on a canoe like your re-covered Yankee, properly applied epoxy resin/fiberglass would have made the delamination and water intrusion problems you have a non-issue. Note though, that glassing over a keel is absolutely foolish and should never be done with any resin type. It's just asking for trouble, and sooner or later you are going to wear through it into raw wood and expose the keel to moisture.

    The typical strip builder or person recovering a rib and plank canoe using polyester resin and fiberglass did not/does not have these materials available, or sufficient knowledge of the issue. They are most likely to go buy a couple gallons of whatever polyester resin they can find, put it straight on the wood and eventually suffer from delamination and the water intrusion problems that usually come with it. Unfortunately, there are probably many times more old wooden canoes out there that were fiberglassed using the wrong resin than there are which used the right resin. It's also a rather tricky job to do properly (substantially more so than glassing a stripper) which will pretty much remove it from the realm of beginner's glassing projects.

    Every canoe building method has its strengths, and its drawbacks, and the epoxy/fiberglass covered wooden canoe is just another one as long as it's done well - as is the wood/canvas canoe. On an old polyester-covered boat though, the chances are that your best bet is almost always going to be removal of the old glass and re-covering the hull. Luckily, the polyester resin/fiberglass will usually come off fairly easily using a heat gun and peeling it off carefully. Why is this? It's because the bond of the polyester resin is not sufficient to consistently exceed the grain strength of the wood, which was it's problem in the first place.
  2. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    To keep this simple – no ‘glass for me. I routinely read attempts to justify the use of fiberglass (usually with the caveats “if you know what you’re doing and you do it right”… big assumptions especially for first-timers), but I don’t recall any attempts to justify canvas. Seems canvas is accepted and ‘glass is debated, and that alone means something. Call it ignorance if you want but based upon personal experience, I simply don’t accept the arguments for ‘glass. I’ve restored many old wooden boats, and every single time I’ve had problems with ‘glassed hulls that I’ve never seen with canvassed ones. I will always charge significantly more for a restoration that involves old ‘glass, and I would never buy a 'glassed hull myself unless it was very special and it came much cheaper than it would have without the ‘glass. Plus, I personally don’t like the way ‘glass sounds on an otherwise wood-canvas canoe, the way it feels, or the nastiness of putting it on in the first place (yes, I’ve done it when building strippers). So based upon my N of 1 – but I’ll bet I’m not the only one – glassing what would traditionally be a canvassed hull dramatically decreases value. If that doesn’t matter to you or if you disagree, fine. We can each do whatever you want with our own canoes, but to me the value in use and the monetary value both go down significantly with ‘glass.
  3. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    From a professional restorer's point of view, a glassed rib and plank canoe is difficult, if not impossible when it comes to proper repair. Emphasis on PROPER. A rib, plank, or stem cannot be repaired or replaced properly if the canoe is covered in glass. It can be fixed to float again, but the repairs are far from transparent.
    I have worked on glassed canoes that had no repair issues and encouraged the customer to leave the glass on if it was in decent shape...It saves them money because the removal is time consuming. BUT always with the caveat about future damage or rot.
  4. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I do prefer canvas on a previously canvased hull, but you would think from reading these comments that canvas is immune to problems, which as you can see if you read the forum long enough is clearly not the case. There is a rather constant string of threads with people looking for answers for fixing problems with canvas covered canoes.

    "Fiberglass causes rot" - says the guy who is currently replacing the stems, half the rib tips and the decks on his wood/canvas canoe because they're rotten.
    "Fiberglass dries out the wood, and it doesn't breathe" - says the guy who is desperately trying to get some moisture back into the wood of his wood/canvas boat, because it has dried out so much from "breathing" that its wood feels like Styrofoam.

    One of the best ways to ruin a piece of wood is to subject it to repeated cycles of wetting and drying, and unfortunately that's the scenario that is created between the wood and the canvas on a canoe. Yes, it is easier to replace individual wooden pieces on a canvas covered boat than having to cut through and later patch the fiberglass covering, and yes, if you're going to fiberglass a wooden hull, you had better know what you're doing. But lumping all fiberglass jobs into the same category as some poorly done ones you have seen which didn't use the right materials and deciding that they will all suffer the same fate is ignorant.

    It would be an interesting experiment to take my epoxy/fiberglassed Guide and your best canvas covered boat and stick them out in the back yard on sawhorses for about ten years to see which one rots out or dries out first.
  5. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Todd is correct... Rot happens.. Glassed or canvassed, when not cared for correctly. He also admits that repairs are easier on canvassed canoes....
    Thankfully most wooden canoe owners nowadays, glassed and canvassed, pick and choose when and where to paddle their woodie and take the care needed to keep them in good shape!
    Paddles up!
  6. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I always thought that it was neat in the days when I originally became a paddler, that at that time more miles of whitewater had been run in wood/canvas canoes over the years than any other modern type. Of course, I think the idea back then was to vigilantly avoid the rocks, and I'm not so sure that still holds true these days with plastic boats. Today one probably has to have a screw loose to do much whitewater in a woodie. Especially when the movie "Deliverance" showed how cleanly they break in half. :)

    (They actually sawed through the hull all the way up to the gunwales and tied off the ends with the hull crosswise to the current. If you watch carefully, you can see that it actually broke slightly before getting T-boned by the other canoe.)

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