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

HELP : Stowe Mansfield Resurrection

Discussion in 'Strippers, Stitch-n-Glue, and Other Wood Composite' started by enggass, Sep 14, 2010.

  1. enggass

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I just got from my dad our old canoe that we have had since the 1970's. It is a 13' Mansfield made by the Stowe Canoe Co. which went out of business a number of years ago. Wide-ocean style... It is in OK shape considering it's age - but being stored mostly outside near the ocean for all those years, it is in a state of semi-decay. The area that needs the most work is the Gunwales, and the entire wooden keel needs to be replaced.

    Does the canoe really need this wooden keel? The way my canoe is built, the keel is completely EXTERIOR - now, the bow and stern pieces of the keel are fastened from the outside with screws. Easy enough. However, the part that runs the length of the canoe(main piece) is secured from the inside and the heads are underneath a resin seal. I need to replace the keel completely due to wear and decay. When I break off the rotted main piece(the part secured from the inside), the screws are sticking out of the bottom from the inside. I do not want to have to dig through the resin to remove screws and resecure a new keel. Can I just eliminate it? Take it off and cut the screws??? I know not all canoes have keels... Or, what is the best way to get to those screws through the resin? Can I drill a hole to the screw head? Re-attach a new keel, and then fill holes? I hope I am making sense - please help. I have no knowledge of boat repair -yet - but plan on making this my winter project...

    The results don't have to be perfect - just better than it is now.

    Thanks again,
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Those screws sticking out make good grippers if you happen to be paddling up-hill. Keeps you from sliding backwards........:D

    To clarify a bit, the curved wooden pieces on the ends are called "outside stems" and the big middle piece is the keel. It's been a while, but if I remember correctly (which happens once in a while) the "resin" over the screw heads isn't just resin, since resin alone is fairly weak and brittle. Those boats have a big hunk of polyester-resin-impregnated-fiberglass-mat slathered on top of the veneer ribby things and half-ribby things in the bottom - and it sounds like they did it over the screws that were used to attach the keel as well.


    ...sorry, I couldn't control myself. For future reference, never fiberglass over screw heads because you well may need to remove them in the future, and you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

    The hull is probably stiff enough to work without the keel, but you might need to try it and see if you're getting bottom-bounce in normal use and whether or not it's tolerable. I don't believe testing it will harm the hull in any way. Getting the heads out from under the fiberglass neatly would be a real bear and might involve a lot of tedious spot-fixing when you were done. If you want the keel off, it actually might be best to simply cut the screws off (Dremel tool and a cut-off wheel or big snippers) and carefully file them down flush as needed without scratching up the gel coat around them. The stem screw holes can be filled or the bottom of the stems tapered out and the outside stems re-attached.

    If I wanted to add a new keel, I might be tempted to use the existing screws. I'd pre-cut, seal and finish the keel on all sides, then flip the boat upside-down, mark the screw positions on the keel strip, pre-drill the screw holes slightly over-sized, fill them with a mixture of epoxy resin thickened up with some filler powder or milled fibers, flip it over, set it down on the screws and weight those areas until it cured. If you ever needed to remove it, it wouldn't be easy, so keel maintenance would be important, but at least the re-keeling process wouldn't involve trying to get the screw heads out from under the glass. Just an idea, but they really backed you into a corner on this one and there is no easy answer.
  3. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Glueing a new keel on over the existing screws was one of my ideas... I'm glad that wasn't too far fetched. As for the stems, they are shot! I would need new ones definitely. I assume those pieces would need to be steam bent, no? As for the keel screws, I believe you are correct and there is glass over them as well. I'd rather not go ripping that up as that is one area that has held up for the past 35+ years. I was thinking of maybe just redoing the keel(glue), and not the stems - does that seem crazy???
  4. smallboatshop

    smallboatshop Restorers

    Another way to replace the keel is to cutoff the existing screws as noted; and then screw in the new keel from the inside with longer screws and finish washers, drilling through the glass/resin along the bottom between the old screws. It will be obvious what you have done but will give you strong attachment for keel.
    If you replace the outside stems, you could make a mold and steambend new ones or use the mold to laminate new stems.

    Mansfields are a challange to repair. You mentioned gunwale replacement in the other thread. In the Mansfields that we done the gunwales and inwales were attached to each other with ring nails. It can be destructive to try to remove the ringnails from the inwales so you might try the same approach as the keel. Remove the gunwale, cut off the ring nails and attach the new gunwale with screws from the inside. Its easiest to remove and replace one gunwale at a time. Also you might want to clamp 2 or 3 braces across the canoe to help hold the rails in place while you work.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.
  5. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you smallboatshop - your advice definitely helps. As you can tell, I am very new to all of this but at the same time excited to get into it. I just posted in another thread asking about removing hardware and "what are those little flat head nails with threads on them?" Now I know. Ring nails! They certainly were not thinking about restoration when they built the Mansfield!

    I ordered the book "The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to Its History, Construction, Restoration,..." today so that should help!
  6. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes


    Attached Files:

  7. samhall

    samhall Minimalist

    Keep us posted on the progress. I too have a Mansfield that I just picked up today and am going to try and re-furbish.
  8. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Will do... Haven't made much progress yet. Still hand sanding all of the internal Mahogany Ribs. Next will be:
    -Drill out and remove keel screws
    -Epoxy fill inwales where necessary
    -Epoxy fill outer stem areas where necessary
    -Create and attach new Decks and outwales (White Ash)
    -Create an inner keel/stem that was not part of the original design. I am doing this so as to have something to screw down through to attach a new outer keel.
    -Epoxy resin coat all new wood
    -Sand, sand, sand
    -Spar varnish entire interior
    -Repaint entire hull
    -Spar varnish outwales and new keel
    -Attach new stem band

    Lot's of work, but I live in Maine and the winters are long... Although I probably will have to wait until Spring to do Varnishing and Painting due to fumes. Can't do that in my basement.

    Got any pictures of yours? Like to see your progress as well. I will post new pix of my progress soon.

  9. head4obx

    head4obx Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Curious on how the inside came out

    Hi. I have a Mansfield in similar condition on the coast of New Hampshire and curious as to how the work on yours is turning out. I have much of the same issues and have to get the inside cleaned (old varnish) and then apply spar on the inside. I have some rotting of the ribs at the top and cracks, though I don't expect to restore them fully back (I may try though). thanks, Bill
  10. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Hey Bill,
    Slow goings so far. Still have a long winter ahead to work though.
    Right now I am still sanding the inside ribs down to get all of the old varnish off. Nice underneath but hard work. I am doing so by using a padded power palm sander. 80-100 grit to get the varnish off then I will go over with a higher grit before varnishing. I have taped off around the ribs so as not to sand the glass as well. Seems to be working... You can see by my list above what the plan is. Much of the Varnishing and Painting will have to be done in the Spring when I can get it outside. Currently working in my basement.

    The upper part of my ribs have some damage as well, but I don't think I am going to go that far with it. Whatever I end with with will be far better than what I started with, and should get me another 35 years out of it:)

    I'd love to see some pix of yours as you go. I will post some of my progress shortly.

  11. Village Boat Shop

    Village Boat Shop New Member

    I'm new to the forum but not fixing boats. I just completed a restoration of a Stowe canoe. I have some information on it here:

    I don't think you will have much challenge replacing the outer stems and keel. It's very easy to remove the screws from the keel. If you use a 3/8" or 1/2" forstner bit and a small 1/4" plywood target (plywood with hole in it) you can just drill out the fiberglass directly over the screw head. Use a scratch awl to clean out the screw heads, then remove the screws. In an hour you can have them all out.

    Good luck with the restoration.
  12. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Nice website!!
  13. devauxmidwest

    devauxmidwest New Member

    Resurrecting this thread. Just purchased a 15 foot Mansfield that I would like to spruce up. It's a later year model without the exterior wood keel. My plan is to sand the wood for refinishing, sand the exterior for repainting, then put a new finish on it. The sanding part I understand. But I'd like to get some advice on what to do after the sanding.

    Should I resin coat the interior to refinish the mahagony strips or should I use spar for the interior? If I resin coat the interior, should I add a sheet of fiberglass cloth in the resin? What weight cloth should I use? Which resin is recommended? I live in Colorado and UV protection is a concern.

    Should I spar the decks and gunwales or should I resin coat them as well?

    I'm not planning to gel coat the hull. Just wanted to sand the scrapes and knicks out and paint with an expoxy paint. Any recommendations on an epoxy paint?

    Any advice and details on how to refinish this boat would be most appreciated as I have no experience, but like I said earlier, I can sand.

    More Questions:
    What grit sandpaper to use on gunwales and decks before applying finish? How many coats of finish? Sanding or steel wooling between coats?

    Is there a video on how to apply resin and cloth for the interior?

    What should be the final grit sandpaper used before painting the exterior? How many coats of paint are recommended? Should I put a coat of spar on the whole boat after painting it?

    Brush or roll the coats of paint?

    Thanks very much for any guidance.

  14. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Well, if'n it were me, I'd roll on a couple coats of Petit Easypoxy or similar oil based enamel paint. Actually one quart should cover three coats with sanding in between. Rustoleum and Valspar and Kirby and Epifanes,etc come to mind. I would not try to ad resin or cloth. I'd use spar or even Helmsman on the inside and gunnels, maybe satin finish. Keeps the weight down. I've spruced up a couple 'glass canoes by sanding, priming, painting the outside and using oil based primer on the inside. Foam rollers 4" have worked well for me lately. 220 grit unless it's bad and you need to start with 120. don't need steel wool, unless little rust specks are attractive.
  15. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

  16. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Finally back to work on this project.
    Rotted wood gone and repaired and gap filled with epoxy.
    New outwales on.
    New decks created and about to go on...
    Sanding of interior ribs continues.
    Need to rebuild keel.
    Add Brass Stems
    Staining, varnish then paint.
    Will post pictures of progress soon...
  17. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    is it a good idea to coat the entire inside with Resin (West System Resin with 207 Hardener) before Varnishing or just the ribs that I have sanded down...
    I was planning on giving the entire interior a couple of coats of Resin, then a couple of coats of varnish.

    From Merrimack Canoe:
    Q. How can I restore and reseal the interior ribs of my Merrimack?
    A. The ribs in the interior of your canoe have been sealed in several coats of resin, and the floor of the canoe is covered by a fiberglass mat that is also sealed in resin. Early boats were built using polyester resin, later using vinylester resin.
    If the ribs are gray and the resin finish is gone, they can be resealed. Sand the affected area until the wood is smooth, then mix and apply new resin following the manufacturers instructions. Small areas can be sanded and sealed with polyurethane if you wish.

    By the way, 2" drum sander (50 grit) with hand drill works perfectly for sanding down the ribs! Just to get off old resin….
  18. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    There really isn't any benefit to be had in epoxy-coating the non-wood surfaces. It just adds weight, cost and a certain potential for flaking or delamination if you have spots where you didn't get the old surface squeaky clean. I'd just coat the fresh wood (two thin coats if it won't be sanded after coating, three if you intend to sand the resin smooth before varnishing). Then protect the epoxy with a good UV filtering varnish over the entire interior.
  19. OP

    enggass Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Ok. Next question. Have decided I am going to replace the keel. Just a keel, no wood stems on the ends.
    Old keel is attached from the inside. I am able to remove all screws holding the old keel on and reuse(stainless).
    Using a forstner bit to drill through epoxy on floor of the canoe to get to the old screws.
    What's the best approach to take for attaching new keel?
    Going to use Epoxy and screws to secure.
    I was planning on using same screws with same screw holes.
    Then refilling/fiberglassing inside over drilled out screw holes.
    Is this the right approach?
    What steps should I take to attach new keel?
    Drill pilot holes first? How can I keep keel in place while I drill and screw and epoxy still wet?
    I need a plan of attack please...
  20. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Look at it this way..... Of all the wooden parts they added to these boats to make a composite boat look "woody", the keel is the one that is going to get the most abuse, need the most maintenance and be most likely to need future replacement. You have already seen with your own eyes how totally bone-headed their factory attachment method was and what an illogical pain in the butt it's going to be to replace it. Why duplicate something that never should have been done in the first place, and which is neither sound composite boatbuilding or sound wooden boat building?

    Long, skinny, exposed hunks of wood (gunwales, keels, rubrails, etc.) tend to get more in-use damage that most of the rest of the boat and may eventually either need replacement or to be removed, cleaned-up and reinstalled. Attaching these pieces to the hull with epoxy, so that they are difficult or impossible to repair or remove in one piece and without tearing up the hull around them in the process simply makes no sense at all. On these boats, it should never have been done in the first place, and doing so with their replacements is equally unsound. I'd put the new keel on (after sealing all sides off it as well as I possibly could) using screws from the inside with finish washers on the floor. Take a magnet with you if you're buying brass or "stainless" finish washers at a hardware store, to make sure they aren't just plated steel. For sealer, I'd use a liberal application of real marine bedding compound or marine-quality calk (3M 4200 or 4000, Boatlife Lifecalk, etc.) between the mating surfaces and at all the screw holes. It's probably going to be easier to do a dry-fit without the sealer to get your holes drilled (you can even duct tape the keel in place if needed) and then apply the sealer as you do the final installation.

    Epoxy resin can be fantastic stuff and do all sorts of jobs, but in some ways, the most important thing to know about it is when not to use it.

Share This Page