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Should I restore this 1971 Northland wood/glass boat?

Discussion in 'Strippers, Stitch-n-Glue, and Other Wood Composite' started by Brad Fisher, Jun 29, 2021.

  1. Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    A neighbor bought it new in 1971 and wants to get it back in the water. It's a pretty boat and most of the work looks pretty straightforward, except for the fiberglass. I'd like to do it although I've never repaired fiberglass before. I've been watching YouTube videos, but haven't seen anything about fixing a hole that's backed by cedar plank. Anybody have experience in this?


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  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Hi Brad,
    You don't specifically say that you plan to leave the glass on it but it is implied in the way that you asked your question.
    If that is the intent, then you might simply remove the damaged planking from the inside and then cut through the area that needs a patch installed from the outside. From the outside cut a bit wider than the damaged plan so that you can attach new pieces of planking before installing a patch. It's a small area so as long as you feather it in reasonably well it should work just fine. Working with glass and resin is a bit of a trick if you don't have experience with it. The trick is to make sure that you get the right amount of hardener in it. If you make it too "hot" it will be setting up on you while you try to load up and smooth your patch and if you make it too "cold" it won't set.... this will be a functional but not pretty repair.
    More of an issue is the condition of the inside rails. They appear to be missing pieces. They may need to be replaced...a tough thing to do on a glassed boat. The rails are a functional necessity in that the thwarts and seats hang from them and that they hold the hulls shape. Perhaps you should post a few pictures of the damaged rails so that we can see just how badly they need repair/replacement.
  3. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    To get the canoe usable: sand the interior around the hole to remove any varnish, cut a thin(1/8"thick ) piece of wood to fit between the ribs and cover the hole, using WEST system G-flex glue the wood in place to cover the hole. allow to dry overnight, turn the canoe over, mix g-flex with sawdust or whatever to thicken, cover the hole from the outside, Let dry, go paddling
    Rob Stevens likes this.
  4. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    Good paddling canoe. Canoes were made to use. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
  5. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    It's a big project, but doable.

    back in 71, it was likely built with Polyester resin. The glass, should peel off easily, with a pliers and a heat gun. Do it outside, and wear a Good 3M respirator.

    What else have you got to do ? Patch the wood sand and glass ! Leave the Keel off, and stem band off.

    I've peeled three hulls, and reglassed so far. If you like the hull ? I'd do it !

  6. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    What MGC and Gil said. patch it, sand it and paint it. Built by Albert Maw, you can even see the disc sander marks in the ribs. Serviceable canoe, dont go nuts on it just repair and use it.
  7. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    That hull could be Beautiful after you remove the old glass .

    I'd bet the old glass has delaminated quite extensively
  8. Alex Guthro

    Alex Guthro LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Definitely worth fixing, they're a great canoe to paddle. My Northland is from 1974 and was my solo tripping canoe until about 7 years ago. About 15 years ago the fibreglass was separating from the hull, so I took the remainder off and reglassed it. I'm in the process of putting new gunwales on it. I had thought of canvassing the canoe. but Maw built them with fibreglass so I stayed with that. Maw is still in business just outside of Novar Ont. If you want his ph number let me know and I can send it to you. Also Pam Wedd from Bearwood Canoes has repaired a number of Northlands. She'd be a good source of advice for you.
    Brad Fisher likes this.
  9. Alex Guthro

    Alex Guthro LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Brad, when I took the fibreglass off of mine I replaced a few ribs and a plank before glassing it. All straight forward repairs.
  10. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks all for this advice ... everything from leave the glass on, to take it off and re-glass it, to take it off and canvas it.

    At this point I want to keep it original. The owners have a lot of sentiment attached to it. They bought it new ... and Stan named it after his wife!

    It looks to me like the glass is in good shape, except for the hole. No de-lamination that I could see. So I hope to leave it on and refinish it.

    I would love to talk to Albert Maw ... please provide his contact info. I know Pam; she has advised me on other projects and will follow up with her.

    I've uploaded some more shots for the curious.

    Thanks all!
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  11. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Forum folks, I've committed to repairing this boat. Now I have some REAL questions:
    • Is Albert Maw still around? I left a voicemail at his number and have not heard a response.
    • I don't see signs of delimitation in the fiberglass. Where is it most likely to occur, and what does it look/feel/sound like? If it's still tight on the hull, is there any downside to leaving it on, sanding and repainting?
    • Is there a way to tell how sound the planks and ribs are beneath the glass, without removing the glass? Except for the one hole and quite a few rotten rib tops, planks and ribs look fine from inside the boat.
    • This is an important one: What are the best practices for safety when removing fiberglass, other than the obvious gloves, respirator and safety glasses? Does removing and reinstalling fiberglass make dust that can damage your lungs? (My wife is spooked by this project; I want her to know we're not taking health risks.)
    • If I re-glass, how many layers of (6 0z?) fiberglass will I need to replace the old hull? What are the safety best practices for epoxy/glass? Will re-covering with epoxy and glass make this boat less repairable in the the future (compared to say canvas)?
    • Interior may be finished in polyurethane, not oil-based varnish. How can I tell for sure? Should I strip, or just recoat? Is varnish over polyurethane a good idea, or should I stay with the existing stuff?
  12. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I'm late to this party but,

    I see 2 options;

    1) minimal effort just to get it back on the water - easy and not much work, but it won't help or prevent the rotted wood from progressing.

    2) fix it "right", less work in the long run (assuming it's kept for many more years) - and to me this means remove the glass, repair all wood, and recover with canvas. (Recovering with glass puts you back in the same spot you are now.)

  13. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Nylon Snow shoe cord is available. I use 1/2" but 3/8" should be fine also.

    The age of your canoe tells me it's built with Polyester resin. I'd do it right and pull it off. A heat gun, a gloved hand. a pair of pliers, and a good 3M canister mask, and I'd go for it .
    I've replaced the glass on three canoes so far. Something Therapeutic about removing old glass.
    Me ? I'd use 6 ox E-glass, with an extra layer over the football ( up to about the 3" waterline). You could use S-glass over the football, it's up to you and your pocket book.
    Oh ! I'd leave off the Keel ! Not needed these days.

    The new glass should be all you need, for strength. Gunnels will no doubt need replacing.

    a link to one of my builds Skip through until you find the glassing section, if you want.
  14. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I'm betting that hull will look cool, once the old glass is off ! I'd go for it !
  15. Alex Guthro

    Alex Guthro LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I knew the glass on mine was delaminating because there were large "bubbles" in the glass. when I poked through one and pulled lightly one it the glass came off in large pieces. Most of the glass came off that way, the rest I used a heat gun to loosen it. It took less than a half hour to strip it all. Having said that, my sister has my Dad's Northland (built early 1980's) and the original glass is still good, no delamination. If the glass is sound, then just patch any holes, sand it smooth and repaint the hull (as Andre suggested). I'm repairing mine now. I had re-glassed it years ago and 95% is still in great shape. I had a small leak in the hull and there is a spot where I removed some glass and will patch it before painting.

    When I re-glassed my canoe I kept the keel off (a preference) however this time I'm putting it back on. The wood on the hull is old and brittle because it can't be oiled. I noticed the hull flexes when I get into the canoe, creating a series of micro cracks. This allows a small amount of water to seep between the glass and hull. I can see this where I am applying the patch. I believe the keel will stiffen the bottom and stop the flexing, so am putting one back on. Maw put keels on all of his canoes.

    I stripped the canoe outside because of the dust & fibres. Wear a good mask and goggles and you'll be fine. I've glassed indoors but had the room well ventilated and I do wear a VOC mask. The new epoxy's say you don't need to wear a mask, but I do as a precaution, same with ppainting and varnishing.. Long ago I used a polyurethane for the inside of the hull & gunwales and it's flaking off now due to age. I'm going to sand all of the loose stuff off, clean it well and use a good quality varnish. I'll let you know how it all goes.

    The last contact I heard of Maw was 3 or 4 years ago when a friend was there. I'm driving through Novar this week and if time permits will drive by Maw's place to see if he is still around.

    If you're in the Pittsburg area, look up the Three Rivers Chapter. They have a number of experienced canoe builders / restorers and I'm sure some of them would be happy to offer some advice, maybe even come by to have a look.
  16. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Wow! Thanks for the detail! Based on this info, I’m inclined to leave the glass on this boat. I don’t see any bubbles and the glass feels tight on the hull. As for the Three Rivers chapter, it so happens I’m a member and we’re having an outing this afternoon. I’m planning on bringing this boat with me and consulting with my advisers and gurus as we paddle and picnic. I’ll let you know what the upshot is. Cheers, and thanks again!
  17. Alex Guthro

    Alex Guthro LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Brad, I stopped by Northland Canoes this week and spoke with Albert Maw for about 45 minutes. He received your call but said he has trouble hearing messages especially on the phone. He said if you call him again and leave a message to speak loudly and slowly so he can hear it. He does mostly repairs for camp canoes. He said materials are difficult to get and the price has risen significantly so he's not building new ones anymore . He's also 86, working on a new road to his sugar bush and does some logging on his 1,100 acres of bush. If you're ever up this way it's worth a trip to see him. Just to be sure his ph number is 705-789-2481. There was a Maw that built canoes in Toronto in the early 1900's, he isn't a known relative of Albert.
    Brad Fisher likes this.
  18. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the update. I’ll check in with him.
  19. OP
    Brad Fisher

    Brad Fisher Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Update: the fiberglass came off in about an hour and a half, thanks to the good work of some friends at Evergreen Outfitters in Mayville, NY. Now I'm removing the residual resin, using heat gun and sharpened pull scraper. (see photos below in chronological order.)

    I'm wearing a 3M mask so awesome you could use it to cook meth.

    Tedious, but it's moving ahead.

    This repetitive task has given me plenty of time to think. And the question that popped up today was: WHY AM I DOING THIS?

    That's not rhetorical. I'm wondering specifically what the purpose is of removing the resin. It gives you a smoother hull, for sure, but does that matter, if you're going to put glass right back on? Does it matter if you're going to canvas the boat instead? Are we talking cosmetics (that's actually what I'm going for), or structural benefits (always a concern)? Are there alternatives? There are some tough-to-remove areas around the stems that I'd love to leave intact if they won't cause problems.

    And what about that gray stuff left behind, embedded in the grain after I've scraped off the resin ... Does it need to come off too? Will it make it harder for me to sand the hull?

    Waxing philosophical. Some resin smoke might be penetrating the 3M. Plus my scraper is melting. Need to finesse that heat gun.

  20. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Glad you took the glass off. It’s the only way to fix anything broken or rotten.
    Putting canvas on the hull is the only solution to being able to fix any broken or rot going forward.
    Dan Lindberg likes this.

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