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Steel tacks in OT Canoe

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by John Hutton, Jan 30, 2021.

  1. John Hutton

    John Hutton New Member

    I'm restoring a 1941 Old Town Yankee and am finding a number of steel tacks and nails. Mostly attaching the planking to the stems and the ribs to the inwales. The build was started in October of 1941 and finished in July of 42 according to the work order. I'm wondering if the war had anything to do with the steel used - brass and copper in short supply? Anybody else run into this issue? Thanks.
  2. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    You are correct. Steel tacks were used during the war years. Brass was going to make shell casings and the like.
    Steel tacks can destroy ribs when you pull them out because, unlike brass, the clinch does not straighten out much.
    If you need to remove planks, I suggest breaking them apart, leaving the steel tacks in the rib. Then grind the tacks down with an angle grinder.
  3. OP
    John Hutton

    John Hutton New Member

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for your reply. I thought that might be the case. The steel tacks in the stems are in rough shape and in some cases rotting the the wood. And the steel nails in the ribs aren't so bad. I'm worried that the steel left in the canoe will cause trouble down the road - steel and water, sometimes saltwater - chemical chaos. Maybe what you're suggesting doesn't leave very much steel in the ribs and therefore not a terrible problem over time. I will ponder your idea. I've removed some cracked ribs already - 6 of them and the tips of the stems need to be replaced. I'm fascinated by the way the boat is put together and want to do right by the restoration. Thanks for your suggestion.
  4. Rollin Thurlow

    Rollin Thurlow member since 1980

    I think the steel fastenings that John is talking about are the small straight nails at the stems and ribs and not the planking clinch tacks. Throughout Old Town's history they always used steel or galvanizes steel for the small nails at the stem and for the rib/inwale fastenings. They saved a few cents not using something more non corrosive. The steel nails is something that every restorer has had to deal with with all Old Town canoes.
    The US didn't really ramp up war production until early 42. In the very early war years Old Town still had good materials. By 1943 and into 1945 the quality of all the brass fastenings were seriously effected and that is when they had to resort to using the steel canoe tacks. In those canoes the steel and low quality brass fastening are a major issue . Take out what steel you can without introducing any more damage and repair as needed.
  5. fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    I’m currently working on a 1979 old Town Trapper. The ribs were attached with steel staples. Some of the tips were so badly compromised that I was able to remove the wood with just my fingers after I made the cut. I seriously doubt that this canoe would have stayed together had I not replaced all of the rib tips

    Sent from my iPad
  6. fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

  7. patrick corry

    patrick corry Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Wow, what an orderly shop! Can you elaborate on your cut off technique please? I understand the dust collector/pickup, but are you using some device to register or stabilize the angle of the cut? Am I seeing a sanding disc or a cut off blade on the angle grinder? Thanks.
  8. fred capenos

    fred capenos Canoe Pilot

    First I made 105 rib tips. They were made from a jig that I put on a sled for my band saw. That made the taper consistent on all the tips. After I make the cut below the inwale and remove the rotted part, I measured down the rib and marked a line at the length of the taper on the new tip. I made a disk out of 1/8 Lexan and glued 60 grit sand paper to it. The grinder that I use is a “Roto Zip. RZ 20” and I make the cut with a “Dremel Multi Max”. Place the grinder flat on the rib and make a pass downward. The trick is, don’t grind below the line and feather the very top without making the rib any shorter. After a few practice pieces it’s easy. Hope this helps.
  9. OP
    John Hutton

    John Hutton New Member

    Thanks for your reply Rollin. I'm using your and Mike Elliot's book as my instruction manuals for this project - both very good reads and enormously helpful. So Old Town is guilty of a little New England flintiness. Fred's boat has the classic "iron sick" symptoms of steel fastenings in a wooden boat and that's what I'm worried about happening in mine. I'll remove as much of the steel as I can and replace with bronze and copper. That's a remarkable shop Fred.

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