restoration of a 16' canoe shell

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by Zeus314, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    I am picking up a 16' canvas canoe shell this weekend that has had the canvas removed. My original intention was to strip the interior varnish and redo, then re-canvas. However the more I look at the boat the lines of the planking are so neat and true it seems a shame to canvas them. I am considering cutting some accent strips of contrasting wood or using a wood filler between the original planks then glassing the hull. Does anyone have any experience or input? I thought I had heard something about there being problems in fiber glassing old wood vs. new. Is this a valid concern? Does anyone know why the difference?
     
  2. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    My personal opinion is contrasting strips of wood are extremely tacky looking and date from the 60's or sometime. They remind me of that Italian Zoot Suit Chevy Chase wore in "European Vacation".
    There is probably not a problem with making glass stick to the wood, but glassing an old canoe will probably destroy it sooner rather than later. They weren't made to be glassed and if you lock in the outside of the wood shell so it can't move and the inside continues to expand and contract with the seasons, it will wreck itself. Glassing it will also destroy the actual $ value of an old canoe.
     
  3. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I'm with Sam Sam on this.
    The traditional canoe should be recanvassed and not glassed. If your canoe is as fair as you say it is, attribute that to the canvas having been left on for all those years.
    Fiberglassing the underside will also destroy the value of the boat. My best advice to you would be to forget about showing off wood grain. Get a book or an article that shows how to re-canvas the bottom the traditional way. Done correctly, and with the interior stripped and re-varnished, the canoe will be as good as new and a good investment as well.
    I have often wondered why strip-built canoes are invariably varnished and not painted. I have never seen a painted stripper at all. I have worked with wood all my life, and if I built a stripper, I would paint it just like I'd paint your boat (outside) if I owned it. I see no need to overdo the "real wood" thing. As a matter of fact, a painted craft with a just few select varnished parts is, to me, far more elegant and restrained looking. As an added bonus, a painted hull will look as well many years and miles later, but there's no way to hide even minor damage to a varnished surface unless the area is completely wooded, and even then, the repaired new looks different from the undamaged old.
    What you're talking about HAS been done. Some people who didn't like the 15--20 lb weight gain that their traditional canoe suffered every season, who
    were more concerned with keeping up with the Joneses (stripper and fg owners) glassed their hulls. Maybe they got another 5 years use out of them before the hulls self-destructed. Or maybe they epoxy-sealed the interior so well that the frames and planks actually stayed at a consistently low moisture level. You've seen the inside of your canoe. Can you imagine an epoxy coating would really seal every crack and crevice? Impossible!

    Alan
     
  4. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    Thanks for the inputs mechanical and esthetics. Originally I was going to build a cedar strip canoe but was short on spare time to build one, and then I ran across this shell. I guess I still had the strip idea in my head. I agree on the zoot suit thing, I was going to use a 2 tone with little difference thinking I should do something with those cracks before glassing.
    Mechanically you both have sold me on re-canvasing. The differing rates of expansion and contraction on the inside and out would certainly take its toll, and yes perfectly sealing the inside would be nigh impossible even if I submerged it in epoxy with all the crevasse that would have air bubbles.
    I also hadn’t thought about the value changing, this is a 16ft Thompson I have been told but I don’t know the year. I will try to attach some pics with this. I have seen the prices of some similar canoes redone and they consistently sell for 1, 2, or more thousand dollars. I have no idea as to rarity of makes and years however.
    Well now that you gentlemen have convinced me to re-canvas do you have any recommendations as to books, online resources, or personal experience?
     

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  5. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    Of course, here in Maine there are still traditional canoes being built and repaired. I would visit the WoodenBoat online book store for a complete selection of canoe repair books.
    A gentleman in Dover Foxcroft, Maine, one who is actually a client of a friend who works with an artisan guild, has written books on building/ restoring small canoe/watercraft.
    I can't recall his name offhand, but Google and he'll pop up.

    Don't let the canoe go too long without thwarts (it will tend to widen). If the middle one is missing, I wonder if you can source the original beam?
    Nice shape, by the way. Full ends (high prismatic) will give it a lot of cargo capacity for it's length. Very efficient shape, too.

    A.
     
  6. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    The way the canvas works, on your boat, is to provide a moisture resistant membrane that is softly attached to the planking. The planking will move, needs to move and was intended to move. The lead the canvas was set in, permits this movement without disturbing the canvas sheathing. Any sheathing must permit this movement.

    To those of you that don't like all the varnish, you'd hate the boat I just built. It's got no paint, anywhere. Mahogany decks and planking (molded), oak transom, keel, thwart supports and dash supports, fir stringers, with mahogany dash board, seats and cedar floor slats. Not a lick of paint, nothing to disguise what it is, a wooden boat. It also doesn't have much epoxy, just in the bonded fastener holes.

    I do have to agree I dislike varnished stripped hulls, but it's not the varnished hull, it's all the little strips. To me these just look wrong, out of scale and cheat the eye of what could be a sweet sheer sweep.
     
  7. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    Do I read that corectly?? The canvas is set in lead? My understanding is that the canvas is stretched over the hull, tacked in place along the perimiter, then faired with a thick paste (lead based????) then lightly sanded before painting. Any clarification or coments would be great!
     
  8. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    There are a few different ways to apply canvas. Most use a flexible base (undercoat) which is usually thick paint or red lead. Then the canvas goes on, stretched taunt and stapled along the sheer. The canvas can be shrunk with warm water (if necessary), then is painted to protect the cotton from degrading. There are a number of different "formulas" and handed down "recipes" often highly coveted shop/builder secrets. Some will glue down the canvas, others will iron it toward the edges, others a heat activated glue which reacts the heat of the iron. Most just set it in a heavy bodied, oil based paint, stretch it tight, fasten the edges and then paint the surface. It's best to get the hull quite fair before you apply the sheathing, not after.
     
  9. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    Thank you all so very much for the advice and tips so far!!! I picked up the above mentioned Thompson shell last night and also purchased a Chestnut shell at the same time. They were owned by a collector restorer who has unfortunately passed away and these were purchased from his widow. She was able to provide the manufacturers names of each but little more.


    Any info any of you may have on either of these makers and or models would be much appreciated. Here are some rough dimensions on each of them so far;

    The Thompson shell is symmetrical
    Length; 16 feet
    Width @ center; 35 inches
    Depth; 14 inches
    There is no tumblehome
    Slight rocker
    And about 3 ½ inches of upsweep on the gunwales at each end
    I see no ID tags or burned in numbers



    The Chestnut shell is symmetrical
    Length; 17 feet
    Width @ center; 35 inches
    Depth; 12 inches
    There is about 1 1/2 inches of tumblehome
    Slight rocker
    And about 7 inches of upsweep on the gunwales at each end
    On both stems are the burned in numbers 12006 17

    I’ll be posting a few picks of the Chestnut in a few days, thanks all!
     
  10. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    A question on stripping……

    I will be starting on the Chestnut first as it has all the pieces that were taken off for the removal of the old canvas (wooden keel, wooden outside stem bands, and outer gunwales, as well as seats and thwarts). There is some paint left on some of these pieces to give me some clues on original color and varnish on the ribs and interior planking that needs to be removed. It would be nice to work with some products that someone has some real world experience with instead of just a manufacturers sales pitch. The interior varnish is my biggest concern because of all of the nooks and crannies.

    Somewhere I had read about a chemical stripper called F400. It is a liquid stripper that I think will do a better job at getting into all the cracks and crevasse between the ribs and planking better than a semi-paste or past. This person was then finishing the process with pressure washing the inside with straight water and said this stripper was compatible with this method of water wash. I like the idea of a light pressure water wash to completely get out all the residue.

    Now all of this is just armchair info I have gleaned and I am really looking for any product info, tips or techniques from people with real experience. Thanks in advance for your help.
     
  11. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    SamSam, Alan White, and PAR. In an effort to cast a broader net in order to gather information on canoe building, repair, and restoration I have started a Yahoo Group on same. You can visit it at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Canoe-building_repairandrestoration/

    By all means stop by and visit, you have all given good advice. Just to get a starting point I am pasting our brief question and answer session above as a first post, giving you credit of course. If any of you object I will delete instantly of course. If any of you know anyone working on building or restoring a canoe or with special expertise please send them.
     
  12. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    Thanks, Zeus. Will do.

    Alan
     
  13. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    Many good strippers out there. any one will give good results, though some are geared for people who break out in a rash just reading the label. I used a Sherwin Williams brand recently and it was real good. Better than the previous, which stank less.
    I've found that scraping prior to any chemical application is a good idea, as it gets off the bulk of the exposed varnish, so that the stripper won't get used up unnecessarily. Varnish is far more resistent to stripping than paint for whatever reason. Paint is easy in comparison.
    No matter what, your best interior job will depend more on hand skills than technology. If you learn to sharpen a cabinet scraper well, the inside will be easier to do well. The planking runs cross-grain to the ribs, with short spaces of planking in between the ribs, and that's where it takes some skill to "make like new".
    The varnishing isn't as critical as it would be on a big uninterrupted surface.
    That part should be extremely forgiving and gratifying to do. Minor imperfections don't show up so much on such busy surfaces.
    I'd recommend 6 coats, as the wood is cedar and so is closed-grained, and 10 coats on the breasthook/gunwales/thwarts, which, being ash and/or oak need more coats to fill the grain.

    Alan
     

  14. Zeus314
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    Zeus314 Junior Member

    Thanks Alan,

    I agree about the scraper, I have take a couple of thick high carbon 2 inch putty knives and ground a slight radius then ground and prepped them as scrappers to match the canoe bottom profile. I’ve heard the same as you have, the environmentally safe products don’t tend to have as many fumes issues but also tend to be less effective. Tonight I plan on starting a test patch now that I have some scrappers made. I will post pictures soon as to my progress @ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Canoe-building_repairandrestoration/

    Dave V.
     
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