View Full Version : What do I have and is it worth fixing?

03-27-2012, 05:53 PM

I sincerely hope I'm not violating any rules or etiquette by posting the photos below. I purchased this canoe at an estate sale last weekend. It is 18' long. They told me it was made in Gaylord, Michigan 50 years ago and hung in a garage for the last 40. It looked so cool I had to buy it. Now I'm wondering if it was a good purchase. I figured I could use it for decoration or book cases if worse came to worse, but I'd love to be able to fix it and get it back on the water! As you can see it has no ribs. It has two cuts/gashes on the bottom. In places there seems be separating going on, where the the cedar (or fiberglass?) seems like a piece of paper that has come loose. It is very shallow and appears someone put seats in at a later date. Cosmetically is seems in pretty good shape. I paid $250 for it and hoping it wasn't a total waste of money. I'm a complete newby and know nothing about canoes. Any thoughts/comments appreciated.

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6117/6876105434_9c4e2f4675.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/6876105434/) canoe 2 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/6876105434/) by statesman81 (http://www.flickr.com/people/75673537@N08/), on Flickr

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6222/7022208013_15348a2496.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/7022208013/) canoe 1 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/7022208013/) by statesman81 (http://www.flickr.com/people/75673537@N08/), on Flickr

http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6033/7022208209_a7a2da6f7d.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/7022208209/) Canoe 4 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/7022208209/) by statesman81 (http://www.flickr.com/people/75673537@N08/), on Flickr

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7254/6876105480_5247753f55.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/6876105480/) canoe 3 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/75673537@N08/6876105480/) by statesman81 (http://www.flickr.com/people/75673537@N08/), on Flickr

03-27-2012, 06:02 PM
No breach, we like--thrive on-- photos. Don't know much about stripper repair, but you project looks to be eminently doable. Welcome to the WBF.

03-27-2012, 06:09 PM
It doesn't look as old as your dog:) Welcome to the forum mate. JayInOz

Greg Nolan
03-27-2012, 07:48 PM
You need to go to the forums of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association -- http://forums.wcha.org/forum.php -- go to the "strippers" section.

Some strippers are worth repairing, but many are not. The folks at the WCHA have a good deal of experience and can give good advice.

03-27-2012, 08:51 PM
Looks like a lovely hull, from what I can see of that photo with it on its side.

03-27-2012, 11:13 PM
Looks great! We love a project, especially when we aren't footing the bill! :D

Many years ago, my father-in-law bought an Old Town Canoe at a garage sale that had no canvas on it. He canvased it himself, and has gotten many years of enjoyment out of it.

I hope your garage sale find turns out for you.

Greg Nolan
03-28-2012, 10:48 AM
Repairing/restoring a wood-strip/fiberglass canoe has nothing in common with replacing the canvas on a traditional wood-canvas canoe. The materials are completely different, as is the technology of the hull construction. That is not to say that restoration of your canoe should not be undertaken -- but replacing the canvas on a wood-canvas canoe, a relatively simple task, is nothing like repairing or replacing fiberglass over wood strips -- repair of fiberglass may be easy (or not), but replacement of a fiberglass skin (either the inner or outer skin) is a messy, difficult task. Repainting a scuffed painted canvas is much different that dealing with cloudy epoxy or polyester material. Patching a small rip in canvas is easier than repairing a comparable break in the fiberglass/plastic (epoxy or polyester) skin, or the separated skin, of a stripper.

You need to determine if epoxy or polyester was used to attach/fill the fiberglass. You need to determine if the issues with your canoe are only cosmetic, or are they structural. You need to determine how much work you want to put in -- for example, are you willing to paint either the inside or exterior to correct cosmetic flaws (easy), or are you committed to the "woody" look, which might involve many, many hours of sanding?

Here are some links to threads from the WCHA forums that you may find of interest for starters:








Some threads on the WCHA forums that should be of interest to anyone thinking about restoring a wood-strip/fiberglass canoe:

Brian Palmer
03-28-2012, 11:08 AM
I am going to hazard a guess that the boat is not 50 years old, but it could be 30 or close to 40. Someone may have built the boat to try it out as a fast, light touring boat, but probably not a racer. The seats were probably part of the original build. The cross pieces were used in place of regular canoe thwarts for some early "sea trials" and for some reason never replaced.

The biggest issue you may have is that the boat may have been built using polyester resin instead of epoxy to saturate the fiberglass cloth and bond it to the strips of the hull. Polyester resin does not have the same adhesive strength as epoxy.

If it were mine, I would patch the worst of the holes in the cloth with epoxy and fiberglass, and fill any other gouges with a coat of epoxy so the outer skin is watertight.

I would then put on a lifejacket, get a willing partner, and try it out on a quiet pond or stream and see it how well it handles. If you like it, then you could go about fixing it up.

Also to add: The weight of a canoe can be a big factor in how easy it is to use. One advantage of strip built canoes is they can be lighter than many comparable plastic canoes. Check the weight of this boat with a bathroom scale. A good canoe with a similar capacity (yours looks long and lean instead of wide and burdensome) to that one should not weigh more than about 70 lbs. If this one already weighs much more than that, that would tend to reduce its value as a project.


03-28-2012, 11:28 AM
Thanks for the quick feedback. I can say i was surprised by how light this is. I dont know if it is epoxy or resin but will try to figure out.

Being that the outside is in very good shape could i just recoat the whole thing with a clear waterproof material? Keep in mind i know nothing about this stuff and that could be a really dumb question.

I would like to keep the wood look.

Brian Palmer
03-28-2012, 11:49 AM
After you repair any holes in the covering with epoxy and fiberglass, you could coat the outside with a layer of epoxy, and then several coats of varnish to protect the epoxy from UV.

You should probably pick up a book on strip building canoes so you have a better idea of what is involved in repairing them and working with the materials.


03-28-2012, 12:43 PM
Thanks. I will. Someone told me it would be a good idea to fill the canoe with water to get the wood to expand. Is that good advice? It didn't come from this forum.

Brian Palmer
03-28-2012, 01:01 PM
No, that is not good advice. Wooden boats that are built plank on frame need to have the wood expand to seal the seams between the planks so they are watertight.

This canoe is using the fiberglass covering to be watertight. If the wood gets saturated under the fiberglass from the holes and dings, it will be very hard to dry out and could lead to rot. That's why they need to be fixed before you try it out.


Todd Bradshaw
03-28-2012, 02:00 PM
Agreed, the idea with a stripper is that the wooden core is sealed by the fiberglass and never gets wet. If that does happen through breaks in the hull, the result is usually stained, weathered looking wood, delaminated fiberglass and serious structural problems that you don't want to have to fix. It's kind of a curious building job. The hull is a pretty nice, sleek shape and the fact that it has bucket seats on aluminum tracks set that high would tend to suggest that they were going for something that would do pretty well in the recreational classes for marathon racing. Coming from Michigan, it would figure that it might have a fair amount of Sawyer Canoe Company influence in the design, and that style of boat is/was right up their alley (and probably where those seats originally came from). On the other hand, recreational racing boats are usually built as light as possible, and those thick, heavy decks, gunwales and thwarts don't make much sense and neither do the rather blunt leading and trailing edges on the stems.

I doubt it will ever be worth the massive amount of work and money required to try to get it in pristeen shape (starting from scratch and building a new one isn't much more work and is, in many ways easier) but you should be able to patch any bad spots in the glass work, clean it up, paint or varnish it, put in a couple of reasonable thwarts and get some good use out of it. It should paddle pretty well.

Greg Nolan
03-28-2012, 02:05 PM
+1 to what Brian and Todd say.

Three books on strip canoe building you might look at:

Canoecraft (http://store.wcha.org/Canoecraft.html)
by Ted Moores & Marilyn Mohr

Building a Strip Canoe
by Gil Gilpatrick

The Stripper's guide to Canoe-Building
by David Hazen

If you look at only one, "Canoecraft" is probably the best.

03-28-2012, 07:28 PM
Thanks all. It never ceases to amaze me how kindly people share opinions and expertise on forums like this. I won't be trying to get in pristine shape but hopefully back in the water and not bookcases!

Ben Fuller
03-28-2012, 07:40 PM
Old strippers like this make dynamite recreational paddlers; light and fast. For the outside once you get it patched if needed you can always paint it. Really good UV protection; I have had an old light Jensen racing canoe for years ( glass and kevlar) I hit it with some spray bombs, have stored it outside and generally mistreated it. Flys when you lean on the paddle. You will want to learn the sit and switch paddling style of the marathon racers even if you are touring and get or make some bent shaft paddles. These canoes love a high stroke rate. Have fun.

03-30-2012, 02:29 PM
Well, after reading those other threads i think this may not have been the greatest idea. But allow me to pose two more questions. Although not real clear in the photo the front seat is so far up there really is no leg room at all. Why would someone do that?

Second, if this is polyester resin can i paint over it with epoxy?

Todd Bradshaw
03-30-2012, 02:57 PM
The front seat position is there to trim the boat level. It's possible that the builder did it to balance out the weight of the stern paddler against a much lighter bow paddler and maintain level trim. In general for fixed seats, if you make the distance from the front of the stern seat to the back end of the canoe about the sane as the distance from the front of the front seat to the front end of the canoe, you'll come out reasonably level with equal-weight paddlers. If one paddler is substantially heavier than the other, you may need to adjust the lighter person closer to the end, or the heavier one more toward the center to get similar trim.

Epoxy resin and other epoxy products generally work just fine over sanded polyester resin (80 grit is usually coarse enough). In fact, epoxy sticks better to old, cured polyester than new polyester will.