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  1. #1
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    Mar 2004
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    Question

    Hi there,

    I live in Stockholm and have a 1962 Nordic Folkboat, I need to address issues with canvas on the deck and on the cabin top. You will see from my questions that I am a novice when it comes wooden boat restoration and would appreciate your advice.

    I haven't removed the canvas yet, but I understand from looking inside the boat that the cabin top is canvas layed on batons, and the deck is canvas layed on plywood. I have no evidence of damage or rot in the wood, but I know that there are some rips that have been patched up and have leaked in the past. My questions are as follows.

    1) The deck: Assuming that the plywood is in good condition, which I believe it is, should I recanvas or lay down something like epoxy and glass fibre?

    2) The cabin top: Based on the posts that I have seen, my understanding is that canvas is the only option to lay on the batons on the cabin top. Comments?

    3) Assuming the recommendation is to canvas the deck: when I look through forums on the internet, I see that there is a recommendation to try and lay down the canvas in one piece then cut out the openings. The canvas was last layed in pieces (two pieces on foredeck, two pieces on each walkway along side cabin and one piece on stern deck). What would you recommend?

    4) If one piece on the deck (I can source a piece big enough in Stockholm, so that is possible), how do I deal with cutting out the cabin and stretching the canvas?

    5) If several pieces, where can I get information on how to do the seams properly?

    6) If the recommended option is not to canvas the deck but to use epoxy and something for grip, what would you recommend?

    7) I want to take off and reuse the the rails and other fittings, I will take off the varnish and try to use a screw to pop up the old wooden plugs, if that does not work I will try to drill and chisel out. Is this reasonable, or would you recommend a different approach?

    Thanks for any help.

    John.



    jcunningham@ireland.com

  2. #2
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    Hello,

    Well I'm no expert on these matters, but I'll get the ball rolling.

    I like canvas, it's feels right on some boats, but a synthetic substitute would be dynel set in epoxy. It's weave gives it a look similar to real canvas. You could, for your cabin top, put down a layer of ply over the solid planking, if you wanted synthetic throughout.

    My initial reaction is to recanvas, but it does have durability issues; is cut or damaged by dropping things on it for example. On the other hand, I remember reading recently that Brilliant, a Sparkman and Stevens schooner at our national maritime museum in Mystic, still has her original canvas cabin top trimmings, after sixty year. The foredeck would be a different matter. I believe Brilliant has a laid deck, but on a boat like yours the dynel would clearly be more durable.

    As to piecing v one sheet of canvas I don't know, I've only canvased small boats without cabins, and they were all done in one piece. How would you stretch a single sheet with a cabin in the middle?

    This will be a good discussion. I've always wondered about re-canvasing a cabin boat. When newly built it could be done(assuming you could find stock wide enough) in one piece, before the cabin went on.

    Good luck.

    Jack

    [ 03-26-2004, 07:17 AM: Message edited by: Jack Heinlen ]

  3. #3
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    Com'on guys, this fellow needs our sage advice.

    Bump. [img]smile.gif[/img]

  4. #4
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    Hi Folkboat John,

    I have an old Nordic Folkboat as well. (Though it hasn't been touched in a year...) Anyway, It has Fiberglass on the decks. (It could be Dynell) This has held up very well. You can still see some of the weave of the cloth, and it has good traction. As far as I'm concerned this is what kept the boat from being a total loss because it was left out for a couple of years.

    It also has fiberglass on the cabin top, which is built of tongue and groove cedar. This didn't work so well, and has cracked in a couple of places because of the working of the wood.

    So were I to go at it I would use fiberglass and epoxy on the deck and canvas on the cabin top.

    Good luck.

    Noah

    BTW, you can see pictures of my Folkboat at http://www.morebutter.com/patience

  5. #5
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    [long, stream of consciousness rant follows. Sorry ]

    Originally posted by Folkboat John:
    1) The deck: Assuming that the plywood is in good condition, which I believe it is, should I recanvas or lay down something like epoxy and glass fibre?
    There's something to be said for a putting fibreglass or Dynel (polyester canvas) down with epoxy. On older boats, it offers the salutory benefits of (1) providing a lot of ridgidity that old boats sometimes need, and (2) offering opportunities for leakage. And done right, it can look mighty fine, even a lot like a canvas deck.

    The cabin top: Based on the posts that I have seen, my understanding is that canvas is the only option to lay on the batons on the cabin top. Comments?
    I'm not sure what you mean by 'batons'. I assume you mean planks of some sort. I don't know that canvas is the only option available but it's certainly the simplest. To 'glass it would require putting down a stable substrate (sub-deck) to land the 'glass on. The housetop has compound curvature (e.g., the surface isn't developable, mathametically speaking, which means you won't be able just replace the housetop with a piece of plywood, as the plywood would have to simultaneously bend along two axes, which it's unlikely to do.

    However…

    you can plank the housetop with plywood. Rip the plywood into relatively narrow plank-sized strips. Then double-diagonally plank the house top with the plywood strips. The first course should go down at 45° to the axis of the hull, thus:

    //////////

    Fit the plywood planks well. The next course should go on top of the first course, but at 90&deg to it, forming a criss-cross, thus:

    \\\\\\\\\\

    and bedded well in thickened epoxy or 5200. You might consider using Raptor nylon nails to tie the first course to the deckbeams and then bronze screws with the second course to fasten the two courses together and tie everything to the deckbeam.

    Basically, you're making a housetop-shaped piece of plywood.

    Fair it all up, and 'glass it. Don't forget when laying up the courses to prevent/deal with any epoxy/goo leakage into the cabin. Bed the first course on the deckbeams with a suitable polysulfide like Sikaflex, 3M 101, etc. where there's a reasonable shot at removal if it's ever called for.

    3) Assuming the recommendation is to canvas the deck: when I look through forums on the internet, I see that there is a recommendation to try and lay down the canvas in one piece then cut out the openings. The canvas was last layed in pieces (two pieces on foredeck, two pieces on each walkway along side cabin and one piece on stern deck). What would you recommend?

    4) If one piece on the deck (I can source a piece big enough in Stockholm, so that is possible), how do I deal with cutting out the cabin and stretching the canvas?

    5) If several pieces, where can I get information on how to do the seams properly?
    Usually, the deck canvas is laid down prior to installation of the house, coamings, etc., Hence the admonition to do it in one piece if at all possible (it's a lot easier when you've got nothing but a clean expanse of deck). The advantage of putting the canvas down in one piece, of course, is that every seam and penetration of the canvas is a potential source for water incursion (aka a "leak").

    Once the canvas is down in one piece, the necessary openings are cut into it and the edges then stretched and fastened to the inside edges of the hatches, opening for the house, cockpit, mast partner, etc. Then the canvas is filled (rummage around this forum, we were just talking about that process in the last 2-3 weeks).

    Then the house itself, the coaming and whatever else is needed are installed on top of the canvas deck.

    Obviously, when you're replacing the deck canvas, it would be a lot of work to remove the house and coamings in order to redo what was done originally—it's still a lot of work, regardless, as every piece of trim, every piece of hardware and the mast will want to be coming out of the boat. Removing the house and coamings in addition to everything else just adds more labor to the process. Plus there's a possibility that the house and/or coamings would get damaged in the process.

    So. The usual procedure is to remove the canvas and piece it in, in as few pieces as possible. Ideally, you ought to be able to do something like a folkboat in just 2 pieces of canvas, seamed down the centerline of the boat. The seam down the centerline can be covered by a covering board or toerail if you're so inclined. The seam you want to use is a flat, felled seam that interlocks. It looks, in cross-section, like the seam used in joining sheet metal to make ductwork. A good book on how to do that sort of work is Emiliano Marino's The Sailmaker's Apprentice: A Guide for the Self-Reliant Sailor, but any decent canvas shop or sailmaker out to be able to whip it out for you.

    But you ought to be able to do it all in one piece. Here in the States, at least, you can obtain #10 duck (14.75 oz. per square yard) in widths of up to 120 ins (3 metres). You'll have to spend some time fitting it to the boat, obviously, putting appropriate cutouts where you need them.

    When you put the canvas down in this scenario (where the house, coaming, etc. are still in place), typically you'll fasten the canvas to the side of the house/object and stretch it out to the sheerline. Once it's all down and filled, the "bathtup" edge, where the canvas runs up the side of the offending object is trimmed and covered with [well-bedded] quarter-round molding.

    Don't forget to make sure that either (1) you know where each and every hole in the deck that's needed for fastening hardware is, or (2) you can drill the holes from below (the preferred option) after the canvas is down and through bolt it.

    6) If the recommended option is not to canvas the deck but to use epoxy and something for grip, what would you recommend?
    If you're going to do a epoxy composite deck, I'd use either glass cloth or Dynel (a particular type of polyester canvas).

    For non-skid and finishing it, you have two basic options:

    1. Don't fill the weave. This will give you a fabric texture that looks a lot like a painted canvas deck. Well, maybe not a lot like. But at least it doesn't look terribly unlike canvas.

    2. Your other option is to fill the weave completely and paint the deck with gloss enamel. Prior to doing the last coat, you'll want to mask out carefully all your waterways, hardware and scuppers. Then sand the deck. You do this because you want the waterways to remain glossy so that water will drain away and stay clean. Non-skid waterways would collect dirt.

    Now you're ready to put down the last coat and the non-skid. You've got two basic options here. The first is to use a special-purpose non-skid material. Epifanes and Interlux both make polymer microbeads designed specifically for this purpose, which get mixed into the last coat of paint. Some people will tell you to use sand, ground walnut shells or other things. Just don't: the polymer beads work better and can be removed for repainting (ever to to remove sand with sandpaper? It doesn't work well).

    The second option, and the one I like, is the (at least, an) old way. Lay down your last coat of gloss on your deck, with the waterways all masked off. While it's still wet, dump a LOT (a lot being something like, oh, 2cm or so) of table salt or sugar on top of the wet paint. Then just walk away. Let it dry. Let it dry some more. Have a beer.

    When it's really dry, sweep of the loose sand/sugar with a broom. Then get out a garden hose with a pressure nozzle and wash down your new deck. The salt/sugar will merrily dissolve away, leaving a nicely pitted non-skid surface. This thread from a couple o'years back goes into more details on the process and has some groovy pictures on one of your Australian brother's results using this process with water-reducable polyurethane.

    7) I want to take off and reuse the the rails and other fittings, I will take off the varnish and try to use a screw to pop up the old wooden plugs, if that does not work I will try to drill and chisel out. Is this reasonable, or would you recommend a different approach?
    A chisel sized to fit the plugs usualy, IMHO, works best. The plugs pop right out with minimal damage. But if somebody has glued them in place instead of just setting them in varnish or paint, you may have to get out heavier artillery. Whatever works, just remember Rule Number 1: First, do no harm.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #6
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    Cool

    Jack, Noah,

    Thanks for your responses and for encouraging others to respond also.

    Nicholas,

    Thanks for your detailed answer, really appreciate it.

    I think that I will go the single piece of canvas route, as I can source canvas this size here in stockholm, and it seems more the right thing to do! So, I am likely to have some fun over the coming weekends trying to cut out and stretch the canvas around the cabin. Your response has made my task a bit clearer.

    If any one has any other tips or tricks on how to put canvas down around a cabin, I would like to hear, otherwise I will stick to what Nicholas has suggested.

    Regards,
    John.

  7. #7
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    Not to discourage you, but I think stretching a single piece of canvas with the house and coamings in place is going to be very frustrating. I've never tried it. I don't think I would.

    The times I've canvased a deck it was on small boats, the trim not in place. To get a good job involved really stretching the canvas longitudinally, then athwartship, and then stretching it down and stapling it into the deck openings, cutting holes after. I can't quite picture it on a boat with a cabin and coamings.

    Let us know.

  8. #8
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    I screwed around with canvas replacement on the deck of my 12.5 Sq.M. It was a bigger job than I had thought to begin with.
    My one-time experience doing it tells me that 1 piece is not possible. I struggled enough getting a 2 piece fit. You will also get better cloth economy by dividing the pieces down the center line of the boat. You can then probably stagger the pieces and make use of the 'cabin-hole' piece. This will be too small to use on the cabin top otherwise, because you have to tuck the raw edges of the canvas in to get a clean and strong edge... necessary whether you cover the edge or not.

    You also want the weave of the canvas to evenly follow the center line of the boat. You will be stretching it as you go, and it is easy to get it too taunt and mess up the look... which also leads to trouble getting all the wrinkles out and/or getting the pattern you cut to cover the part of the deck it is measured for. If I remember correctly, the canvas stretches more in one direction than the other. You want it flat and tight, but keep an eye on the overall fit as you work on the details.
    Don't remember exactly where I started fastening & stretching, but think I tacked it down in the middle and bow/stern first. Then took corners I couldn't get under (around the cockpit, coamings). After that I tried to get it to lay flat and taunt as I tacked down the curves in bown and stern.

    A nice, straight seam down the centerline of the deck actually looks very good.

    You should give some careful thought to whether you will lay the canvas dry or wet. You will get advice about both. I when for dry and then sauced it it once it was down. But that canvas only lasted 8-10 years (or was it less?) Laying it in paint is probably a bit more difficult, and definately more messy, but will make the canvas last much, much longer. My dry-lain canvas caused a small amount of condensation which over the years was enough to rot the material. Deck took no damage, though.

    One last thing... forget about using the plugs over again. It will never happen. Get them out any way you find easiest and make new ones. I used a drill.

    My present 22Sq.M. had fiberglass on the deck when I got it. Still leaks at the edges!

    tom

  9. #9
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    Folkboat John,

    I think Noah hit it on the head: dynel set in epoxy for the deck and canvas on the house.

    If you decide to canvas the deck, I'm with tom: doing it in one piece is going to be nigh on impossible. With the house and coamings in the way I just can't see it. There is no way to accurately predict and cut the 'house hole', and the 'cockpit hole'. And once cut the cloth will react differently.

    A thought: Are there boat shops around doing this? Canvasing a deck is not a regular occurence these days, but go visit, volunteer if they are canvasing a deck. It will give you a taste of what is involved. To lay a good canvas deck is always a cause of celebration. It isn't easy. It isn't really hard, but it's a trick well served.

  10. #10
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    Smile

    Hi John,
    about a wear ago I went through the same exercise on my East European built Folkboat. The deck was canvas covered ply and had to be replaced in several areas due to water getting to the ply through deck fittings that had worked loose. I also wanted to re-use the toe rails and this turned out to be the biggest job. The bronze fastners (possibly brass) all sheared off half of the head when they were tried to be removed so I had to run a hand hacksaw blade under each fastner to cut them off flush with the deck. I then had to bore out round each piece of screw left in the ply, remove the offending part and plug the hole with an glued in dowel. Saved a lovely piece of mahogany which came up well after planing and sanding.
    I chose to cover the deck with fiberglass cloth and epoxy as I can sometimes be none too carefull and it will be easier to repair damage to the epoxy as it is to canvas. I layed the glass cloth in quite a few pieces following the advise given in any of the books on the subject. The only problem was that I didn't put a wet coat on the deck after the initial priming coat which I had allowed to cure. This meant that any slight hollows trapped air and were the very devil to remove. I will be running beading around the cabin sides to seal the cabin / deck join when the weather gets warm enough to work with epoxy again.
    I am still pondering on what to do with the doghouse roof as like your boat mine is made up of battens 1.25" wide. I had thought of running a router between the battens and filling the seams with sealant before using a product called Coelan (think the spelling may be wrong) and then painting it with deck paint. Putting ply on the roof with all the problems of hatches, etc. seems to be a lot of extra trouble if you are not a competent wood worker, as I am!!!
    All the best with whatever method you choose.
    Steve

  11. #11
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    John

    As the comment about the condition of the canvas on Brilliant" indicates, properly laid canvas decks can last a long time. As your boat shows however, canvas can be vunerable, and if laid less than perfectly, will readily fail. If you can recruit a helper who has laid canvas decks that have stood the test of time, canvas may be practical. Plywood/epoxy/dynel has the advantage when you are less confident that you have a strong knowledge/experience background. Even a novice can be sure of getting a one-piece, leakproof, rot resistant deck using P/E/D.

    /// Frank ///

  12. #12
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    Lets see.. boat built in 1962... and my guess is that with the reluctance to change they did what they did, cuz that's the way they did it 40 yrs ago in 1932 and there's no reason to change, good nuf for granddad is good nuf. With that in mind I would do what I did in the 70's and use the epoxy and cloth. IT NEVER LEAKED thereafter..

    G

  13. #13
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    I plan to do a lot of the preparation work this weekend, and in the process I will assess the options further (recanvas or epoxy) and make a final decision.

    I must say that I still feel that there are a lot of arguments for both approaches, so it ain't an easy decision.

    Thanks again for the responses. If there are any final thoughts please let me know.

    Regards,
    John.

  14. #14
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    Noah hit it. First pitch.

    As much as I dislike working with googe, I think epoxy and dynel on the deck and canvas on the house are the ways to go, for all the reasons mentioned.

    [ 03-31-2004, 09:17 AM: Message edited by: Jack Heinlen ]

  15. #15
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    Smile Two years late, but here is an update....

    Hi,

    A member of the forum sent me a mail to find out what I did in the end. Here is the response that I sent him.

    John.

    Basically the choice boils down to canvas or epoxy. With the canvas you are following some older traditions and it is easier to replace in the future, but it may not last as long (the length of time that it lasts is partly dependent on how good a job you do). Epoxy Can give you a better seal, it is less likely to leak, but if you need to redo it in the future you need to rip the deck off, it does not have the same traditional feel that canvas does.

    Whatever method you choose it is a lot of work. You need to take off a lot of rails and fitting, you will need to take out the forward hatch etc.... all of which is a lot of work. Then you need to get it all on again. Usually you will find that screws will break and rails will be sealed with sealant, which means that a lot of the wood lists that you take off will be destroyed in the process, in the interest of time it is best that you accept that this will happen and be rough and ruthless, just rip the stuff off that is securing the old canvas (try to save the hatch or larger pieces to put on again) so that you can get on with the job of preparing the deck.

    I chose to do the deck in canvas, mainly because I felt that it was more in keeping with the character of the boat, and I felt that the epoxy solutions can be difficult to do also. I have seen some very neat epoxy jobs, but it does feel a bit like a plastic deck on a wooden boat - personal taste.

    You prepare the deck by cleaning off any old paint, then sanding it so that it is even. If it has been wet you need to give it time to dry out. Then you paint or treat the deck with an oil and oxide mixture to protect against moisture and mold in the future (i think that it was zinc oxide mixed with linseed oil ). Then let this dry out, you may need a few coats.

    I managed to get a piece of cloth that was about 8 metres long and 2 meters wide (from a store on skeppsholmen in Stockholm). This was used to cover the entire deck (not the cabin roof, you need a seperate bit for that). I measured the cabin and cockpit carefully then drew it on the cloth with pencil. Then you cut from the middle of the cloth toward the corners that you have marked so that you fit the canvas over the cabin onto the deck. You do it this way so that you can get the 2m cloth to cover a boat that is 2.2 meters wide, you pull it a bit at the sides. When you have gotten the cloth over the boat you can start to secure it. you secure it to the back of the cockpit first at the centre line of the boat, then stretch to attach it at the centreline at the back of the boat, so that you tension first along the centreline of the boat. Then you do the same thing at the front of the cabin and bow attaching and stretching at hte front before stapling or using tacks to fasten the canvas. Then you do something similar at the centre of the boat from the cabin to the side of the boat on each side. Then you do the diagonals, then between the diagonals so that you try to stretch the cloth as evenly as possible over the boat. You will need to find some friends to help you with this. Secure the cotton with stainless steel staples and a staple gun, or better still with the older method of small copper tacks (nails with a big head). You need 2-3 centimeters over the edge of the deck to secure the cloth to the side and similarly 1-2 cm to fasten to the side of the cabin. Leave more than this to strecth will fastening then cut away when the fastening is complete. When the deck is stretched and fastened you paint it with cooked linseed oil, letting the cloth soak up the oil. Then you let it dry before painting. I do not recall the paint that I used but it was put on in fine layers, and there should be no non-slip particles in the paint, the pattern in the cloth should be enough to give grip for your shoes, and the fine layers of paint should prevent you filling up the pattern in the cloth.

    When the deck is painted, then new rails need to be fitted, probably with new screws, there are some special drilling tools that you can get to drill the holes and to drill scrap bits of wood to create the plugs for using over the screws. Use sikaflex to seal the screws and the rails. The rails that go against the cabin are quarter round, and ideally should have an angled edge rather than 90%. Not sure how to deal with this if you do not have specialised planeing equipment. I just lived with the 90 degrees and used sikaflex to fill the gap at the top of the rail between the rail and the cabin. I used masking tape on the deck and rails before putting on the sikaflex and screwing down the rails, then smoothed the sikaflex with my finger (messy) before removing the masking tape - anyway you need to do something like this to stop the sikaflex from getting on the deck and rails.

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