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Thread: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

  1. #1
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    Default 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    I have had this canoe way too long, but I have good excuses like a full time job and Stage IV cancer. I have found that extensive chemo results in "chemo brain" that sucks on motivation. Anyway, it is finally done. It is a 17 foot, 1940, "Common Sense" grade Old Town HW model - "HW" is code for Heavy Water or Henry Wickett - take your pick. This canoe was a literal basket case and I am only posting to show that they can be brought back from the dead, and need not see the burn pile. I don't have any "before" pictures, but the canoe had been polyester resin 'glassed and had seen very extreme weathering. It needed a dozen new ribs, some planking, a new center thwart, new outwales, seat cane, floor rack repairs, and paddle repairs just to get started. It has Kirby's Blind Green paint applied on filled No. 8 canvas. Anyway, it is now a serviceable canoe again after nearly being given up for dead. The owner's father worked farm fields and bought this canoe new with his savings as a teenager. The next one in the shop is in a similar state of disrepair. I will try and remember to shoot some "before" photographs this time.

    HW-1.jpg

    HW-2.jpg
    HW-3.jpg
    Last edited by Fitz; 08-15-2021 at 03:00 PM.
    "Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe. " - Thoreau

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Central New Jersey
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Well done and the color is perfect! Please post before, middle and after pics of the next one.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Nice job again, Fitz. I still have never paddled a wood canvas. I am sure I could be converted.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2000
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    Padanaram, MA USA
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Good on ya!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Hi Slim! How are you doing?

    I am sure I could easily convert you. I often tell a story about my long time friend in Maine. We went on a canoe trip with the kids one time, up Chesuncook Lake way. He had an Old Town Royalex Camper. I had a wood and canvas Chestnut Prospector. Well, we had these canoes loaded to the gunwales with gear, dogs, and kids. Well, my buddy is what we should call "frugal" and "utilitarian". If a particular piece of gear does not make sense to him, it is quickly replaced with an alternative. Anyway, it soon became apparent that the wood and canvas Prospector was leaving the oil canning Old Town camper in our wake. Oil canning robs any efficiency right out of a hull. Dave immediately became a convert. We have been on many "wilderness" trips since and nothing has changed his mind yet and he has become quite the canoe restoration expert himself.

    With your woodworking skills I am sure you could find a decent candidate canoe to work on during the winter. The process is fun and involves a little steambending and canvas application, but you end up with a beautiful and durable craft.

    Cheers,

    Fitz
    "Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe. " - Thoreau

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    MO. USA
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Fitz,
    Looks good as new.

    Help!
    Here is my 1954 Old Town. The canvas is crinkly and pulled away from the wood in some places. Does anyone know any magic to fix crinkly canvas? I have succumb to the fact that it will need new canvas.
    The finish on the inside is very soft and old. I have heard that dry ice will help remove the inside finish. Is that true?


    OldTown.jpg
    Last edited by John Howland; 08-15-2021 at 06:33 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
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    Valley of the Sun
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    112,743

    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    fitz, that is stunning
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Mr. Howland,

    In my experience, once the paint/filler is cracked like that it is time for a new canvas job. You might get by for a year or so, by sanding the exterior down and painting with a high build primer and then a few finish coats of color. If the canvas is pulling away from the rails, the inevitable canvas job is hastened. The canvas is not glued to the hull. It is only attached by fasteners at the gunwales and the stems. Take those fasteners out and the canvas falls right off. As for the interior, I have not heard of using dry ice to remove varnish. Maybe some old timers on the site have used it? I have tried most methods and swear by using chemical strippers. It takes a lot of practice, but I can do a whole hull now in about 4 hours. The trick is to let the stripper work its magic. Then use plastic scrapers, and brushes. A putty knife is good too, but don't dig too deep and work with the grain.

    Many people are afraid of the canvas job, but there are many good books and if you fabricate some simple stretching tools, it is not that difficult to do. A canoe can be canvassed in a couple of hours or less. Stretch enough to keep out the major wrinkles. No need to crank up the stretcher too much! Keep in mind you will need to rub in canvas canoe filler and let it cure before painting.

    Fitz
    Last edited by Fitz; 08-15-2021 at 06:51 PM.
    "Wherever there is a channel for water, there is a road for the canoe. " - Thoreau

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Fitz- I've probably mentioned it before but the old boathouse at my family's place on Fairhaven Bay near you had two elegant but decrepit Old Towns on racks when I was young. One of them was a sponsoned sailing version, the other was painted a dazzling pattern. You would have loved them ... and done a great job restoring them. Take care.
    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    MO. USA
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Fitz,
    Thank you again kind Sir,

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Branchville, NJ
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    198

    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Nice canoe Fitz. I'm so busy here I have a 24 month waiting list for canoes and small boats.
    David Satter www.sattersrestoration.com
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten" Ben Franklin

  12. #12
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    Bellingham, Wa, USA
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    My family has a 1929 Old Town Common Sense, but not a HW model. It went through a similar restoration many years ago, and now enjoys a pampered warm and dry storage spot in the garage. It gets pulled out once or twice a year, and never fails to attract a few admirers.

    Lovely work.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

    Ben Sebens, RN

    15' Welsford Navigator Inconceivable
    16' W. Simmons Mattinicus double ender ​Matty

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Portland, Oregon
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Beautiful.

    As a fellow cancer survivor - I'll tell people, 'chemo brain' also messes with your energy level... and ability to concentrate and stay on task.

    Good on ya for beavering thru it!!!
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  14. #14
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    Apr 2009
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    A great restoration! Well done, sir.
    I admire you for your perseverance. Our daughter-in-law just finished a rough course of chemo, so I know something of what it does to a person.

    When I was a teenager, I worked at a boys summer camp in the Adirondacks. The boat house had both wood canvas canoes and aluminum. Gliding over a flat calm, mist covered lake at dawn in the very quiet wood canvas canoe is a memory I'll always cherish. The aluminum, not so much. Noisy little things, they are.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Thanks, Fitz. I have not yet ruled it out. I have some friends in our local canoe club that have done a few canoes.

  16. #16
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    Jul 2015
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Beautiful!

  17. #17
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Fitz, that is a real work of art!
    "George Washington as a boy
    was ignorant of the commonest
    accomplishments of youth.
    He could not even lie."

    -- Mark Twain

  18. #18
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Many years ago, long before there was a forum I think a friend and I pulled a very similarly built wood and canvas canoe from a river. After a couple of years drying out it was 'restord' in that rot was replaced and new canvas applied. It was no where near the standard of yours, but is still going giving service on an alpine lake every summer.

  19. #19
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    Jul 2000
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life

    Beautiful work Fitz! Years ago I had a later 1940’s 13 ft “fifty pounder” that I really enjoyed. The memories of how nice a W&C canoe are prompted me to pick up a 16 ft orphan of unknown lineage a country le of years ago. It needs the usual, a couple of ribs, some planking & in and outwales, but the shape is there, and it’s a pretty canoe. It is in line with my other boats for a rebuild.

  20. #20
    Join Date
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    Pacific drifting
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    Default Re: 1940 Old Town Sees New Life



    Oh my goodness Fitz.....that is georgeous !

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