Take everything as it comes;
the wave passes, deal with the next one
Tom Thomson, 1877-1917
Restoring an old Wood/Canvas CanoeWooden Canoe Heritage Association website
Without the knowledge-base and skills readily shared by the members of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, I would not have attempted this project. A Big thanks to each and every one of them.
|Rotted stern and stem.||Rotted gunnels.||Rotted gunnels and original stern seat.||Rotted deckplate and inwales - this is going to take a bit of work.|
My neighbour had an old canoe laying in the dirt in her back yard. A friend had told her that I enjoy canoe tripping and own several, so she asked me if I wanted it. So it's now mine to restore if I can.
As best as I can determine, it is a Bastien Huron canoe which was made north of Montreal in the 1950s. They were built as workhorses and cottage run-abouts so speed of building was more important than finese. At some point the canvas had been replaced with fiberglass so removing it and the wood-filler will be major undertakings.
September 2008Removing the fiberglass using heat and a scrapper. Bare hull after removing the fiberglass.
Luckily the fiberglass was put on with an inexpensive poly resin so it all came off in about 4 hours with lots of heat and a scraper. The darker brown is all resin that will have to be removed as well.
What was left after removing the rotted outwales and planks. What was left of the orignal outwales.
All of the fiberglass has been removed as well as the rotted planking and decks. There was enough of the original outwales that I can get a good idea of how I should make new ones. Notice the distinct lack of stem in the left photo. All-in-all, it's in pretty good shape.
Scrapping - tools of the trade. Scrapping heated resin from the planks. Left plank finished. Right plank to do.
What is taking the time, is heating and scrapping off all that extra resin left behind from the fiberglass removal. This is a project that is going to take maybe 16 hours of work. We'll see.
Removing the wood filler between the planks. Two home-made picks for removing old wood filler.
The filler that was used to keep the resin from getting inside the canoe is now a problem. Fiberglass is waterproof while canvas is not. Canvas allows moisture to get at the planks. The planks will swell and the filler is taking up the needed expansion room. Therefore it must go! It is a fairly simple procedure. I have been pushing the filler out from inside the canoe and using a pick from the outside to remove what's left. Three hours max. Edited for reality. Let's make that 6 hours.
October 2008It's now time to get to the woodworking phase. The brass tacks and bronze nails have arrived from Noahs in Toronto. As well the great folks over at the WoodSource at Manotick Station ripped four 18ft 7/8x7/8 skipped ash for the inwales and outwales. Skipped has not been kiln dried so it will steam-bend properly.
Steaming a stem. Stem bent in the jig.
The tops of both stems need replacing. Used smaller pieces not needed for the inwales. Each stem was soaked in water for a week, then steamed for 1 hour and then bent beyond what's needed to allow for some springing back. The steel on both sides help reduce breaking during bending. Each stem will be left in the jig for at least 48 hours. The more time in the jig, the less spring back.
Scarfing in a new stem piece. Clamping in the new inwale.
The two new stem pieces have been scarfed and glued into place along with 3 bronze ring nails. For extra structural support I also glued 2 pieces of 1/4" thick x 8" long ash strips on the inside of the stem.
To ready the canoe for new inwales I removed the seats and thwart from under the old inwale, then, put them back above the old inwale. Just dropping in smaller diameter nails did just fine. I also used as many straps and long clamps to control the overall shape of the canoe.
I was really lucky that the inwales near the decks did not require steaming. Two weeks in a water bath worked well for the 7/8 square ash. I just clamped the new inwale right under to the old.
There is no such thing as too many clamps. I now need to wait for the new inwale to set-up/dry so that it will hold its shape when I remove the clamps. I'll keep them clamped for at least two weeks or until I need the clamps for something ele.
November 2008Marking the centerline with both inwales setting-up. Old deck removed showing how the inwales line up.
Using a bunch of middle points, markers and a chalk-line, I obtained a center-line down the length of the canoe to see how the gunnels were working out and to look for corkscrewing. Everything was looking good until I got to the decks and stems. The bow deck was 3 inches off center, was not symetrical left to right and had 4 different side angles. No wonder I was having problems in the deck area. As soon as I removed the old deck my new inwales and stem and the center-line all popped into place. So to heck with using the old deck as a template. I'll just use a piece of spruce to make a new template and cut the cherry later. Big sigh of relief.
About a gallon of varnish/paint remover later, the badly crazed and cracking plastic varnish is gone and the inside is ready for sanding. Old clothes, heavy rubber gloves and a full face mask for protection were needed. It was also an outside job so everything could be hosed down after scraping. I tried using a metal scraper and did some damage to the planks - even after rounding the edges. So I switched to a plastic scrapper with rounded edges and several plastic pot scrubbers with good success. Take your time and use lots and lots of remover. It will save sanding time and effort later on and is quite gentle on really thin cedar planks.
The new inwales are nailed into place. nailing the inwale to the ribs. The old inwales are now gone and the new ones in place. Before nailing, I put 3 coats of varnish on the outside of the inwale and about an inch of the inner ribs. One coat about 50/50 varnish/thinner, second coat 75/25, and the third full strength varnish.
Btw, that's real varnish, not the plastic type. None of the big box stores carried real varnish but found some at a marine supply. I bought Epifanes, a top-notch, expensive, flexible, oil-based varnish. I should have capitalized expensive.
I also gave the tops of the ribs a good bath in End-Rot, a low viscosity epoxy complete with a mildewcide. Slapped some on the inside stem area as well.
The ribs are quite thick on this Huron so I used 1 inch #14 bronze ringed nails. Pre-drilled before nailing, of course. I did not put an nail in the middle of the rib so that the outwales can be screwed into place at the very end of this project.
December 2008Darn, winter has overtaken me. I've had to put the canoe aside until spring as there is not sufficient room in my little workshop for it and the gear I need to make for my winter trips. This blog will continue in the spring.
June 2009Sanding the interior. Home-made guide. It's taken quite a while to get back at the canoe, but I'm finally at it again.
Time to get sanding the interior. The flapper tool on the drill made for quick and easy rib sanding. Edit: flapping tool and thin planks don't mix. It didn't take much time at all to reduce the planking depth by half. So good for the ribs - bad for planks! Hand sanding only from now on. A week of rain has stopped me applying a coat of tung oil on the interior so I puttered around doing other things .
The top 3/8 inch of the planks required removal as part of fitting the outwales. Using another great idea from the WCHA, I made and used a simple marking tool that worked perfectly. I set my knife to just over the depth of the planks to avoid cutting too deeply into the ribs.
Matching the new planks to the old with stain. The first sealing coat of varnish.
The new planks were a bright white and needed to be stained to approximate the original sun and old varnish darkened planks. Neither tea nor coffee worked. Finally I used a oil-based walnut stain thinned a lot with turpentine. It took some practice with left-over new planking material but it seems to have worked fairly well. After that dried, a good once-over with a tack cloth and the first coat of varnish was applied. Basically a sealing coat with a 50/50 mix of varnish and thinner.
Getting at the cracked rib from underneath. epoxy and cedar rib repair.
I thought there was a hairline crack in a rib that could be left alone. However, the first coat of 50/50 varnish showed that it was much more serious than I'd thought. Two alternatives. One is to build a brand new rib. The second would be to access the rib from underneath and repair it. Building a new rib would be more time-consuming than a repair. And no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn't be able to get that well worn look - scratches, dents and black spots from old brass tacks. So repair it is.
I cut away two planks to access the back of the rib at the crack. Then used a chisel to carefully cut an area approximately 5"x1.25" and to the depth of some left-over cedar planking. A nice slathering in expoxy, covered with wax paper, clamped and left to harden overnight. Sanded flush then replaced the planking. Finished. Except for the overnight curing, it turned out to be a two hour job. Only time will tell if it was a permanent repair.
An unfortunate accident that left me with casts on both wrists has left this project on hold for now.