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Canoe Covering

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Zenith, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Zenith

    Zenith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I have a couple of old of fellows that I am working on. A 1923 Old Town and a 1909 Morris. The old Town had been Fiberglased but the cloth has been removed. The wood is mostly in good condition, although some damage is visible where wood was removed with the glass. The hull is in excellent condition and fair, and the framing is also in good condition. The interior had been painted brown, and I have removed all of it with a heat gun except in the areas under the decks, which is hard to reach and hard to scrape. There are a few gaps between planking but otherwise the hull is in excellent shape. The Morris still has a fiberglass covering.

    I had planned to canvas the hull, but have a concern that the fiberglass resin has sunk into the wood to the extant that I gain nothing by reverting to canvas as a cover. There are many benefits to fiberglass, and the material will adhere well to the thin layer of smooth resin on the wood. So I am thinking about re fiber glassing the hull. Any thoughts on this would be helpful. Also I was wondering what the weight differences might be between fiberglass, epoxy, and canvas after all the filler and paint is applied.
    Thanks
    John MacIver
     
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    It naturally depends to some extent on your fiberglassing skills, but the finished weight will be very close to that of a canvas covered boat. Do be aware though that it is a pretty tricky glassing job compared to something like glassing a strip canoe. You can't have any low spots like dents around planking tack heads, and any cracks between planks will need to be filled or plugged ahead of the fiberglassing. The reason is that the cloth will bridge these spots, but tends to drain the resin into them when you saturate the cloth, leaving what looks like screen wire over the defects. Trying to fix these problem spots as you are doing the fiberglassing and to get the screen wire texture all filled-in and watertight is extremely difficult. After the glass hardens, it is not much easier, so the only good solution is to fill and fair all of these spots before the glassing begins, yielding a fair and continuous, unbroken surface to apply the fiberglass to.

    The fiberglass skin is also extremely thin if done properly. Even very small level changes between plank edges can often stand out like a sore thumb and be difficult to deal with when doing the final sanding of the resin filler coats. In short, it is not a good prospect for a beginner's fiberglassing job.

    You would probably be surprised at just how little resin, paint, varnish or anything else actually soak into wood, so as long as a little bit of light sanding can yield a good smooth surface on the formerly fiberglassed hull it should not interfere with new canvas. Both types of covering are possible, but canvasing will be easier, maintain the boat's resale value better and be easier to replace in the distant future.

    My 1972 Old Town Guide wearing six ounce fiberglass, doubled over the bottom using WEST Epoxy resin and polyurethane floor enamel.

    guide2.jpg
     
    Erik Rolle likes this.
  3. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    It would be really helpful to see some pictures of the stripped Old Town. It sounds like you've removed the cloth and are left with the remaining resin on the planking in some places? There may also be some between the planks. This is pretty common and just one more step in removing the glass job. With the cloth off, now you need to use your heat gun and scraper (I use a thin bladed one inch wide putty knife) to revisit the entire surface of the boat and remove the resin. It's a PITA job but you should be able to get it done in an afternoon. Push the knife carefully to lift the resin and it will jump right off in a powder...hopefully. Don't fret if you turn some of it a little burnt toast brown...it's not a big deal. The resin between the planks is another pleasure..I use whatever it takes and often the tool that works best is the back of the blade of my pocket knife.
    That out of the way you can re-clinch tacks, repair planking, sand the hull, etc. before you apply some boat soup in preparation for the canvas. You may use a faring material on wood that was damaged when you pulled the planking...
    Having come this far, it would be unfortunate to put glass back on the boat. The experience you gain on this one will help you to restore the Morris....
    One thing to note...many boats that have been glassed were covered because they needed major repairs to accept a canvas. Take a close look at the stems to make sure that they will hold tacks and make the necessary repairs. It's not a big deal...
    Presumably you've paddled the glassed boats before doing this work on them...wait until you paddle them with a canvas. The difference in "feel" under paddle will be literally like night and day. Good luck...you are near the end of the torture.
    Finally, in my opinion, it is much easier to do a nice job of canvasing a canoe then it is to do an equally good job of applying glass. The canvas hides quite a few imperfections. The glass amplifies them.
     
  4. slk

    slk Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I am in the process of doing one with epoxy as well. What oz cloth is recommended with the clear epoxy? I just like the look of those OldTown canoes that are clear epoxy coated. I am wondering if you should put a coat of clear on first without the cloth and get it sanded smooth, and then lay the cloth on for the second coat.
    Thanks
    Steve
     
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I don't know what Old Town used on their clear-finished canoes, but I used 6 oz. cloth, just as we usually did on strippers and it worked well. I'm not sure there is anything to be gained by a pre-coat of plain resin. It should actually harden (and lose most of its toxicity) for about a week before you sand it. At least by sanding it you might get a look at any spots which are low (tack head dents, plank joints, etc.) as the sanding won't touch them. These spots would all need to be filled and leveled before you apply the fiberglass.
     
  6. slk

    slk Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    The last canoe I did with clear turned out ok. The problem was I used polyester resin. I lived in Florida then. We moved up here to MN and the first winter the resin separated from the canoe. It caused no damage to the wood but it all popped off. I know polyester was much thicker than the epoxy resin. Ya had to work fast. these epoxy resins now you can get them to dry much slower, but that can be an issue as well. Too liquidly might run off. This will be my first attempt to use epoxy....

    Steve
     
  7. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Run off is much more a matter of applying too much at once than it is the viscosity of the product. The coat where you are applying and saturating the cloth should be rolled out and/or squeegeed to the point where the cloth is all clear, but you have it all down tight to the wood and a very visible cloth texture showing with no sags or runs of excess resin. That way there will be no run-off and you will be yielding the best cloth-to-resin strength ratio and minimum added weight. Then add filler coats until the weave texture is totally gone, plus one more filler coat as a sanding cushion. Let it fully cure, sand it smooth and varnish it with a high quality UV filtered varnish.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Zenith

    Zenith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you all for your reply. I have done quite a bit of fiberglassing on boats, and in fact I was the culprit that fiberglassed the Morris way back before I knew anything much about old canoes. After all I bought the Morris and an Old Town for less than $50., But I was going with the canvas idea just to do it. but then after looking at the outside with it's thin glass coat I started wondering. That's why I started this thread. There is a lot of good info from you all and especially the specifics from Todd and paddlephile. Now you are getting me back to the canvas idea. I am not sure how to put a picture on this forum, but I have some pictures from last year on my web site at http://johnmaciver.tripod.com/id13.html . I have not updated the site yet this summer, lots of rain out here in Missouri, but since these shots the Old Town has been pretty much stripped of brown paint on the inside using a heat gun. There is good wood on all of the frames and pretty good wood on the planking. The hull is very fair with minimal damaged planking. I will need to do some filling over the entire exterior. I will have to re attach planks in a couple of spots . I am not sure whether paint remover will be best to clean up the inside or something else...Sanding may change the wood too much and spoil the patina. Nice job on the Old Town Todd. Did you spray it or roll on the finish? My Old Town was originally shipped with the same color yellow but with a black stripe running just under the gunnel and down the stems.
    Since the pictures on the site were taken, the damage to the stem tip planking and decks have been repaired. Instead of using the same type of wood for the deck repair, I cut a "V" notch in the deck and used mahogany for the repair. The notch makes for a stronger repair, and it gives the decks a nice finished inlay look. My winter project was to repair and re cane the seats on the Morris and Old Town and build new seats and cane them for the Goodyear canoe. All of the wood on the Goodyear has been completed and she is ready to go. The seats and thwarts on all of the canoes finished
    Thanks again for all of the input and information
    John MacIver
     
  9. slk

    slk Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    When you do one, do you have enough time with the epoxy to do the entire canoe at one time or should you just try to do one side at a time?

    Steve
     
  10. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I glass a canoe in one long day using fast hardener. Usually I don't use a saturation coat, so the first layer is putting the glass fabric down onto bare wood. Glass work on the outsides of hulls is done using the yellow foam Gougeon Brothers (WEST System) 7" rollers. One of the most critical elements, especially with fast hardener, is to have a reliable assistant, and that person's only job is to mix fairly small, accurately measured and properly mixed batches of fresh epoxy in a constant stream. That way, all I need to concentrate on is the application itself. I would strongly suggest that anyone glassing a hull do it with the help of an assistant/mixer. We see way too many problems on boat forums due to mis-measured resin batches or builders who were too busy trying to do too many things and not concentrating on the quality of their work. I do the whole canoe at once, and a boat would have to be awfully big (bigger than a canoe) before I would do the glassing in sections.

    Once the glass layer has hardened just enough that I won't disturb it, I start rolling on the resin filler coats to fill the cloth weave texture. I use the same rollers and roll them on pretty thinly. It only takes about 15 minutes to roll a coat on and then you have to wait for it to firm up before rolling on the next coat. I usually end up rolling on five or six thin filler coats to hide the weave and give me a little cushion for the final sanding. If I start in the morning, I may end up applying the last filler coat pretty late at night. With slow hardener, I'd just work around the clock as needed to account for the slower cure times.
     
    slk likes this.
  11. OP
    OP
    Zenith

    Zenith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Here are a couple of new pictures of my Old Town showing a sample of some of the worst the exterior, the refurbished seats and thwarts, the inside and my repair of a deck.
    Thanks for input...
    John MacIver

    upload_2019-6-13_13-31-24.png
    upload_2019-6-13_13-32-58.png
    upload_2019-6-13_13-33-50.png

    upload_2019-6-13_13-37-30.png
     
  12. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    I would emphasize Todd's statement that it affects value. In general, I think a 'glassed canoe is worth nothing or very little, with the exception of Todd's canoe above. But if it's for your use and you don't expect to recover any money in the future, and if you are experienced, which you seem to be, you might enjoy the result. my $.02
     
    monkitoucher likes this.
  13. OP
    OP
    Zenith

    Zenith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for the input Dave. I am thinking again about the canvas. There is a lot of good info on this thread
    Thanks
    John
     
  14. monkitoucher

    monkitoucher Canoe Curious

    When I got my first canoe I felt that canvas was really antiquated and I needed a better solution. My thoughts went directly to glassing the whole thing again. But as I started to get into the restoration of the wood I found myself replacing every stick of planking. The fiberglass that was on it before held a lot of moisture against the planking and cooked it all. I ended up using the canvas again and found that the whole process, although lengthy, was pretty enjoyable. Plus I didn't have to deal with the mess that sometimes comes with FG.
     
  15. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    You do need to be careful though, not to lump all fiberglass coverings into the same basket. The vast majority of the old home-glassed (and sometimes even factory-glassed) canoes that you'll find were fiberglassed using polyester resin, often whatever could be found at the local auto parts store or marina. There is not, and never has been, a polyester resin formulated specifically to stick to and seal wood - including those formulas commonly used for making all-fiberglass canoes. Some of the resin formulas adhere to wood much better than others. Why is this important?

    Lack of good adhesion tends to lead to the fiberglass delaminating on impact or from hull flexing. You essentially can get large bubbles forming between the glass and wood which eventually tend to get bilge water trapped in there, just from normal canoe use. This can cause the wood in those spots to rot, and once you have some delamination and water intrusion going on, it tends to spread and there really is no easy way to stop it or fix it.

    Epoxy is different. We now have epoxy resin formulas which are specifically made for use on wooden boats. Fiberglass applied with them is extremely well bonded to the wood and very unlikely to delaminate from impact or anything else. The wooden surface itself is also now sealed with one of the absolute best sealers on the planet. Sorry, but the outside surface of the planking on your wood/canvas canoe, which you may or may not have treated with some sort of oil product before canvasing, is going to rot or dry out from repeated wet/dry cycling long before the epoxy coated surface of the planking on my Guide ever will. That's just the way these things work. If the wood on my Guide ever rots, it will be from water getting in from the varnished inside, not the epoxy coated and fiberglassed outside. So, with the fiberglassed canoe, it's a very good idea to really maintain the interior finish well. You also want to be aware that fixing broken ribs and planking is going to be quite difficult on the fiberglassed boat, compared to a w/c canoe where you can peel the canvas off, replace massive amounts of wood if needed, re-cover the hull and hit the water.

    I still tend to like the "naturalness" and repairability of canvas covering better, but the fiberglass skin is not the "kiss of death" which is going to destroy the canoe that some folks make it out to be, or that it once may have been. This does, however, require it to be done using the proper materials, knowledge and a certain amount of skill using them. It's a pretty high bar to clear as a beginner's project and mistakes or problems are hard to undo.
     
  16. OP
    OP
    Zenith

    Zenith Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you Dave, Todd and Monkitoucher...Interesting moniker ....I have been restoring old boats all of my life and I generally try to use as much of the original boat as possible and use repairs with the same or close to the same materials as were originally used. I am not trying to make a new boat, but trying to preserve as much of the original builders work and yet make the boat very usable. Sometimes this can be a challenge, and there comes a time when the modern miracle materials can save a boat for years of continued service when trying to make it original may not be a viable option. That is where I am with this 100 yr old canoe. It is the same problem I faced with the 1954 Penn Yann Captivator that I had for many years. I worked with her for about 35 yrs and refrained from using an epoxy finish, but after a summer pounding on Lake of the Ozarks I felt it was necessary to use modern help. Even then, I only used epoxy below the splash rail to keep the boat as close to original above the water line. The results were excellent and the boat will have many more years of use if reasonably maintained (the boat can be seen on my web site in one of my posts above). So while I agree with Dave that the best answer is using canvas. I agree with Todd that modern materials can make a fine boat very useful with many future years of use. There is pros and cons with each. Repairs and major exterior work is surely easier with a canvas cover. And there is the grandeur of having a real canvas and cedar canoe. But I also believe that using modern miracle materials can be used to finish an old canoe to perfection, and Todds example is proof of this. There in lies the rub....When is the time to keep original and when is the time for the miracle materials. Do you go to the hospital for an appendectomy, or do you use plant medicine? There is a lot of great info on this thread not only for which is the better solution, but also how best to use the materials at hand. I haven't fully made up my mind yet, but I am going back toward the canvas, because the canoe I have is reasonably fair and sound.
    Thank you all for your support and excellent information. I have a lot to think about....
    John MacIver
     

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