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It's Official - my '51 OTCA project

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by mmmalmberg, Nov 25, 2019.

  1. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Got my stands built today. A few days of no rain this week so I can do the stripping outside.

    My biggest concern is having stripper left between the ribs and the planking, as it could be possibly, eventually detrimental to the wood and canvas. Guess I can use a strong hose spray to try to flush it out, yes?
     

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  2. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I cut the new pieces of inwale and stem if they are short.
    Here is how I make a stem repair. I tried making birds mouths but never got them right.
     

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  3. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Yeah pretty hard to resist! I might practice on some scrap and see what I can come up with. Thanks:)
     
  4. monkitoucher

    monkitoucher Canoe Curious

    The process of "Reassembling the ends" is different on Old Towns. The joint that Mike outlines on pages 44 and 45 is more correct for the Chestnut canoes. From what I gather the Old Towns were nailed down between the rails into the stem, rather than creating the finger-joint. I searched for a while to see if I could find out how the Old Towns went back together. The Jerry Stelmok & Rollin Thurlow book describes it but there aren't any images like Mike's book.

    Because the Old Town rails are tapered and the Chestnuts aren't, there is less meat there to pull off the finger joint. I sort of felt that the finger-joint was a better solution. So I ended up using it on both of my Old Towns. The joint ends up getting covered by the stem band.

    I tried the bird's mouth too and ended up doing what Dave did with backing the repair with a thin strip.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
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  5. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

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  6. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

  7. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    After studying all the links, pictures, books etc., and getting a better look at what's left of the ends of my OTCA, I today was finally able to visualize completely how they're supposed to go together, with the inwales meeting and sitting on the end of the stem.

    It looks like I'll be replacing both ends of both inwales and the top ends of both outer stems. Both of the inner stem ends are salvageable as are the ends of the outwales. Having the ends of the inner stems intact is going to help tremendously since everything can be fit to those locations.

    I believe I'll need to bend wood for the outer stem ends, as well as for the inwale ends. I was hoping to dodge the whole steam thing but looking at them it seems hard to get around.

    I also think I need to re-bend the last 6" or so of the aft deck as I believe it must have somehow lost a bit of its bend over years of not really being connected to anything solid to help preserve its shape. It was about 1/4" below where it should have been while the rest was lined up. And it's missing a chunk off the point which I assume I'll repair after rebending.

    I should count my blessings; I don't believe I have any broken ribs, and only two small punctures of the planking. After all the repairs I've seen documented, I'm getting off easy, while at the same having bitten off more than I knew, and enough to feel good about it when done:)

    Lastly, after reading about the "sub-deck" concept, as well as seeing how poor an idea it is to have nails and such going through the ends of any of these parts which are already so susceptible to decay, I'm going to be thinking about something like that. Right now I'm visualizing a brace bent from soft brass that would bridge across the bottoms of the inwales towards the tip, wrapping up around their edges between two ribs, and with a tab extending a few inches beyond the point to tie into the inner stem, a bit away from the junction of everything. Small screws could run up into the bottom edges of the inwales and the inner surface of the inner stem. It will be a while before I get to that point so plenty of time to think about it and take input. The idea being to get a solid connection between the inwales and the stem with less perforation of the ends of things.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Couple of minor questions.
    1) Confirming, on a CS grade, outer stems are ash and inwales are spruce, correct? Anything about grain orientation?
    2) Stripping varnish - a) what is the orientation of the canoe to enable flushing with water? I know that's a dumb one... b) Considering weather, is there any big reason not to proceed with some wood repairs while waiting for better stripping weather?
    Thanks!
     
  9. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Yes, outside stems were typically "ash or oak, straight grained" and the inside gunwales of a CS grade canoe were spruce. See the 1962 catalog specifications at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/specifications.jpg or the 1920 ones at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/specific.gif for more details. Restorers will frequently remove the planks around the stems as shown at https://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?attachments/43721/ to make it easier to flush an upright canoe with water while stripping. Good luck,

    Benson
     
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  10. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I don't think you need to get too elaborate here. Canadian canoes might have used a tenon or dowel, OT used a couple of steel nails through the side of the inwales into the top of the stem. The planking tacked to the stem does most of the work anyway. I don't know how many times I have pulled big hunks of wood or gobs of bondo out of the ends of canoes. Just adds weight! Maybe pre-drill and use some silicon bronze ring nails instead of steel. You will also have an outside stem, stem band, and canvas to assist with holding everything together. My shop teacher always told me to live by the "KISS" method - Keep it Simple Stupid! I don't always apply it well.

    Cheers,

    Fitz
     
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  11. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hi Fitz and thanks. What I'm observing on the ends of my OTCA is that there are thin nails running downward through the tips of the inwales into the top of the stem, and a screw running laterally from one inwale to the other. These holes appear to have been ground zero for where rot started and I can't help but think that putting little holes (and splits) in the ends of all these pieces is perhaps not conducive to long-term health. So I'm imagining what if all the penetrations could be moved further back from the tip - this could help delay tip rot at the same time as strengthening the area in a way that a brad in the last 1/2" of a thin piece of inwale could never achieve. Does that make any sense? I know it's hard to imagine that anyone's going to come up with a new idea, this late in the game, that hasn't been tried. But it's my nature to consider it anyway:)
     
  12. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    It seems that many people try to do some reinventing when they begin this process, but I'm with Fitz. There are many parts holding everything together in the ends as originally constructed, and canoes built decades, a century, or even longer ago are still in great shape if well taken care of. Yes a canoe's tips are prone to rot under the right conditions. Rot comes with exposire to water like leaving the canoe upsode down on the ground for extended periods of time, so best to avoid things like that. As Fitz suggested, I've always put things back together as they were built (often after having removed the same kinds of hunks and gobs that Fitz mentioned), and the end result has always been good. All of this said, keep asking questions and weighing all the answers - this is a great place to learn.

    About stripping, I've never removed the planks at the stems because I want to do the least amount of damage possible. This method would help with washing out, but I just strip in cradles, and rotate the canoe to one side of the other to wash out. I can get the canoe perfectly clean and the amount of time spent rotating and rinsing is far less than the time I would have spent removing and reinstalling planking. Just my $0.02, for what it's worth.

    Michael
     
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  13. dogbrain

    dogbrain I can take this, but not much more

    Here are a couple pictures of that joint on my 1928 old town. I used stainless steel finish nails, but not sure what size.

    IMG_0518.JPG
    IMG_0521.JPG

    I agree that the nails are only a way to hold it in place until you get the planking installed. Once the planking goes on, it's quite solid.

    Mark
     
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  14. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Consider that most all of these joints are done with untreated bare wood.
    The finish varnish applied at the factory was all on the outside surfaces.
    If there is a real concern about improving the resistance to weather and water then varnishing the back side and bottoms of the rails and decks along with the stems is worth considering. I'd head down that path before significantly changing the way the joinery is done.
    Also and related, storage is a major component of boat life. My 06 OT is 100% original wood and has no signs of any rot or wood failure. It was used hard but well cared for by the original owners. It was stored dry in a boat house. It was not left on the grass sitting on it's stem tips as is often the case for boats with deck/stem rot.
    If you carefully restore the boat using the original joinery methods, use a bronze nails instead of steel, thoroughly varnish the surfaces and store it properly it will outlast you...
     
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  15. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Absolutely, that's one simple thing that's bound to make a huge difference. I rebuilt a neighbor's small back porch when I was young and he had me paint all sides of the t&g decking before nailing it in. I realized then how much sense it made; same idea here.

    I do realize that storage is the name of the game and, in the case of this, my grandfather's canoe, pretty much all the work that needs done to it now is the result of storage. It was not actually used all that much, has minimal if any damage from use, and while my grandfather no doubt stored it properly, almost always in his garage, it spent decades after his passing in other garages, but obviously at some points along the way it had maybe a year here and a few years there where it was left out in the weather, maybe on the ground for a few months now and then... It's a lot to expect that after I do all this work, I take proper care of it etc. but I'm only going to be around so long, one of my kids takes it, maybe doesn't have the right place for it or doesn't realize the importance of storage, whatever... just as this canoe has been in various hands and situations beyond the control of my grandfather, I know it's going to happen again. I know if it gets left on the ground upside down nothing will ultimately protect the tips. I just want to do what I can. Even with varnishing before assembly, every hole through those tips is an invitation. For instance if the little nails through the inwales into the stem are just to hold things together 'til the planks are on, I would find a way to eliminate those. I don't want to change the jointery at all, so far as how all the pieces fit together. I just want to reduce the perforations of the tips if I can. Make it last as long as I can in my absence I guess...
     
  16. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I've been noticing a slight kink at one point along the gunnels, subtle but I imagined I'd find the cause eventually. Today while stripping varnish in that area I found a small crack in the inwale. It's near where there's a puncture in the planking from the inside and I suspect they happened at the same time. I'm interested in any thoughts about what to do with this. It's almost minor enough to let go but then I know it will bug me forever:)
     

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    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
  17. OP
    OP
    mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Also I noticed this patch today which I'm guessing happened at the factory, since to my knowledge the canvas has never been off this canoe before.
     

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  18. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    It seems very unusual to find a patch made at the factory (at least in my experience) but given that there is only one set of canvas tack holes at the sheer, you're probably right that this was the original canvas. The other place to look is at the stems - are there only the tack holes from this canvas or are there more? As for the cracked inwale, that's really not minor given that the inwale is one of the most important structural members of the canoe. It might be wise to splice in a piece or replace the inwale altogether. Not required, though; you can get plenty of service out of the canoe with a cracked inwale. In fact, I recently saw a canoe that was full of breaks, cracks, repairs, etc., yet the owner paddled it proudly and well. It was a wonderful thing to see - this excellent canoeist loving his canoe and paddling it with pride and reverence for all the battle scars it held from so many previous trips. I was thoroughly impressed!
     
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  19. dogbrain

    dogbrain I can take this, but not much more

    The Inwale crack looks like it’s all the way through. If it were me, and I intended to use this canoe hard as my primary “go to” canoe for everything, I would be tempted to do some kind of joinery magic to that inwale in place. Something strong that might be visible. On the other hand, if I were going to sell or keep this canoe as a family heirloom I would replace the inwale. I only say this because I have done it and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. You’ll need to make a form and steam bend the ends, but your biggest challenge may be sourcing the wood.

    Mark
     
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  20. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    If the tips are bad, you might as well replace both inwales.
    Or you can do a double scarf joint repair.
     

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