Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Old Town "Lightweight" light restoration

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by nickb, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. nickb

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    As a follow up to my serial number thread found here:

    I thought I'd give you all a small update (now that I finally have something to update) on the basic restoration to 'servicable' I'm doing on this little 11' Old Town.

    I took the original (1969) canvas off last spring/summer and shamefully am only now getting around to patching up a few spots in the planking that saw rocks/punctures (having a 2 year old doesn't help my efficiency). It took me a while to match the color, but I think I got it pretty close. I also didn't recall until a bit into the process that this is a "lightweight" model, so the planking is just a little bit thinner than usual - as such I had to thin my planking patch pieces slightly to get them to sit flush. In the same spirit, and given the use this little canoe is likely to see, I ordered lightweight canvas, which will go on sometime relatively soon (I hope). Here she is:


    Just a quick question as I proceed... There are a few dark spots on the planking (it was stored outside for a time by a previous owner) though none of these darkened spots are soft at all, and no discoloration is visible from the interior. Is it worth doing something with 'git rot' to these spots (and how do I drill holes for the git rot without going right through the planking???) or if they're not soft, is it just discoloration from water:


    Thanks in advance, as always, for your expertise and support. Happy (almost) Easter.
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    If it seems as solid as the wood around the spots, then it probably isn't rot, just discoloration. Trying to do the Git-Rot thing with holes on something that thin is probably going to do more to damage and weaken the area than to fix anything. The whole idea of trying to solidify rotten wood with resin compounds on a boat is pretty questionable to start with and no matter what it does, it does not turn it back into something that matches, or is even remotely close to, the physical characteristics of the original wood. If you do have rotten spots, there is really only one truly good way to fix them - new wood, and now would be the time to do it.
  3. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    What Todd said.....!
    The discoloration on your canoe is very typical and does not appear to be rot.
    Many folks would suggest that you oil the hull. That is an ongoing debate here from time to time. I'm not trying to reopen the debate. It's your choice, but I think Todd would agree that it would benefit from a coat or two of varnish. If it were me, I'd varnish the split and discolored areas heavily. That area of the canoe is the hardest to dry out once wet. The varnish will prevent water absorption and extend the life.
    Those tubby little 11'ers are kinda cute, aren't they!
  4. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    Sorry for the amateurish questions - I forgot about what git rot may do to the inherent flexibility of the cedar... I just wanted to make sure I was assessing/addressing any problems. Thank you for the clarification. I think I will indeed add some varnish before canvas - this little guy will likely be stored inside for the foreseeable future anyway (I'm fixing it with my daughter in mind... who is currently 2 years old).
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    It's an interesting scenario, and I'm not sure what the best answer is for the raw wooden parts. As wooden boatbuilding goes, it's a rather unconventional construction. For most wooden boats, wood-to-wood intersections would generally be bedded or calked to prevent leaks and also to keep water out of the joints. Not only does that help prevent rot in hidden areas, but it also helps to keep water from getting under the paint or varnish and eventually lifting it. The traditional wood/canvas canoe was probably originally built that way because it was reasonably inexpensive and made a good utilitarian boat. The fact that when taken care of and maintained one may last 100 years or more is just an unintended bonus.

    You could certainly make a case for sealing the back side of the wood to reduce water absorption. It's probably better for both the wood and the varnish on the other side. How much better is hard to say, but repeatedly getting quite wet and then drying out, over and over, takes a pretty obvious toll on just about any hunk of wood. If I had one here in pre-canvas condition, I think I'd probably use Deks Olje #1 and oil the heck out of the back side before canvas. I'm not a fan of linseed oil and don't use it on anything ("rot food" if you trust the tests that the Forest Products Lab did on it) but I have had good luck with Deks #1 and it dries within a day or two and never turns black. Unlike varnish, it is not a form of glue when dry and it doesn't stiffen or harden the wood. It's the best way I know to make a piece of wood highly water-resistant without really changing its nature much at all. Watco Danish Oil might work, and I'm getting fabulous, baby-butt smooth finishes on gun stocks with it, but I think it's far better on hardwoods than on woods like cedar, where the Deks would be easier to apply by a longshot and probably do a better job.
  6. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    I actually do have a bit of Watco Danish Oil on hand already. You mention it "might" work - anyone actually utilize this technique?
  7. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The only time I've tried Watco on cedar was on a couple of Greenland paddles I made. I wiped on a coat, let it sit a couple days to dry and then repeated a couple of times. In use, I found that after a while, the grain on the paddles would raise which not only is a bit hard on your hands, but tends to indicate that water is getting into the wood. I would bring them home, sand the grain down and give them another coat of oil. This continued for about three more paddling sessions until I finally got sick of paddles with rough, raised grain, so I varnished them. Problem solved.

    The method I use on gun stocks is different. I wipe on a fairly light coat and leave it for about half an hour. Then I look it over to make sure that the oil is being absorbed properly everywhere and there are no contaminated spots resisting it. Then the stock gets a heavy, brushed-on coat and that is allowed to sit for about an hour. In that time, it will get quite sticky. Then I take a piece of cloth, like flannel, and start rubbing it, changing the cloth when it gets filled up. You rub until it is no longer sticky, and even on a walnut rifle butt stock, that takes about 20 minutes of hard rubbing. An entire canoe hull would take a very long time to rub out. I let it dry overnight and within a day or two, repeat the thick rubbed-out coat. At that point, it's pretty seriously waterproof and gorgeous. I'm sure you could put a beautiful finish on a hardwood thwart, gunwale, deck, seat frame, etc. by taking it up to about 320 grit and hand rubbing Watco oil, but I really have my doubts about trying to do the same thing, or getting the same sort of results, on a cedar canoe hull.

    The Deks Olje #1 process is much easier. It's a much thinner solution and you just brush or roll coats of it on, one after another, wet on wet until it won't absorb more. This may take five or six coats, but they go on very fast. When it stops absorbing, you wipe off the excess with a rag and let it dry for a couple of days. It will be pretty well sealed and not sticky. This is used inside a lot of small boats as the interior finish where a satin, oiled look is desired. It's not cheap stuff, but it works well on cedar, as well as hardwood.

    These are all Watco, but unless you want to replank your canoe with walnut or maple, I'm not sure I'd try it.

    Attached Files:

  8. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    Though it's been some time, I finally got around to putting canvas and filler on the little 11 foot Old Town. Since it's a "lightweight" model, I used #12 canvas, and hope the end weight will still be somewhat comfortable for my wife to portage down for a solo paddle on our lake.

    Please disregard the clutter in the rest of the shop/garage. I know all of your shops are immaculate...
  9. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    I know this has been covered ad infinitum, but I'm having problems with the paint on this boat. I'm using Kirby Topside, roll and tip, and it looks... horrible. Like I-want-to-give-up horrible. I saw that some had gotten satisfactory results without primer, and that has not been the case for me. I tried to sand the filler sufficiently, and have sanded between coats (I only just finished the second coat, and I can tell it's going to be awful). I can't even really describe what's going on, because I'm not sure if it's the canvas showing through, or... It's almost like the foam roller creates a textured surface, and 'tipping' it seems to do nothing to affect this texture, no matter how quickly I tip, no matter how much or how little paint is on the roller. It's low 70's and low humidity outside... Fairly embarrassed so I think I'll forgo a picture... What are my options at this point? Prime now and try to 'start over'? Double my sanding efforts? Someone talk me off this cliff...
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
  10. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    The first question is, what are you using as thinner? The only right answer is Kirby's Conditioner. Second question is, what filler are you top coating?

    Call Kirby's and talk to George directly. Describe your problems and procedures, and I expect he can make suggestions that will get it to work for you.

    Painting a canoe well with any good product, whether it be Kirby's, Epifanes, or Interlux, has a steep learning curve, and always looks its worst before it looks best.
  11. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    The filler is from Mr. Thurlow at Northwoods Canoe Co. I didn't thin the Kirby's since I recall reading a detailed post by a respected member of this board stating that the paint was formulated at the factory specifically to work out of the can, and unless I think I know more than people that work for Kirby's, don't mess with it. So I didn't. This is my first time using Kirby's. (Also, it says right on the Jamestown page where I ordered the paint: "DO NOT THIN PAINT UNLESS NECESSARY" and yes, in all caps).

    I'm trying not to get discouraged, but man... I've read articles, blogs, watched videos, and am really trying not to ruin this canoe, and as of right now... I apologize all I ever seem to do is come to this forum with problems and have nothing to offer. Seems like I'm the only one who does this.
  12. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    As good as Kirby paint is, I have almost never been satisfied with the paint as it comes out of the can. There seems to me to be inconsistency from can to can. Sometimes it is fine... Sometimes it goes on and tips out like $hit. It could be the paint, or conditions, but I suspect the former since other paints are very predictable.
    I typically add 3oz of Penetrol per quart when it seems like it won't flow or is sticky. I have in a pinch without Penetrol added couple of ounces of Epifanes varnish.
    I've never tried, and will someday, Kirby Conditioner....
    My suggestion is let it dry.... Sand out the crap and try an additive in your paint for the next coat.
    Post your results.
  13. smallboatshop

    smallboatshop Restorers

    Hi Nick,

    I agree with Dave that you need to add Penetrol to Kirby paints. The paint sets up differently depending on the heat and humidity and sometimes on the color of the paint, but the results are worth the effort as the paint dries hard and gains a luster that polyurethanes don't seem to achieve. Try an ounce of Penetrol to 8 ounces of paint, mix well and roll on with foam roller and tip with a good brush. Remember that tipping should not spread the paint but only knock down the bubbles. Good luck.

  14. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    My first and second coats of color never look good. Keep painting is my first thought. I am also having a problem with paint and I called Mr. Kirby this morning to discuss it. I had used a waterproof and paintable caulk to bed the keel. the paint on the calk isn't drying. I talked to a couple friends and we pretty much guessed that the calk was not fully cured. When I called Mr. Kirby he imediately knew that the calk was still kicking out through the paint and that's why the paint wasn't drying. He suggested that I put it out in the sun and that seems to be helping.

    I always prime over the filler and then add color. Primer sands alot easier. I'm guessing you'll need to keep painting. Your 4th coat and 5th coat should look good. Also, I tip differently than I used to . I now roll the paint on with a high density 4" roller and I rolll it out pretty thinly. Thin coats are better than thick. and once the section is evened out I roll lightly in place of tipping. Any bubbles disapear in a few seconds. And lastly, I have not been adding any thinner and have been happy with the result.
  15. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    That's what's kind of strange - even off of the roller there weren't bubbles, per se. It was almost like it was going on with that 'orange peel' type texture, so then tipping did nothing to smooth it. I even tried applying some directly with my brush, and got basically the same texture. I'll admit my sanding of the filler coat wasn't perfect, but it wasn't as bad as the texture I"m getting. I'm also using one of those 4" 'fine' foam rollers (trim type?) It was over 70 degrees in the shop, and I always thought 'orange peel' was related to temperature. Not saying it's that texture exactly, but it reminds me of that. Granted this was all without thinning. I did the second coat, because I figured more paint would help, but the second coat is just making it worse.
  16. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    I would like to see some photos if you can. Getting a finish like a car fender is difficult (impossible for me) and generally the guys and Gals that get it are the real pros, not hobbyists/amatuers like me.
  17. OP

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    I'm a bit embarrassed to post pictures - I feel like I'm the only WCHA member who can't seem to do things right. I'll see how it looks after taking some evasive maneuvers...
  18. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Pictures will give clues to what you're seeing, so others can make more educated guesses as to what's going on. Don't hesitate; just do it.
  19. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Trust me on this one, your are not the only WCHA member who can't seem to do things right. I've made many more embarrassing restoration mistakes than I want to admit. Take a quick look through the Old town serial number records and finish problems were one of the most frequent reasons why canoes were returned to the factory (along with shipping damage issues). Good luck,

  20. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I have been using a lot of Kirby's lately. I do like the 4 inch rollers. Seems to help get the right amount of paint on. But then I brush the heck out of it, which I think it says to do on the can. Maybe more like aggressive tipping. I roll it on and then tip it vertically then horizontally. I seem to avoid curtains and sags thus way. I use enough Penetrol to allow the brush to flow. I still have more brush marks than desired, but it passes the 5 foot rule and the finish is somewhat old timey anyway. Let us know how you make out.

    Bubbles / orange peel - there is no chance the surface is contaminated right? You didn't wash the hull with car soap or something ?

Share This Page