questions on ribs and hardware from a newbie

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Kwatro, Oct 19, 2016.

  1. Kwatro

    Kwatro New Member

    I am a new member, and have just purchased a 1948 Penn Yan Kingfisher. It appears to be in pretty good shape, but has been fiberglassed in the past, which I will remove. It has also had a transom "doubler" installed, and appears to have been used for fishing, as you can see a plate on the forward deck that appears to have been used for an anchor. But for a purchase of under $100, I decided to go for it! I am not looking for a museum quality restoration (remember this is my first one!), and it will be used for fishing on a small mountain whitewater. Two things that are confusing me:

    1) Rib Replacement- to my untrained eye, all of the ribs look to be original. There are four ribs that are cracked, and the cracks shows "displacement" between the two ends. I will plan on replacing these. There are also an additional 12 ribs that show hairline cracks, but no displacement or movement. Can I keep these in place in order to keep the patina of the old ribs?

    2) Hardware- it appears that the inwales and outwales have all been replaced in the past, and are in need of replacement again. The problem is, that they are not tacked on. Every other rib has what appears to be a 6/24 flat head bolt, with the nut on the inboard side. The other ribs have a 1-5/8" screw, driven from outboard through the ribs and into the inwales, but they don't protrude. It appears that all of the hardware will have to be removed in order to get the outwales off, but if I do that, the inwales will also then be loose. How do I support the rib ends if both are removed?

  2. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I'll bite.

    1. You will likely want to replace the ribs that show displacement. If they are all in a row next to each other, do one at a time to avoid distorting the hull. If you don't mind seeing the cracks in the others when you are done restoring, you can do a "backside rib repair" on those. Search on the forum for lots of discussion on backside rib repairs.

    2. I worked on a canoe once that had been remuddled by just bolting the inwales to the outwales. When the outwales came off, the inwales just fell into the bilge of the canoe. You can take them off, but you might want to run some straps around the hull to avoid losing shape, especially if the canoe will be without structure for awhile. When you put it back together, the inwales should be secured to each rib with one or two 7/8's inch, No. 14 silicon bronze ring nails. Back the inwale up with a clinching iron when driving the nails. Then after canvas etc. screw the outwale on with a brass or bronze screw at every other rib.

    3. Get a copy of "The Wood and Canvas Canoe", by Stelmok and Thurlow. It is the bible of canoe repair. There are other good repair books out there too.

  3. OP

    Kwatro New Member

    Fitz- Thanks for the reply and the help. I do have a copy of Stelmok's "the Wood and Canvas Canoe", as well has Mike Elliott's "This Old Canoe", and have been reading up on both of them, and realize how much I have to learn!

    1) Ribs- for a the "backside repair" or a rib replacement a better (meaning easier) option. A question I can't seem to find an answer to, is what happens if I just leave the ribs with the hairline cracks in place? Is it more of a cosmetic issue? (If so, I am OK with that as they are barely visible). Is it a major structural flaw? Will it be OK for fishing on a calm lake, but not OK for whitewater?

    Thanks for your help.

    2) Inwales/outwales- Thanks for the tip. I will plan on putting several straps around the hull as you suggested...and try to minimize the time.
  4. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Once you get the thing tore down and stripped inside you'll have a better idea of how to treat the ribs. I recently made over 20 backside rib repairs and it's easy if you use the proper method. And structurally you give up nothing, plus you have more of the original wood, AND you don't have to pull your hair out trying to match the new to old wood with stain/dye. I'm going to guess that those ribs will have to be addressed. You can't just let them go. Now's the time. A backside rib repair takes me about ten minutes or so. Replacing the rib takes a lot longer because just making a new rib can be a 7 step process, not to mention removal of the broken rib. You will, most likely have to remove sections of planking, but that's not too difficult. There is a way of making a backside rib repair by making the 'dutchman' to the thickness of planking plus 1/2 the rib using a router, but I've never tried it.
  5. canoeguybc

    canoeguybc Kettle River Canoes

    Ribs with hairline cracks are usually just a badge of honour in your canoe. Most of the time they do not result in any reduction in the structural integrity of the hull.

    As for backside repairs, I did not include that procedure in "This Old Canoe". To me, this approach to a rib repair is an attempt to avoid steam-bending new ribs. I went into some detail in order to de-mystify the steam-bending process, so give it a try. You'll end up with a stronger, better looking canoe.
  6. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    The place where backside repairs have real merit is when restoring a rare or otherwise very original canoe. It is the best way to regain structural strength while retaining the original fabric of the canoe. There are times where this is more desirable than trying to match new wood to old.
  7. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    For originality sake, I employ the backside repair quite often.
    I've done hundreds of them. The most ever on one canoe was 18 I think... that was Kathryn's 1890 BN Morris.
    I've never had a failure reported in the field. I use G/Flex epoxy which maintains some flexibility when cured.
    On curves, I build a matching form/backer to shape the rib and pre-bend the piece to be glued in. I also make all of the patch pieces with a radius on the ends.... chisel or rout out half the thickness of the rib and make a matching hardwood patch to fill it in.
    Good luck if you go this route... IMG_0552.jpg IMG_0646.jpg
  8. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

  9. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The restoration of my canoe shown at is an example of where the goal is to preserve as much original wood as possible. This canoe also has long wide planking so the traditional approaches to a back side repair were not practical. Some ribs have been replaced but Rollin Thurlow used a different back side repair approach on several of the others. He said "I would not use this repair for any canoe that was going to be used on a regular basis. Leaving that top surface with the crack does help keep the look of the original rib but it's still leaving a bit of a weak spot. It would be much stronger to go ahead and sand all the way through the rib and completely eliminate the area of the crack. But even doing an excellent job of matching the grain, the repair could be fairly easy to pick out ... I did try to match the grain on the side of the rib patches, but even so, the grain on the side will be running straight and not be curved like the rib. Since the patch is on the side of the rib and mostly on the bottom of the canoe and darkly stained, it's very difficult to tell there is a patch under the broken rib."


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
  10. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    That's a remarkable bit of work!

    How was the broken rib removed intact (except for the existing break), and how was it refastened when it was re-installed. In the last photo, it looks like it may have been re-tacked hammering the tacks in from the inside?
  11. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I believe that the tacks were pulled out from the outside in the usual fashion when replacing a rib and then the new tacks hammered in from the outside in the same way you would when installing a replacement rib.

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2016
  12. canoeguybc

    canoeguybc Kettle River Canoes

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for reminding me that many canoes being restored in America are over 100 years old. As such, backside rib repairs are an essential technique in what amounts to artifact conservation of a collector's item rather than restoration and repair of an active member of the family. I doubt that a fully restored 1890 BN Morris canoe will be shooting through rapids or scuffed along rocks in a shallow river anytime soon.

    With that in mind, I will be including this technique in my second book -- This Fancy Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Fancy Antique Canoe

    Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes

    Fancy Canoe Front Cover_sm.jpg
  13. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    You need to get a move on with this book please - I have my wide board canoe sitting in the garden. It's antique and (when finished) it will be fancy and it's waiting patiently for attention.

    If you have written it, I could test the chapter on wide board canoes for you :) :)

  14. canoeguybc

    canoeguybc Kettle River Canoes

    Hi Sam,

    I happy to hear that there is interest and demand for my second book. The wide board canoe is the only one I have not yet lined up for restoration and documentation. If you (or anyone else who has one in need of restoration) can bring it to my shop in Grand Forks, British Columbia, I'll restore it for the cost of materials.

    To discuss this further, contact me via email --

  15. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Kind offer but I have to decline as distance is something of a problem . . . . . however if you pay the shipping, I'll happily pay double for the materials

  16. Michael Graessle

    Michael Graessle Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Mike, I would LOVE to bring my canoe to you, but the trip from the east coast is just cost prohibitive. I am a newbie to restoration, and was wondering how hard doing the backside repairs are. I am fairly adept with wood working, having built a few end tables, book shelves and computer desk. I have a 1925 OT and wonder how brittle the planking is going to be.
  17. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Backside rib repair is easy with a sharp chisel and only takes a minute or two.
  18. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I did this backside repair for a 1912 BN Morris that was destined for a museum, so originality was paramount.
    If possible I try to secure the cracks with epoxy and clamp on a form cut from a piece of wood or a piece of old rib that matches the original shape. Only after it is strengthened do I chisel the pocket about 5/32" deep, or half the thickness of the rib.
    For the hardwood patch, I cut it with radiused ends, steam or boil it and if possible use the inside of the rib next to the crack to bend the shape on the patch.
    Then I clamp the bent patch over the crack and scribe the shape with a knife, remove it and chisel the shape.
    Before I epoxy the patch in, I put tape over the inside of the affected rib to stop excess glue from coming through. Use that piece of old rib or make a form to maintain the shape as you clamp the patch into the pocket.

    Attached Files:

  19. Michael Graessle

    Michael Graessle Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you so much for all the information. As I begin to disassemble my canoe, I will figure out which will be the best method - replace the rib or a backside repair.
  20. Despst

    Despst New Member

    This is very helpful information, and timely for my own repair of a Kennebec "1915" Charles River. Planning to repair, not restore, due to cost and my level of ability. It was covered in fiberglass which is now off. My plan is to repair interior and planking, replace gunwales and decks, and cover with Dacron to save weight.

    Attached Files:

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