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Restore or leave original?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by MGC, Jan 1, 2008.

  1. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    but they simply are not Rushtons.
    Well this is true, but then they are as well if not better built, but unfortunately not the time machine the original would be for a paddler. (if robust enuf to still be used)
    This thread hit home with me not for all the furious debate and opinions, but on a personal note when my attitude changed 2 years ago. For years restoring motorcycles we did the frame up thing, and although remaining true to the original intended finishes, they were nevertheless redone, losing all of the originality. The resale market then swung dramatically from the over restored to the original, even if battered or only traces of finishes remain. I believe Michael echoes my own evolved view - when selling off part of the family estate I sold a 1923 Doctors coupe Model T to a collector and his father in New York, it was the last year for suicide doors and so on. We acquired it from the original owner, he passed on at over 80 and had received it from his father, the town doctor, on turning 16. It was unrestored and had not run since 1969. The point of my ramble is that the purhcasers, two rather knowledgeable fellows were so ecstatic at finding an unmolested original car (their words, but apt) that they spent the next hour in front of me confirming as well as denying theories on assembly and build practices at the factory in the '20s. They took it home, had it running 2 days later and are currently using it. I would normally have disassembled the entire car, and refinished each piece, no doubt losing the link Kathy speaks of. To properly restore a model T you should buy one part enamel, put it in a crude paint gun, and stand back about 3' and shoot the car as it rolls by at 2 miles/hour, just like Henry did along with dust, bugs and sags. NOT BASF 2 stage paint, 1000 grit wet sand and clear coat and so on.
    Hence my original reply of strip, sand and paddle - unless president Taft's signature is on it in pencil. Nothing beats using it like John says, but in some cases I absolutely side with Michael and promote preservation over restoration, even at the expense of not having it useable if it is a repository of information.
    I'll get off my soapbox now.
  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    "If what Kathryn says is true ("WE are "the canoe market"."), then maybe Greg's statement is reasonable."

    Michael, I'm not sure what you are saying. If what Kathryn says is not true, it is not clear to me what part of what I wrote thereby becomes unreasonable.

    But I do think Kathryn's perhaps slightly hyperbolic statement is true. Fairly read, I think "WE" includes all those who love canoeing and old canoes and restored canoes, both WCHA members and many others like use who are not members but who value their wooden boats (I bought my H A Packard hulk, er, restoration project, a year before I joined the WCHA). Then WE are certainly the major part of the market for old canoes. Of course there are a few museums buying a few old boats, and the odd collector who can afford to pay huge amounts of money for a pristine Rushton, and certainly there are some bookcase makers who buy whatever they can get cheap, but I think it fair to say that WE are the main part of the market for old wooden and wood/canvas canoes).

    Previously I posed two questions -- here's a third that should be also asked-- when buying an old canoe, are you collecting an artifact, or are you acquiring just a boat to be used at least some of the time in some of the traditional ways most canoes are used -- day-tripping, fishing, messing about, camping, river-running? If your purchase is simply either an artifact or a boat to be used, the decision on what to buy and how to treat it is fairly easy. The collector will buy a rare and/or unusual boat, keep it inside in a protected environment, taking it out of circulation like a coin collector removes a treasured coin from the stream of commerce. The person who wants to throw the canoe on top of the car to take all over the countryside in search of fish, or challenging rivers, or lakes with secluded campsites, etc., would ordinarily choose a boat that will not cause pain when it is scratched, dinged, or even seriously broken.

    However, the two categories are not necessarily incompatible. Many people who collect old things also like to use them, and because many old things, antiques if you will, are not rare and unique treasures, this is just fine. People live in old houses, paint and repair them, and put modern kitchens and bathrooms in them. Some old houses, of course, are so special that they should not be lived in, and should be preserved as is (although what "as is" is often a point of debate and even contention). But most old houses cannot be preserved as uninhabited museums displaying their 18th or 19th century conditions – there is neither the interest nor the money to do so. So people live in old houses, and put new kitchens and bathrooms in the old houses so they can cook efficiently and not have to run out through the snow to the outhouse in the middle of the night. Importantly, in most cases this is not a problem, because most old houses, even attractive, well-built ones, just are not worth the trouble, and even more, the expense, of keeping in, or restoring to, original condition.

    However, just as anyone who buys an old original-condition house is free to live in it "as is," if they wish, so to are they free (unless the house is regulated in a historic or landmark district) to restore it and/or modernize parts of it, as most will do. Most people like to go to museums -- they do not like to live in them. And so while they may keep some original features as is, and restore others to like-original condition -- the woodwork and plaster, and maybe the window sashes and wallpaper (the old styles are attractive), they usually also provide for central heating, modern plumbing, and electric service -- and nobody complains. Indeed, valid complaints are made when ordinary maintenance of the exterior is not kept up and paint deteriorates (as has the paint on the eBay canoe).

    Similarly, most people buy canoes to use, even old canoes. If they didn't, we wouldn't have very many of them. And to use them, they put on new canvas, they replace broken ribs, they strip oxidized varnish, they weave new cane seats, they paint with a color they like (maybe the original, maybe not), and they put on a few coats of UV resistant varnish. Such work, of course, would be inappropriate on a truly rare, exemplary specimen, just as casual repairs and refinishing on a Goddard-Townsend highboy would be inappropriate. But I don't think the eBay Old Town canoe is comparable to an 18th century Newport desk, and I don't think the canoe owner should feel constrained as the owner of a colonial era masterpiece should be. The Old Town is perhaps more comparable to a Grand Rapids Eastlake style piece -- factory produced, well made, functional, good design, attractive and worthy of continued use and preservation.

    Some people or businesses can afford to collect old canoes, whether rare or not, and have the space to keep them in their original or "as is" condition. They may even have the desire and ability to display them. The LL Bean store in Freeport, Me., for example, has a few wonderful old boats hanging up where everyone can see them, although being 15 feet or so of the ground, no one can see details well. But most people, even those who love old canoes, cannot afford, or do not have the space, or do not have the desire, to expend energy and effort to just hang on to an old boat without using it --even LL Bean probably wouldn't keep the old boats around in a warehouse -- they are "using" them 24 hours a day quite effectively, if non-traditionally.

    Certainly old boats become centers of interest in shows and displays -- they are interesting. But that does not mean that everyone who buys an old boat, even an interesting old boat, has an obligation to preserve it and display it, just as not everyone who buys an old house should preserve it and open it to the public.

    I don't know who bought the eBay Old town that started this discussion. It might, indeed, be nice if that buyer would preserve it, or even donate it to a museum that might have the space to display it and the resources to properly keep it (and it does cost money to keep a canoe, especially for display -- consider how the collection of Adney birchbark models has been treated by a museum for many years). But I do not think I have standing to suggest that the buyer of the eBay canoe is under some sort of obligation to make an $1875 donation to a museum, or to hold an $1875 asset fallow just because others might, someday, enjoy seeing it.

    Michael, if you would not put the eBay canoe in the water, and of course not use it as a pot for plants, what would you do with it after spending $1875 for it?

    I think it would be a crying shame if the buyer was so benighted as to cut it up for furniture; it would be an aesthetic disaster if the buyer painted the interior chartreuse with purple polka dots; and it would be a great pity if he risked it in class IV white water.

    I do think the eBay boat some value "as is," but I think it would be a bit of a waste if a collector were to simply hoard the boat, stashing it in a barn where it is not used and rarely seen.

    I think it would be none of those things if a respectful restoration -- new canvas, new varnish, repairs if necessary -- were done so that the canoe would be used and kept in good condition for another 100 years. Keep in mind that the buyer's family -- potential heirs -- may hate canoeing and think that the old man is nuts to have bought that ratty old boat; if it isn't restored but is left hanging in a barn, when he croaks, his children who never had the chance to paddle it may sell it in a yard sale where the local bookcase builder may pick up a real "bargain" --a worn old canoe with tatty canvas and cracked varnish. More likely, it will meet the fate of many an old worn-out looking canoe -- it will be stored on the ground in the back yard where it will not so slowly rot away.

    Just hanging on to an old boat, even an unusual or even rare one, does not even guarantee its survival.
  3. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    an example



    Is a good example. It has been listed many times. A pretty fair price, or close to it. And probably interesting in that it was restored by one of the elders. And yet it doesn't sell. The 1910 Charles River canoe brought a bit more and I think a fair price. The original older canoes tend to bring more money than the well restored ones. My guess is that even if finished completely, Mr. Fortin's canoe would sell for 1200-1500.

    The lesson here is that the older unrestored original canoes have more market value than restored ones. Generally speaking. Therefore, if your priority is investment value, then do not restore. Preserve it.

    Another interesting thing. Old Town has name recognition value. Most members realize Old Town is a great canoe and company but we tend to get more excited over and pay more money for the Rushtons, etc. The average citizen would probably pay more for an Old Town and less for the rare Rushton. An inverse of what we perceive to be actual value as a function of name recognition.

    I should put the disclaimer here; but won't.
    One other thing. Bifidus Regularis is not a real word.
    Happy New Year all.
  4. MikeCav

    MikeCav Restorer/Videographer

    That boat seems to have a bit more than average restoration (depending on how you define restoration) replacement seats (pressed cane), seats on stringers, not posts, keel screws in every rib, not every other.
  5. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Hi Greg,

    First, please understand that I agree with almost everything you’ve said here. If you re-read the thread, you’ll see that I and others wrote multiple times that everyone is free to do what they want with their own property, but we (as exemplified here) are free to disagree with people’s choices.

    You wrote “…it would be a bit of a waste if a collector were to simply hoard the boat…”. Many may agree with this sentiment, just as others may agree with the sentiment that some boats should be preserved. I agree with you and I hope everyone else here that cutting canoes in half for bookshelves is generally a bad idea. But there have been discussions about this and people weren’t lynched for having made a half-canoe display out of a more common canoe that had been severely damaged. So again, everyone can do whatever they want with their own property, and we are all free to be frustrated by hiding a wonderful old canoe away in original condition, just as we are free to mutter “what a shame” if we wish at a pristine original and rare canoe that gets a better-than-new restoration.

    As for “we, the canoe market”, I take this to mean those of us who frequent this site and/or are members of the WCHA. Yes, there are many, and this is good! But there are many more, I’ll bet, who don’t share our kind of passion- collectors with no real interest in being on the water, home decorators, business decorators, etc. I get far more calls/emails from people interested in a canoe to hang in their summer home, and from businesses wanting canoes for display in their restaurants/shops than I do from people looking for canoes to put on the water. And most of the people who contact me for restoration are people who want only to preserve their family history- they may or may not actually use the restored canoe, but I know from follow-ups that most don’t actually use them. This is all fine- it’s their canoe (whoever “they” are, and whatever they choose to do with the canoe).

    So you wanna get down to brass tacks? I didn’t buy or even bid on the Ebay 1910 Old Town canoe, but would certainly enjoy having it. And the fate of this particular one? If I had bought it, given the photos and information available, I’m sure I would have restored it- as close to original as possible, of course! And its fate would have had nothing to do with its cost, whether I bought it for $1875 or $18 or even $8000- I would have done with it what I thought was best, be it preservation or restoration. But to me, this was totally beside the point of the discussion in this thread. I am simply arguing for the preservation of SOME historically significant old boats, which I still believe is not only an acceptable philosophy, but extremely important (to me and to many other people now and in the future). Some people simply enjoy tangible, direct connections to history through artifacts from the past- not things that just REPRESENT the past because they are replicas or because they’ve been through multiple rounds of restoration. The wants and needs of preservationists are of no less valid than those of people in the “use it or it’s useless” camp. And I don’t think anyone here even suggested that the buyer of an old canoe has “some sort of obligation to make an $1875 donation to a museum, or to hold an $1875 asset fallow just because others might, someday, enjoy seeing it.”

    Finally (finally!), as for the idea of hoarding things away in barns never to be seen again by another person… ask Mike Cav, Paul Miller or a variety of others who have visited- we’ve got canoes on display in the living room, den and elsewhere around the house! It took some arm-twisting (and a couple of serious storms) to convince my wife, but now we’re surrounded by canoeing history whether we’re on the water or sitting on the couch with friends! And boy, does it spread the passion for these old boats- people ranging from friends and family visiting from afar, to canoe types like us, to the local pizza delivery girl all go “wow, that’s wonderful!” And I agree with you, Greg, that just holding onto an old boat doesn’t guarantee its long-term survival. I truly worry (for naught of course) that all my enjoyment, all my efforts to preserve a little canoe history, could so easily be swept away when I’m gone. =Sure, this is pointless worry; there is nothing that can be done about it. None of us will live forever, but we should be free to enjoy our passions as we see fit while we’re here. Which reminds me- how's that beer, Mike?

    Last edited: Jan 4, 2008
  6. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    yes, Mr Fortin's canoe looks more like a rebuild than restore. Perhaps that's one reason it has not sold. That, and the fact that it is neither fish nor fowl. It has to be finished to be useful as a paddler. AND it ain't original anymore so not useful as a display piece either. If we knew more about Mr. Fortin, (or if someone wrote a book on him) I think the canoe would be much more desirable. I am enjoying this thread and the various opinions, which seem to mostly agree.
  7. vatwood

    vatwood Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Mr Fortin

    With some in-depth investigation I have found one David Fortin from VT the same home town as Homer Simpson. Looks like the gentleman you are talking about.
  8. mark wismer

    mark wismer WCHA Member

    It is all based on personal preferences. Everytime I take my canoe to the local county park's lake, The yuppies flocking in w/ their plastic sit-upon craft don't pay any mind to my canoe. I didn't expect them to give it a second glance as they hustle up in their big SUV's and drop a bunch of plastic on the bank before donning gaudy PFD's and setting out w/ the latest sclupured plastic double paddle...

    But the one guy w/ a glass canoe w/ outriggers & other fishing gear took one look and says it looks like 'a labor of love'...he made it worth the hours of making my canoe serviceable again...

    But what do I know; we only paid $45.00 for the Otca...but it's priceless to me!
  9. Bill Perron

    Bill Perron Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes


    So, I got on the site today to see if there was any evidence that WCHA would condemn me to writhe in hell for all of eternity if I added painter rings to a canoe (1936 OTCA-CS) that never before had them. YIKES! I found this thread about Restoration/Conservation and it quickly became a situation where I was, in effect, asking "What time is it?" and now I know how to build a watch. I think it was great to get so many well thought-out ideas. Do you ever have panel discussions at the Assembly about this topic? I think I am going with the rings without fear...or not.

    Thanks again and

    All the best

    Bill Perron
  10. MikeCav

    MikeCav Restorer/Videographer

    OH NO! PAINTER RINGS!!!!!!!!!! :eek:
  11. bob goeckel

    bob goeckel Wooden Canoe Maniac

    yer on that slippery slope that ends with fiberglassing your canoe! shame on you. wern't you raised RIGHT?:eek:
  12. OP

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Get out the the drill

    To retain originality you could simply bore a large hole through each each deck to pass a rope through. Simply tie a knot on the inside of the deck to keep the rope in place. This approach is far more elegant in that you are accomplishing the same obective without adding hardware that was not original to the canoe. :rolleyes:
  13. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Painter ring assemblies analogous to those used by Old Town long ago are available from Old Town, from Northwoods Canoe, and possibly from others. See:

    These work and look great. Easy to attach, strong, stable, and historically accurate. See attached photo.


    Attached Files:

  14. OP

    MGC Scrapmaker

  15. chris pearson

    chris pearson Michigan Canoe Nut

    No Bastar#ization Zone

    ;) Hey, modifying or adding hardware etc. to a canoe is ok if done right. Adding what couldve easily been an option is ok in my book as long as you can do it without bastar#izing" the boat. Drilling a 3/4" hole, 1/2" off center on the decks is a cryin shame. Thats what my guide had on it. Now theyre plugged and the fore deck will have the new decal over it and the aft will have the WCHA decal over it. So modify, but use your head while doing it. Painter rings bought from a source like Rollin is good, try to make an attempt at "historically correct". I wish I had a nickel for every canoe that I saw with a ragged, nasty, rat hole hap hazardly drilled out with a dull drill bit and a pistol drill. Bottom line, if youve seen it done by the factory, then go for it.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2008
  16. thirsty

    thirsty #8111

    I don't know how many times I've read and re-read this thread and others like it since last November when we found our Indian Girl. I value the opinions from all of you that share our passion for these vintage pieces. The collective wisdom on this forum is very helpful.

    I'm reviving the thread because I just finished reading it again as I prepare to attend my 1st Assembly. I am bringing two canoes, our Indian Girl and our 1933 AA OT OTCA sailing canoe. Peggy & I think both are worthy of consideration for preservation vs. restoration, each for somewhat different reasons. I've been so tempted over the past months to "start" something, but have been not so patiently waiting for assembly, and all your opinions. We hope to get alot of suggestions & feedback on,.... how to proceed? Should we proceed? What would you do with it? When is enough, not enough?....when is it too much? What should be done about the paint on the gunnels? Should we leave the job to someone else, (ouch)? We value your varied opinions, and are interested in all your suggestions.

    To borrow a quote from this thread, " Friends don't let friends screw up a restoraton job."

    Dave & Peggy Davidson

    P.S. Speaking of painters rings, if we could only find one for our Indian Girl.
  17. Bill Perron

    Bill Perron Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes


    I look forward to meeting you at the Assembly (interested in hiking Mt. Monadnock?). When we painted a mural on the OTCA it pretty much keep us from riding the restore-to-original train. We think it looks great, you be the judge when you get to Rindge. I have not added the painters yet but if I find the right ones...

    The Forum was an indispensable tool for us.

    See you soon

    Bill & Dutchie Perron

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