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Video on fiber glassing a wood canoe?

Discussion in 'Traditional All-Wood Construction' started by Unclewhoo, May 8, 2014.

  1. Unclewhoo

    Unclewhoo Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Are there any good videos on the internet that show how to fiber glass a wood canoe? I've found a few videos but I would like to view a couple more before tackling this delicate job by myself.

    The videos on the internet that I have viewed do not include fiber glassing a keel. My canoe has a keel.

    Also the videos have shown 'almost' the finished product.....they normally end the video with loose fiber glass hanging over the ends of the canoe.....I would like to know how the very finishing touches are done. Especially at the gunwales, bow and stern.

    Thank you in advance.
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I wouldn't be surprised if there are videos on glassing a modern wood strip/fiberglassed inside and outside skin type, but glassing a rib and plank boat is much more difficult and tricky. Unless you happen to already have some pretty serious fiberglassing chops and have prepared the hull carefully by fairing it and sealing up or filling plank head dents, cracks between the planking and any other irregularities, the chances of getting a good glass skin on there aren't very good at all. You run a serious chance of ending up with a lumpy, very overweight and possibly not even watertight hull - aside from the fact that on most old boats it may really do a number on the resale value.

    I'm not trying to give you grief on the subject, but the questions you are asking indicate that you have no experience doing this. For example, you would never glass over a keel, as it will break along the edges if it doesn't rot out first. You would remove it, glass the hull and then reinstall it with bedding compound over the glass. Better yet though - fix the boat using the materials and techniques that it was originally built with. No modern fix is going to last any longer, if even as long.

    You have found the best website on the planet for information on the proper repair, restoration and preservation of traditional wooden canoes, and most of us don't bite (at least not hard). It would be a shame not to take advantage of the knowledge base here and fix the boat properly for its next go-round.
  3. OP

    Unclewhoo Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks Todd for your response.

    The canoe I am working on is a cedar strip canoe. I believe it is homemade built around 1980. The canoe is unique cause it is 12 feet long. It was originally built as a tandem, but I have converted it to a solo.

    I bought the canoe for $150. The solo seat is installed, the outside fiberglass has been removed, cracks have been filled with epoxy and the entire canoe has been sanded.

    I added the keel cause the canoe is so short. I believe there was a keel on the canoe prior to me purchasing it.....according to the symmetrical holes on the floor of the canoe.

    I own two Kevlar canoes. Both canoes were severely damaged when I purchased them. I have fiberglassed them back into float-able canoes. I do have some experience, but I am no professional. This cedar strip canoe will never be close to a picture perfect canoe. There are many flaws. My first goal is to make the canoe floatable, seconded make it functional and third have it look somewhat decent.

    So if the look of the canoe is third on my there a possibility to cut a piece of fiberglass a bit wider than the keel and epoxy that down....and let it cure? Then lay fiberglass over the entire haul (maybe cutting out the middle for the keel) and fiberglassing that over the fiberglassed keel?

    Sad to say, but I am unable to remove the keel.....long story, but I am unable to remove it!

    Thanks for your input so far......I sure would appreciate more comments.
  4. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    From the photos you posted at the boat you are talking about is a modern strip-built canoe, not a traditional rib/plank canoe.

    I know basically nothing about strippers, but it is an often-expressed opinion on these forums that it can be easier to build a new stripper from scratch that it is to remove the fiberglass from a stripper and then re-glass it. Have you considered simply refinishing the hull? If not, why not?

    Take a look at

    Oops -- you posted your reply above while I was drafting this.
    Last edited: May 9, 2014
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    OK, so it's a stripper and not "traditional all wood construction" as the thread category indicates. That's a different scenario to some extent, but with old dead strippers, seldom a pretty one. Most strippers are glassed with two layers of six ounce woven fiberglass on each side of the wooden core, one covering the entire hull and the other being a partial layer which doubles the cloth over the bottom for more durability. Both the inside and outside of the hull get this layer-and-a-half approach. The glassing is done before the gunwales, keel or other trim is installed and the gunwales will eventually sandwich the glassed hull up along the sheer line when they are finally installed.

    The stems are usually left bare right at the ends and strips of bias-cut fiberglass cloth are applied after the main glassing to cover the stems. They overlap onto the main glass layers for an inch or two. Bias-cut fiberglass strips are cut 3"-4" wide from the roll of fabric with the cloth weave running diagonal to the strip you are cutting out. When saturated with resin, the bias weave allows the strips to conform to and wrap around tight curves and contours (like stems) much better than just a normally cut strip of cloth can do. Once the main layers and bias-cut stem strips of cloth have been applied, the weave texture gets completely filled with coats of plain resin, then sanded smooth and eventually painted or varnished.

    If you can't remove the keel and absolutely must glass over it, I would probably glass the boat's outside in sections. Run a long bias cut-strip about 6" wide over the keel, bow to stern and onto the flat next to the keel. I would then glass the bottom partial layer in two pieces, right and left, running up to the keel (but not over it) and overlapping the keel bias strip. Then I would add the full layer in right/left sections - up to but not over the keel, and finally another bias strip or two over the keel. Once the filler coats go on over all this, they will go a long way toward smoothing out the layering and there won't be a tremendous amount of sanding needed to get the area fair. Be aware though that the glass-covered keel is still going to be a terrible potential weak spot and abrasion concentration spot if you run shallow water. If it was my boat, I would grind, plane or sand the keel off if I had to long before even thinking about glassing over it.

    And yes, rebuilding an old stripper is more work than building a nice new one, and not a hell of a lot cheaper. It's also more difficult than building a new boat. The end result is almost never anywhere near as fair or nice looking as the new one would be and in the vast majority of cases, it simply is not worth the cost or labor involved. If a used stripper has anything more than minor scratches you don't want it, and if it shows discoloration of the wood under the fiberglass, then it has serious structural and core-leakage problems and you should run away quickly (at any price - even free).

    As to why this seemingly home-built canoe has a serial number (from the other thread)... Some states require a serial number engraved or riveted to any boat, even home-builts. You fill out a form, pay some money and they issue you a serial number. Some additionally require typical boat registration and numbering, and some even require an inspection before you can legally use it. That may be why it has a number and why that number is not in the typical format used by manufacturers.
  6. OP

    Unclewhoo Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I'm just about to head out to the lake for the weekend.......I have one quick question. If I were to get the keel off.....after fiberglassing would you re-install the keel? The canoe is approximately 12 feet long and I think about 30 inches wide.
  7. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Paddle it without the keel for a while, and decide if you want it. It's easier to add it later than it is to remove it later... as you now know.
  8. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I wouldn't. I'm just not a fan of what keels do to the handling of any canoe, and I firmly believe that the old statement that they make handling cross-winds better is about 99.9% bunk. There are much better, much more efficient ways to do that when you design a canoe. In the case of a stripper, you also have the extra holes through the hull for screws holding a keel on, and their potential to be a pathway for water to get into the core to consider.
  9. OP

    Unclewhoo Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I plan to use a kayak paddle so I'm sure it will track somewhat straight.
  10. OP

    Unclewhoo Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I finished the fiberglass on the outside of my canoe. I am very satisfied with the end product.....actually I am a bit surprised on how easy it was and that it looks pretty good.

    However now my little canoe weighs 63 pounds. I figured out 1/3 of the weight is the gunwales. The gunwales are made from a composite wood. What kind of wood is normally used for gunwales? I would like to replace these gunwales with something lighter. If I were to replace the gunwales it have to be a wood that bends and curves.....the gunwales on my canoe are anything but straight. Any suggestions?

  11. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    I've used spruce, cherry, ash, mahogany, cypress. Nice looking canoe.
  12. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Of the woods listed by Dave, spruce would usually be the lightest -- it was used by Old Town on its 50 pounders -- but any of those woods should give you gunwales considerably lighter than 20 pounds.

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