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What to do with this 1926 OT HW

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Mike B, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    A member of my congregation gave me this OT HW. It hasn't been in the water for about 40 years. Ten years before that he stripped off the canvas and glassed it. It sat in his garage for 40 years. A complete restore isn't realistic for me, but it would be good to get it back in the water. The donor would be thrilled if some scouts paddled it, even a little. Therefore, I am inclined to patch the glass, get some moisture back into the wood, and fix what's necessary. I'm not sure what it would take to do those minimal steps. And reading the forums overwhelms me when I think about doing this canoe justice (e.g., a total restore).


    Given these pics, what do you think?

    And I'm completely impressed by this group and the professional nature of this forum. Well done, folks.
  2. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    If the glass job is 50 years old, it's probably polyester resin, so it should come off a bit easier... but as you may have noticed while searching this forum, a lot of people won't mess with boats that have been glassed. As Dave Osborne (I think) says, when he sees one that's been glassed, he doesn't walk away from it... he runs away...

    Looking at the way the glass is peeling, it would probably be easier to strip the glass off & do a full restoration, and it would last longer than doing a patchwork job on the glass.

    That all said, many of these old canoes have been brought back to fully restored status, after looking a whole lot worse than yours. Give it some thought!
  3. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    Thanks, Paul, and I'm still overwhelmed at the prospect of replacing planks (see the light shining through the glass? I would have to replace those planks, right?) and ribs.

    I will give it some thought, as you encourage me to.
  4. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I'm not an expert on this, but I don't believe light between the planks is unusual -- it doesn't mean it leaks there, and doesn't need to be "fixed." There are often small gaps between planks; it's the outer shell (canvas/filler/paint, or 'glass) that makes it watertight. So don't get too worried about that!

    In the WCHA online store, you can find this:
    which is a great reference for building a wood/canvas canoe, but also doubles as a restoration guide. Another great guidebook for restoration, which is out of print, is this one:
    But the text on that page sounds like a slightly used copy might be available. It also may be available at, eBay, Craig's List, etc.

    Don't despair! Once you get the glass off, the hard part's all done.
  5. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Paul's right. Getting the glass off is the hardest and worse part. canvassing is easiest. the rest is step by step process. plank gaps are normal. only broken stuff needs to be replaced and it ain't hard. Even I can do it.
  6. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    I'll consider it seriously.
    Take a look at the pic, please, of the canoe on it's side, looking through the inside. You can see lots of light (more than a gap) shining through the glass.
    1. Doesn't that mean I have to replace those planks? Where would I get them?
    2. And if Dave *runs* from a canoe that's been glassed (I realize that's probably hyperbole), that seems to indicate it's nearly not worth it to attempt it.
    3. Do I have to replace the whole outer gunwhales since the ends of them have been chewed up, or can I splice -- somehow -- onto the ends?
    4. The seat doesn't concern me. I could recane that.
    5. I have no idea how to replace a rib, OR IF I NEED TO.
    6. Is the cost of materials going to be closer to $200 or $1000? I have no idea.

    I really was thinking of just patching and getting it back in the water. But I will seriously consider it. Maybe it would be good therapy as I mull over things in my life. ... or maybe I'll need to go to therapy if I attempt this.

    Your counsel is appreciated, and overwhelming.
  7. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    1. Yeah, might need to replace a plank, or maybe just fit a piece in. But pulling old planks off is easy. Milling replacement planks is also easy, though getting the Western Red Cedar can be an issue around here. Start with McCormick Lumber in Madison, unless you have a real lumber yard near you. Some folks have used cedar fence parts from their local big box home centers.
    2. But this canoe has sentimental value. Even Dave O has stripped glass off a canoe when it has this.
    3. You can do it either way. Getting long enough boards for un-spliced replacements can be a challenge, so you might have to splice it any way. Not difficult, just needs some careful set-up. Ralph Frese, at Chcagoland Canoe Base ( has some nice straight-grained ash gunnel stock for sale, if you want ash.
    4. Caning is not difficult, it just takes a bit of time. Sort of therapeutic, actually.
    5 & 6. I'll let Dave take these ones, as he's far more knowledgeable than I. There are ways to splice ribs back together, which I've never done (but will need to, when I get around to that canoe).

    You can also just patch it and float it... just don't expect the patch job to last long. Remember the glass is peeling anyway...

    If you're free, our Great Rivers Chapter is gathering Aug 11th near Fort Atkinson, WI, which isn't too far from you; bring it and you'll have several experienced pairs of eyes looking at it. Ideas & advice will be free, and inspiring! Details here: for this and our other events as well. Any other chapter event will have helpful folks around, as well... Hope to see you there! And feel free to post questions & pictures... You'll get great answers pretty promptly.
  8. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Hi Mike,

    Paul has answered your questions quite well, here are a few more thoughts:

    1) Yes, it appears you have to replace some planking. As Paul indicated, lumberyards, especially those that also do millwork, usually carry western red cedar. You just have to sort through it to find vertical grain stock. If you don't have the ability to mill planking, many of the builders in the WCHA Builders and Suppliers Directory ( can mail order planking (and ribs).

    2) That depends - like many of us Dave is a professional restorer, and it can be hard to turn a profit on a glassed canoe, or at least the estimate needs to be high enough to avoid surprises and that often scares off the customer. I've restored a number of glassed canoes, and generally avoid them now as well. In certain cases though... and for an amateur, time to remove and clean up glass is less an issue.

    3) Splciing in gunwale tips (deck tips also) is a common restoration technique. Just use a proper scarf.


    5) I'd say you need to replace some ribs, based on the photos. This is the most fun part of canoe restoration! White cedar rib stock can be harder to find, again the Builders and Suppliers Directory has sources. Bending ribs has probably been described on these Forums, but if not we can talk you through that.

    6) Probably somewhere in between, by the time you buy canvas, filler, paint, etc...
  9. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I'll be deer hunting near Macomb in November. If you still have it in the fall, I could come and look at it and give you some suggestions.
  10. Mark67

    Mark67 Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Do yourself a favor, and take Dave Osborn up on his offer! He will give you his honest opinion, and not sugarcoat the prognosis. I just completed a year-long restoration with Dave. I'll be adding a new thread about this experience soon. You will not find a better resource. Me & my family (the boat has been in the family since the 20's) could not be more pleased with the outcome. Our canoe had been fiberglassed too, but is now canvased, as it should be. And mine looked just about as "used" as yours. I'll try to attach a before and after photo.
    5. I'm ready to start.jpg IMG_1620.jpg
  11. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    Paul, Dan, Dave, Mark, et al, thank you. I am going to give it a try. I'll begin by preparing (reading) to remove the glass. And, Dave, I'll accept your kind offer to stop by and see the canoe when you're down here in November. Are you going to Fulton County?

    This a leap for me, and I'm a bit excited about it. Thanks.
    - Mike
  12. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Don't hesitate to ask questions -- the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. There are a lot of people on this forum who will be happy to give advice.

    And post pictures. Not only will they help clarify what you're asking about, we just like pictures.....
  13. Mark67

    Mark67 Curious about Wooden Canoes


    Good luck. I am so thankful we took the plunge last year.
    The fiberglass-ectomy you're about to perform, will go easier than you think. A heat gun will be a HUGE help.
    The one thing I was really surprised by, was how simple this boats are contructed. You literally can disassemble the whole with a few hand tools. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't just simple wood screws holding everything together. And you'll find nothing but strong, and genuine encourgement from the guys who post here regularly.

    And as a WIU grad, I'll be following your progress closely.
  14. Ossineke

    Ossineke Curious about Wooden Canoes

    So cool you are givinig it your best effort. It takes one restoration to build confidence in the next. You will learn a lot, don't be discouraged if not showroom perfect (ripple in the canvas, bug died in the paint, fish blood stains remain in planks, etc.). Refurbish, paddle and get those scouts out of the woods and on the water!
  15. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    I haven't abandoned the project. There's just been no time to be able to start. I'll take pictures before I begin to remove the glass. More later.
  16. Ossineke

    Ossineke Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Earlier on someone mentioned Stelmok/Thurlow's book and I notice WCHA has it out of stock. You can obtain the book right from the authors- My wife and I are still rookies on our second restoration yet in addition to this forum we found that book so helpful. Questions about palnks, ribs, canvas, etc. are well covered. They even provide a few jokes and stories at no extra cost. We refer to the book often as we continue to learn. Our first project had a butterfly in the final coat of paint and also the canoe leaked at the keel! Both issues we overcame with practice. Keep us posted on your progress, you can do this!
  17. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    I still haven't started the project, but I will. Thanks, folks.
  18. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    It's a worthwhile project. Our church has built two from scratch and restored one and gave them away as door prizes at our wild game dinners. We did the work at my house on Saturday mornings, instead of mowing the grass.
  19. Howard Caplan

    Howard Caplan Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Dave Osborn is tops and as was said, he will give you the info you need to make your decision.
    I did take on a fiber glassed canoe. The glass came off, OK. It was time consuming and I did damage some planks in the process. The next step was to replace the broken planks and I also replaced the ones I shaled too much cedar from while removing the glass.
    I bought a very hot heat gun. Contact me if you would like a gun with "used" price tag on it as I don't plan on taking in any more glassed canoes.
    The other item I bought was a set of "dental" picks that are made for projects like this. The picks allowed me to clean out the glass and resin that was wedged between the planks. Again, careful, slow work is the key. Also, as hot as you can get the section you are working is best. Once it's hot, make it hotter. Back off when smoke starts rising from the wood.
    Good luck!
  20. OP
    Mike B

    Mike B Novice at the wood canoe

    Ha! "Back off when smoke starts rising..."
    I might contact you about that heat gun. I have access to one, but it might not be hot enough. We'll see.

    I'm starting to read some of the threads here to learn more, and I'm going to search for the Stelmok/Thurlow book locally and online.

    And I'll take pictures. Thanks, folks.

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