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Shell Lake Canoes

Discussion in 'Research and History' started by BadgerBoater, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. BadgerBoater

    BadgerBoater Northwest Wisconsin Canoe

    Looking to find information on Shell Lake canoes and boats, made by the original Shell Lake boatworks before the Peterson Bros. Would like to find photos, drawings, etc. All info is appreciated. Thanks! :)
  2. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

  3. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    There's a junk shop outside Spooner, WI with this sign (below). While Denis and I were in Spooner a few months back, an elderly couple was pointed out as being former owners of the Shell Lake Company. There may be a lot of Shell Lake info at the new canoe museum that's underway there.


    Attached Files:

  4. OP

    BadgerBoater Northwest Wisconsin Canoe

    Thanks Dan & Kathryn -

    Dan, you've comprised a lot of valuable information on canoes and makers. I've added your site to my favorites for future reference.

    Kathryn, that little antique shop in Spooner is Poor Richard's, and he is very unreasonable when it comes to pricing his boats. He's alos not very responsible with his storage of some of the canoes he has there. I work for a small company located just north of Spooner, so I'm familiar with Poor Richard's. I'm also aware of the effort to open a wooden canoe museum in Spooner. It's to be housed in the vacated Farmer's Union feed store, adjacent to the Spooner historic rail museum. It should be a good location. I understand that the museum is to be receiving canoe donations from two collectors from the Madison, WI area - some 30+ canoes to start. There was a news article in the Spooner Advocate not long ago about the museum and local and seasonal residents actually forming a WCHA chapter. That would be great! I mentioned that I work in the Spooner area, but I live in the Ladysmith area - that's a 75 mile one-way commute. By the way, are you familiar with a local builder by the name of Dennis Williams? I know that he is involved in the museum. The initial meeting of the group started at his shop, with Dennis giving a demo on re-canvasing a strip canoe, and then they went to the museum for the balance of the meeting.

    Anyway, thanks to both for the info!
  5. garypete

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Shell Lake Boat Company Info

    Swing over to Shell Lake on one of your trips home and check out the Washburn County Historical Society Museum just south of the courthouse on Highway 63. They have a surprising amount of information about the Shell Lake Boat Company.

    And you may want to join our Wild Rivers chapter of the WCHA. I've sent you some information about the group and the monthly workshop meetings we're holding this winter. Check your Private Messages mailbox.

    Gary Peterson
    Rice Lake
  6. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I am writing an article on the history of Shell Lake Boat for "Classic Boating" magazine. I have done tons of research. I sat down with six old timers that worked there for about two hours one day. I also sat down with Bill Ek for a couple of hours. His dad was co-owner of the company for many years and Bill worked there too.

    From 1962 to 1968 Shell Lake Boats, Inc. had many stockholders including a number of Spooner area business men. Henry Kronlund who owned the Ford dealership was one of them.

    And yes, the museum/historical society in Shell Lake has a great deal of information. They have items that they don't even realize have value - like a huge ring binder with production or shipping records with serial number listings! It's just sitting out in the open on a desk!

    The Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum at Arnolds Park, Iowa has a file folder of old Shell Lake Boat brochures. This came from the collection of Mr. Bob Speltz, which he donated to the museum prior to his death.

    What is the reason for your inquiry about Shell Lake?

    Andreas Jordahl Rhude
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2008
  7. OP

    BadgerBoater Northwest Wisconsin Canoe

    Andreas -

    Thanks for the info. Both you and Gary brought to my attention that there was a historical museum in Shell Lake. I have not been there yet, so I'll schedule a trip there.

    I'm mainly interested in finding out a little more about the Shell Lake company as a local boat maker, not only of canoes. I know they made duck boats "car toppers" and others. Hopefully, they would have some product catalogs, drawings, etc. to look over.

    Interesting that you mentioned Henry Kronlund, as I work with his great-grandson. He is aware that his great-grandfather had a connection with Shell Lake, but no details.

    How's the Thompson club going?

    Thanks for the info - I'm sure you'll be writing an interesting article.

  8. thompsonboatboy

    thompsonboatboy LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Can't recall in detail what they have at the historical society at Shell Lake, but there was one photocopy of an early 1900s brochure. Not much else. There are NO drawings. They had some old photos. Several duck boats, a Snipe boat, and a ski bronc in the collection. Probably the most important thing is the big thick binder of either sales receipts or shipping records that was just sitting out in the open on top of a desk. It frightened me that it was so carelessly sitting in the open. I flipped thru it quickly and it listed watercraft with serial numbers..... I had planned to visit again this past summer, but was too busy with work. They are not open in the winter.

    Oh, there is file of boat stuff at the public library.

    Shell Lake was a fairly early entrant into the fiberglass boat field. They began making the switch from wood to fiberglass in 1954.

    In November 1961 Shell Lake Boat Co. closed their doors. In April 1962 a liquidation auction took place. The buyers of the inventory and machinery, piece by piece, were local investors and a group from Illinois and Superior, WI. Henry Kronlund was amongst this group. They incorporated as Shell Lake Boats, Inc. and began rebuilding the operation. It was this entity that was purchased by Lund Boats in 1968. Irwin "Irv the Liquidator" Jacobs eventually got control of Lund, thus Shell Lake. He was the one to pull the plug on Shell Lake on Valentine's Day 1980.

  9. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Interesting info

    Thanks, I just brought home a wonderful old clunker 116 218. Would love to see the paperwork. Is the only way to go to Shell Lake? The deck is dado'ed and a threaded rod holds the inwales together and to the deck. otherwise, inwale is fastened with screws to the deck. An interesting feature.

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  10. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    da dado

    here is a shot of the underside of the deck. Both ends are the same.

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  11. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Hi Dave-- Our "shell of a Shell Lake" is similar to yours (not in as great shape, though)... has Thompsonoid features, such that I thought it might be a Thompson until we got the serial number plate. Will post our s/n when we locate it (!), and Denis says he'll go out and fool around with what's left of the gunwales, so he can join the conversation.

  12. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    Mine has stringers where the seats would go, if I had the seats. Would like to see a detail photo of that, if anyone has one. Kathy, check your email.
  13. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Checked the Shell Lake. S/N is 116 110, inwale is Spruce, outwale is Ash. Our deck has a dado through which the steel rod ran (gone). The screws are from the outwale to inwale and are counter sunk. The seats are pretty crude. They are Ash. Kathy will send photos. There is a cleat that is screwed to the stiles and rails the secures the pre-woven caning. These have had stiffening cleats added to the under side. Whether they are original or not I don't know. They had been varnished. Hope this helps.
  14. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Shell Lake Seats

    Attaching pictures of the seats. Denis has pictures of the canoe as a whole, but he has to figure out how to get the pictures out of his camera-- it's a new camera, and very nice but more complex than my point-n-shoot... and it takes these "raw files" that have to be converted.

    I hope you know we'd love to have you stop by and examine the canoe seats in-person!


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  15. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?


    I won't be pulling a camper and won't be pressed for time this time. the seats look complicated. My seats are absent. Except for the cleats that are fastened to the ribs by nails, I think. Do you recall what the decks are of?
  16. Denis M. Kallery

    Denis M. Kallery Passed Away July 3, 2012 In Memoriam

    Dave, I believe they are Ash.
  17. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    More Shell Seats

    They're mortised together... and Bertie thinks they're very interesting...

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  18. Brad Koeneman

    Brad Koeneman Maker of fine kindling

    Shell Lake Connection

    Great info and links in this thread. My father, who is still alive and well, worked for the Shell Lake Boat Company for a while in the late 50's and early 60's. I was not aware that they even built w&c canoes until doing some research on the company a few days ago as I recently aquired a small fiberglass runabout built in 1962, the year of my birth. I would like to think that my Dad had some role in building that boat, even if only in sweeping the floors. My point is, if anyone has any pointed questions about the company during that time period, I would be happy to ask him.
  19. Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Canoe Nut


    I have attached pictures of a very interesting "Shell Lake" stepped hull hydroplane that has a tag "F.W. Conselman" of Shell Lake, WI. The boat is very similar to other stepped hull boats made in about 1928 and 1929.

    I believe Conselman was the owner of Shell Boats in the early 1930 or close to that.

    Let me know if you have ever come across any information about these boats.



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  20. garypete

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I was surprised to learn that in three years in the early 1950s, Shell Lake produced more wooden canoes than anyone else in the world--including Old Town.

    That was in the heyday of youth summer camps, and the camps bought Shell Lake canoes in record numbers. They were popular with camp directors because they were wide and flat-bottomed (and so initially felt very stable), and although heavy with the beefy construction and continuous ribbed floor, they were just about bulletproof.

    In my high-school years, I worked summers as a counselor in a Boy Scout camp very near Shell Lake, and the camp was just making the switch from wood canoes to aluminum. At the end of one summer, I was able to buy two of the well-used Shell Lake canoes. This was pre-Ebay and pre-WCHA, so I picked up the two very serviceable canoes for $65 total.

    A question for your father would be if he knows anyone working at the boat factory during the 1960s who may have acquired the original Shell Lake metal-clad canoe forms. I've talked to lots of old-time former employees of the boat factory in Shell Lake, but no one knows what happened to the forms.

    I'd love to find one of the old forms hidden away in some ancient barn in rural Shell Lake and take it to the new canoe museum in nearby Spooner to set up and start making canoes off it again. What a piece of working history that would be!

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