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Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Ron Bedard, Aug 5, 2019.

  1. Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Gave a 2nd coat to the inside of a 1944 Guide 18' today. (see a post "varnish" if you'd like) With the radio off, I had time to wonder what life was like for Ralph Smith from Hudson, Ma. when he bought this canoe at the close of WWII. It must have been an expensive purchase back then. Could he have been a returning veteran?
    Also, what were Old Town's circumstances at the time. Were they just ramping up production after lean sales during the war? Had they converted to production of war-related materiel?
    I think that this canoe might have some components and construction details that reflect upon the production dates. The stem bands are steel (not bronze), and the plank tacks are also steel. (not sure whether they were ever bronze or copper)
    I'm going to dig around for some Old Town history for the WWII period. I'd be happy to have anyone weigh in with whatever related info they'd care to share.
  2. Just1moredave

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Some other information is in this thread:

    My canoe has washers on the diamond head bolts that are cut up from brass strap, random lengths. It seems to reflect the scrounged parts story. It was sold to a guy with a fishing store in Lake George, NY. My guess is he was a dealer and was going to resell or rent it rather than buy it for personal use. I never really considered the non-war economy but of course there was one.
  3. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Ron - The war-years Old Towns often had steel in them. Unfortunate because steel fasteners can blacken the wood. Depending on how bad this is, oxalic acid treatment may do a pretty good job (until they reappear with more moisture exposure), but you must not have too much of an issue if you're already varnishing. They can rust completely through also, so check to ensure that the tacks are still holding well. I once restored a war-years Old Town 15/50, I think also from 1944, and the planking was literally falling off because the tacks were so badly rusted. I ended up re-tacking the entire canoe with brass. At 15 feet, I sure got tired of re-tacking... glad it wasn't an 18' canoe!

    Did you also have steel diamond-head bolts attaching the seat frames and thwarts? Some WWII-era Old Towns had steel tacks and brass bolts, others steel bolts and brass tacks, and still others both steel tacks and steel bolts.

    For Old Town production data with respect to time, see the charts at:
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
  4. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hello Michael
    I am happy to report that there is very little corrosion in the steel tacks. The diamond bolts and keel screws are brass as are the screws fastening the outer gunwhale. The nails at the top of each rib onto the inner gunwhale seem to be galvy. The planks are very tight to the ribs, and nothing seems to require tightening up. I’m going to make duckboards to make things a bit easier on the structure in use. The seats are slats not caned. The stem bands are steel with brass screws, and I’ll re-use them for authenticity’s sake.
    I found some Old Town WWII history elsewhere in the forums, and this canoe seems typical for its era. I guess I was expecting that they’d converted to the manufacture of some sort of war related materiel. (Torpedo canoes?)
    The canvas and filler should be here soon, and I’ll be moving on to that phase of this project. Hope the weather continues to cooperate.
  5. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I suspect that 1944 was a pretty grim time when most young men were off fighting in Europe or the Pacific. Old Town did not even print a new catalog that year but simply used a rubber stamp on the extra 1943 catalogs as shown at with a notice that "Prices subject to change without notice." The price of an 18 foot long Guide in CS grade was listed as $101 but they were probably selling for about five percent more than that. Their inventory of cane was exhausted and brass hardware was starting to run out too so galvanized steel was being used as you have seen. Production and sales in 1944 were down but better than during the depths of the Great Depression. All of these numbers were well off the records set in the teens and 1920s.

    The Maine Department of Labor and Industry produced a report in 1939 that showed 90 men and 6 women were working in the factory at that time. Their 1943 version of this report listed 160 men and 10 women and the 1947 one simply included them in the 100-250 employee category. (These reports are available from and if you want more details.) Most of the additional employees made paddles and oars for life boats as their contribution to winning the Second World War. Many different Navy ships of all types were supplied with these. Sue's book at has more details. The 'torpedo' ended canoes first appeared in the teens and were never used by the military as far as I know. Let me know if this doesn't answer your question. Good luck with the rest of the restoration,

    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
  6. OP
    Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Great info! I was joking about the “torpedo” canoes.

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