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Gerrish 813

Discussion in 'Canoe Photo Index' started by MGC, Oct 10, 2020.

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  1. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Quite a few years ago I bought a Gerrish canoe from a very nice older man in Eastern NY. While he was raising his family it had been the canoe that they used for fishing, paddling, camping. He had quite a few memories tied to it, but unfortunately no provenance. When he bought it in the 60's it had already been fiberglassed and painted. It didn't get any special care. It was stored on the ground outside his shed, or at least it was when I bought it. I had always sworn I would never, ever, ever, ever do another canoe that was glassed...but this was a Gerrish and a bit unusual one at that. I brought it home and stored it away with all of the other boats in que. I promised the owner (Maurice) that I would keep him posted and send him pictures once it was done. A few years went by and I heard from him. There had been some unfortunate events in his family. He was wondering if I was working on the canoe. I wasn't but I promised him I was going to get to it as soon as I could. Long story short, two years ago the Gerrish finally made it to the top of the pile. I removed the glass and the resin. I pulled off the faux rail covers and stripped it. The paint was a nightmare...red oil paint that had penetrated every surface was covered by grey porch paint. Under the paint were lot's of cracked ribs. There was an extra thwart added in the middle. The stern seat had been moved and widened. There was some typical deck, stem and rail rot.... but as I worked on it it revealed some interesting things. The massive decks (26 x 10) were quite attractive. Hidden under the paint I could see where long since gone decorative cane had been wrapped There were details throughout that suggested that a very skilled hand had built it. There was the chamfering on the inside rails that located the seats and thwarts. There were the simple but gorgeous seats with their bent rails. There were the carefully shaped stem tips that someone took the time to round over. And most of all, there was a hull that was very nicely shaped and carefully planked, copper tacks properly spaced and staggered.
    My wife and I discussed what to do with the boat. I was certainly capable of restoring it and 99% of the folks that looked at it would have thought that I did a good job on it. I've done enough of them to accomplish that. What I was not "feeling" was the knowledge to get it 100% right and that was what I wanted. There are not a lot of these boats around and this one seemed like it was special enough that it needed to be done right. I gave Rollin a call about having him do the work for me. He was working about two years out but he was interested in working on it. I finished stripping it and loaded it up and we drove it to Atkinson.
    I gave him a tough job to do. I wanted every piece of wood preserved. I wanted the original rails, seats, ribs, planking, everything to be properly sorted, not replaced. I knew he could do that since he had been similarly tasked by Benson Gray when he restored his Indian Canoe Company boat.

    That was two years ago. Last fall he re-stripped the hull and this spring they got it into the shop. My guilty pleasure for months has been watching him or Elisa on the shop cam. Every now and then I'd call or shoot them an email but for the most part, I watched. It's been very hard to do...I never allowed anyone else to work on my boats and as most of us do, I have my ways. What I eventually learned was that my instinct to turn it over to Rollin was spot on...so after 55 years of working on boats I finally learned that sometimes you need to let an expert do the job. You be the judge...I think it looks pretty darned good for a boat that is over 120 years old...it looks ready to go another 120 years and believe me, I will not be putting glass on it. The color will grow on you...It's Kirby Green Grey #1. The wood is matt finished as per my request. I don't like old boats that look real shiny.
     

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  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    This is outstanding. You identified it as number 813 so it would be great to see a picture of the serial numbers and a close up of the tag. May I use these pictures in a social media posting for the WCHA? Do you want to write the caption or should I simply condense your comments from above? This could also make a great article for the Wooden Canoe magazine. Thanks,

    Benson
     
  3. OP
    OP
    MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    You are free to use my images... If I can get it in the water I might be able to offer something a bit more interesting for a media post. The serial number is visible on the stern deck. If you look closely you will see the numbers 16 (it's a 16 footer) and 813 stamped on the deck. Gerrish either wrote the numbers on the hull or applied them this way. Gerrish-f.JPG IMG_3330 (3).JPG
    Unfortunately the day I took these pictures the lighting was not very good so they are a bit washed out.
    Notice how the last letters of Gerrish are double stamped. It looks like the spacing for the second R was to far from the first so it was re-stamped.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 21, 2020
  4. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    My guess is that they could stamp the whole tag at once - there is too much consistency amongst tags for them to be stamped one letter at a time. In this case, somebody probably forgot to clean the schmutz from the platen which led to an uneven stamp, after which they cleaned up and restamped it. But, who knows for sure...?
     
  5. OP
    OP
    MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    It will remain a mystery...I agree that it's unlikely that they stamped these one letter at a time.... there is (as you note) too much consistency between tags.... The thing that is baffling is (if it's done in one shot) how everything else lines up so perfectly and only the Gerrish name has (and only part of it) a double hit.
     
  6. Brly

    Brly Curious about Wooden Canoes

    What a magnificent canoe and restoration! Thanks for posting the story; I love this stuff...
    Still lots of time to get it in the water this year. Lets see those wet pictures!
     
  7. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Really nice Mike. Say - you write of "gorgeous seats with their bent rails". Not sure what you mean. How about more pics of these seats.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Here is a view of the bow seat and thwart...notice the bow. You know as well as I do what a PITA it is to bend a piece that IMG_3333 (3).JPG large and to get it to hold shape. It's a nice touch...
     
  9. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    So the two pieces of wood that attach to the rails are bent with a 'smile' that in affect raise the seat up a bit? Interesting... but why go to the trouble of doing that? My first thought was that it would give the seat more 'spring', but that can't be so - it'd have the same spring as a straight piece. Curious...
     
  10. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Simple answer. Aesthetics.
     
    Andy Hutyera likes this.
  11. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Wouldn't that be uncomfortable? Seems rounded down would better match a backside.

    And while not this, I did a Penn Yan a while back that the seat frames weren't beveled on the ends to match the underside of the inner rail, and when bolted in, the "clamp" of the seat to the rail caused the frame to be bowed down. (Lots of tumblehome on this canoe)
     
  12. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Arches are structurally stronger. Whether there is enough arch in these to make a difference would be something a structural engineer would have to answer. My guess is it doesn't make much difference, but maybe?
     
    Dave Wermuth likes this.
  13. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Stronger only if the ends are anchored. Being the seat isn't infinitely rigid, it will bend like any other beam.
    On these, I would expect that as the seat frame flattens out, it will just bend those droppers back and forth.
    And of course, the deflection will be a function of the size/weight of the "sitter", if a light normal size person, likely not much deflection,
    but if "robust" like me, it'll be bouncing a whole bunch.
     
  14. OP
    OP
    MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Hmmmm......nope, not going to do a force analysis. It crossed my mind to dust off these old skills but nope, not gonna happen. What I learned working as an engineer for way too many years is that sometimes a desire to "use the tools" flies in the face of the obvious.
    The obvious (not evident in pictures so obvious only to me) in this case is that the seats do not flex or compress significantly.
    A person sitting on these does not remove the bow. The seats are made of hardwood (looks like chestnut to me) and hold their shape even with my lard butt load on them. There is only very insignificant deflection.
    Note, the thwarts are also bowed...if the bowing serves a purpose, why bow the thwarts? No one will be sitting on the thwarts. There is no carry/center thwart. That would be the one that would make sense to bow.

    I have two theories, one and prevailing, this is a cosmetic touch. Like the small chamfer on the inside rails it has no practical purpose, it simply looks good.
    Or two, perhaps someone really did think that the bow serves the purpose of keeping the hull shape when you sit in it by spreading the width when you load them (remove the bow, they get longer).
    On a conventional seat the hull narrows when you sit on the seats as your load pulls the rails in.... would anyone really overanalyze the loading of the hull to that extent? And, if that was the purpose then the seat frames and thwarts should have been made from something else or made thinner.
    Who knows?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  15. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I still say aesthetics, not assthetics.
     
  16. 1905Gerrish

    1905Gerrish LOVES Wooden Canoes

    An interesting canoe to say the least. The seats look tapered to me for the last 8" or so, not bent. I believe that was the number I was shooting for making the last one a few months back. It gives the illusion of it but I really don't think that's the case. The latest I just made for my oldest Gerrish tapered to 5/16" and are center mortised into the rails. They give the same illusion like the thwarts in it. I assume they were built by a combination of carving and sanding. I use my benchtop sander to make the tapers. I find the seat spacers to be the most interesting thing in the canoe Mike. I have never seen one with front seat spacers or 4 in the rear either in photos or in person. One of mine has 2 , 1/4" brass tubing spacers to level out the rear seat but that's it. Really no way to tell unless you go back in time to see if the were original. Were they installed with steel slotted machine screws with square steel nuts when you dismantled the canoe? Are they made of copper tubing? Hard to tell in the pic. You did a fine job getting that gray paint out. I have one in the same shade I will tackle in the next couple years and I'm dreading it .
     
  17. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I met with Rollin last weekend while dropping off a canoe and we spoke about the apparent curves in the seats and thwarts of this canoe. We speculated that this may be another characteristic of bark canoes that got carried over to the early canvas ones. He is more studious than me and found Figure 47 on page 56 from the Adney and Chapelle book at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/50828/50828-h/50828-h.htm#Page_56 which has a taper that does give the appearance of a slight curve.

    Benson
     
  18. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Strikingly beautiful, Mike, and choice for finishes simply, right on. WOW. I'll have to see the jewel someday. DAVE
     
  19. OP
    OP
    MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Thanks Dave....the color was a bit of a risk but it ends up looking pretty stunning.
    WRT the comments about the shaped seat frames and thwarts. My duck hunting this morning was not successful except for getting out in the canoe in the rain. Never the less I will not go hungry as I get to eat some crow.
    Normally when I work on a boat I get to know the parts pretty well... you strip them, repair them, finish them, install them.
    Since Rollin did the heavy lifting I missed out on most of that.
    As was pointed out previously, these parts are shaped. There is a rolling taper on the top of each piece that thins them where they are secured to the rail.
    The appearance is that they are rounded. They are not.
     

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