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Kennebec 16' Charles River 1915 Ser # help

Discussion in 'Serial Number Search' started by Tnic, May 3, 2017.

  1. Tnic

    Tnic Paddlewon Canoobie

    As mentioned in Benson's info request from 2015, I'm currently e-looking at one that's just 15-20 mins up I 95 from where I'm building. While I wait for a reply from the seller...

    Is there any info on Ser # 4561


  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The Kennebec serial number records skip from 4508 to 5000 so there is no record for number 4561. The previous mystery at had a deck tag with number 6291 which had no build record and number 5291 stamped on the stem which did match a build record. If this same pattern applies in this case then there will be a number 3561 stamped in the stem which matches a 16 foot long Kennebec model from 1910 as shown below. Let us know what you find.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 3, 2017
  3. OP

    Tnic Paddlewon Canoobie

    Thank you Benson!

    She's gonna need a bit of work (shocking, I know), but she can be floated as is for now. I'll ask for pics of the stems (if any numbers are visible) to maybe confirm the ser # pattern/conundrum.

    What I do know is that someone FGed it, YUK! Hope to hear back that its over the old canvas. The decks and seats have been changed out and a center portage thwart added in. The decks are square ended rather than heart shaped and the seats are slatted instead of the original cane per the info you posted in the afore mentioned thread that I bumped. So recreating original looking decks and seats will be one of the jobs I may tackle this summer. She'll have to wait until I have my own place up before she can return to her original glory.
  4. Richard Jenkins

    Richard Jenkins New Member

    Resurrecting this old thread here. I just bought a Kennebec Charles River 1915, came here looking for info, and lo and behold, there are already several threads about my exact boat #4561! Tnic, I'm sorry that she didn't work out for you. In the intervening years, she was bought by somebody who wanted to use her for decor in his cabin way up in Pittsburgh, New Hampshire. I picked her up from an ad on Facebook Marketplace for $250, and just brought her home a couple days ago. Supposedly she still floats as-is, but I'm hoping to restore her properly. There is a saying in maritime preservation circles that if you know enough to restore an old ship, you know enough not to. I'm not sure if that applies to canoes or not, but I'll also be the first to admit that I am an abject novice and that I don't know what I don't know (yet), so here goes...

    This old girl has obviously had a hard life. As mentioned before, the hull has been fiberglassed, and it looks like the ends were cut down to a lower profile at some point. My guess is that the gunnels were redone (probably around the same time as the decks), and rather than try to curve them up to the original profile, whoever did it decided to cut down the stems, ribs, and planking to match the curve of the new gunnels. There are some pretty dodgy-looking patch jobs in the fiberglass where she apparently did battle with some rocks and lost, with corresponding cracks in the planking on the inside. Tnic mentioned in his last post on this thread that he hoped to hear that the fiberglass was done over the old canvas, but I don't believe that's the case, it appears to have been done directly over the planking.

    My first question is, would the "deck tag" have been on one of the decks originally? The decks were redone at some point, she has square-ended decks instead of the classic Kennebec heart shape. The #4561 tag is mounted on the stem, next to the stamped stem number, which I'm pretty sure is "3908" (although the way the numerals are formed, the 3 could almost be an 8, and the 8 could be another 9). Any records matching that number?


    Next question, and this is kind of the big one: Is there any good way to strip fiberglass off cedar planking? As I mentioned before, there are a couple of cracked planks that I will want to replace, but otherwise I'd like to keep as much of the historic fabric on this thing as I possibly can.

    Also, do drawings exist of the Kennebec 16' Charles River 1915? Or does anyone have one in NE Mass/southern NH/southern Maine that I could take measurements from? I'd love to restore her original profile, if possible.

    The gunnels will need replacing - the first couple feet of the port side outwale is completely missing - and obviously I'd like to restore the Kennebec deck form so new decks will be needed too. There's also at least one rib that's going to need to be replaced in addition to the cracked planking (it's literally half gone, presumably damaged in one of the patching incidents), and I don't doubt I'll find a few more damaged ribs as I go. What species of wood did Kennebec typically use for gunnels and decks, and what variety of cedar for the ribs and planking?

    Thanks in advance,
    Richard Jenkins
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
  5. mccloud

    mccloud Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I have a derelict Kennebec perched on my firewood pile which has many of the same problems as yours, and was glassed :(. There are youtube videos on removing fiberglass - Kathy Klos posed one about removing glass from a Morris. Generally, a heat gun, putty knives, vice grips, gloves, and a bucket of water nearby, just in case. It is nasty work. The glass came off mine fairly easily, I didn't remove much wood, but some residual resin will have to be sanded smooth. I would guess spruce inwales, and western red cedar planking. Ribs would have been Maine white cedar. Many of the regulars will be attending Assembly at Paul Smiths this week, so the rest of your answers may be slower than usual in coming, but they will come. Post pictures. Tom McCloud
  6. 1905Gerrish

    1905Gerrish LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Polyester fiberglass will come off easily sometimes, sometimes not. Epoxy fiberglass is a nightmare. Really. Removed it from a canoe once and never again. Good News, odds are it polyester. The trick is to get the canoe wet, very wet. I've heard people submerging their canoe in a pool or pond for a few days to ease the adhesion of the glass. I've had decent luck wetting the canoe down with a hose very well for a few consecutive days. It should come off in strips. Could just be a 15 minute process with a putty and razor knife. Sometimes the planking will stick to the glass and it will tear out. I would bet there will be some sacrificial damage, but not bad. If its epoxy fiberglass, it will come off in 1" pieces with a heat gun. You will have many hours in it and IMO not worth the time. I will not remove epoxy glass again in my lifetime. Let us know how you make out!
  7. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Welcome and congratulations, there is no record for a Kennebec canoe with serial number 4561 so my guess is that the build information is recorded under number 3908. This is a 16 foot long canoe shown on pages 140 and 145 of volume one in the Kennebec ledgers. It has spruce rails, cedar stems, red western cedar planking, and was planked by Durette on June 24th, 1911. The decks are 15-M (15 inch maple?) and the canvas is 56-10 (56 inch number 10). The canvas covering was applied by Lanigan on July 1st, 1911. Smith added the first filler coat on the same day and the second coat on July 29th, 1911. The keel, braces (thwarts), and seats were "M" (maple?) and Knowlton railed it on July 29th, 1911. The original color was medium green and this was applied by Wood on February 10th, 1912. It shipped to Abel on March 29th, 1912. The scans of these build records can be found by following the links at the attached thumbnail images below. These original Kennebec records are reproduced through the courtesy of the Maine State Museum.

    k-3908-a.jpg k-3908-b.jpg

    The microfilms and scans of these records were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA). A description of the project to preserve other records like these is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will donate, join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    The 1915 model page from the 1912 Kennebec catalog is attached below. More information about this and other Kennebec models can be found in the Kennebec catalogs contained on the Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Company Catalog Collection available from in the WCHA store.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match the canoe. The metal tags were commonly put on the stems during this period. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


    Attached Files:

  8. Richard Jenkins

    Richard Jenkins New Member

    Wow, talk about comprehensive records! Thank you so much Benson! I think that all of the above information makes sense for this boat, except for one relatively minor detail: The 1912 catalog page gives a width of 31 1/2", but I measured her at 35 3/4" across the beam. Would the catalog width be something other than the outside width across the gunnels? Perhaps the inside width between the gunnels? Would it be unusual for a wood canoe to spread by just over 4 inches over the course of 107 years and at least one major rebuild? The 16' length is a match, and one of the thwarts still bears its Kennebec decal (Tnic posted a photo of it in one of his earlier posts above), so a different manufacturer would seem unlikely. I don't really understand the discrepancy between the tag number and the stamped stem number though. What did these numbers actually represent?

    With all this info to go on, I am more determined than ever to give this old girl the restoration that she deserves, and yes, I will be joining WCHA. I especially appreciated reading that her original color was "medium green", since I had a green hull in mind for her anyway (yay no more putrid greenish-yellow color that she has now)! Do any of the original Kennebec color specs survive for paint matching?

    Shari Gnolek likes this.
  9. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Your canoe may be early enough in Kennebec builds that it can be considered a Morris/Kennebec hybrid.
    If you do a search of the forum for “hybrid” you will see info on them.
    As I recall, the story goes that Kennebec Canoe Company was not started by canoe builders and hired builders from the BN Morris Canoe Co. Those guys only knew how to build canoes with Morris building methods. If yours is a hybrid, it will have “splayed” stems, ala BN Morris.
    A search will probably expound on it more...
  10. Richard Jenkins

    Richard Jenkins New Member

    Hi Dave,
    Tnic was looking at this boat a couple of years ago but he ultimately passed on it. I am the current owner (as of last Friday), I just figured since we were talking about the same boat, I might as well resurrect this old thread. It does have splayed stems, checking out the info on hybrids now. I am absolutely amazed at the wealth of knowledge on this forum.

  11. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    The splayed stem is visible in a previous's a bummer that the canoe has been treated so poorly but with time and patience it can be restored to near original shape.

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