Newbie with questions

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by Wheelbarrow, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. Wheelbarrow

    Wheelbarrow New Member

    I adopted an (new to me) old town canoe in which the canvas is peeling slightly.
    What is the reason this craft is wrapped with canvas and others are wooden slats? Can the unfinished wood underneath be finished and the canvas left off ( stripped off)? Hope this is a place where there are no stupid questions. Thanks
  2. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Welcome (again) to the WCHA, where there are no stupid questions, and lots of people with good answers to almost any question about canoes.

    A wood/canvas canoe is a fairly sophisticated construct. Rib and planking give the canoe shape and strength, and a filled canvas cover is both a water-tight membrane that keeps water outside, and a stressed skin structural sheath that adds rigidity and considerable strength to the hull.

    If the canvas is removed and not replaced, either with new filled canvas or with another fabric such as Dacron or fiberglass, your canoe will leak like a sieve and will be very weak. If old canvas is removed, prior to putting a new canvas on, some folk give the exterior of the wood hull a coat of linseed or tung oil or marine varnish -- not for appearance, but to lessen the amount of water that soaks into the wood, but many do not. If canvas has become loose from the hull, the strength of the canoe (not to mention its appearance) may be compromised.

    There are canoes that are all wood, with no fabric cover. They are usually very attractive, but are difficult to build (there are no commercial builders of such canoes today) and maintain and are not as durable as a wood/canvas canoe -- all or which adds up to their being expensive, which is why they are not made any more.

    I suggest you get your hands on one (or more) of the following books, which explain how wood/canvas canoes are built and how they can be repaired/refurbished, and how they should be maintained:

    The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok

    Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok

    This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood-Canvas Canoe, by Mike Elliott

    The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an excellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe and its construction. The third is the most recently published and has been well received.

    You might also want to look at The Old Town Canoe Company by Susan Audette and David Baker, a great history of the Old Town company and its canoes.

    When you say that the canvas is peeling, do you mean the canvas is coming loose from the hull, or that the paint is peeling from the canvas?
    If the first, it may be possible to repair the canvas, but it well may be that a new canvas is called for. Replacing the canvas on a canoe is an ordinary, if significant, maintenance item, not unlike getting new tires on a car. A canvas can last fifty years and more, but may give up the ghost in as few as ten or so years, depending on treatment and care. On the other hand, if it is peeling paint, a simple touch up or a new coat of paint may be all that is necessary, but if the peeling is bad and the filler is failing, these may be signs that a new canvas is needed.

    Before undertaking any maintenance or repair, either yourself or by hiring a professional, please read one of the books above so you understand what is involved. If a touch up or a new coat of paint is called for, there is considerable material on these forums. I have a list of links about painting that I can provide if this is what your canoe needs.

    It helps a great deal if you can post a few pictures of your canoe showing any problem areas, such as the peeling canvas, for any of us who might be able to give advice.

    Good luck with your new (old) canoe -- I hope we see some pictures, and hope you have fun using it.

  3. OP

    Wheelbarrow New Member

    Thank for the quick reply. I will get the recommended works. I have begun the learning curve. Replacing the canvas is the goal.
  4. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Replacing a canvas sounds more difficult than it actually is -- though if your canoe still has its sponsons, they do add a bit of extra work -- see p. 172 of Stelmok and Thurlow's The Wood and Canvas Canoe.

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