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Possible new project: choosing between two boats?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by JimT, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. JimT

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    My Penn Yan car topper will soon be done so I'm looking at the next possible project, and also looking to move up a step or two in terms of difficulty/complexity to keep learning more as I go along.

    I looked at two Old Town boats yesterday side by side. The purchase prices are identical, so it's really just a question of which boat to pick. Both boats are from 1938-ish, both 16' long, virtually carbon copies of each other. They came from the same estate sale.

    Boat #1 was fiberglassed at some point in the 1970s I'm guessing, and hasn't been registered since 1990, so I also suspect it hasn't been in the water since then. This boat has slightly more interesting seats than the second boat and has double rowing stations; but there is some daylight/separation between ribs and planking along the floor that suggests maybe something has warped somewhere along the way? A handful of broken ribs. The transom is solid. Here's a couple of photos of this boat:

    glassed boat 1.jpg glassed boat bow interior.jpg glassed boat floor.jpg glassed boat interior.jpg glassed boat seat.jpg

    Boat #2 was canvassed and the seller started a renovation several years ago, removing the canvas and perhaps 50% of the the painted surfaces inside the boat. The paint really protected the wood, so everything here is nice and tight in terms of ribs and planks snugged up against each other compared to the other boat. I only counted one broken rib in this boat. Somewhat simpler seats, only one set of oar sockets on the boat. The transom is separated so will need re-gluing or replacement. Some photos of boat #2:

    canvas boat port side.jpg canvas boat hull starboard.jpg canvas boat floor.jpg canvas boat bow interior 2.jpg canvas boat bow.jpg

    I'm inclined toward boat #2, mainly because I'm nervous about the fiberglass on the other boat and what may lie underneath. Also the second boat's interior wood seems to be in better shape. Both boats will need repairs to the keel and other elements, but I don't think either needs anything crazy. I could use advice about canvassing a boat with sponsons, though.

    I'm just wondering if folks had an opinion about which boat to choose, if it were any of you making the choice? I really appreciate any thoughts, comments, feedback, and/or advice about getting into either of these as a project. Like I said, the prices are identical, it's really a question of which one would you want to work on.

    I have a few other photos I can load in a followup post.

    Thanks in advance!

    p.s. I promise I'm working my way up to a real canoe! soon!!
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Most people will avoid removing fiberglass if possible. The build records from the serial numbers may provide more details. Good luck with your decision,

  3. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Benson, thanks for the quick response. Certainly the glassed boat would get me on the water sooner, and probably would mean the boat could take a bit more punishment in the long run as a "user." The one place where the fiberglass has separated is on the transom; the seller thought maybe that could be re-glued to the wood without having to remove it if I were to keep the fiberglass as is.

    a couple more pics:

    glassed boat starboard rear.jpg glassed boat transom.jpg glassed boat transom exterior.jpg glassed boat transom top view.jpg glassed boat bow keel.jpg glassed boat bow keel closeup.jpg
  4. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    It is common for fiberglass to hide problems and make future repairs more difficult. However, if you goal is simply to get out on the water quickly then go for it.

  5. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    Based on the glass on the transom, boat #1 looks like the glass may come off easily. If you are going to continue to restore vintage watercraft it’s something that you will more than likely get into at some point.
    I did a ‘38 16’ Old Town recently in about the same shape. Glassed, etc. it was only glassed up to the sponsons.
    If you decide on boat #1 I would recommend removing the glass and canvassing it. It is possible that the current glass is bad, and with stripping the interior you may compromise the glass where stripper seeps between the planks.

    Attached Files:

    Rob Stevens and JimT like this.
  6. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    those photos are really an inspiration. Good point too about stripper compromising the glass, appreciate you mentioning that.
  7. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    From my experience glass usually went on when the hull degraded to the point that it was not a good candidate to to Benson's point, the glass almost always hides some major issues, most often the stem or in this case the joinery around the transom?
    I would take the boat that is glass free and I would expect to pay more for it than for the one with glass on it. From my perspective, glass kills the value of a boat that should be cloaked in canvas. If you look at the FAQ for canoe valuation you'll see that is often the case for just does not add value. If you decide on the glassed boat, (it does have some nice bits) drop your offer by 2/3rds.
    JimT likes this.
  8. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    this is pretty much my thinking as well. I really appreciate the feedback from everyone on this, thanks!!

    thanks also for the heads up about the FAQ for canoe values, that is really helpful info.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  9. smallboatshop

    smallboatshop Restorers

    Hi Jim, It looks like boat number 2 had glass as well. I think you can see some pieces hanging in the photo of the boat on the trailer. The canvas that is left is under the sponsons which is often done when glassing as the owner doesn't have to remove the sponsons. In picture 5 of boat one you can see that the top of the sponson still has the canvas, hence all the cracking. Maybe they were glassed at the same time?

    Although there may be damage covered by the glass; which you may be able to see upon examining the smoothness of the hull and certainty of the curves, I wouldn't make the decision based on one having glass and the other not. Experience here has been that these boats shed their glass more easily than canoes. The transoms on Old Towns are usually two boards and sometimes replacing the top board can solve several problems.
  10. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    here are some more photos that show more of the canvas hanging off the second boat, it's definitely canvas. Also some pictures of the transom on boat #2 showing the separation of the two boards. Also a photo of the port side sponson, the seller took off the gunnels (and saved them all in single pieces so they can be reused) and you can see the top side of the port sponson.

    I appreciate the added input about the fiberglass . . . what makes me more nervous about that boat more than the fiberglass is the warping of the floor planks under the ribbing, whereas the floor planks on the canvassed boat are all nice and tight against the ribs. Last photo shows that, tough angle to see, but everything seems nice and flat.

    canvas boat starboard bottom.jpg canvas boat keel at stern.jpg canvas boat port bow.jpg canvas boat sponson end.jpg canvas boat transom center.jpg canvas boat transom inside.jpg canvas boat transom port.jpg canvas boat port gunnel sponson.jpg canvas boat bow interior.jpg canvas boat floor interior.jpg
  11. smallboatshop

    smallboatshop Restorers

    If you can see those bad planks, then I'd go with the other boat.

    We worked on a similar square stern a while back that had had other work done some years ago. The old problem and the new were caused by water between the fiberglass and the planks. We replaced both garboard planks and one adjoining. The transom had been glassed and the top board replaced with oak instead of Mahogany. This is a 1935 AA Sq St with sponsons. The transom boards had a dado or groove on the joining edges that had a spline in it. The leaking between these boards had turned the spline to mush and so the leaking continued. Originally it would have had Mahogany rails and wider seats but the owner wanted what was there.
    Bad planks.jpg Nearly complete 1.jpg Transom showing dado or groove.jpg
  12. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    perhaps I'm overthinking the significance of the space between the ribs and the floor planking on the glassed boat? here's what I was nervous about, maybe it's nothing to worry about and can get cinched back up tight again when the fiberglass is removed

    IMG_0825.jpg IMG_0839.jpg IMG_0840.jpg
  13. smallboatshop

    smallboatshop Restorers

    I don't know what to tell you. That separation should not be there - the planking could be rotted or the tacks could be compromised if salt water had gotten down there, but I think that there would be more evidence if salt water were to blame. The planking probably needs replacing which isn't a bad job if you have a helper.

    Looks like you'll have a good project!
  14. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    well at least no salt water was involved, these boats both spent their working lives on or near Lake Placid, and neither has been on the water since 1990 or so.
  15. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    Both boats appear to have been fiberglassed at some time. Both will require lots of stripping and resin removal. I would likely pick the boat with the longer deck, but I wouldn't pay much for either.
  16. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Didn't think to measure the length of the decks, but I'm 99% sure they're the same size. We pulled out the tape measure and each boat was exactly 16' in length. Here's the two of them together for comparison:

    both boats.jpg
  17. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    The plank/rib gaps will tighten up if new tacks clinched in that area, BUT you will need to make sure there is no crud between them. The best way to do that is to remove the offending plank and clean the crud out.

    I respect the opinions of Benson and MGC, but will humbly disagree with their view that most glassed hulls are not worth recanvassing. And If there are any compromised areas, the can be fixed. That is the biggest benefit of canvas covered watercraft.
    JimT likes this.
  18. OP

    JimT Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Just thought I'd update here as well, I committed to the stripped boat. On closer inspection Gil was correct, both boats had been fiberglassed, and probably at the same time. I was a bit surprised the seller hadn't remembered that (!), but it had been several years since he'd acquired the boats and started stripping the one. Anyway, that's the one I stuck with since the wood was in better shape overall. Have already started playing around with scraping and stripping some of the paint, getting ready to lay out the game plan for disassembly etc. Again I really appreciate the comments and feedback folks gave me here, I am learning an awful lot these days from all of you, so thanks again!

    Old Town canoe in yard.jpg
  19. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    [QUOTE="JimT, post: 83547, member: 22244 I could use advice about canvassing a boat with sponsons, though. [/QUOTE]

    Instruction (with illustrations) for recanvasing sponsons can be found at page 172 of the bible; at page 130, there is also advice about canvasing a square stern:

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

    The following was cribbed from Old Town Canoe Company’s web site several years ago. It no longer seems to be there -- not surprising, since they no longer directly build w/c canoes, having turned the job of building their w/c canoes over to Jerry Stelmok.

    How to Recanvas a Sponson Canoe

    1. To recanvas the sponson canoe the sponsons should be removed and the canvas stripped from the canoe and the sponsons.

    2. The new canvas should be put on and stretched tight over the canoe and tacked in place as though the canoe was going to be done without sponsons added.

    3. After this is completed, the canvas should be added to the sponsons, stretched tight and tacked down.

    4. Next the canvas filler will be used to seal the canvas on the canoe and the sponsons.

    5. With the canvas filler freshly applied and still wet, put the sponsons in place and screw it back onto the canoe. (This step should be done as soon as the canvas filler is applied. Do not wait until the following day. This step (#5) will take most of one day.)

    6. Filler should be rubbed into the seam or joint where the sponsons and the canoe meet to completely fill in the groove. Once this is completed, check the rest of the canvas to be sure it is completely filled. Once the canvas filler has cured for 24 hours, you will not be able to add more filler. If you “touch up” the canvas after that time, it will not bond. Although sometimes it appears to have bonded, it will separate, flake and peel later on. Once the canvas and filler are applied, the rest of the process is the same for canoes with or without sponsons.
    JimT likes this.
  20. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    Thanks to Greg for getting you started on the road to re-canvassing sponsons, but the method outlined above has some serious flaws. There are multiple reasons why it just wont work (not well, at least) to canvas and fill the hull and each of the two sponsons separate from each other, and then join them all together. When you remove your sponsons you'll see how they were built, and surely they were built piecemeal on the canoe, rather than being fully constructed, canvassed, filled, and then added to the canoe. Re-canvassing them is best done in a manner that fits with how they were built and how they are attached to the hull.

    Problems with the method above:

    1. Adding oily, just-filled sponsons to an oily, freshly-filled hull would be an unpleasant and very messy proposition. Not fun.

    2. There would be no way to see whether the screws from inside of the hull were going into the proper locations in the D-shaped blocks if the sponson were already canvassed and filled. This could lead to sponsons being poorly attached and/or mis-aligned.

    3. The multiple, large-diameter screws that attach the tapered sponson end blocks to the hull would have to pierce the surface of the sponson's filled canvas, which would defeat the waterproofing purpose of the canvas and filler.

    Here's a method for re-canvassing that is sensitive to how sponsons were built, ensures a waterproof final result, is much quicker and cleaner, and ensures that the sponsons are properly installed, aligned as they were when the boat was built:

    1. Canvas the hull with sponsons removed, and either apply filler to the hull now or wait and do everything all at once at the end of the last step.

    2. Stretch a piece of canvas along the side of the hull where the sponson will go.

    3. Install at least a few sponson screws along the length of the hull for alignment, so their points pierce the canvas slightly.

    4. Ensuring that you have the sponson on its original side of the hull, align screw holes in the D-blocks with screw points and install all of the screws from inside the hull.

    5. Screw the sponson end blocks in place.

    6. Stretch the canvas over the sponson, first from the bottom and tack along the upper outer edge, then from the top and tack, trimming excess at each step.

    7. After neatly closing up the canvas at sponson ends, fill the canvas. As mentioned in Greg's post above, be careful to work filler into the joint between sponsons and the hull.

    Hope this helps. Michael
    JimT likes this.

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