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15 foot Chestnut - thoughts?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by rstl99, Oct 17, 2009.

  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi all,
    I chanced upon a 15 foot Chestnut (Bob's Special) built in early 70's. Owners are thinking of selling as they haven't used it in a few years and it's just hanging in the garage. The canoe looks like it's been very well cared for, and shows no visible damage (to my eye, anyway). I didn't see signs of canvas cracking which I hear is common on canoes that have not seen water in several years. All the cedar planks look solid.
    My use would be to canoe on tranquil river and lakes near my country property. Probably a fair bit of solo canoeing.
    Asking price is firm $1000. I'm seriously considering it.

    I read on this site:
    the following quote which I find worrying:
    "If you are looking to sell your canoe, it is helpful to keep things in perspective. What you see as an “original canoe in mint condition” will most certainly require a minimum of $1,500 in repairs right off the bat. If you decide to restore the canoe in order to get a better price, it is unlikely that you would get your money back from the sale of the canoe."

    What do you think? Can this well-cared for and very nice looking 70's Chestnut really require $1500 in repairs ?!? Anything I should be looking out for in taking a closer look at it?

    I should point out that I own a 16 foot fiberglass canoe that was improperly stored for years and now needs an external gunwale replacement. I was going to fix it and use it but this lovely looking Chestnut has captured my fancy...

  2. Mark Adams

    Mark Adams all wood nut

    Two words: Probably not. If it looks good, and the canvas is in good shape, the only other concern would be rot at the tips. However, you say that the canoe has been stored indoors, so this is probably not an issue.
  3. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    It always seems

    to me that any wood canvas canoe, from a recognized builder, that is in decent shape, actually usable, without broken ribs or rot is worth at least $1000. Think about it, you can't buy a decent ABS boat and certainly not a kevlar boat for anything less than a grand so a w/c boat is certainly worth it. Some kevlar boats sell new for more than a new w/c boat. Just my 2 cents worth.

    Jim C.
  4. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    My two too...

    Seems to me that the statement about the $1500-worth of work was another way of saying "let the buyer beware". Many canoes are sold over the internet, and the seller often doesn't know how to evaluate what he/she has.

    $1500 would be the cost of hiring someone to work on a canoe for you... even if the canoe needed new canvas and some other work, these are things that folks here could walk you through for a whole lot less money.

    But your assessment of the canoe is probably accurate. A 15-footer is a nice size for hoisting onto the car and poking around interesting little ponds and rivers. Post a picture of yourself in this canoe that has captured your fancy, grinning ear-to-ear because she's all yours!

  5. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Buy it....

    For a do it yourself canvas job you will need about $300 worth of materials plus your time. You will require canvas, a few mouthfuls of tacks, filler, paint and varnish. There are a few tools that you will need and a few miscellaneous items to make. The job will take you several several days spread out over a few weeks. $1,500 is not accurate unless you take it to a shop to have this done. Even then it’s steep.
    Buy the canoe. It sounds like it's in good shape.
  6. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    you'll probably look a long time to find a Bob's Special or equivalent canoe in paddleable shape for much less. And if you do, it would probably be only slightly less. If you like it, BUY IT. If you need help on maintenance or repairs,....we are here for you.
    Good luck....

    **beware! wooden canoes are highly contageous and can cause an uncontrollable disease known to consume all of your time, shirking of responsibility, and bring utter joy to every day**
  7. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for your thoughts

    I enjoyed reading your responses to my post. Although I only looked at the canoe while it was hanging on the side of the garage (could only see one end and part of one side, and all the inside), I very much doubt it needs any kind of major refurbishment/repair. I'd take it down and look it over very carefully before buying it though.

    Right now I'm trying to educate myself on the net about the usefulness of such a canoe (15 foot with that kind of profile). The old canoe I bought years ago and haven't used in many years and now needs work is more of a 16ft Prospector type, but I feel the 15 footer may be easier to lift and move in and out of the water, especially by myself. And would accomodate well some relaxed solo padding (occasionally tandem, but my partner doesn't swim and is a bit leery of the water), taking in the wild sights and sounds around my country place, waterfowl, etc. Allow me to do some photography or maybe also fishing from inside the canoe, etc.

  8. Rollin Thurlow

    Rollin Thurlow member since 1980

    Its been my experience that the canoes built by Chestnut in the 70's were not very well built. The company was on a real economic downturn and they were cutting cost every way they could and the quality of material and workmanship shows. Very short planking of various sizes, many hidden knotts impoper spacing of the canoe tacks, steel fastenings where ever possible, poor sanding, poor wood joints, etc.
    While a poorly built canoe can still be a very usable canoe and if it has not had hard use it still could be in reasonable condition. However to me, $1000 for a unrestored, used, 70's Chestnut would be very questionable without the inspection of someone with real experience with wooden canoes.
  9. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hmm, thanks Rollin, for the sobering food for thought. I knew that Chestnut folded in the late 70's, so you are possibly right and that they might have been cutting quality corners in that decade because of financial hardships. While the thought of owning an "original Chestnut" has great appeal to me, I'll be mindful of inspecting this one for signs of potential quality standard issues. This one is very original, very stock. If it was something that has gone through some kind of "restoration" and might be hiding issues, I would be more concerned. Still, I'll inspect everything very closely before giving out the cash and driving away with it. You've given me some useful things to look for, and I appreciate your help!
  10. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Chestnut Bobs Special canoes were built with a very wide beam to accomodate fishermen and hunters. They are hard to find, highly sought after and usually fetch more than other Chestnut canoes. You shouldn't loose any money if you had to recanvas it. Even just as a good restorable hull it is well worth the money. BUY IT!
  11. JClearwater

    JClearwater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I stand by

    my original comment that the canoe is worth the $1000 asking price. I agree with Rowlin that the quality of Chestnut canoes went down as they tried to compete with fiberglass and alum. canoes, but it's still worth the money if the boat is complete, unaltered, and not rotted.

    I'm almost done with the restoration of the Crandell that has kept me busy for the past two years. I probably paid too much for it at the time (I know I paid too much) but I wanted it. After I started ripping and tearing I found that the decks, thwarts and seat frames were attached with iron screws and bolts. The air in the shop turned blue with the dark side language I used to get things apart. There were knots in the planking and a complete lack of varnish in the ends where it was needed the most to help prevent rot. This canoe was built about 1915 long before the competition of plastic and aluminum canoes and the pressure to cut corners. It all turned out well in the end as those who saw the canoe last weekend will attest. I have new appreciation for Old Town and their consistant use of brass hardware. We all restore our boats to "better than new" and expect new boats to be built to the highest standards. We tend to spurn those boats that were built when the sun was setting on the golden age canoeing. Just because the canoe doesn't meet the "gold standard" doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a nice canoe that will give years of joy the the owners. Now please buy the damn thing so we can end this thread. There I'm done.

  12. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I'll get it!

    Thanks Dave and others, who've encouraged me about this canoe. I called the owner and told him that if he still wants to sell it (he does) I'll come over next weekend, have a good look at it, and buy it. That gives me some time to get a suitable setup to carry it on my car, and storing it in my garage for the winter.
    Look forward to owning a nice wood and canvas canoe!
  13. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    ------------ and if you decide to sell the Bob's Special later please let me know! I would love to own one even if it is from the 70's. They were all built through out the years on the same forms, look the same and the canvas hides the so-so workmanship.
  14. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood


    I rehabbed an older Bob's that I use quite a bit solo, because it is handy and goes easily on the vehicle. It is a wide canoe, so if you fish it is probably a good fit. I use it tandem with my 11 year old son, but if you have two full size adults things might be a bit interesting. You would probably want a longer canoe if you tandem a lot. I solo typically kneeling and leaning on the back of the bow seat and heel it over to reach the water.

    When you look the canoe over take a good look at the ribs. They were thinner (1/4 inch) to help make this model lightweight. The planking is standard 5/32's. Also look at the canvas along the gunwales.

    Attached Files:

  15. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks Fitz,
    I have the 16 foot prospector-clone for tandem, once I get the gunwale fixed on it. The Bob will likely be my personal solo canoe, to go fishing, photography, exploring the marshes and river forks around my place.

    I plan on storing it on top of an older sedan I keep in my garage, just need to make sure there is enough room to clear the garage door motor assembly. Anybody know off-hand the height of the Bob Special at its mid-point, when upside-down? Thanks.
  16. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder

    One last thought. If the boat was built slightly after the closing of the Chestnut factory, the boat may well have been built by someone else who got their hands on the molds. I have one such boat in my shop for new canvas now and it is not built as well as earlier years. The owner knows this fact because he is the original owner.
  17. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    It's a genuine Chestnut

    Interesting thought, but no it's a genuine Chestnut. Has the decals etc. And the owner bought it in the early 70's from a dealer. I hear that quality control took a bit of a nosedive in the 70's, so I'll look over this one carefully before I buy it, but I tell myself: it's stood the test of time! Cheers.
  18. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I fall on side of "I think $1000 might be a bit high for a rough user", but not excessively high. I wouldn't pay it but I'm cheep. (I live in the midwest, if I lived in the east it might be a good price) A few years ago I turned down a 16 ft Cruiser for $800.

    More importantly, is this canoe design a good fit for you, for how you intend to use it. For me, a 15 ft'er would be a solo canoe, and a wide one would be for casual use, I wouldn't want to paddle it any distance.

  19. OP

    rstl99 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Dan,
    thanks for the perspective. However, I wouldn't classify this canoe as a "rough user". The owners are an older couple and they've evidently looked after it very well, always stored indoors, etc. So it's probably somewhat better than average in the range (poor - average - mint).

    I'm approaching my mid-50's, so I don't see myself heading out for any major canoeing treks. So my use will likely be more casual, around my country place (placid river, wetlands, small lakes). Bit of fishing perhaps (which the wide canoe allows), nature watching, that kind of thing. The light weight of the Bob Special is advantageous to me, for solo usage (hauling, lifting, storage). And I expect that a lot of my canoeing *will* be solo. I *do* also own a 16 foot fiberglass Prospector (have to repair the gunnels) that could be used for longer treks, should I decide to go that route.

  20. john hupfield

    john hupfield fire starter/wood burner

    I see a lot of Chestnuts. If the canvas is good and the gunnels and ribs are intact then it is easily worth the asking price. Most canadian canoes are undervalued. Early 70s aint late 70s.
    Check the boat for fairness by looking from the bow and stern along the bottom looking for hardpoints that signify broken ribs or planking.
    Look from the top to see if the gunnels have hard points signifying breakage.
    Feel midships under the gunnals for soft or rotten ribs.
    Feel the canvas near the stems for paper thin canvas that tears away like paper signifying canvas rot.
    If none of the above buy and use the canoe.
    Interior refinish can come later but remember that the wood must be protected by varnish or paint (easy to do unless you are doing a total refinish, and then it is a satisfying project.)
    $ 1500.00 is not unusual in a recanvas and repair project in a professional shop.

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