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1972 16' Chestnut Prospector 'Fort'

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Howie, Jun 8, 2021.

  1. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Yesterday I picked up this 1972 16' Chestnut Prospector 'Fort' gifted to me by a very nice/generous WCHA fella in North Carolina (thanks again Gene!). His buddy schlepped it up from NC while on the way to pick up his brand new canoe in the Adirondacks.

    20210607_162043.jpg 20210608_085031.jpg 20210608_085052.jpg 20210608_085113.jpg

    * It has a serial # stamped into the front stem. Best I can make out is 43311. This make sense?
    * I don't imagine the center thwart/yoke is original. Can someone tell me the proper size of the center thwart?... like the bolt-to-bolt distance. I'm wondering if this one is too long which might explain why the scarf cut of 3 of the rails have split open.
    * I really like the color of the interior. Does someone know how to mix a matching color today?
    * And were these things varnished on the inside? It looks like bare wood to me...
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2021
  2. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Hi Howie,

    The serial number is in the right range- though you might want to confirm whether that is "43311" or "45311".
    I have a 1971 Fort ( purchased July 1971 for $318Cdn!!!) SN 45285.

    And mine still has centre thwart- no yoke- so I will measure that distance for you.

    And yes the interior was varnished but lightly. They didn't have the high gloss multi coats seen on some other watercraft. These were working canoes and built for function not necessarily show.

    Cheers Bruce
  3. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan


    Bolt to bolt distance measured on centre thwart of my Fort is 31 3/4 inches.
    Hope that helps.

  4. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Bruce (Pook): Can you take a tape measure to your seats for me?

    So I've come to the conclusion that my seats were made wrong. Maybe they were meant for a shorter canoe. I've attached a pic of my seats with the lengths written for the 1st & last slats. If they are hard to read they are: 28-1/2" & 26" for the front seat, 20-3/8" & 15-1/4" for the rear. Any chance you can get the measurements off your canoe?
  5. samb

    samb LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Can't even see the picture, never mind read your writing!

    Aaah - see it now - on the other thread.
  6. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan


    Two issues:
    My fort has cane seats not slat seats. Not sure if they are same width or not. My Pal has slat seats, however.

    And I keep the Fort at the lake and won't be able to measure the seat widths- if you want them- for at least 10 days.

    Can you wait?

  7. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I've come up with a plan:

    As I've said, using the existing rear thwart (29 1/8" bolt-to-bolt) and the carry thwart (31 1/2" btb) causes the canoe is pinched-in at the center and wider in the front than the rear. The rear thwart is at rib 16 (counting ribs from the rear). If one were to add a thwart at rib 16 in the front (counting from the front) it would need to be 30 3/16" b-t-b. So at least with my canoe the combination of rear thwart and center thwart causes the front of the canoe to bulge (by about 1" at rib 16).

    My goal is to make the canoe as symmetric as possible and have rails to curve in a continuous gentle 'arc', and with a secondary goal of maintaining the ability to paddle the canoe 'backwards' from the front seat. I could replicate the existing rear thwart and place it at rib16, but that would place it too close to front seat for comfortable backwards paddling. So I've decided to eliminate the center thwart and place a new thwart at rib 19 (counting from the front) This would place the new thwart 15" behind the rear edge of the front seat - enough for solo canoeing 'backwards'. And happily, when I use straps to emulate this I see that the existing center thwart would fit in place. I don't intend to use this center thwart, but it's good to see that placing a new thwart at rib 19 in the front doesn't cause the canoe's middle to bulge out.

    An additional benefit of eliminating the center thwart and adding a new thwart a little off center is that the two thwarts will be better placed for one guy to lift the canoe using the thwarts and not have the canoe take an immediate nose dive!

    My two seats however are a total loss - the front ones are a full inch too narrow. I'm convinced they were meant for a shorter canoe. I'll be making new ones.

    All wood work on the canoe hull is done and the old varnish stripped. I'll be laying down new varnish soon.
  8. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    Was up at the lake yesterday and did some measuring.
    As noted earlier, my Fort has the cane seats not slat seats but I'm assuming that the seat lengths are similar length...

    I've measured up and attached "my" measurements.
    Hope that is helpful.
    Bruce Bow Seat 2.jpg stern seat2.jpg Dimensions.jpg stern seat2.jpg Bow Seat 2.jpg
  9. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I am not clear why you guys expect that these are built to consistent, exacting measurements, even within a given model.
    They were banging them out as quickly as they could build them -to maximize profit, like any other commodity. The construction method lends itself to "customization", at least not "standardization". Seats could be located almost anywhere between the centre thwart and the decks.
  10. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Bruce! (Pook?)... Thank you thank you! My rear dimensions are quite similar to yours: my rear thwart is 3/8" longer and center thwart is 1/4" shorter. But it's clear my front end has bulged out: the hole spacing at the rails for the front seat is 29 7/16 & 27 1/8 - about 1" wider than yours. Not to mention that the seat that was installed is 1" shorter than yours, and thus 2" shorter than needed with the front end bulged out!

    So I'll proceed with making new seats. I've a fella who has already expressed interest in the canoe, and he wants hand caned seats. Fine with me.

    And I'll proceed with eliminating the center thwart (I've already epoxied & doweled the holes), and relocate the new front thwart 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 ribs ahead north of center to tame the bulge.

    Thanks again for the measurements. Much appreciated!
  11. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Rob - No no no... What I was trying to do was find out why my front seats didn't fit at all. I was sure they screwed up, and now that's been nailed - they installed seats that were far shorter than they should be. Now with Bruce's measurements of his canoe I know my canoe also is bulged out, and I know how to fix it. That's all.
  12. Pook

    Pook Chestnut Canoe fan

    No sweat, Howie- glad to be of some assistance.

    And Rob, completely agree that Chestnuts were all hand made and hence each is slightly different.
    To "bang them out as quickly as they could build them" however there must have been was a certain amount of standardization of materials and components. Things like thwarts. gunwales, ribs and planks to a certain extent would have been 'prepared'- ie cut, ripped, planed, etc- prior to construction; I expect seat frames were also constructed elsewhere prior to canoe assembly to specified measurements.

    So I think that comparing components and measurements, especially of canoes of similar model and vintage, may offer some value in trying to establish what a canoe "looked" like when built .

    My $0.02 Cdn.
  13. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Components like seats and thwarts are made long, then fit to the hull.
  14. Andre Cloutier

    Andre Cloutier Firestarter. Wicked Firestarter.

    Toss the measurements from a catalogue. Take seats and thwarts out and sight the boat by eye while tying it off for a fair curve. You can then try to get close to the stated catalog measurements. This will yield a proper looking boat, and seats and thwarts can then be installed accordingly. No one in a factory will have done this, and all wood will behave somehwat differently of course so precut parts will often distort curve of the gunwhales. Every 40s-70s Chum i have ever worked on has a flat run along the centre of the rails, likely due to someone stationed at a saw cutting thwarts to one length.
  15. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Yup. Same for the fourteen footers.

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