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Advice sought

Discussion in 'Strippers, Stitch-n-Glue, and Other Wood Composite' started by Bigdee, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. Bigdee

    Bigdee New Member


    Being brand new to this site, I'm not sure if this is the right forum for my question so if there is one more appropriate please direct me there. I have the chance to purchase a wood strip canoe as a project. Some of the fiberglass has air trapped and needs to be sanded and re-applied. I'm not terribly nervous about this part of the project (I've been screwing up woodworking projects for many years
    and have reached the point where once in a while things turn out how I imagined).

    My question is more about usage after I've completed the project. I'm from Minnesota and want to use the canoe for trips up to the
    Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and am wondering/concerned about the durability of wood strip & fiberglass canoes used in a rugged wilderness area on trips with multiple portages, etc.

    Any comments, advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. kayamedic

    kayamedic Kim Gass

    Undoubtedly you may hear from other users. I do not have a cedar strip canoe. However there are folks that use them just fine in Temagami and in Wabakimi and in the rest of the boreal forest way farther north than Boundary Waters (and far less maintained)

    Just do not let it blow away on portages (the number one reason for canoe damage) and float it before loading and unloading And of course be cautious before running any rapids.

    Seems like a little bit of a repair kit( some glass and resin) taken on the trip might allay any anxiety.
  3. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    What you have (and what I have one of) is basically a fiberglass canoe with a wood strip core. It'll hold up to abuse better than you think, although with the exterior being not painted, you'll see every ding & scratch. These aren't that big of a deal, unless you manage to breach the outer layers & let water into the wood.

    As for doing the initial repairs, posting pictures will help make some more educated guesses as to how extensive the work needs to be. If it's delaminating from the wood, you can cut out the bubbles, sand the edges of the glass, and patch it with glass cloth & resin. I've been using West System because that's what came with the kit I bought & it's available locally, but there are other brands that work just as well. And I'd suggest fixing it before taking it on a trip -- you don't know how well the bubbles will keep water off the wood.

    Todd, Dan, and others have much more experience with these than I do, and I'm sure they'll chime in before too long. Post pictures... we like pictures!
  4. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder


    I'd be more concerned about what design the canoe is, (is it a design suited to BW/Q travel), and what workmanship was used to build it in the 1st place.

    Some old strippers aren't worth the effort to bring back, you maybe be better off building one from scratch.

    With that said, the last few trips we used a stripper, like Kim said, keep them off the rocks and you'll be fine.

    BTW, the portages are there for a reason, unless you are a very good WW paddlier, there are very few runable connections between the lakes and nobody wants to come and get you.

  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    They hold up fine up there with reasonable care. As for the repair, the only thing that raises a red flag is the idea of sanding off the old glass. If it's a large area (or group of areas) or if you plan to remove and replace all of it, sanding it off is pretty tricky. The problem is that fiberglass is much harder than the wooden core. You have to be pretty aggressive to cut through the glass, but the instant the sander gets through it, it digs into the soft core wood with a vengance - and it usually happens too fast for you to react in time.

    If you're just patching a few small-ish spots, it's not too bad, but anything bigger can quickly result in a boat that's all hacked-up. For big removals, a heat gun and a scraper is slow, but about the only way to get the resin and glass to peel neatly from the core without pulling up wood or leaving big sander divots.

    Also be aware that if we're talking about a big project, like replacing all the fiberglass, it's not much more work to start fresh and build a new boat. It's also a heck of a lot more pleasant work and the end result usually looks a lot better, even for first-timers if they can follow simple directions and pay attention. An awful lot of old strippers really aren't worth all the time and money it takes to repair them.
  6. OP

    Bigdee New Member


    Thanks very much for your helpful comments. Particularly in re to the question of design. It's been a few years since I've been in a canoe and a pending divorce has me rekindling my interest and passion. I've been doing woodworking for some years and my thought was to
    blend these two passions. I've included a link to the craig's list ad offering the canoe for you all to peruse. After reading your comments I'm a little leery about biting off more than I can chew but have given myself until this coming Tuesday to decide (on Tues I have a meeting that takes me half the distance to the owner). Any additional comments are very appreciated.

  7. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Bigdee- Man, that canoe's a bit rough. If you really want to combine woodworking and canoeing, start from scratch. You can produce something gorgeous and highly functional, not have the hassle of trying to repair old problems, AND have the satisfaction of knowing that your final product is all yours! I built a stripper way back in '87 and have kept it well- it still looks great, and has been a great pleasure all over the US and southern Canada.

  8. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Put it this way.....if someone gave me that boat for free, I wouldn't take it. It's almost certainly an old polyester resin fiberglass job, most of which were a bust. The white areas are most likely delaminated areas of the glass because polyester doesn't stick to wood very well compared to modern epoxy resins and the result is often delamination, either due to impact and/or water getting into the wood and bubbling the glass. It is at least as much work to remove the fiberglass and re-glass the boat with epoxy as it is to build a better boat from scratch, and technically, if you have the skills to do one, you can do the other. The price isn't all that different, either.

    Pick up a copy of a good stripper building book and start reading (Canoecraft, The Stripper's Guide To Canoe Building, etc.). You will enjoy the experience of building a lot more and you'll end up with a better boat. The Stripper's Guide even comes with free, full-sized templates for the 17' and 18' Micmac canoes, which are the best tripping designs I've ever paddled, and being in one part or another of the canoe business since 1970, I've paddled a lot of canoes.

    This one is just a case of buying somebody else's troubles and you don't want any part of it.
  9. fredygump

    fredygump Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I wouldn't buy an old cedar strip like the one in that listing, and I wouldn't take it if it were free. I am assuming that it was made with polyesther resin, which doesn't bond to cedar very well. Polyesther will delimate, and you could probably peel the fiberglass off like pealing a banana. (It's probably a bit harder than that, but same idea.) That boat isn't really "worth" anything aside from the use you can get out of it. If you just want something to fish out of on the weekend, it would work fine. But I don't think it's good for much more than that.

    If you are looking for a good boundry water canoe, I would recommend building a boat from scratch. I built my first one when I was 16, completely on my own. But to be fair, I must admit that I didn't completely finish it right away. I got it stripped, fiberglassed the outside, and started sanding the interior. But then I got a bit distracted by not having money for materials, college, and a few other things. Ten years later I finished it, and I said to myself, "That was easy. I'll build another!" )

    But more seriously, you don't need special skills to build your own boat. It takes time and determination to finish it, but with those things, anybody could build one. And it's really rewarding to see the boat taking shape. None of the steps are complicated, and there are lots of books and resources that will tell you exactly how to do it. It isn't terribly expensive, and cheaper than buying a high end fiberglass boat. You can pick exactly what design you want, design your own, or modify one that is close to what you want. And if you use the right materials (i.e. epoxy resin), it will be much more durable than the one in that ad. And if you're careful with fairing the hull and removing all the glue, it'll look amazing compared to that thing!

  10. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    Big D,

    I mostly agree with the other guys, I wouldn't take it if it was free. That canoe (shape) doesn't look very interesting. It looks very full in the ends and the shear isn't fair.

    You would be much better off building from scratch then fixing this one.

    As for the resin used, IF this canoe is only 10 years ago, (and that's not a given) I dought that poly would have been used. By then, here in the Cities, I suspect only the long term "race" builders would have considered poly, only because it's cheep and they have used it a lot. Epoxy was well established by then and anyone building a 1st or 2ed boat would likely have used it.

    As a side note, 10 years is not a very long time, looking back, I built my 1st stripper in 1998 and the 2ed a year or so later, and it seems like it was just a few years ago, not 14. The 3rd and current has been in the basement for almost 5 years. :) (It's waiting for trim, a summer out of work plus a year of working/living out of town plus another 9 mouths of more out of work makes the time fly by.)

  11. Mark Neuzil

    Mark Neuzil Paddler

    The guys at Northwest Canoe in St. Paul are very helpful; next time you are down their way you could pop in. My Prospector stripper, finished last year, did three BWCA trips and a Wisconsin outing just fine. Lots o' scratches, but only surface ones, so who cares? Plus fish scales stick to the finish.
  12. fredygump

    fredygump Curious about Wooden Canoes

    If the canoe is 10 years old, it's newer than my first boat, which means that it was probably made with epoxy. My bad... Dan's right about that.

    I started mine in 1997, so about 14 years ago. I used Epoxy, and I remember lots of grave warnings about polyesther. I had two books at the time, canoe craft, and "building a strip canoe" by Gil Gilpatrick, which was published in 1993. Both books strongly recommended epoxy, so that tells me that people have been pushing epoxy for the last 20 years. So there's a good chance that the boat is epoxy, I repent of my previous post.... :)

    To be honest, there's wood glue and/or filler everywhere, which are the white-ish areas. If you wanted it to look good, you'd have to paint it. It can be sea worthy, yes, but you won't be proud of it. But if you build it yourself, you can be proud of it, even if it isn't perfect.

  13. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Heed the advice above; this carcase isn't worth $350. If someone brought me this boat, asking how much to fix it up, I'd tell them that buying three brand new ones would cost much less than fixing this one. I would not accept the challenge for anything less than several thousand dollars, as a down payment, in cash.
  14. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Epoxy doesn't generally delaminate in big patches the way this one has, and with outside storage and minimal care, it would most likely be yellowing from UV and getting crumbly by now. I still think it's probably polyester which was used because it costs about a third of what epoxy costs. In any case, it's not the boat you're lookig for.
  15. fredygump

    fredygump Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I must be really bored, because I've looked at those photos a couple times. It's like a science project or murder investigation... :)

    Now that I've wasted time thinking about, I'm moving away from the "delamination hypothesis." That's what we all expect based on the description, but the third photo shows oval spots that are bare, like wrinkles in the fiberglass cloth that weren't worked out properly. (I know 'cause I've made one or two of them myself.) And I think the white patches we're seeing are filler that wasn't sanded off. It's a shame, really... That extra little bit of sanding and scraping makes all the difference.

  16. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Bigdee, If you want a project boat, look for a wood canvas canoe that's not in too bad shape. Not sure how often they pop up in your area, but I've had two fall into my lap, and just missed a third. Making your own paddles is quite a fun project as well, and takes less time & $ than boats. Either would be an easier start down this path.
  17. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Air-filled, bubbled-up areas aren't a filling problem, they're delamination. In any case, the more you zoom in on the photos, the more obvious it is that it's a horrible glassing job over a horrible fairing job of the wood core under the glass. Add age, water and weather exposure and you have a real mess on your hands. We used to joke that it was quite possible to take $600-$800 worth of new materials and end up with a finished stripper that might only be worth $75. Luckily, for those willing to carefully follow the directions and learn the process, this can easily be avoided. This guy didn't.

    Paul's comment about finding a wood/canvas boat to restore is a good one if you would rather restore one than scratch-build one. We've seen dozens of stunning wood/canvas restorations showcased here over the years, many of which were real basket cases when aquired. On the other hand, I can't really think of a single stripper restoration that really turned out great. If they're well built to start with and maintained, they can last and look great for many years. Poorly-built or maintained strippers seem to be a very different story from a restoration standpoint and sadly, the best place for most of them is the dumpster.
  18. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    I agree,

    and if you decide you are interested in and want to take on a W/C project, give me a holler, I have several I'd like to part with,
    or if you just want to look at a few and talk W/C fo a while that's OK too.

  19. able.baker

    able.baker New Member

    The key here is whether it is epoxy or polyester. I built a polyester canoe 26 years ago and 2 years ago I redid the exterior fiberglass after it wore through in one spot. The original glassing job wasn't that great since I was new to to craft. It had some areas of "resin starvation" where the poorly sealed wood sucked in the resin and left blotchy patches. When the worn out spot appeared I approached it with the intent of patching, but when I realized how easily the poly stripped off, I went for the complete re-do. It was a lot of work, but worth it in the end. One thing I noticed about the boat in question is that it looks like the screws in the gunwales have started to rust, which indicates the builder didn't even bother to use bronze or stainless. I think this might be barely salvageable if it is a poly job, but trying to resurrect a bad epoxy job is just about impossible. Also - fixing the inside is WAY more work, because of the concave shape. I still have poly on the inside of my boat - it came out much better than the outside, since I learned from my first mistake. Offer the guy $100 and you might come out ahead... Good luck!

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