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I am scared for my old Canvas Canoe!

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Cajun, Apr 3, 2015.

  1. Cajun

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Hi Guys,

    I have spent all winter restoring a very old cedar strip canoe.
    Hundreds of hours stripping it down to the raw wood, bleaching mold then refinishing.

    I have recanvased, and painted the hull with 3 Coats of Alkyd Rust paint primer, 4 coats of Alkyd rust paint.
    All I have left to do is make some new outwalls and seats.

    The reason I say that I am scared for my canoe is this:

    I grew up going down river rapids with an fiberglass canoes.
    the thrill of maneuvering around rocks and sometimes "not" quite avoiding rocks.
    Portaging when getting snagged up on the river bed on low seasons.

    My point is that I have always been tough on my canoes.

    If live in a different area now so I dont know the rivers.
    When I take my baby out on my first canoe Camping excursion I cant help
    but think that this canvas will be ripped to shreds on the first rock that i hit.

    I mean no matter how careful I want to be, I will eventually hit a rock.

    I am just wondering, should I have more faith in my canoe?
    Or should I pick better friends? :p

    Last edited: Apr 3, 2015
  2. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Properly prepared the canvas should be almost indestructible. My concern would be for the ribs and planking.
  3. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Really? So I shouldn't be afraid to take it down rivers?
    I thought maybe I would be forced to stick to calm waters with a cedar canoe.
  4. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Think about it. Wood-canvas canoes were used for every type of canoeing between the mid-1880s through the 1950s. Canvas canoes were used on expeditions into Labrador, up to Hudson's Bay, down the Churchill River, all of the shallow, rocky Maine rivers, down the Nahanni, ad infinitum. Watch a few Bill Mason films.

    Your worst enemy will be old concrete and rebar. Bring the handyman's secret weapon - duct tape.
  5. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Thanks Dan.
  6. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    But Cajun, someone should be clear with you here. Neither your canoe nor your canvas is indestructible. If you use your canoe, you have to understand that it will experience wear and that it may get damaged. But you'll be very pleased, I'll bet, to enjoy the fruits of your labor by paddling your own canoe that was restored by your own hand. And if your canoe were to get damaged, now you know that you can repair it. Take reasonable care and you probably won't have to do anything major for quite a long time. Just look at how long these old wooden canoes have lasted. And even the ones with most of the finish gone and with (sometimes severe) structural damage can be restored to outstanding functional beauty.

    Hiro E. Nakamura
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2015
  7. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Thanks Hiro.
  8. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I do kind of get the feeling though that there was a mind-shift, somewhere around the late 1950s-early 1960s. Up until that time the general intention seems to have been to avoid hitting rocks whenever possible. After the shift, the focus changed to "the boat should be able to take it, so it's OK to hit them". With a wooden canoe, it's probably better to adopt the former, rather than paddling with a "Royalex mentality".
  9. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Haha even with my fiber canoes I never had a mentality that it was ok to hit rocks. But it happens.
    Im glad I posted because I have more confidence taking the canoe out. But I know I'll take extra care.
  10. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I have to ask. You did fill the canvas with canoe filler before paint, right??

    Just checking.
  11. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Yes of course :)
  12. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Proceed with caution.

    Signed: Inspector 10. WCHA Quality Control Services. ;)
  13. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

  14. sn8886

    sn8886 Curious about Wooden Canoes

    It's not ok to hit rocks with a wooden canoe. Rocks are for tupperware boats.
    Don't forget the first rule of whitewater boating: "Don't bring anything along you're not prepared to lose."
  15. OP

    Cajun Hobbyist Craftsman

    Thanks! I'm not prepared to lose my canoe. Hehe
  16. robin

    robin LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I never worry about ripped canvas, cracked ribs or scratches on my paint. Be careful, but use it, or just leave it on the rack for special occasions and photo opps.

    DSC02106.JPG DSC02117.JPG
  17. rpg51

    rpg51 Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

  18. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    Some people even run bark canoes in rapids on occasion as shown below.


    Attached Files:

  19. ian

    ian Curious about Wooden Canoes

    cedar canvas used to be the durable workhorse style of canoes -- the fine furniture grades were batten or lapstrake...

    take reasonable care, these are not delicate boats. aluminum made us lazy, royalex made us silly...

    if canvas is so fragile, why are all the construction workers wearing cartharts?

    and, any bad-thing you do, you can un-do...and have that fresh-cedar and varnish smell all over again

    unlike more modern boats, these are totally renewable...
  20. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Because fiberglass overalls are really itchy, and it's really hard to bend your legs in the Royalex ones. :)

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