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Newly acquired B.N. Morris

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Lyle Lemon, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. Lyle Lemon

    Lyle Lemon Curious about Wooden Canoes

    I was just given an old wood and canvas canoe that was in my employers garage when he bought his house 30 years ago and sat there ever since.

    Once I got to the garage where I'll be able to work on it I discovered just what great shape it is still in and found the B.N. Morris decal on the coaming. I only took a quick length measurement and it's about 17'-8" and did not find a serial number tag. After reading a few of the threads on this forum I'll take a harder look for nail holes to see if one is missing the next time I'm able to get back to the canoe (it's in Maine and I live in Boston).

    It looks like it is in original condition except for a bad attempt at repainting a some time and thwarts that aren't original (the center thwart is missing). In addition there is some hardware that has been added to the inwales that seem to be some type of female tapered dovetail and snap buttons. I will share my few initial photos and will take more next time.

    I hope to start restoring it soon and would appreciate any thoughts on how to proceed given the quality of it's condition. I have The Wood & Canvas Canoe book and have a lot of woodworking experience. I plan on starting by removing the canvas and start by stripping the existing finish.


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  2. paul s

    paul s Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    wait till kathy sees this, wow!
  3. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Hi Lyle.

    Well, what a treasure this canoe is! Looks like it's in original condition-- if rivets are still in place in the outside stems, I'd leave the boat alone other than a good cleaning... see if she floats and if so, paint the canvas. Maybe recane the seat that has a problem and leave the one with the very minor break alone... carefully remove paint from decks...

    On the coaming, where you see the funny finish that has gone bumpy, try denatured alcohol in case it's a shellac that's doing that... be careful of that great decal-- there are a couple more I know of on coaming that have the same wording-- so far that's the only decal-type I've seen on coaming.

    Your canoe appears to have the Morris extended ends, which give it more "torpedo"-- and it has outside stems. My guess is that it's an 18 foot canoe.... you can get an accurate measurement by placing a stick vertically against the bow and one against the stern, touching the farthest point that sticks out in those torpedo ends, and measure between them. Special ends were something Morris added as an option in the last years of the factory... your canoe may date from 1915-1920, but finding a serial number would help. My guess is the plate would have been on the bow stem... and this canoe is in such good shape, I don't know why it wouldn't be there. A couple canoes from "the late Morris period" have serial number plates in odd places, like embedded into a thwart, and on the side of a seat, and it's hard to say if they were moved to those locations or if that was the doing of a factory worker.

    The hardware on the inwales resembles what I've seen on Charles River canoes--- little brackets that hold a rod that curves over the canoe to hold a canopy. I'll look through pictures to find one. Haven't seen these on a Morris, but such things would have been available.

    More pictures and more information is appreciated very much! There are many drooling over your beautiful canoe!

  4. Steve Lapey

    Steve Lapey LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Time to join the WCHA and the Norumbega Chapter here in Eastern MA!

    Contact me and we will get things going.

    By the way, I have patterns for the Morris center thwarts and I have made up several of them - they always seem to be missing.

    Steve Lapey
    Norumbega Chapter
  5. chris pearson

    chris pearson Michigan Canoe Nut

    Holy Morris Batman!!!!!!
  6. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

  7. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Forgot to mention that your canoe has "the light interior" as opposed to the more common mahogany-stained inside. Looks beautiful. I'd just clean up the wood and hope I didn't find any cracked ribs... then see if it needed a coat of something... but it probably doesn't need stripping... at least, from the pictures it doesn't seem so.

    It can be a judgment-call how much to do on some canoes... but with one that seems so pristine, I'd go more "the preservation route". We have an unrestored original Morris with the dark interior. I know there are a few other folks here who have canoes that seem to have come out of a time capsule. These canoes help us understand how to restore the ones that aren't as well preserved... matching colors and such. But it's still your canoe, and the bottom line is that you get to do with it as you see fit. An old canoe isn't going to decrease in value by undergoing a quality restoration.
  8. Bob Bassett

    Bob Bassett Curious about Wooden Canoes

    WOW WOW WOW !!! I hope this canoe comes to Paul Smiths next summer.
  9. OP
    Lyle Lemon

    Lyle Lemon Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Thanks for all the responses and information.

    I am fairly certain it will not float at this point. The red paint covers a number of places that both the paint and filler have flaked off the canvas. In general the finish has cracked and started to peel away from the canvas all over. Is it possible to remove the paint and old filler from the canvas and then just refill and paint? I'll attach a side view that will give you a better idea of the condition.

    Regarding the caning on the seats, it seems fairly brittle. I was leery of putting any weight on them since when I started to I heard some cracking. Is there a way to give it back some flexibility by an oil or something else?

    I did try denatured alcohol on the coaming, that's how I was able to see the decal clearly, so I think it is shellac.

    I did not see any cracked ribs, but there are there three places where the planking has been damaged. One looks like it might have happened a long time ago and was filled with a black tar like substance. The other two look like something poked the plank breaking out a small piece towards the interior. Both pieces are still attached.

    Both decks are showing signs of cracking along the grain. One crack per half deck, with only one that has split apart with a clear space. Also each coaming has a split near one end with the stern having the longest one. The bow deck also has a rough hole in the middle between the flag hardware and the coaming. It doesn't look like there was ever a piece of hardware there but it was hard to tell.

    I would like to preserve as much as possible but I'm wondering about at least stripping the decks and gunwales in order to remove the paint and repair the splits. Any thoughts are appreciated.

    I just discovered WCHA while researching this canoe and am quite impressed. So much so that I have already joined and am hoping to make it to Paul Smiths next summer.


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  10. chris pearson

    chris pearson Michigan Canoe Nut

    Good for you and welcome to a great club! You have a real gem of a canoe. You will need to replace the caning. I think you will need to replace the canvas eventually too. If the planking is damaged in spots, you will need to pull off the canvas anyhow. You can sand the canvas carefully and repaint, but this is a temporary fix.
  11. crosscuts

    crosscuts LOVES Wooden Canoes

    B. N. Morris

    Interesting observation of the last photo posted of the new (old) Morris. Like my early Morris the bow seat seems to be placed very near the bow. I find in paddling mine that there very little room for feet under the deck. I thought of relocating the seat farther back but that would have meant the original seat and thwart would have to have been discarded. In deference to historical detail I left it where it was originally installed. I am always on the look-out for short legged bow paddlers.

  12. Fitz

    Fitz Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Tight Quarters


    That is my experience too. There is no leg room. If someone has a good explanation, please share it.

  13. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    My guess is that the primary purpose of these canoes was for courting and the use of the bow seat for any actual paddling was a much lower priority. The man would usually sit in the stern seat facing his date who was resting on the bottom of the canoe leaning against the bow thwart with the help of pillows and a fan back rest as shown at and many other examples.

  14. OP
    Lyle Lemon

    Lyle Lemon Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Well the Morris is ready for launching this weekend. After removing all the finish from both the interior and exterior I only made a few minor repairs to splits in the coamings and decks. I did make new thwarts to the pattern Steve Lapey provided me, thanks Steve. The lightweight spackle and primer combination worked pretty well but I found the Kirby's paint a little difficult to use. I was afraid of thinning it too much but I think I could have thinned the first coat a little more. I will likely add another coat before next year's season. This forum has been a great inspiration and help to my efforts, thanks all.


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  15. Steve Ambrose

    Steve Ambrose Nut in a Canoe

    Very nice work!!
  16. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Gorgeous color on your gorgeous canoe!
  17. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    Wow!! Really nice work -- beautiful job!

    A couple of questions -- did you ever find a serial number plate? Is there any story on the floor boards? Most of the Morris floorboards I have seen (including my yet-to-be restored Morris -- see pic) have six narrow fore-and-aft board rather than your four wider boards. The wider boards seem like they might be more practical.

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    I hope my future rebuild/restoration comes close to looking as good as yours.
  18. MackyM

    MackyM LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Beautiful canoe!!! You did a great job. Hope to see it at the Assembly next July.
  19. cwfrench

    cwfrench Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Came out beautiful! Where in Maine did it come out of the barn from? Most important question; What did you use to refinish the interior (which varnish and type)?
  20. Steve Ambrose

    Steve Ambrose Nut in a Canoe

    FWIW, the 1918 Morris I'm working on has a floor rack with only 4 runners.

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