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Old Town Guide 16 restoration

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by kjgcanoe, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. kjgcanoe

    kjgcanoe New Member

    I enter this community in full knowledge that my current restoration project is contrary to what I've read about restoring canvas canoes. I think I am an apostate to many, or soon will be. Maybe this is my confession as I know that when my restoration is finished many will look at my work and ask this honest and simple question, "Now tell me, why did you fiberglass this beautiful boat instead of re-canvas it? A shame." To which I will probably say, "I just wanted to. I meant no disregard to the nostalgia and heritage that this boat perhaps deserves."

    Honestly though. I am committed and in the middle of glassing a 1974 Old Town Guide 16. Sorry. The canvas was shot and the wood was in such good shape I thought I'd make it look like the glassed version of the currently offered glassed boat that Old Town offers. I have nothing against recanvasing other than it's beyond my skill set and I am more accustomed to glassing. With that said, a nice gentleman stopped by my house today as he saw my boat dryng in my garage from its second fill coat of epoxy and said he was a member of this fine association. He was nice and honest and did say that my method was "anti" to the norm. I agreed with him. I had to leave but wished I had more time to pass some questions on to him. He seemed genuine and experienced. So maybe someone could offer me any advice without accosting me for my known deviation from the norm. Here are some questions:

    What are the limitations to this canoe being glassed? I want the hard honest truth. I can take it.

    And if it's not the norm, how does Old Town get away with selling an $8,000 glassed wood canoe?

    At Island Falls Canoe, the gentleman said to use a calking compound (filling compound?) after I re-attach the keel to seal it in. Any suggestions? Is there a marine calk that would be sufficient for this?

    I'd like to make a planked floor (if that's what it's called that I've seen on some Old Town canoes) to protect the bottom that would be removable. Any wood types that are best for that?

    Thanks for your time. I look forward to reading your thoughts and ideas, however shameful they might rightfully be. I respect all that I've read so far in other posts.

  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    You could have saved yourself all of the time, cost and effort and sold this to canoe someone that wants a wooden canoe.
    An aluminum canoe or any other modern hull should suite your purpose.
    If you are really keen on the idea of a Faux wood canoe, you may been able to locate a Stowe or Mansfield canoe on Craigslist or's classifieds. They turn up for sale fairly often.

    Now that the damage is done and the canoe is ruined, it's a bit late to wonder about the limitations of glass or the valuation of one done properly but if you are curious you may search this site for related discussions.
    It is arguable if the glassed Old Towns were worth the asking price. They were however specifically built to be glassed and were not glassed over hulls that had been constructed to accept canvas.

    All said, it's yours to do with as you choose. The Old Towns are very available so glassing one over is not as tragic as glassing a collectable boat.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  3. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    Having heard your confession and with appreciation for your courage to make it I'll offer my own response.

    I am currently restoring a 1920 OT that was fiberglassed quite well a few years ago. It was used frequently in the swamps of S.C. I worked on it 7 years ago in order to patch where it split and was leaking. I patched the splits with more glass and it lasted 7 years. It still weighed in at only 54#.

    So I would suggest that you be diligent in looking out for splits in the 'glass in the area of the keel. Which I suggest you do not install. Water always finds a way. As the wood expands and contracts it stresses the 'glass in the area of the keel. Also, keep an eye out for wear along the stems. Also, I would suggest you take more than normal care for maintenance of the interior. As moisture gets in it becomes trapped by the glass and promotes rot.

    The 1920 canoe I am working on would not be here today if not for fiberglass. It would have been thrown away.

    Having applied fiberglass on various projects, including one stripper, I am convinced that applying fiberglass is much more difficult than applying canvas.

    Finally, there are lots of canoes that are still being glassed in lieu of canvas, so you are not alone. I've seen 'glassed canoes that were painted and they looked good. You might want to consider that. The paint will be the canary in the mine...You will easily see any splits/scratches. I think you will get lots of enjoyment from using your canoe. The river boats around Grayling are all glassed over wood and varnished inside. They do fine. All in all, canvas is the way to go for the w/c canoe, but they don't hang a man for using glass. They do hang ya for making bookcases tho. I've been hung once before myself.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  4. nickb

    nickb WCHA member #8947

    The glass vs. canvas conversation is well documented, so I'll stay out of that - there are many more expert than myself to comment on it. What I will reinforce is the idea that applying canvas is probably not in fact 'beyond your skill set.' If a novice like me can do it, I'm confident it would present little problem for you. Yes there's some investment in a system to provide tension and 'clamps' but working with canvas as a medium, for me anyway, was pleasantly easier/more intuitive than I thought it would be reading descriptions of the process beforehand. Best of luck with your restoration, and weathering the resulting 'conversation.'
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Well, that strikes me as a pretty offensive welcome. And this one:

    simply isn't accurate.

    I guess my 1972 16' custom ordered Guide that I glassed about two years later when the factory canvas split open at the gunwale (revealing a factory-applied, glued on Dacron patch) and the factory said "tough **** kid" must also be "ruined". On the other hand, it still works just fine, doesn't pick up water weight, and in 50 years with decent care the wood will probably be in better shape and less shrunken and dried out than that on most w/c boats. Seal a piece of wood with epoxy resin on one side and well maintained varnish on the other side, and another piece with varnish on one side and nothing on the other side. Then subject both to repeated applications of water and see which one holds up better in the long run.....


    The inside, by the way, has not been refinished. It's been lightly sanded and had a couple fresh coats of varnish over the years, but still has the original varnish under it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of wood and canvas, for the repairability, tradition and in-water aesthetics, but wood canvas construction is in many ways not perfect either (notice all the threads with mysterious canvas bubbles, filler problems, brittle dried-out wood, etc.). I glassed my boat because at the time, there were no associations, forums, websites, videos or even books that told how to do it and the factory was no help at all. I didn't know how to canvas a canoe, but I certainly knew how to fiberglass one. I will say that I am not a fan of the clear fiberglass coverings - mostly because nobody in their right mind would ever plank any wooden canoe or boat with a planking pattern like that if it was going to show, but that's another issue. The idea that the glassed wooden boat has been ruined though, and that its owner should then be relegated to a Grumman or Mansfield is pure BS and that sort of snobbery doesn't do the WCHA any good. I think I've been reasonably helpful to folks around here for the last decade or more, but if I ever start feeling like this is the prevailing attitude among the members of the WCHA, that will be the end of my participation.

    KJG, if you do a good job on your glassing and maintain it decently, your canoe should be around for a very long time. There is craftsmanship with fiberglass work, just as there is with woodwork. You can always canvas the next one.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  6. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    The major limitation of a glassed canoe is that future repairs can be significantly more difficult. Replacing a canvas may not be simple but it is usually far easier than removing fiberglass.

    Old Town and most manufacturers will sell what ever the public wants to buy at any price that the market will bear. However, they are not selling enough wooden canoes to even include them in their printed catalogs any more. The norms within the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association are clearly different from the norms within the larger population of canoe buyers as you have discovered.

    There are a variety of marine caulk and bedding compounds which should work but I don't have enough experience to recommend a best one for this situation. I would also urge you to consider Dave's suggestion of simply omitting the keel.

    I believe that you are asking about a floor rack as described at which was made out of spruce and cedar although almost any wood could work for this.

    Good luck with the rest of your project. Please feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.

  7. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Bedding a keel on a fiberglassed or epoxy-sealed boat or canoe is generally fairly simple. The first thing you need to do is to isolate the screw holes, as you will be going through the wood and you don't want water soaking into the end grain inside the holes. Use neat epoxy and hardener (with no filler powders or other stuff added) and paint several light coats on the insides of the screw holes. This may take three or four coats before the end grain is completely sealed and the edges of the hole will no longer absorb epoxy (or water). This should be done whether you plan to reinstall the keel or leave it off.

    Most marine calks in tubes are adhesive/sealers. In this case, you don't really need the adhesive part of the program. The keel is probably the most easily in-use-damaged part of the entire boat, and the most likely to eventually need repair, or removal for repair or replacement. For this reason, I'd rather see it bedded with a traditional (non-adhesive) bedding compound like Dolphinite. This type kind of resembles plumber's putty. When exposed to air for long periods, it can dry out and crack, but in more sealed areas, it can last many years without a problem. I have repaired/restored old fiberglass boats as well as old wooden boats where the bedding compound remaining in the joints was about the only thing on the entire boat that was still in good shape. You essentially butter the piece generously with the compound, screw it down tight and clean off the excess that squeezes out in the process. If the keel is cut with the typical slight hollow on the side against the hull, fill it with the compound, plus a bit more to squeeze out, stick it in place, screw it down and you should end up with a well sealed keel, well sealed screw holes through the ribs and planking, and easy removal if ever needed.

    If I wanted to omit the keel instead, I'd probably either fill the holes in the ribs with epoxy and wood dust and varnish over them, or seal them with epoxy and stick the washers and cut off screws (shortened to just heads and short shanks) back in with epoxy. If for some reason you ever need to remove them, you can just heat the heads up with a soldering iron, which softens the epoxy, and remove them.
  8. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    There are opponents and proponents of the use of keels. The type of water that is being paddled is a consideration.
    I'm a flat water paddler, primarily...... If I were a River paddler that needed to slip and slide through obstacles, I may think differently.
    My personal philosophy is that if there was a keel there to begin with, I leave or replace a keel during restoration.
    On my "daily driver"....17' Thompson Indian, that I use for myself, trips into Quetico, and guide fishermen out of, there is a keel. I feel that the slight mobility hinderance that it causes is is overshadowed by the protection it gives the hull. My keel takes the beating that in its absence would have damaged the hull on those unforeseen rocks (especially in Quetico!).
    I have done restorations where the keel was to be discarded. The screw holes that remain, just filled in or plugged are sorta unsightly to my eye. To get around that, as Todd suggests as well, I've cut off brass screw heads and epoxy'd them in. I do the same when a sponson canoe is restored, sans sponsons.

    Everybody has their own way doing things and expectations for their restoration.
    Often I've told people that want to vary from the norm on canoe restoration, " it's your canoe, you can screw it up anyway you want to", but in all reality it ends up as a means to spend time on the water. That's the important part!
    Good luck on yours!
  9. pathologist

    pathologist Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Regardless of the covering (glass or canvas), that is a very attractive boat. Is the color a yellow or funky green, and what is it called? I just painted the hull of my Old Town white but could change it in a heart beat.
    Thanks, Pathologist
  10. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    It's a pale yellow. In my 1970 Old Town catalog there is a photo of two hunters hauling a deer carcass out of a yellow Lightweight model, but at least in the copy I got, the yellow is a bit softer and lighter than most Old Town yellows that I have seen. I've never really been into yellow boats, but always thought that among all the colors you can paint the hull, the light yellow seemed to give the nicest contrast and bring out the warm tones of the cedar best. The boat was originally dark green when I ordered it and later, after glassing. Then I eventually repainted it dark green over off-white. This time around, I figured I'd go with a light yellow. I didn't like what I could find pre-mixed and finally had Ace Hardware mix up a custom color in their polyurethane floor enamel. It does not roll and tip quite as smoothly as some of the marine enamels like Brightside (a bit more orange-peel) but it's not bad and pretty tough.

    There is enough hardness difference between the epoxy/fiberglass and either enamel or urethane paint that with a random orbit sander and about 100 grit disks I can sand the paint, stop when I see resin and have the whole thing back down to bare epoxy, ready to paint again in a couple of hours. For the moment though, I'm kind of fond of the yellow, even if it does look like a big banana.

    I've also had good luck with Behr Premium epoxy garage floor paint. I rolled and tipped the base coats on the fur trade canoe, sprayed some shading in places and then put the bark grain lines on with a roller I made. How well these urethanes and other modern paints will work on a canvas surface which moves a bit more, when compared to more traditional enamel, is hard to say though, and might need some testing.

    Attached Files:

  11. OP

    kjgcanoe New Member

    Thanks to all who have responded so far. I appreciate it. To Todd Bradshaw, thanks for your thoughts. I'm inspired by your yellow painted glassed boat. I'm considering painting it now instead of leaving it bare for aesthetics as well as "canary in the mine" aspect.

    Some questions for you regarding painting:
    After your last fill coat of epoxy, did you sand lightly (what grit?) and then the paint?

    Is there a primer that goes on first? If no primer, how many coats of paint did you use and what is your paint of choice?

    My stem bands appear to be aluminum (silver in color) and the old green paint is chipped off. Would you paint the stems the same color as the boat so as to blend in or sand and keep bare metal?

    How did you prepare the keel before you installed it - treatment wise? Did you paint it the same color as the boat?

    Thanks again and keep the positive comments, constructive criticism and scorn coming.

  12. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I'd scrap the aluminum stem bands and buy brass ones..... Paint first, then install, using a bedding compound to seal underneath it. Check the builders/suppliers list for who sells them.
    Brass is soooo classy on the old beauties.
  13. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    My glassing schedule is as follows:
    I use WEST 105 epoxy and fast (205) hardener for projects like this or strippers, and I do all my epoxy work in a single long day. You do need to be pretty comfortable with fiberglassing though, because you don't have much time at all to monkey around with the cloth before the resin sets up. As soon as the cloth layer is on and has hardened enough that I won't disturb it, I start rolling on filler coats. I roll the coats on with a thin (Gougeon) foam roller and immediately tip out any bubbles with light strokes from a soft brush (or a chunk of a roller hot-glued into a stick). If I'm working alone, I'll have a roller in one hand and a brush in the other. If my wife is helping, I'll have her mix small, continuous batches of resin and follow right behind me doing the tipping work.

    Drips and runs are caused by uneven thickness of your filler coats or trying to add too much resin at once to vertical surfaces. They are not a horrible big deal to sand off later, but the finishing job goes faster and easier if there aren't any bad ones. The best way to minimize them is to use multiple thin filler coats, rather than trying to do the job with fewer heavy ones. It is not at all unusual for me to put on five or six thin filler coats before declaring the job done. Again, they are applied just as soon as the previous coat has stiffened enough that I won't disturb it. It takes about fifteen minutes to apply a coat, and than maybe 60-90 minutes or so for it to harden enough for the next coat. Working rapid-fire like this, I don't need to worry about amine blush between layers and my rule of thumb is to add filler coats until the glass texture has completely disappeared (however many it takes), and then add one more coat as a sanding cushion. I never, ever sand anything between layers. It is not needed and sanding green epoxy is a serious health hazard. If for some reason I don't get all my coats on in one day, I wash the blush off the next morning with plain water and a Scotchbrite pad (takes about 15 minutes) before finishing my filler coats.

    Epoxy resin does not go on as smoothly as paint or varnish and never will. In order to have a smooth, good looking surface for either paint or varnish, it will need to be sanded smooth first.... but before you do, wait about a week for the epoxy to fully cure. It's better for the resin and also for you due to the health hazards of contact with green epoxy (or its dust). We used to use big disk grinders for this, but these days you can get similarly nice results (at a slightly slower, more controlled pace) with a small random orbit sander like you would find at Home Depot for $50-$75 (Porter Cable, Dewalt, Makita, Ryobi, etc.).

    I start with 80 grit disks on the random orbit and do most of the sanding. Keep it flat to the surface and keep it moving. If you start to see a pattern of small white specks, those are the tops of the cloth weave and you don't want to sand any deeper in those spots. This is coarse enough to also remove any drips or runs. Then I'll switch to a disk in the 100-120 grit range and give the whole hull a quick pass with the finer grit. There usually isn't much reason to sand any finer for a painted finish, as doing so will just reduce the adhesion of the paint layers to the epoxy. For a clear finish, I might go up to 150 grit, but no farther. I see people all the time stating that they wet-sanded their epoxy all the way up to 320 or 400 grit for clear finishes before varnishing. It is a waste of time. The finish won't look any better and the varnish won't stick as well. In either case, you should be able to get all the sanding done on a typical canoe hull in a couple or three hours and be ready for paint or varnish.

    I never use primer on epoxy resin. After sanding, your epoxy surface should be smooth as a baby's butt and free of anything that needs filling. Primer's main job is to fill imperfections. If you did a decent job with your filler coats and sanding, there won't be anything there that the paint or varnish itself won't fill. Primer does nothing to make the paint last longer over epoxy and nothing to make it stick better, so it really isn't helping with anything.

    I'll generally roll and tip 2-3 coats of paint or varnish on, depending how it looks. Expect the first coat to look like crap, because you are rolling it on thin to avoid drips and runs. The second coat will fix that and look much better. I typically let it dry overnight and go over the hull with a green Scotchbrite pad to knock the gloss down between coats. The expensive portion of any paint is the pigment it contains. An expensive enamel will often have more pigment and less thinner in the can (part of the reason it's more expensive) and it may need fewer coats to look nice and even. Different pigments are also sometimes more or less powerful than other pigment colors in the same brand and type of paint, so it's pretty much a "don't stop until it looks really nice" sort of thing.

    If it's varnish, instead of paint, it absolutely needs to be a quality, marine grade varnish containing UV filters to protect the epoxy from UV damage. Most epoxy resin can start to break down in as little as 200 hours of exposure to sunlight (which isn't a lot for a boat) and your varnish is all that is absorbing the UV and protecting it. Most UV absorbers are substances suspended in the varnish that convert UV to heat, allowing it to dissipate before attacking the epoxy. Over time, the absorbers slowly get "used up" as they do their job. The boat will eventually need a light sanding and a fresh coat or two of varnish to maintain the protection. How often - every two years, five years or ten years will depend on just how much sun it gets. One advantage of paint is that being opaque, it will block UV at the surface. The surface may eventually fade or chalk, needing work from a cosmetic perspective, but the epoxy will usually still be protected as long as there is paint on the boat. My favorite paint for epoxy surfaces in terms of going on really nicely rolling and tipping is Interlux Brightside, though I'm not terribly fond of their dark green shade and usually add a little bit of black to darken it up more. It's getting awfully expensive though and there are some other paints (both marine quality like Kirby's and Petit Easypoxy and some of the better floor enamels) that will also work well.

    I agree with Dave on the brass stem bands, bedded and unpainted. That's what I put on my guide. Unless you prime aluminum bands with zinc-chromate primer first, you don't get a very good bond with most paint. Plus....everybody loves a brass band.....
  14. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    I apologize for the harsh tone of my comments. Not enough coffee and very deep frustration from weeks and weeks of picking white resin from between planking and ribs with a dental pick on a Rushton and the glassed over Gerrish in my garage boiled over.
    As I noted, it is your canoe to do with as you please and if you follow the expert advise that has been give by Tom you may approach the outstanding results that he has on his Old Town.
    Regarding my suggestion to buy an alternative constructed canoe, that is actually what I have choose to do. Although we paddle our wood and canvas and wood canoes 95% of the time, I do have an Oltonar/Royalex Penobscot for beating around (and for the Scouts to borrow) and as a concession to getting older, a Kevlar Swift for routes with lot's of carries.
    I have also owned a glassed Old Town and it gave many years of good service despite being heavier than my car.

    Enjoy and pop a few pictures on the site when you get your boat done.
  15. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    kjg, when I originally ordered my Guide in '72 I special ordered it keel-less (I'm not a fan of keels on canoes if I have the choice), so I didn't have to deal with reinstalling one. If I was doing one these days on a glassed hull I think I'd paint the hull first, which is somewhat easier without the keel on, paint the keel on the bench on all sides (with primer, since it's bare wood) and then bed it well when attaching it. It could certainly be varnished instead if you liked that look better. After doing all the work to rebuild the boats I think most of us are pretty careful with them and tend to maintain them reasonably well. If the finish on the keel gets dinged in a few places, fixing it before it becomes a serious problem isn't too hard. Odds are that it's going to hit a few things along the way, and it will never be stronger than rocks are, so something fairly simple to maintain is usually the best bet.
  16. pathologist

    pathologist Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Mr. Bradshaw,
    Again, about that yellow canoe; I really like the color very much, so please excuse my impudence when I ask if you would share the Ace Hdwr recipe or color-mix formula. It appears as a lemon-lime yellow. Refreshing!! I also use Ace for color mixing and formulation. I am waiting for filler to cure on a 1964, 17', top grade, OT OTCA. The original color was bright red but, red is less appealing since I saw the yellow canoe.
    Thanks, Pathologist
  17. pathologist

    pathologist Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Again, about the yellow canoe. It appears as a refreshing and wood-enhancing lemon-lime yellow/green. It may be the light during the photo but, I like it very much. I'm waiting for the filler to cure on a top grade 1964, 17'4" OT OTCA (all original wood). The original color was red but red is becoming less appealing. I also use ACE Hardware paint mixologists. Excuse my impudence, but would you be willing to share the color formula of the yellow/green?
    Thanks, Pathologist
  18. pathologist

    pathologist Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Again, about that hybrid yellow on the above boat: I'm waiting for the filler to cure on a 1964, 18' OT OTCA, top grade. Gorgeous wood!! The original color was red but that is becoming less appealing since I saw the "lemon-lime" on your canoe. I, also, use ACE HDWR mixologists for paint color. I picked up every yellow, yellow-ish, light green, etc. paint chip in the store and none comes close. Excuse my impudence, but would you be willing to share the paint formula for the color?
    Thanks, Pathologist

    Sorry about the multiple postings. I couldn't find them in the forum for some reason. Still have not mastered this thing. I guess you know by now that I like that color
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  19. OP

    kjgcanoe New Member


    Your yellow OT you have pictured, does it have a keel of not? I know you mentioned that you special ordered it without one but glassed it two years later. The picture looks like it has the brass bow and stern bands. So would you suggest that, brass bands and no keel? Thanks.

  20. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Correct, no keel and brass stem bands. It's personal preference, depending on what you like, and I really dislike keels on canoes. There are certainly boats where I would put a keel back on (and canvas) for an accurate original restoration, but this isn't one of them. I rebuilt it the way I wanted it for my own use and changed some of the things that bugged me. The original ash decks were getting rotten at the tips, so I replaced them with mahogany decks and their undersides are epoxy-sealed and will never rot out from underneath. They were also cut with a simple radius on the hand-hold inner side because it's more comfortable than the standard shape when carrying the boat by the ends. Also, all the screws were replaced with square-drive, silicon bronze screws, simply because they are drastically better and stronger screws than the original slotted brass ones. OT Guides aren't particularly rare and were built to be more utilitarian than fancy, so I don't have any problem with rebuilding one to suit your own needs.

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