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OT WCC Restoration/rebuild method suggestions?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Lazy Jack, Dec 18, 2011.

  1. Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have an old town wc canoe I'd like to restore - serial no 119835 16 - it hasn't seen the water in over 30 years. From what I can discern, it is probably a CS model built in the 40s sometime (steel fasteners along the stem - spruce inwhales and outwhales, ash thwarts and breast hooks, likely WRC planking although its all a weathered silver gray now)

    Anyway, it has 4 fractured ribs along the mid section, stems need to be spliced, in whale ends are gone, the spruce out whales are toast. The planking is very dry and weathered, and the hood ends are very thin, fragile and split by the multitude of steel fasteners into the stem.

    I had originally contemplated just replacing the inwhales (they're largely intact but very worn and rough) and the stem tips and the few broken ribs, but given that just about every plank is going to need to be replaced at the end I figured it best to just go ahead and put on all new planks.

    So... new planks and some new ribs...hmmmmm

    I'm contemplating a radical approach, the end result of which would be a new canoe generated from the old one that retained the original stem heels (and serial number) and thwarts:

    I would generate a pattern and scarf in new stem ends. Then I would build a keelson/strong back from a 2x6 to maintain the rocker and screw it in from the outside at every other rib. I would then spring stiff battens at intervals along the inside fastened from the outside at every other rib to form a longitudinal framework over which new ribs could be bent in between old ones. New inwhales would be bent in against the old ones. I would then separate the ribs from the old inwhale by running a hacksaw blade between them, lift the old whale out and the new whale into place. I would temporarily fasten every other rib to the new inwhale. The thwarts and breast hooks would be re-installed along with some additional temporary cross bracing across the rails.

    I would then invert the boat setting the 2x6 keelson (strongback) on a couple of stantions. After it was braced into place, I would break away the planking allowing every other rib (the ones to which battens and whales were not fastened) to be removed and fed to the stove. I would leave the ribs in way of the stem heel in place - they're pretty much fine and I can discretely scarf in new rib ends on these where needed.

    New replacement ribs would be bent into place over the battens and themselves fastened to the battens and inwhale allowing the remaining original ribs to be likewise removed and replaced. Planking would proceed in the usual fashion (with the awkward inconvenience of having to buck every single tack). Battens would be removed as planking proceeded to allow access with the backing iron. Not sure yet when and how I'd fair the ribs - maybe as planking proceeded so batten fasteners would be out of the way

    I'm pretty confident that this method, although more effort, would yield a final result that is much more structurally sound than scabbing new tips and plank ends into a rickety 70 year old (I think) canoe, while preserving the original shape as much as possible. Still less work than taking off lines, doing planking reductions and constructing a proper solid mold for a one-off

    Specific questions:

    1) The original ribs seem to be quarter and rift sawn - should I do the same or would I have better luck bending flat sawn stock? Does flat sawn stock result in too flexible a bottom?

    2) Am I going too far overboard here? Is there a more practical way to restore this canoe to functional soundness?
  2. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Thought this was a good place to start: Old Town 119835 is a 16 foot CS (common sense or middle) grade Yankee model canoe completed December 1936-March 1937, with open spruce gunwales, oak decks, oak thwarts and oak seat frames, and a keel. It was originally dark green. It was shipped to North Adams, MA, on April 9, 1937. Image of the scan of this record is attached below-- click on it to get a larger image.

    This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

    It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


    Attached Files:

  3. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you Kathy!

    I also found a photo of a restored 1937 OT Yankee on line - also helpful.


    Here is my project IMG_3811.jpg IMG_3803.jpg IMG_3807.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2011
  4. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    You may find the history of the Yankee model interesting-- use the "search" function and plug in "Yankee". The current 16 foot Old Town Otca is built on the old Yankee form.

    If you haven't already looked at a copy of "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" by Stelmok and Thurlow, it's considered "the bible of canoe restoration" and contains enough basic information to do the job, with possibly the assist of questions posted and answered here. Someone should be jumping-in to answer the questions you've already posted. The forums can be a busy place, but my guess is that people are involved in holiday-stuff or you'd have had some replies by now.

    If you live near a WCHA Chapter, you'll find many helpful folks who can assist in-person... people you can paddle with, once your canoe is in the water.

  5. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    To me,your canoe doesn't look like it needs to be rebuilt. I would clean the interior with tsp and oxalic acid to brighten the wood, replace the cracked ribs, scarf in the stems and inwale tips, replace any bad planking, sand lightly, oil the inside and outside with lots of linseed oil and turpentine, varnish and stain the inside AND varnish the outside and re-canvas. New outwales will also be needed. Unless you're planning on using the canoe for class II or greater river running, the canoe should be fine.
  6. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    What Gil said.
  7. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hmmm....hearin' ya's

    When I look at the photos, my impression is that I can work with whats there, when i put my hands on the actual boat, I come to a different conclusion...Not sure why yet. I'll see if I can capture it with some more specific photos and send it along for your eval. I really appreciate the input!

    I have had Stelmok and Thurlow since 1990. My copy is well worn. I looked at the restoration section yesterday- the Gerrish undergoing restoration was in much worse shape than this boat - definitely food for thought...
  8. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    So here's a more careful photo survey

    General Overall Views

    Steams and hood ends of planks - stems could be scarfed, hood ends could be replaced (more on that in a bit)
    IMG_3826.jpg IMG_3825.jpg IMG_3852.jpg IMG_3847.jpg
  9. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Breast hooks and inwhale issues

    IMG_3858.jpg IMG_3860.jpg IMG_3827.jpg IMG_3834.jpg IMG_3847.jpg IMG_3845.jpg

    Aside from the ends the inwhales are intact, just weathered, a little checked and a small split in way of the thwart fastener which I think could be epoxied
  10. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Rib and rib heads IMG_3832.jpg IMG_3840.jpg IMG_3841.jpg IMG_3842.jpg IMG_3844.jpg IMG_3855.jpg

    There are three obvious ribs that would need to be replaced. The greatest motivator to replace all of the ribs is to provide a solid structural attachment to inwales and so they don't look all split and broken from the top when the boat is finished . The originals are nailed with steel nails which are rusted but whole. Were I to remove and replace inwhales, would either splice new rib tips or epoxy and fix the splits. By the time I do that, it might just be easier to replace all the ribs, which brings be to the planking...
  11. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    My greatest concern with the existing planking is that it appears dried out and brittle and there are large gaps between the planking which would fill with grit and destroy the canvas IMG_3833.jpg IMG_3868.jpg IMG_3824.jpg

    if the advise is that they are probably perfectly OK as they are, I would splice in new segments as indicated by the longitudinal pieces of tape. The short cross pieces represent existing butts or where I would create one for a splice
    IMG_3871.jpg IMG_3872.jpg IMG_3870.jpg

    Given that these boats are hardly rare and are of trivial antique value, I waffle between restoration and rebuilding using the existing canoe as described at the beginning of this thread. The wood is old, the fasteners are somewhat loose and slightly rusted, the whole structure feels brittle and without resilience kinda like an wicker basket but maybe thats insignificant. My instinct is that rebuilding would produce a more structurally robust end result which would be more tolerant of care-free use and abuse and might look better to boot. On the other hand if a simple restoration; stems, breast hooks, rail ends and a few new plank bits and a couple ribs would serve just as well, it would be silly to throw away what might be a perfectly good boat (which rebuilding would essentially do)

    Gil, I know you've done a few of these so your opinion counts - which is why I took a second look. I just don't want to find myself struggling to produce a decent finished product while wishing I had just gone ahead and replaced stuff. But on the other hand, a lot of beautiful restorations have been done of canoes in similar condition without a full on frontal assult...

    waffle, waffle,
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
  12. Gil Cramer

    Gil Cramer The wooden canoe Shop, Inc.

    If the canoe does not have any sentimental value to you, then I would suggest that you find a canoe in better condition. There are many canoes built in the '50's and '60's in very good structural condition, and some still have good varnish. Because of the filler problem that Old Town had after replacing white lead with chalk, a new canvas will likely be needed, but many of these canoes still have bright exterior planking.
    Most of the canoes that I restore have sentimental value to the owners, and slightly more than half ever see the water again- usually under ideal conditions. On a rare occasion, I'll restore a wreck of my own.
  13. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    What a waste

    The only sentimental value this canoe has is that I traded a cedar strip canoe for it back when I wanted a WC canoe more than anything. That was over 20 years ago. I'm afraid I'm kinda stuck with this one out of principle more than anything else.

    I wouldn't intend for this canoe to run rapids or deal with heavy impacts - dragging it lightly loaded over a dam or two is not out of the realm of possibility...

    Just developing a mold for the stem splices - not committed to anything yet:
    IMG_3885.jpg Hot glue and pop sticks to pick up curve
    IMG_3887.jpg Points transferred back to cut-out and fair curve drawn through them
    IMG_3891.jpg Picking up thickness of stem through a window I cut
    IMG_3893.jpg Reducing the Cut-out by the stem thickness
    IMG_3895.jpg Cut out traced onto final male plug

    Ill laminate rather than steam bend and scarf these into the old stems. Ill leave the tops running long until I figure out where the in whales intersect them
    I have some old spruce guide boat oars from which I can get stock to splice into the inwhale ends.

    I'm having trouble figuring out exactly how it all comes together at the end. Do the inwhales run by the tip of the deck to join together to share a mortise into which the stem head is secured?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2011
  14. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    This is shown well at during a similar restoration. There is no mortise as it was built originally. Good luck with the rest of the restoration,

  15. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes


    Thanks Benson
  16. H.E. Pennypacker

    H.E. Pennypacker LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Am I totally missing something here? This canoe is in FAR better condition than many on these forums. It is largely there. Using it as a pattern for new construction seems like far, far more work than would ever be realized by functionality or value. Why not just scarf tips onto inwales and stems (maybe even decks), close it all up, clean it all up, and revarnish, canvas, etc? I sure wouldn't even go so far as replacing the stems. This looks like a simple and straightforward restoration. The apparent brittleness is normal. getting it all cleaned up and revarnished (starting with thin, penetrating varnish) will make all the difference in the world. With the stresses this little canoe is likely to see, these repairs will be great.

    Again, am I missing something???
  17. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    The spaces between planks are supposed to be there. I think the canoe is an easy resto. I would consider splicing in as needed for 'wales and stems. Strip it. Splice it. Perhaps oil/turp to taste. Varnish ( maybe thinned 50/50 first time), canvas, paint and go paddle it. Eric's record is a good study for deciding how/what to do.
  18. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Yes. My neurosis

    I'm beginning to see that

    This concisely answers the important question I didn't articulate well. I appreciate the collective experience on this forum
  19. Canoeal

    Canoeal Canoe/kayak builder/resto

    It is an average difficulty restoration. do the reairs that are needed, don't freak out. Gil's is the right approach...
  20. OP
    Lazy Jack

    Lazy Jack LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I freaked out anyway.

    Here's what I started with


    This is where I'm at


    Can't wait to get some oil soaking into it (Deks 1 most likely)

    Much to do before then

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