Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Refinishing a strip canoe

Discussion in 'Strippers, Stitch-n-Glue, and Other Wood Composite' started by T. Meier, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. T. Meier

    T. Meier New Member

    I recently purchased a used cedar strip canoe, close to 18' in length. Can't wait to put it in the water. This boat is a considerable upgrade to the majority of my life on water--and I'm very much a newbie to this type of ownership.

    It has some scrapes along the bottom (one or two deep enough that they abrade the underlying fiberglass) some hazing in the epoxy coat (I don't know how to describe it except that it looks like white clouding in some areas on the boat), as well as some areas around the keel where the fiberglass didn't bed properly and so is visible. (It looked really good on top of my car, roughed up as it is.)

    I'd ideally like to refinish the exterior, but am looking for advice--I've read posts that suggest heat gun and scraper, with sanding when applicable. Ideally, I could get down to the fiberglass, and re-apply epoxy. Has anyone ever had a project like this turn out?

    The other option seems to be to try to get back to the original wood. Anyone gotten this far successfully? I've read that this is a considerably more difficult task.

    And if I just decide to use it as-is, what would be best to wipe it down with to clean up the exterior? Is there something I can use that will clean it up nicely?

    Cheers--thanks in advance--
  2. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    The best first step is to find somebody who can look at the condition of the fiberglass and actually tell you what's happening to it. There is certainly the possibility that a light sanding and fresh coat of varnish could put the boat back in pretty nice shape. There are also equal possibilities that it needs some serious fiberglass repair work due to delmination, U.V. damage, poor workmanship, water intrusion or just plain hard use. There really isn't a good fix for a problem which is yet to be identified and that's very difficult to do over the Internet.

    Other than fixing some smallish spots or filling dings and scratches, there should be no need for (or anything to be gained by) recoating the entire boat with epoxy. I wouldn't even consider the idea of taking the fiberglass off and trying to replace it without first having a lot of strip-building experience. It's a very tricky process as the fiberglass is structural and much of what is holding the boat together. If it needs that much work, it would be just as fast and a hell of a lot easier and more logical to start from scratch with a good book and build a new boat.

    Unfortunately, compared to wood/canvas boats where you can replace bits and pieces and fairly easily re-cover the hull, a stripper is a different story. The vast majority of those needing major repairs or re-covering aren't worth the time, money and energy it takes to do it when you compare all that work and the skill needed to the process of just building a new one.

    In the mean time, your best bet is probably to sand the old varnish down on the hull and give it a fresh coat or two. If it needs more than varnish and maybe a bit of scratch and ding filling it may be time to start thinking about building your own.
  3. OP
    T. Meier

    T. Meier New Member

    Thanks, Todd. At the very least, a sanding and coat of varnish, with some filler in a spot or two. Do you have brand/type recommendations for either product (the filler or the varnish?) I'm assuming varnish and epoxy are the same? Or is the varnish another product entirely?

    I do think I'll build a boat one day, but not this year. (I need to get my space sorted out.) In the interim, a little maintenance on this boat.
  4. chameleon

    chameleon designer/builder


    I think you are on the right track on making the repairs to your canoe so you can enjoy it in the summer. There are a few different kinds of epoxy systems you can use, the east or west system, and Raka makes a epoxy which i am partial to. For UV protection just a simple spar varnish from your local hardware store will prevent from any further discoloration of the resin. Good luck
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Epoxy resin and varnish are two totally different animals that serve very different functions. Epoxy is structural on a stripper and used to saturate and solidify the fiberglass cloth. Varnish is merely a protective and decorative surface coating. A couple hundred hours of sunlight exposure is enough to start breaking down the epoxy unless you coat it with a varnish containing a high-quality U.V. absorber. A good Marine spar varnish that specifically says on the can that it offers UV protection is what you want.

    You would benefit greatly by buying and reading through a copy of one of the books out there which explain the stripper building process (Canoecraft, for example). Even if you never build a boat, it's far easier to maintain and repair one if you have a basic working knowledge of how their built and the materials involved. At this point in time, you're still extremely dangerous....
  6. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder


    I have some info on my web site that you can read and print out on minor and major repairs to strippers. Go to "How to" page and find the file that you need.
  7. Dan Fera

    Dan Fera Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Great advice. I can't think of a better way to begin your repair than to get "Canoecraft" and read it cover-to-cover. It will all make a lot more sense to you and then you can come here to add some nuance to your knowledge.;)

Share This Page