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Steel tacks - is my plan crazy?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Just1moredave, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Just1moredave

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I have an Old Town HW 16', #140711, built in 1944. More details in my post in the guestbook forum. It has steel tacks throughout. A lot of them don't come out without a fight, particularly on the flatter floor of the canoe. Those tacks seemed to rust more, expand and split the planking, as well as starting rot in the ribs. I hope that I'll get better at tack removal but in some cases, I just have a hole larger than a brass tack head.

    So my idea is to make a Dutchman for the holes that are too large. I have western red cedar, the same as the planking. I have glued them in with Titebond III which is waterproof. They will eventually be covered by ribs on the inside and canvas on the outside, so not visible. I think the way I'm doing it is structurally sound. I just wonder if I'm overlooking some issue?

    The first photo is just after removing the fiberglass and stripping. The second photo is after I removed the first rotted rib. The third photo is of my first Dutchman experiments.

  2. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    explain "dutchman" please.
  3. Paul Scheuer

    Paul Scheuer LOVES Wooden Canoes

    With as many as you have to do, I thinks I'd go with round bungs. A forstner bit with an external guide block would result in neat holes.
  4. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

  5. Treewater

    Treewater Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Thank you Dan. So for the repair...If I could not find larger headed tacks, I might try a small brass flat washer. Set it on a vice or jig to strike it once with a hammer and dimple it so the tack heat would recess. The Dutchman is a lot of work and I wonder, once you introduce glue into a nailed piece, the dynamics change. Tightbond won't flex where as the tacks do.
  6. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

  7. goldencub

    goldencub Carpenter

    With so many holes to fill, why can't you use an epoxy wood filler such as the Minwax product and then place the new tack in good, solid wood right next to the filled hole? The filler can be easily sanded to make a smooth contour. Al D
  8. OP

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Thank you all for your replies.

    I couldn't help thinking that wood filler would eventually fall out, so I didn't consider it for long. Then again, this canoe was built with sponsons, long ago removed. Those holes (a lot!) are filled with wood filler and all seem to be fine over ~50 years. I probably should think about it more.

    Round holes would be faster. I have a plug-cutting bit so I could make quarter-sawn plugs. Lots of wooden boat repairs use some variation of round holes and plugs. I was thinking that the diamond shape gave me a better glue joint, and lined up better with the areas that had started to split with the grain. Those spots would need bigger holes, and that makes me uncomfortable.

    Titebond III has enough flex so it's not recommended for lamination bending. I am just hoping to stretch that fact into it being structural but not too stiff. I think of the Dutchman as restoring the structure to the original plank. But if I put ten of them into one plank (not out of the question), the structural changes will add up. I want to avoid that because the remaining steel tacks are probably all a little compromised. I think I'll do a structural test on some scrap cedar boards. I resawed some Home Depot cedar to make sure my bandsaw technique was good enough to make planking. I can clamp one end, hang weights off the other end and measure the amount of bend. Then put some Dutchmans in and see how the bend changes.

    There will be so many holes that some combination of all these ideas will be useful.
  9. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    unless I'm missing something, I would just fill with wood filler. As to the steel tacks that won't come out without a fight, I'd leave them in and supplement with good brass tacks.
  10. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    I agree with Dave W. The original Canadian manufactures such a Chestnut and Peterborough used wood filler extensively without any issues. The product I have used for years is called Plastic Wood. With a little practice it is an easy process. First use the filler, there will be shrinkage so over apply. Once filler is cured [ over night ] fair the hull. I use a belt sander with about 30 grit but that takes practice. Finally apply a good coat of boiled linseed oil to the hull and allow to cure. The linseed oil further seals the Plastic Wood. Now you should be ready for canvasing.
  11. Dave Osborn

    Dave Osborn LIFE MEMBER

    I use Quik Fair.... a two part fairing compound to fill bad spots. I buy it from Jamestown Distributors.
    Lots quicker and easier than plugs or Dutchman. Adhears well, sands easy.
    Be careful to keep it out of the plank seams between the ribs. It will push through between the planks.
    Behind the ribs is fine in the seam.
  12. davelanthier

    davelanthier Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Right, after fairing the hull I use a hacksaw blade to remove filler between the plank seams. Be careful not too damage the interior rib surface with the blade.
  13. OP

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    I've been experimenting and exploring, so here's some more information. I think the tacks are causing what wooden boat people call "iron sickness". After they rust, they start to destroy the wood's lignin nearby, expanding along the grain. The weak spot has started a split in some places, and western red cedar doesn't need a lot of help in that regard. Here's a photo of a plank where I am attempting to make a scarf joint (another probably-too-much-work idea).


    The blackened stuff just crumbles at its worst. Right now I'm testing thin cyanoacrylate glue and some wood hardener stuff. I'm hoping that something will soak into the damage and replace the lignin, without being too brittle. And not gluing the planks to the ribs.

    When I try to drill out a tack hole, the blackened area tears out and leaves a terrible looking hole. I have OK results on the sheer planks that I've removed, by clamping the plank in between two waste pieces and drilling through all three. But when the plank is still on the canoe, that's harder to set up.

    I did the first Dutchmans with just a scrap piece cut on the table saw and a sharp knife to cut the hole. It's not the quickest way. I started using a trim router, template guide bushings and templates. That works fine on mostly flat areas. If I get tired of router noise, I go back to the sharp knife in the curved planks.

    It looks like there are a lot of unclenched tacks in other areas that I can simply replace.
  14. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    If it were me, I'd be taking a slightly different approach to this. First, I would not invest a huge amount of time into a war period old town that has degraded that much, especially not one that has already been tweaked to remove sponsons... a major issue with these war era boats is that they were built with these iron tacks..your boat displays the problems that may result.
    That out of the way, it's your boat and challenge. There is nothing that should prevent you from restoring it to a reasonable and usable condition.
    For this boat my approach would be to remove and replace any planking that is clearly marginal as a starting point. Next I would apply Git Rot here and the areas that appear to be rotting. Then I would push small jobs of Quick Fare in the larger holes making sure to trim it and keep it from building up. I don't find it that easy to sand, easier to grind. You should be aware that it's nearly impossible to put a tack through it. Next I would try to replace, clinch any tacks that appear to need it (most likely all of them). I would also place more newer tacks adjacent to the steel tacks. The ones that remain will continue to tacks will counter that. Be aware that the steel tacks may fail when you clinch them.
    Finally I would bath the boat in a boiled mixture of linseed oil, turpentine and mineral spirits. I mix 70% linseed oil, 15% turpentine and 15% mineral spirits. This blend penetrates and unlike straight oil it hardens up. It will help to firm up some of the areas that have failed wood fibers. Two coats should do it...and apply it hot. Once this bath has cured you can fare the hull and hopefully move on towards canvasing.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
  15. OP

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Probably too late for me on the time investment thing. :) It was my dad's. If I wasn't already committed, my mom just visited, looked at the progress, and said "I'm so glad you are doing this."

    I have recently had great success with resawing planks and shaping them to conform to the hull, so I might replace more planks than I thought.
  16. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    In that case the die is cast.... The simplest solution is usually the best... don't be shy about replacing planks. Try to color match but don't expect it to be easy to replicate the color and tenor of the existing wood. Getting an old boat back in the water is one of life's simple pleasures. A family tie makes the work all the sweeter. Good luck...
  17. Michael Grace

    Michael Grace Lifetime Member

    My reaction is similar to some of the advice you've already gotten but maybe a little more spare. It's a family canoe, so restore it well and be happy and proud that you've brought back something that's important in your family. But it's a war-era canoe, steel-fastened and not a rare type, so don't agonize too much. Replace only sections of planking that is truly bad - full of nasty splits, rotted, broken... But the holes you show are not that bad. Simply leave them alone; they won't hurt anything. You can simply alternate the tacking pattern in a manner that misses the old holes. The canoe will be just fine this way. In fact, I think that in addition to making hundreds of dutchmen, you'd be likely to have failures at some of those dutchman edge-to-edge glue joints.

    Many years ago I restored a 15/50 that was steel-tacked, with tacks all rusted to the point that planking was literally falling off the canoe. I re-tacked the entire thing using existing planking (except for one hole big enough to put a basketball through!), tacking in an alternate pattern or next to adjacent holes. That pitiful canoe turned out to be beautiful and functional. All these years later it's still doing great with no ill effects from leaving the old tack holes alone.
  18. Michael Graessle

    Michael Graessle Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Dave, I well understand the burden of restoring/repairing a family heirloom. I am working on my father's 1924 OTCA and I get the same family sentiments: " I am so glad you are doing this'" and "Dad would be so proud!"

    As this is my first restoration, it adds a lot of pressure. One thing I had to come to grips with was, I am no Jerry Stelmok or Rollin Thurlow or Mike Elliott! I am just a guy trying to fix a wood canoe. I have the skills (I think) and sites like this give me the resources. It will not be a perfect restoration, but it will be MY canoe.

    At first I was consumed with perfection. I felt I had to make it perfect for my brother and sisters in order to honor my father and all the memories we have with the canoe. It suffocated all progress. I had to realize, this canoe is no longer the canoe I paddled on Bear Pond when I was 9 years old. Once I took the canvas off, I started a new chapter in the story. Yes, I am restoring the canoe to honor my father and to hopefully give my children similar fond memories of paddling across a lake. But, this canoe will have my hand prints on it, for better or worse. I cannot fully restore the canoe, if this was the goal, it would be in Atkinson, Maine and Jerry would be working on it, not me. Part of the beauty of this process, is all the age and character we leave behind on the canoe to help tell the story of its life.

    I wish you the best on your journey.
  19. David Satter

    David Satter LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Once the canvas is stretched tight most of the small holes will not show up in the final finish. I'd replace only the damaged warped planking and yes alternate your tacking on the old planks. Don't over think it. Unless you have an unlimited amount of time. In the end it won't be more money you wish you had more of.... it will be time.
  20. Steve Ambrose

    Steve Ambrose Nut in a Canoe

    The beauty of filled canvas is that it will hide or bridge most of what you are worrying about. We often refasten old planking that we have removed for rib repair etc and rarely use the old holes. As others have suggested simply alternate your tacking pattern and drive the new tacks through solid planking. We only fill where we have chunks missing behind a rib, broken plank ends or similar damage. A typical tack hole, even with some dig marks around it will not show through a canvas filled with traditional filler on the flat areas of a canoe hull. Filling/fairing tack holes and removal damage may be necessary on the curved areas. Typically on a steel-tacked canoe it's not possible to remove planking intact. If the tacks are badly rusted so the tips are gone you can pull them without much effort or damage but if the tips are still good they will not straighten like a brass tack will. If you need to remove/replace planking with good steel tacks you're better off destroying the plank then clipping the heads and pushing the shank/tip through. Pulling good steel tacks will likely destroy the rib and plank.

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