18' Carleton repair

Ken Fischer

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I was recently given an 18' Carleton in not TOO bad shape. If I correctly read the serial # it is 18436. The letters F MACK are stamped into the stem next to the serial #. ???? It has diamond head bolts (which break off and are therefore probably original) and seats of sheet metal nailed to a wooden frame and covered with canvas. Could they be original? The top of the stem is pretty rotten and the outer gunwales are broken and rotted in several places but it's otherwise just worn. I'm going to replace the bad wood this winter and get her back on the water in the spring after new varnish and paint.
Can anyone offer me any information about the boat's age and history?
Does anyone have an opinion about whether I could use paint stripper on the outside without dissolving the canvas filler?
Thanks for any help anybody can offer.
If diamond-head bolts "break off", they may be iron, not brass. Could be original if during a time when brass was scarce, or the canoe may have been repaired during WWII and the iron bolts added then. Seat frames may be original, but not sheet metal and canvas. See if there are holes for hand-woven caning underneath the canvas/metal.
better yet.

You could sand and prime and paint the canvas, but you might want to consider re-canvassing. You'll be much happier. I would only consider refurbishing the canvas for a special original canoe, perhaps. Russ Hicks had a good article on the subject of refurbishing canvas a few issues ago in the Wooden Canoe Journal. Be mindful of lead based paint and whatever other nasty stuff you could absorb.
Build Info

Carlton 18436 is an 18 foot regular (or middle) grade Carleton model canoe. It has red Western cedar planking, open spruce gunwales, and birch decks, thwarts, and seat frames. Originally it was dark green, and was shipped to Philadelphia, PA, on June 13, 1924.

As you can see, the seat frames were originally birch and would have been hand-caned, as with the other Carltons and Old Towns of this era. It's an older canoe, so modifications done to keep her afloat were apparently made over the years.

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 http://www.wcha.org/ot_records/ if you want more details. I hope that you and anyone else reading this will join or renew membership in the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/wcha/ to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/join.php to renew.

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.



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Thank you all for your information and advice. Kathryn, everything you've told me makes good sense. What I know of the canoe is that it belonged to my friend's father who bought it from a canoe livery on the Delaware River not far north of Philadelphia. The decks and seats could certainly be birch and they have the holes (under the rusty metal) from the original caneing.
The bolts look like bronze after I got all the paint off. I managed to salvage some of them. We don't have spruce here in Va. so I'm going to use ash which I have plenty of. I'm going to make new seat frames of ash and do them in prewoven cane.
I'm sorry but I'm very new at this and I'm a candy ass when it comes to recanvasing so I'm just going to paint it for the time being. I guess I ought to paint it dark green, huh?
Paint your canoe whatever you wish-- the original owner got to choose, and you can too. And there are lots of folks here who can help with your restoration questions. Some YouTube videos may help too...

Stay in touch-- we like following the repairs and restorations of others-- and we like pictures!

Update on my 18" Carleton

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I couldn't wait until winter to work on my boat so I started in August and finished in Oct. The canvas was rotted only below the outwales so I reattached it below the rot and made thin wooden strips to paint black and cover the attachments after I replaced the outwales. Then I wet sanded the canvas with a 60 grit disk and got much of the paint off. I primed with two coats of dewaxed shellac and put 4 coats of paint. I stripped the peeling varnish on the inside with lacquer thinner which was a lot of work but had the advantage of preserving the patina of the old wood and avoided having to sand after. Two coats of shellac and four of Epifanes varnish. I replaced the old seats with new ones made of ash and new ash thwarts also. I made the bow seat strong enough that it could replace the front thwart so I could sit backward in the bow seat and row with the oarlocks I mounted to a reinforced part of the inwale. I expect to use this boat alone a lot on big Adirondack lake so oars will make things a lot easier. The points of the stem and stern were pretty messed up so I used a brass rod and some Bondo to reconstruct the ends of the stem and stern pieces and reattached the planking to that. I had to make little curved caps to cover this repair. I made new outwales of ash using bent lamination to make the curved parts for the bow and stern. (I'm not very familiar with steam bending and this technique has no springback) So I mounted the outwales, then the thin strips covering the canvas attachment, then a new keel and now she's done. We had our shakedown cruise last weekend and I'm pleased as can be.

I guess somebody has to teach me how to include pictures on my post. That sure didn't work.
As a result of my work I have two original Carleton seats (albeit pretty yucky) and two original (bow and stern) thwarts left over. If anybody is trying to do a restoration with original parts they're welcome to them. E mail me if you want them. Ken89@ntelos.net

How to post photos:

When you start a new post, there is a button in the "additional options" box below the text box. Look for "Manage Attachments" button. Click on that.

Then you can browse your hard drive for your photos. The ones you attach must be less than 500kb.