1915 Old Town Otca


Wood Girl #1186
Hi, Just starting to restore the marvelous 1915 Old Town Otca with my dad. It is a CS grade and we have a few questions. Does anyone know the following:
1) Why is the serial number on the stern stem band not the bow?

2) Did this model have diamond bolt heads for the thwarts and seats or were they originally regular flat heads countersunk and plugged into the innner gunwales as they are now? What year did they start using diamond bolts?

3) The build sheet says the decks outwales and thwarts were ash but the ones on this canoe are maple. Is it possible that they were replaced somewhere along the line? How can I tell?

4) What weight canvas should have been used? 8#, 10# or 12#? The build sheet does not say and the canoe is 16 feet long.

5) There is a shadow on the floor of the canoe right in from of the bow seat where appaently there was a piece of wood that looks as if it spans three ribs forward. Was this for a sailing rig? Something else?

6) On each side of the canoe in the gunwales, a hole is drilled about 9/16" diam. It almost suggests oarlocks but I wonder if the thing on the floor of the canoe and these holes indicate some other use. What use? Would this be original from the factory or some modification from a previous owner?
The people who have actually seen (or owned) this canoe can probably offer a more informed response but I will try to answer your questions below.

1) I have never seen an Old Town serial number on a brass stem band so I assume that you mean the wooden inside stem. The presence of a serial number on only one stem usually means that the other stem was replaced in a previous restoration or the number was simply sanded off.

2) Diamond headed bolts did not appear on Old Town Canoes until the early 1920s so yours would have originally had regular flat heads countersunk and plugged.

3) There is no easy way to determine if any given part of your canoe has been replaced. The record at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1337&d=1143592055 has no entry on the "Finish Rails" line so it is not clear what wood was originally used on the outwales. These are commonly replaced when a canoe is recanvased and if the stem was replaced then many other parts may have been replaced too. You may want to compare the shape of your thwarts and decks to other known original Old Town canoes of this vintage.

4) The original canvas would have been number eight as described at http://www.wcha.org/catalogs/old-town/specific.gif but this is really a personal decision.

5) A mast step for a sail rig would be the most logical explanation for the shadow you described. There is one shown at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1552&d=1149194189 for example.

6) These holes may have been for a leeboard bracket simlar to the one shown at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1551&d=1149194189 but it was probably not installed at the factory since this was not mentioned on the build record.

Good luck with the rest of your restoration.

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Otca info

Wow, thanks! That answers a few questions. I still find it mysterious why the decks and thwarts are maple and why the internal wood stem has a serial number in the stern but not the bow. Any other theories? Splinter
I agree with Benson on all points. About your follow-up, most likely the serial number was sanded off of one stem, or that stem was replaced in a previous restoration. If the latter, the two stems may look different. For example, the newer one may lack the patina of the older one.

About your second question, I have seen more than one Old Town that had apparently original wood that was of a different type than listed on the build record. For example, I just finished restoring a 1924 Old Town HW listed as having birch trim, but seat frames were white oak.

Missing serial number:

* Old Town neglected to mark it in the first place
* one stem was replaced
* the number was sanded off
* its not an Old Town
* it's there, but so faint you can't make it out

Mis-identified wood:

* Old Town recorded it wrong
* parts were replaced
* you have the wrong record
* its not an Old Town

Pick your poison,

PS, I don't remember the holes in the gunwales - maybe Dave made them (or you have carpenter bees)...

PPS, go with number 10 canvas

PPPS, my recollection is that this canoe was all original (and it is indeed an Old Town)...
I mistated

The first question about the serial number was stated in error by myself. The serial number is very clearly there: 33000. However the number is stamped on the stern, not the bow, on the interior wood stem, not the stem band as I stated by mistake. I have the build record as researched by you Dan so I do believe it's the right boat. The stems are Ash as record states. I believe they are original. Thor did not drill the holes and they are in fact in the right place for the leeboards as the website reference picture shows. The combing does look as if it is NOT original and that would possibly explain the decks at least not being original. However the build list says thwarts, seats, decks are ash. Only the stems are in fact ash. The seats are gone so can't check those but the bolts and the wood drop spindles that surround the bolts to hold the seats are ash. My first impression of the deck combing and thwart specie was Birch especially from the look of the cel structure in the rotted areas, but further examination with a hand lens suggests Acer sacharrinum. Maple or birch for these parts seems an ill considered choice as neither are very decay resistant and their dimensional instability is known to be high 12/64ths for Maple & Birch. On the other hand, Ash is also rated low in decay resistance and the dimensional instability is rated at 10/64ths. So relatively the same. Does it still seem remotely possible that these parts are original? Splinter
Birch is quite common in Old Town canoes. In fact, the 1920 HW I picked up on Friday has birch decks, thwarts and seats... Their CS grade canoes pretty much used whatever local hardwood was available. It would be very unusual to find a mistake on an Old Town build record, but it certainly is not inconceivable.
The Old Town records are not always correct as Michael, Dan and others have documented. Their canoe builders were generally paid on a piece work basis in this era so they tended to be much more focused on documenting the quantity of units than the types of woods involved. I am confident that they were not using a hand lens to study the cell structure of the wood before marking it down on the record.

A review of the records for other canoes that were built before and after 33300 shows that maple, birch, ash, and mahogany were all used frequently for decks, seats, and thwarts. This indicates that availability may have been a larger factor in this selection than which type of wood was most ideally suited to this purpose. The primary reason for Old Town's purchase of the Carleton Canoe Company in 1910 was for their timber rights and saw mill since the supply of wood was often a limiting factor for production.

Therefore, it is quite possible that your maple or birch parts are original but feel free to put in whichever woods you prefer in your restoration.

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Well, that explains alot!

Very useful insights! Thanks dan and Benson for sharing your voices of sanity and reason for the presence of these materials! I will restore in the spirit of the piece paid CS builders and go with my gut feel for a beautiful canoe. Splinter