1949 Old Town HW model Restoration

Rushton's shop used shellac under the varnish. They would double up on the shellac and cut down on varnish on rush jobs.
I have used shellac inside Rushton hulls as a base coat and to attempt to achieve the color that you often find in Rushton boats. When I use it (inside a hull) I do not bother to thin it. It tends to go on really well as is. It penetrates well and it dries quite quickly. A canoe I finished this way over 40 years ago still has the same varnish on it. I don't see any signs of separation, bubbling, clouding etc. It looks really great. As with all other W/C hulls, it gets a coat or two of varnish once in a while as standard maintenance.
I have also used shellac on the outside of a hull. It will cloud a bit if you leave the boat is in the water everyday for a week or two. I always pull the boat from the water at the end of the day but 6 plus hours of daily paddling followed by sitting on it's side in the damp evenings eventually takes a toll. Once the trip is over it dries back out and I usually touch up the dings and give it a coat or two of shellac before I store it. Canoes finished like this are typically "working" canoes so I am not very particular about it's appearance. A bit of clouding, a few scratches, whatever, it's all good.
I do think it is important to use DEWAXED shellac under varnish for better adhesion
Fitz. Thanks for the reply. A quick search for a premixed dewaxed shellac turned up Zinseer Seal Coat. Is that the product you've used or do you buy shellac flakes and mix your own? It appears I would have to buy the flakes if I want an amber tinted shellac since the Seal Coat product is clear (also says it is flat/matte).

Greg. Thank you for the information. All good points. I particularly had a chuckle over your short dissertation on old timers and their own "sometimes idiosyncratic ways".
I can't deny that I may be approaching "old-timer" status myself and I got to thinking that maybe I may be getting just a wee bit fixated on this whole shellac business. I think it's time to put my oars in the water and go for a row!
I have used shellac inside Rushton hulls as a base coat and to attempt to achieve the color that you often find in Rushton boats. When I use it (inside a hull) I do not bother to thin it. It tends to go on really well as is. It penetrates well and it dries quite quickly.
Do you then subscribe to the earlier post(s) that one should use a dewaxed shellac if intended as a base coat for varnish? And if I may also ask, what product(s) have you/do you use to achieve your results?

I have noticed some bubbling of varnish in the sun, and wondered if the problem was not using dewaxed shellac. Your mileage may vary.

I like to buy the flakes and mix my own. It is not hard to do, but sometimes finding good denatured alcohol is tricky. I haven't noticed a big difference in alcohols, but the pro furniture folks suggest that good alcohol is better.

John --

For what it might be worth, here is my thinking on what I hope to be doing this coming winter/spring with the interior of the hull on the long-ongoing restoration (life keeps getting in the way of completion) of one of my canoes.

I have on hand a supply of Epiphanes marine varnish, Woodfinish gloss and Woodfinish matte. I will apply a well-thinned coat of the gloss as a sealer, using Epiphanes proprietary thinner. I have not in the past had problems using ordinary mineral spirits, but some folks report problems when using generic mineral spirits, and I do not relish the thought of having to strip out a sealing coat that does not dry because of the thinner used. These days, buying mineral spirits becomes an adventure in label reading, because on the market there are now low voc “mineral spirits” which are not the same as the ones generally available in the past and still available, and while they might be ok for cleaning a brush, I will not risk using them to thin a sealer coat in a canoe in which I have already put in a good deal of time and effort.

I will not be using shellac. I don’t have any dewaxed on hand, and I see no particular advantage in using it for this project – drying time will not be an issue, nor will color (the two main reasons I use shellac for some other woodworking projects). Dewaxed flakes are available, but I don’t see the need to incur the additional cost, or to get involved in the additional task of rolling my own, when varnish I have on hand will do the job just fine. Further, the varnish is simply a more durable material, a minor consideration, perhaps, for a material that will be covered with a few following coats of varnish, but a consideration none the less, especially if you have had occasion to look at the interior wear on old, well-used canoes like the one I am restoring where the finish has worn away to the wood.

I do consider the cost of materials, but for a project such as this, it is not a controlling factor. While I am not a spendthrift and like to save a buck or two by using a brand x when reasonable, I will not pinch pennies on materials given the amount of time and effort put into this kind of project.

I will finish up with a couple of coats of the Epiphanes gloss varnish, and a last coat of the matte. -- my eyes don’t take kindly to glare, especially when paddling into the light on a bright sunny day.

So there’s the 2¢ opinion (if worth even that) of a wizened old guy (77) – I don’t pretend to be a wise “old timer.”

Do you then subscribe to the earlier post(s) that one should use a dewaxed shellac if intended as a base coat for varnish? And if I may also ask, what product(s) have you/do you use to achieve your results?
I don't have any magic recommendations.
I keep three cans of Zinsser in my shop, one clear, one amber and one I mixed to the tone I like.
As noted, I have used it as a base coat on Rushton's and I also used it on the Dekalb built Brown.
I put on two un-thinned coats and lightly sand between. After the second coat I sand lightly to give it a bit of tooth and then I apply 4 to 6 coats of Epifanes gloss. That is followed by a coat (or two) of semi-gloss to knock down the shine. I'm not keen on a 100 plus year old boat looking like it just got detailed by JoeyBagoDonuts.;)
Well...this is where I'm at right now. Two coats of shellac on interior followed by thinned BLO on exterior.
The canvas was stretched, stapled on the sheer and tacked on the stems (the staples just didn't penetrate adequately into the new ash stems).
She's now ready for the filler which leads me to my question.
I spread dolphinite between the overlaps on the stem but some oozed out in areas and smeared onto the canvas. I'm wondering if when I fill the canvas will these smudged areas inhibit the filler from bonding into/onto the canvas in those areas? It's on the stem (and below the waterline in some instances) so I am concerned about getting a good waterproof seal/barrier. Should I try to clean up these smudges before filling over them?
Also, If there are any good tips for applying canvas filler that too would be most appreciated (I'm using 1 gal of Rollin's brew/mix)
Thanks in advance for any/all replies interior shellac.JPGexterior BLO.JPGstaples.JPGooze outs.JPGfinished.JPG

interior shellac.JPG
exterior BLO.JPG
ooze outs.JPG


It’s been awhile since I posted an update on the progress of this restoration. Time was lost due to some covid complications but all is well again and the canoe is almost completed. Many thanks to everyone who posted replies and especially to Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow who not only provided some necessary supplies but were enormously helpful in graciously sharing their knowledge and expertise.
Attached is a quick photo recap from my last post; from canvas filling to how she looks today.
Our daughter Emily would approve of the colour. It's almost the same as she chose for the 14'9" Chestnut I restored for her.; Sikkens 204 (though I did knock down the "super gloss" a tad). I call the canoe, "Turq".


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Thank you Johnie and Rob. The original build record had it listed as "Light Yale Blue". There's definitely been some discussion re: Yale Blue but none on light Yale Blue that I could find. The canoe owners father seemed to think/remember that G. Kirby's #19 Blue was pretty close match. Whether is was or wasn't, the final result came out pretty nice. Thanks again to all who offered their thoughts and advice on this restoration. It was my first one but hopefully not my last. Here are some photos of the completed project.


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Thanks to you both.
It is definitely a nice shop to work in although Rollin Thurlow keeps remarking that it is way to clean!
Benson. I've read your replies many times telling folks to go with the color they like and that's exactly what the owner did (although the younger son wanted orange!!) .
Also. Benson; I have a completed file copy of the smaller decal that was on the back of the fan-backed seat rests (you sent me a jpeg image if you remember). I cleaned it up a bit and copied it to water-based transfer paper.
It came out great. See attached. Where would you like me to post you the completed file?