Build Record Request

Matt Hudson

New Member
A good friend who just passed away left me one of his most cherished possessions, a wooden canoe which he told me was made by Old Town. On a strip of wood that runs lengthwise along the inside bottom of the canoe, there are some numbers. The numbers become progressively more faint the farther you go to the right. "1604" is clear, and it seems fairly clear that there is an 8 after the first 4, making the number "16048." After the 8, there MAY be another 4 (making the number "160484"), but it is so faint that I am not sure if it is really there or if it is my imagination. After the longer number there is a space of several inches and then the number "15". I gather from what I read that the wooden strip on the opposite end of the canoe also once contained numbers, but these are no longer visible. Attached are photos.

I would greatly appreciate any help you might provide in deciphering the serial number, and also in obtaining the build record if possible. Thanks!!!
 

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I'd vote for 160482, but that's just me. Someone will be along with the build records, and it'll get figured out.

In the picture of the full canoe, on the left hand end, is there a decal on the deck?
 
No, but it looks like it MIGHT have had an oval shaped decal there at one point. Attached is a closer view. (This section is perhaps the part that's in the worst condition. My friend's dream was to restore the canoe, and I'm going to try to make good on that, but I've got a lot to learn before I even trouble folks with questions on that front.)

Also attached is another view of the serial number in the bow.
 

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First -- welcome to the WCHA!

Having a few more photos and knowing the length of the canoe would be very helpful. Does it have a keel, or if not, is there evidence that it once had one?

There are two potential canoes in the 16048X series that seem like they might be your canoe -- othere in the series are less likely or are clearly not your canoe.

The Old Town canoe with serial number 160482 is shown as 16 feet long, CS (common sense or standard) grade, HW (heavy water) model equipped with a keel. The woods used in construction are not specified. The canoe was built between July and September 1953; the original exterior paint was Fire red. It was shipped to Valley Falls, Rhode Island on August 2, 1954. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link behind the thumbnail image attached below.
160482 - O000518A.jpg

The Old Town canoe with serial number 160484 is shown as 15 feet long, CS (common sense or standard) grade, a 50 Pound (lightweight) model originally without a keel, but equipped with a keel and new seats when it was returned for repairs (one rib, new canvas, etc.). The woods used in construction are not specified. The canoe was built between July and September 1953; the original exterior paint was Dark Green. It was shipped to the Worcester Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, Sterling Junction, Massachusetts on September 16, 1953, but returned damaged on October 16, 1953, and it was repaired and fitted with seats and keel in October-November, 1953. There was subsequent correspondence about the canoe on May 5, 1954 from Harriman, Tennisee. A scan of both sides of this build record can be found by following the link behind the thumbnail image attached below. It should be noted that canoes shipped to Scout camps often lacked seats -- the scouts were expected the kneel, leaning back against a thwart.
160484 - O000516A.jpg

160484 - O000516B.jpg

So if this is an Old Town canoe, and if it’s number is 16048X, knowing the length would be useful. If it is yet another number, it would be useful also to know if it has a keel. Photos of the seats and the hull profile, especially of the bow/stern profile, would also be helpful.

These scans 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/catalogs/old-town/records/ if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See http://www.wcha.org/about-wcha to learn more about the WCHA and http://www.wcha.org/store/membership to join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe.

If you are new to canoe repair/restoration, when considering any restoration work, whether you plan to do it yourself or to hire a professional, there are three good sources of information about canoe restoration that you would do well to get, or at least look at, before making any decision about how to repair or restore your canoe:

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok

Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok

This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood-Canvas Canoe, by Mike Elliott

The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an excellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe and its construction. The third is the most recently published and has been well received.

Of course, you can always ask questions here on the forums. There is a good deal of information here on removing fiberglass.

You might also want to look at The Old Town Canoe Company by Susan Audette and David Baker, a great history of the Old Town company and its canoes.

These books are all available from the WCHA store, are often on eBay, or from Amazon.

Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.

Greg
 
Sometimes the cane's location can be a clue to the missing number, but these two shipping destinations are pretty close, geographically. So that's not much help. More pictures, as Greg described, will help verify whether it's an Old Town.

The serial number in the 2nd set of pictures looks more like a 4 to me...
 
Other clues: One thwart suggests a 15 footer, a 16 would typically have had 2 thwarts. If this is the canoe that went back to Old Town, and had a broken rib cut out and a new rib installed, then I would expect to see some additional tack holes thru the planking at the replaced rib. Not likely they would have put new tacks thru old holes. Tom McCloud
 
Hi Matt,

It looks like you have 160484. The deck style, the decal ghost, the diamond-head bolts, the "15" after the serial number, etc., all point to an OT 15/50. It's a wonderful thing that you're picking up the restoration of this canoe for your friend. You'll be very happy that you did; in the end you'll have an excellent canoe full of great memories of both him and your own handiwork.

Welcome to the WCHA! Hopefully you've actually joined the organization. Not only will you find great information here, but you should really enjoy Wooden Canoe, the journal of the WCHA, and there are a variety of gatherings each year including the Annual Assembly each July. If you can come to that, you're sure to be excited by all the fantastic canoes and people in attendance. It's a great place to learn and enjoy.

Michael
 
Thanks so much for all the information! (I've joined, btw. Excited that there's such a knowledgeable and responsive support group out there--I'm likely to need it on down the road!)

It measures 15 feet from tip to tip. Attached are photos of the seats and the canoe in profile (including bow and stern close ups). There is no keel, and I don't see any OBVIOUS signs of one. The one thing that I wondered about in this regard, is that in the bottom center of the canoe, running lengthwise, there are a series of small holes spaced approximately 7 to 7.5 inches apart (see attached photo). They seem to serve no other purpose--could they have held the keel in place at one point?

The shipping location may in fact help support that it is 160484--not for its initial manufacture, but for the repairs. Harriman, TN is our nearest decent sized town, and in the same county as the location where my friend purchased it.

One question I'd like to get a definitive answer to, if possible, is whether or not you are certain that it is a 6 digit serial number we are dealing with rather than 5 (i.e., 16048). My friend stated that Old Town had told him the canoe was over 100 years old (built in 1910, I believe), but from the graph on the WCHA website it appears that this would be the case only if it was the shorter number? I assume there are physical characteristics about the canoe itself, irrespective of the serial number, that help answer this conclusively? The canoe is special to me in any case, in part because it meant so much to him, but I just wanted to be sure on this point.
 

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One question I'd like to get a definitive answer to, if possible, is whether or not you are certain that it is a 6 digit serial number we are dealing with rather than 5 (i.e., 16048). My friend stated that Old Town had told him the canoe was over 100 years old (built in 1910, I believe), but from the graph on the WCHA website it appears that this would be the case only if it was the shorter number?

The Old Town canoe with serial number 16048 is 15 feet long and shipped to Minnesota in 1911 as shown in the build record below. However, it had closed gunwales and yours has open gunwales, it did not have diamond headed bolts (which were introduced in 1923) and yours does, it had the old style 'ogee' deck while yours has the newer style lightweight deck that was first shown in the 1949 catalog, etc. Therefore, I am reasonably confident that you have the one with serial number 160484. If your friend simply asked Old Town to supply the build record for number 16048 then this is what they would have sent him. Let me know if this doesn't answer your question. Good luck with the restoration,

Benson



16048.jpg
 
I suspected this was going to be the case in regard to the serial number/date issue, just wanted to make sure. Look forward to chatting in the future in other forums, but I'll digest the resources that are available first. Thanks so much for all the information!
 
To your point about the keel, you can see the holes in the ribs (the same ones that you see on the bottom) where a keel was one attached. Some of us prefer a canoe with a keel... I'd put it back together without one.....
 
Keels are fastened with screws driven through ribs and planking into the keel. The holes you point to in your picture were made when the keel was added at the time of repair; you will see corresponding holes on the interior of the canoe -- through alternate ribs.

Some folks like keels (which is why one was added) and some don't (which was why the canoe was built without one).

We have a 1931 15' 50 Pounder that was built with a keel; I'm now restoring it, and it will continue to have a keel after restoration -- we like the way it paddles just fine.
sm cr 100_4070.JPG


We also have a 1922 Old Town Ideal with a keel:

ss IMG_0210.JPG


ss IMG_0214.JPG

Our canoe of unknown manufacture dating to c. 1890 has a shoe keel, and will keep it when the canoe is re-canvased:

ss 100_4334.JPG


We also have a Dan Neal rowing canoe (c. 1915-1920) that has a keel, and it will be kept when the canoe is restored.

But we just bought a brand new Model 1889 from Jerry Stelmok -- without a keel, and we like the way it paddles just fine (though you won't see me pulling it up on a dock the way shown above with our Ideal):
ss cr IMG_1243.jpg


And we have an Old Town Camper (Royalex, not wood) and of course, it does not have a keel, and paddles just fine (for a plastic boat
icon10b.png
).

There's no right or wrong here, and there is no "better" or "worse." Here is a link to a good discussion of the pros and cons of a keel -- several other links are given in the discussion:
< http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?12686-To-keel-or-not-to-keel&highlight=keel >
And here's one from the forums of the Wooden Boat Magazine website:
< http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthr...mp-canvas-canoe-restoration-Why-keep-the-keel >

Have fun restoring your canoe, and have even more fun paddling it.

Greg
 
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