Canvas Fillers

Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
Canvas Fillers

Canvas filler formulas have been guarded for decades by wood canvas canoe builders all over the world. The formulas below have been published or made available in a legal manner and not “stolen” or otherwise “borrowed” without permission. If you have another proven formula that is not listed here, please send it in!
One note about filler formulas. The materials that were used in the early 1900′s may not be the same as materials with the same names today. In addition, canvas is certainly different today than it was in 1900, so some of these formulas may not provide the best coverage for your money.
Commercially prepared formulas are available from builders in the Online Builders & Suppliers Directory.

Old Town Canoe Company Unleaded Filler (Reprinted fromWooden Canoe Issue 16)

  • 43 ounces boiled linseed oil
  • 21 ounces mineral spirits
  • 34 ounces enamel paint
  • 2 ounces Japan drier
  • 6 1/4 pounds 300 grit silica
  • 2 ounces spar varnish

Old Town Canoe Company
1947 Recipe (Courtesy Benson Gray)
  • 25 1/2 pounds white lead (or 20 pounds)
  • 70-75 pounds Silex (or 90 pounds)
  • 6 gallons boiled oil
  • 5 gallons varnish mixing oil
  • 3 gallons Savasol #4
  • 1 quart dryer (japan or Pratt & Lambert Liquid)
  • makes 14 gallons, enough for 14 canoes

Old Town Canoe Company 1953 Recipe (Courtesy Benson Gray)

  • 75 pounds Silex (100 pounds 1959)
  • 25 1/2 pounds white lead (17 pounds whiting, 8 pounds lead 1958)
  • 1 quart dryer
  • 5 1/2 gallons linseed oil
  • 8 quarts Savasol #4
  • 4 gallons varnish mixing oil
  • makes 25 gallons

Old Town Canoe Company 1964 Small Recipe (Courtesy Benson Gray)
  • 4 pounds Silex
  • 1 1/2 ounces dryer
  • 1 quart boiled oil
  • 1/2 pint Thin-X
  • 1 1/2 pints white enamel
  • makes about 3 quarts

Old Town Canoe Company 1964 Bulk Recipe (Courtesy Benson Gray)

  • 100 pounds Silex
  • 5 gallons boiled oil
  • 10 quarts Thin-X
  • 4 gallons white enamel
  • makes 25 gallons

J.H. Rushton, Inc. Filler (As reported by Frank Fox, who built Indian Girl canoes under contract, reprinted from Wooden Canoe Issue 20)
  • 5 pounds silica
  • 1 1/2 quarts turpentine
  • 1 quart boiled linseed oil
  • 1 pint Japan drier
  • 2 pounds white lead

“Commonly Printed” Filler reported by Judah Drob (Reprinted from Wooden Canoe #52)

  • 1 quart boiled linseed oil
  • 4 pounds silica
  • 7 ounces Japan drier
  • 3 quarts turpentine
  • 4 pounds white lead

Harold “Doc” Blanchard’s Filler Recipe (reprinted fromWooden Canoe Issue 52)

  • 5 pounds silica
  • 1 quart spar varnish
  • 2 quarts boiled linseed oil
  • 1/2 pint japan dryer

Chris Merigold’s Water-based Filler

  • 2 quarts gray Cecofill (now called Ekofill), applied 1 quart per day over two days.
  • latex house primer (50%) and lightweight spackle compound (50%), applied to finish filling the weave.
  • more complete details on the WCHA Forums

Further Information

Additional advice on the choice of canvas fillers can be found inWooden Canoe issues 22, 96 and 53, and the topic is often the subject of lively debate in the WCHA Forums.


Silica can be purchased at pottery supplies under the brand name Silex. Silex dust can cause breathing problems, so please always use a respirator when sanding filler.

is known to cause brain damage when absorbed through the skin or inhaled as dust. Be very cautious using and disposing of white lead in your filler.
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The season ends, when I can't break thru the ice!
Using Mastic as a Canvas filler

Has anybody, other than Orca Boats used mastic to fill canvas?

Of course it is not 'traditional', but for recreation on a canoe that is not really a collectable, it seems to be an alternative.

Anybody have any thoughts or insights, suggestions about such?