Carleton 15425 18


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Greetings. I am a novice-intermediate flat water kayaker who had been wanting to acquire a canoe in order to start teaching my 10 & 12 year old boys about the joys of paddling. I have, on occasion, looked wistfully at some of the beautiful wood and canvas canoes and had fairly recently found the wcha site. I am pleased to say that I recently acquired a Carleton, which should prove to be a fun and rewarding restoration project. :D

If you are able to provide build card info on my Carleton s/n 15425 18, it would be greatly appreciated.

I will, of course be joining wcha (as soon as I get permission from my "domestice spending coordinator"). I can't imagine anyone who has an interest in wood and canvas canoes not wanting to have access to, and be part of, what has already proven to be an amazing resource.

Best Regards.
The Carleton canoe with serial number 15425 is an 18 foot long, CS (Common Sense or the middle) grade, Carleton model with red Western cedar planking, open spruce gunwales, and a keel. It was built between July, 1920 and January, 1921. The original exterior paint color was white with a two inch black stripe. It shipped on February 7th, 1921 to Cleveland, Ohio. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link under the thumbnail image attached below.

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 if you want more details. I hope that you will join the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

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. Good luck with your restoration,



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Thank you Benson.

I hope to be able to ultimately order the CD-ROM (when funds are less tight)that might have the original catalog - - hopefully showing a picture of the paint scheme (white with 2" black stripe) so that I might see what the stripe looks like and how it is situated. Is there a resource that might show me that in the mean time?

The canoe has a cane seat that I don't believe is original. (The canoe might have had cane seats, but I dont believe the frame is original -- it looks to be after market.) The other seat, I believe is an original frame, but the caning? was replaced with metal straping which was then covered by canvas. Is there a way to determine what type of seats the canoe had originally and is there a resource for a correct replacement?

The canoe also looks to have had a number of bolts replaced (as well as some reinforcing hardware added on one or two of the thwarts), and does not appear to have any diamond head bolts, which I understand may have been used on Carletons after Carlton was acquired by Old Town. Again, is there a way to determine the original hardware, and a source for correct replacements?

Lastly, the stern deck has a decorative? diamond shaped plate around what I believe might have been an eye-bolt hole in the center of the deck. What is the hole, and what original hardware might have been there?

Thank you for any assistance.
The catalog CD is clearly the best source for answers to questions like this. It sounds like your canoe probably doesn't have the original canvas so paint archeology may not help but it is probably worth a bit of light sanding around the bow to see if any stripes appear. The Carleton designs as shown at tended to be less dramatic than the Old Town ones as shown at for example. My guess is that your canoe's stripe probably looked like design number 21 as shown at without the red diamonds or blue outlines. A variation of the Carleton design A in the link above without the checked stripe is also possible. I would encourage you to paint it with a color and design that you like since no one will probably ever know what it really looked like originally.

The original seats would have been hand caned with a pattern similar to the ones shown at and from an Old Town catalog. Diamond headed bolts like the ones at started to appear on Old Town canoes around 1920 so it is possible that they may have been used originally on your canoe. Ordinary carriage bolts like the ones at countersunk with wooden plugs may also have been used. Square nuts were typical in this era so any bolt with a hexagonal nut is probably not original. Correct replacements are available from Old Town as listed at here, the Northwoods Canoe Company at and many other suppliers. Diamond shaped plates on the decks were most commonly used to reinforce flag pole socket holes as shown at and here.

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Welcome to the WCHA, heightspaddler! I need to say something re the fact that you've chosen such a fabulous project for your family to be involved in. Your boys may appreciate the joys of paddling even more for having helped work on this great old canoe.

I like to point out to my grandkids that our old canoes hold a lot of treasured memories of family fun... not only our family's trips down the river or across the lake, but others who have sat in these seats. It gives them a sense of history, when we talk about what the world was like when the canoe was built... and all that has gone on in the canoe's lifetime.

With the focus these days of "being Green", I like to point out to young people that our old canoes could return to the Earth if they weren't restored... or they can keep going, for generations.

Anyway-- congratulations on your great old Carleton, and welcome to WCHA!

Hi Kathy -

Thanks for the kind words and for stoking my enthusiasm (which is already quite high) for the journey that lies ahead.

Regarding the boys participating, if it's like most things, they'll probably be tired or bored after about 10 minutes. :rolleyes: But, my hope is that they'll particpate enough to feel some sense of equity/ownership so the paddling experiences and their future memories will be a little more special.

Since I am a neophyte, I am particularly pleased to say that the boat - - from what I glean about restoration projects - - is in great shape. Although I have not yet taken the canvas off, it appears that all of the planking is sound. There is what looks to be one small patch (about 3 or 4" long) on the inside of the boat beneath one of the seats between two ribs where a prior owner nailed a small piece of wood on top of the planking - and that small piece has rotted. There appear to be virtually no broken ribs. (One rib has a split in the center of the rib on the bottom of the boat where someone might have overtightened a keel screw. But, the split doesn't run to the edge of the rib and doesn't look like it would be any structural concern. The keel needs either replaced or some pieces scarfed in near the "strike points." I will probably look to replace the stern seat with something more true to the original and both will require caning. Most of the repair work appears to be on the gunwales (no surprise, I presume). There is disrepair/damage to the gunwales near both ends, between the stern deck and stern seat pieces have been poorly scarfed in, and some metal supports and bad bolt work exists at the ends of some of the thwarts. Both decks have a little damage to their tips - not much more than 1-2 inches back and the stern deck is split and will need repaired or replaced. Other than stripping and redoing the finish and recanvasing, that's it. Although, to a rookie, now that's sounding like a lot!

I will have lots of questions as I proceed, but my confidence is already buoyed by what appears to be a great group of enthusiasts.

My only question for now . . . Can you give me any opinions on Carletons - and where they "rank" in the hierarchy of wood/canvas canoes? My impression (from what few names I recognize) is that a Morris is amongst the cream of the crop. Is a Carleton kind of a middle-range boat? (Not the best, and not the worst, but respectable?)

Thanks for writing!
Here's a helpful discussion of "canoe value" (from FAQ in Forums):

One person's ranking of canoes is going to differ from another's, in a manner similar to antiques or other "collectables", but with "function" thrown in as well. And, within each breed of canoe, there are specific models that are rarer or more desirable for one reason or another.

Benson can answer Carleton and Old Town questions better than I, but I mostly wanted to say that B.N. Morris canoes aren't necessarily "the cream of the crop"--- they are a very nice canoe from the standpoint of appearance and paddling, and they are attainable... there are enough of them "out there" that they aren't impossible to find or beyond most people's purchasing ability.

Rushton would be higher up on my personal canoe-hierarchy-list. And I'm blown-away by the beauty of the old Gerrish canoes that pay tribute to the birch bark-- there's a lot of "history" in canoes such as these, and that's a huge factor for me. The canoes of B.N. Morris hold a lot of canoe-history as well, because of their influence on many of the other builders... and this contributes to interest in them.

You may be interested in reading Sue Audette's book, "Old Town, Our First Hundred Years". It should help you appreciate your Carleton!

heightspaddler said:
Can you give me any opinions on Carletons - and where they "rank" in the hierarchy of wood/canvas canoes?

I like Carletons but freely admit to having some bias in my opinions about canoe manufacturers. You will probably get at least as many "rank" or hierarchy opinions as people you ask like Kathy mentioned. Old Town clearly has a higher name recognition value. Carleton canoes are somewhat rare so that usually adds something. Most Carletons were built in the same factory as the Old Town Canoe Company so the overall quality tends to be similar. The dates at show that Carleton had an earlier start than many of the other well known names like Gerrish, Morris, White, Old Town, etc. There have been many fine canoe builders but Carleton deserves a better rating than "middle-range" or simply respectable in my opinion.

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Thanks Kathy and Benson for the feedback. I realize the question was terribly subjective, but I appreciate the opinions. I am glad to hear that it seems to be thought of as a good quality canoe. Regardless of what opinions had been rendered, it is priceless to me. :)
Although the build card doesn't specify, based on your knowledge of similar age Carletons, can you tell me what the likely materials are for some of the other parts? (i.e. ribs? thwarts? decks? seat frames?)
heightspaddler said:
Although the build card doesn't specify, based on your knowledge of similar age Carletons, can you tell me what the likely materials are for some of the other parts? (i.e. ribs? thwarts? decks? seat frames?)

Ribs in all makes of canvas canoes are almost always northern white cedar. CS grade canoes from Carleton and Old Town had spruce gunwales, and native hardwoods for decks, thwarts and seat frames. The 1921 Carleton catalog specifically mentions ash, birch and maple.