Chestnut Cruiser 16'


Curious about Wooden Canoes

some weeks ago I was lucky to buy an old chestnut canoe in Germany.
I think it’s a cruiser and I want to restore it.

length 16'
max width (outside gunwales) ~83,5cm
it has tumblehome.
depth at midships ~32.5cm
stems ~59cm
decks are just 10cm wide, crowned and undercut.
ribs are ~58mm wide with a distance of ~50mm
planks ~70mm wide.
There is a shoe keel, which is attached on every rib.
The seats are mounted directly under the gunwales (just 1 position on the rear seat with short hangers).
Seats, thwarts and decks are maple (decks and only the bow seat are birdseye – I wonder if one of the seats is a replacement).
Gunwales could be spruce.
Keel and gunwales are attached with slotted screws (seem to be original).
The decal looks quite similar to the one in Grahams post from 2013 “old chestnut decal”

It's in quite good condition.
After cleaning the interior I found some older plank repairs don with kind of window putty.
Already started stripping the interior.

I would like to find out it’s approximate age … (?)



(sorry for all the metric dimensions…)
Lovely canoe! without zooming, i would imagine the front seat was wrapped when the cane broke. Rails will be spruce from that age, if not for the putty i would leave it as is, with a light sanding and some satin or matte varnish - something to consider if the canvas is solid and not showing signs of rot. Very nice early decal. Congratulations on that find
You don't want to strip the interior with the canvas on if you can help it. The interior looks pretty nice and Andre knows the drill. If you must do some stripping get all the trim, seats etc off and really bring them to new and redo the seat(s) . With all the parts off you could varnish where they never do on the underneath of everything. You could add several coats to the outside surfaces and put all back after cleaning up the inwale, rib tops etc . carefully stripped with just a sealer coat on the inner surfaces. I would treasure the decal and be very careful not to sacrifice it . The interior should be a fun, rewarding project especially when everything gets put back in place.
The canvas looks good to go and with the rails off, you could see a lot better . The paint does seem to need some TLC and should appreciate some deep sanding and finish. I see a really clean sweet example of a well preserved earlier Chestnut. Congratulations with a great find.
Have fun, Dave
Thanks for your comments Andrè and Dave!

I agree, that it's in a pretty good shape, but I think on the fotos it looks much better than in reality.
After finding the old repairs, I removed the window putty with help of a heat gun and there are several big holes in the planks, which should be replaced.
The surface of the canvas is quite uneven with big blisters of the last thick coat near the keel.
So, I already started stripping the interior and removed the keel.
(I love canadian style paddling and this is not fun with a keel)
After removing the stem bands, I even found some previous repairs at the stern with glass/resin.
So the decision to recanvas is already made.

Sorry, I don't have updated fotos at hand and wanted to show the "as received status" first.
If I would have posted earlier and having read your comments I might have overthought my plans.

I will post fotos of the progress and would appreciate further comments.


Here's an example of the blisters


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Your decision to properly restore it makes sense. Especially in view of some previous shoddy repairs.
A comment about the keel. I hate keels. I absolutely hate them.
Having said that, I don't know if you had a chance to paddle that canoe before you started to work on it?
The shoe keel is not a typical barnacle on the balls of progress keel. They are actually minimally intrusive when you paddle and do not interfere with the boat as a typical keel does. I have these on two of my canoes and have chosen to leave them on.
I have always leaned towards replacing a keel if a keel was present originally and for this canoe, I would do the same. My two unsolicited cents as it were....
Here's a more detailed foto of the decal.
Hope this can help to narrow down the decade of the building?


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narrow down the decade of the building?

The examples at the link below indicate that you may have a circa 1908 example.


Thank you for posting!

Dick P's timeline graphic posted back in 2013 uses circa 1908 as the start date for the decals likely because Chestnut Canoe Co only formally incorporated in November of 1907. The 1908 catalog doesn't have an illustration of this corporate logo and none of the boats photographed for the catalog have visible decals either. The earliest appearance of the decals seems to be in the 1913 catalog.

Also there appears to be two version of this early full-sized decal design. From what I could find the earlier of the two had a very distinct pointed tip on the stem and essentially matched the logo design that first appeared on the back of 1913 edition.
1913 Catalog pointed stem decal.JPG

A very worn example (but still with visible pointed tip) was found on Sam B's 12 foot Teddy. It is believed the boat was purchased by a couple from the UK during a visit to Canada in 1913:
Sam B early decal.JPG

Dan Miller also documented an early pre-fire canoe with this shape. The decal had entirely worn off but the outline left by the adhesive shows a distinctive point if you look closely...
Dan Miller prefire.JPG

Interesting that around the same time there was a smaller decal with pointed stem that was used on smaller sample models. Here's a clear shot of one documented by Roger Young. You can see the pointed tip of the stem on this one too...
R Young - Temagami Chesnut Model.JPG

Sometime later, another version of the decal appears which had a much more blunt, square end to the stem. This is the one you seem to have. For dating, this same decal is seen in the circa 1918 BOBS at the Canadian Canoe Museum seen below:


It also matches the decal on Graham McGee's Cruiser from roughly the same period.
Graham Cruiser decal.JPG

Also interesting to note that all the subsequent versions of the decals produced by the company have this same blunt stem in the design so from a manufacturing standpoint it also stands to reason that the pointed tip version was the earlier design that was abandoned for whatever reason. Either way, you have a fine vintage canoe with a pretty rare decal!
Wow, thank you for this detailed analysis, Murat!
Very interesting.

For sure I will treasure the decal.
It seems to be covered with (slightly cracked) shellac. (I tried on the other deck and it could easily be washed off with spirit)
So I would cover it with (satin) varnish, when I do the interior.
Jorg, if you want to date your boat as either pre or post fire, in late 1921 when all previous material was lost and the company subsequently reborn, the most accurate way is to examine the top of the stem when your canvas comes off. I have a few pre fire boats, both open gunwhale (like yours) and closed, or single gunwhale. Much speculation exists over the decals and age, however a seemingly constant feature is the full width upper portion of the stem, with planking cut away around it. You will see when cavnvas is off. Seems to be a later boat, maybe late 20s or 30s, but thats just my thoughts. Lovely hull and profile either way. The shoe keel is not a typical barnacle on the balls of progress keel. Could not have put it better, Mike as usual captures the essence of the matter. If you choose to leave it off, i cut the screws leaving only one or two threads, and reinstall with the washers so its not left with ugly holes, no one has ever noted screws but no keel on my boats. Dont lose those little washers, they cannot be had for love or money!
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Hi Jorg, I agree with your decision to replace the canvas. Although I never want to replace anything original unless its necessary I think the picture of what you've called canvas blisters sealed the deal for you.
You have a beatiful canoe and should come out even better after your work on it.
Have you ever been to this site, The Wooden Canoe Museum? It has lots of great information on the Chestnut company and if you scroll down you'll see particulars on their respective models.
Your canoe looks much like mine and has encouraged me to make time this Summer to restore it.
Best of luck with the rest of your work and thanks for the updates.
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And another identifying feature was that pre-fire Chestnut canoes had cant ribs of the same width as the other ribs used in the canoe and then canoes built after the fire had wider cant ribs. That is as per the Wooden Canoe Museum records.
Jorg, yours from the pictures I see, have narrow cant ribs which would suggest a pre-fire Chestnut, nice find indeed.
Thanks Andre good to know. Shows you can't rely on everything you read. Go to the source, those who do this for a living.
So the cant ribs are only the very last pair of ribs at each end?
On my boat they look quite like Sams, could be pieces of planking.
But it doesn't show the stem top, attributed to the pre-fire canoes.

how did you guess right without knowing this detail?
Do you see also differences in the outer shape, tumblehome and sheerline, compared to your pre-fire cruiser?
I will keep the keel screwes as you proposed.

Before registering here, I did a lot of research about chestnut, mainly in this forum, on the websites of André, Dick Persson, Mike Elliot, Murat, the wooden canoe museum... I have downloaded the old catalogues and read Ken Solways book.
Getting direct feedback from you here is even more helpful.
Thanks to everybody for sharing your expertise! It's a great forum!
One more thing to mention...

My own closed-gunnel 15' Chestnut was restored by someone else 25 years ago back in 1999. I removed the canvas to look for that full width stem top like Sam's picture to determine if it was pre-fire but did not see it. However, the planking in that area had been replaced. When I removed that planking, I saw that that both sides of the stem where the full width piece would have been was sawn off so that the stem piece was now a consistent width (like post-fire stems). There were existing saw marks at that spot but the rest stem piece was smooth.

I'm thinking the restorer didn't know the significance of that pre-fire stem design and just wanted to plank that region the way he knew how so cut off the sides so the the planking would like flat.

Obviously your boat has been repaired and re-canvassed at some point. If you remove the canvas and planking in that area, perhaps check to see if there is any evidence that the stem was altered.
Very nice ! it appears to be a dead ringer for my early cruiser. You'll notice if you put it beside a 40's cruiser that the ends are higher as the stem recurve is more pronounced. There are many slight differences in shape to the later cruisers. I'm not sure if mine has original canvas, but there were 7 coats of paint on it over the years. It still has the original interior finish though. The previous owner of mine bought it in 1959 from a neighboring cottage owner who'd had it on Lake Sydenham as long as they could remember.
If you have any restoration questions, I'd be glad to compare to the one in my garage. Or the later boats (I have 3 16' Chestnut cruisers from different generations - they're a great handling canoe)