Correct sequence of finishing?


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Greetings All: I have read many of the posts regarding how to best treat old cedar planks which have been very helpful as I continue my journey of restoring an old Racine I picked up from a friend several years ago. I am getting ready to re-canvas the hull and was wondering if anyone could offer advice as to whether it is acceptable to finish the interior of the canoe after the canvas has been installed. I have spent countless hours stripping, scraping, brushing, and sanding the interior and so it is ready for a new coat of varnish or poly. If it does not matter I'd rather finish the interior later. Thanks
Interior first for sure. Most including myself treat the old dry wood with oil to give a bit of life to it before varnish is applied. Either tung or linseed. Canvas, fill and paint. First, canvas floats on the hull. Adding varnish that finds its ways through the planks will make the canvas stick to the hull. Second, varnish in some cases will and can ruin flat, smooth filler finish by leaving bumps and blemishes. Overall it a better look as well not having the gaps in the planking full of varnish if the canvas was on first.
Last edited:
Hi Scotty,

I second what Zack said - finish the interior before canvassing. And re “varnish or poly”, use a quality marine spar varnish with UV shields. It is more flexible than polyurethane, the UV blocking technology protects the wood, its easier to work with later on, and it looks much better in my opinion. My personal favorite is Epifanes, but other brands include Petit, Interlux, and TotalBoat. With high solids content and UV shields, their thickness builds quickly through multiple coats, and they provide great protection against water and sun.

I don’t oil the interior but rather start with 50/50 varnish and thinner and apply coats as per the manufacturer recommendations. After some coats of varnish, however, I do coat the exterior of the canoe with thinned boiled linseed oil or varnish or tung oil. This should be well cured before canvassing.

After spending considerable time varnishing you don’t want to damage your varnish when canvassing so be careful. If you canvas right-side-up, a moving blanket inside the canoe will protect the varnish.

If the advice is to varnish before canvassing because varnish may harm the canvas filler, then what about re-varnishing later on? Impossible? No, because by the time you might need refresher coats years later, the filler should be very well cured. In my experience, re-varnishing a canoe in subsequent years hasn’t caused any filler/paint problems.

Hope this helps,
Thanks gentlemen, appreciate the feedback and will proceed with varnishing the interior first. Still struggling with what I suspect is a recurring question of "how good is good enough" when it comes to stripping the interior. Every time I say am done with it, I come back a few days later and see something else that I missed. I think I'll take the sage advise that "its done when you think its done"!

20210306_081332.jpg 20210306_081547.jpg
This is the time to use a quality 2 part wood cleaner/ brightener such as snappy teak-nu. It will clean and remove the remaining varnish and residue. It's acid based and is potent. Certainly an outside job with the garden hose involved. I've used it on a pile of canoes over the years and works extremely well.