Decal preservation

Bill Perron

Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
The deck decal on my 1936 OTCA seems to be in almost perfect condition except that it is under about an inch (OK that's a slight exaggeration) of varnish/urethane. Is it possible to save this decal while stripping the deck? With all the troubles there are in the world is saving the decal of any importance in the first place? Inquiring minds want to know.

All the best

Bill Perron
on a number of previous boat restorations i have carefully scraped varnish from AROUND the decal if it was not replaceable and then proceeded to varnish the boat. i don't think i would try to remove varnish from the decal itself. others may have a better idea though. on the peterborough i'm restoring the decal is half missing. i could try to keep it but there are new available i'll go that way.
Check the WCHA store on here....I got a decal for my OTCA and there was a selection that will fit the era that yours was made I believe...I'm sure someone with more knowledge than me will jump in but for $5 to replace it...why go thru all that work if its not salvagable anyway. I;m also sure that some "cranky" old restorer out there will say you have to save it or its not a true restoration...But then....unless someone has found a way to take off the canvas and put it back on canoe can ever be truly restored to original..........Get a new one from WCHA or Olt Town!.
If you have the time, give it a try. Worst case, you're out an hour or two of prep work and maybe an extra coat or two of varnish on the deck.

Here's what I did,

-taped off the decal, maybe an even 1/8 inch beyond the edge of the decal
-stripped the canoe
-took off the tape
-used some finer grit sand paper to cut thru most of varnish on the decal
-had a cup of coffee
-wiped down the deck with some turpentine
-stood back, rubbed my chin, and said "yep, that'll do"
-feathered the edges of the old varnish into the deck
-the decal hadn't been perfectly flat, so it took a couple extra coats of varnish on the deck with some between coats sanding to even things up.

If it had looked too grotty under the turpentine and remaining varnish, I would have plopped on a dollup of Bix, had another cup of coffee, chatted with the lady next door, finished cleaning up the deck, then sent off my 5 dollars to the WCHA store.
or, in other words,

Good enough for government work.
or for trumpet players like me, "Close enough for Jazz"
In reality, much of it is the decision process. And in the end it all works out.
i am getting more to the stage where i can go ahead and decide, knowing that whatever the outcome i'll know if it was a right or wrong decision----after.
"am getting more to the stage where i can go ahead and decide, knowing that whatever the outcome i'll know if it was a right or wrong decision----after"

I'm finding that there are as many opinions as there are options when it comes to restoration. Many of our restorations are actually enhancements, because they look far and away finer then they did when they rolled off the shop floor 80-90 years ago. And that is ok.

I think it would be an interesting discussion at Assembly. What constitutes a restoration? When do you replace wood? etc. Some people say "give me a good rib and I can build a boat around it" Is that a restoration? Does replacing parts with mahogany (to essentially change a CS to AA grade in OT terminology) change a boat? How about changing color or design?

These are all questions that have no right or wrong answer but it's fun to discuss.
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I love the quote from Pooh. Thanks.

As far as the topic of this discussion... I can't help thinking about the restorations that are done on paintings, and the fact that those who know how to do so, can remove an entire painting if there's one that is more important underneath it. I plan to look into this process before we strip the deck of a Morris that just might have a decal under a layer of paint. The backup plan is to photograph a Morris decal and create a replacement.

I agree that "what constitutes a restoration" would be a great Assembly topic. Do you stay true to the original boat... and if so, to what degree... at what expense? Seems to me this might be why some who begin as restorers eventually build a boat from stratch!

A couple/three thoughts

deck varnish over decals:
-- Half a lifetime ago, I remember using some stuff called formby's furniture refinisher on a table and some darkened old wood work in a house. It seemed to clean things up without removing all of the patina. May be worth experimenting on something not too important to see how it works.

-- This would be a fun conversation. Stabilize and preserve as if for a museum, restore so it looks like the picture in the catalogue, pimp it out for show and courting, or fix it up so it will take you down the river or across the lake.

vagaries of language:
-- "Yep, that'll do" from an ex minnesotan translates as "Fantastic" on the west coast
Regarding decals, I have not seen where the presence or absence of original decals really affects the value of a canoe (though I agree they are nice to have in place). For an Old Town canoe that is fairly common, and for which good reproduction decals are readily available, it may be more trouble than it is worth to try to preserve an old decal (unless it is that very early very rare decal that is almost never seen...). On the other hand, there is no harm in trying.

The question of what can be considered a restoration in an easy answer. The definition of restore is "repair or renovate (a building, work of art, vehicle, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition" (Oxford American Dictionaries). To do anything else but return it to its original condition is not a true restoration but rather a repair or rebuild. So, if you put mahogany gunwales on a CS grade Old Town, or a #4 paint design on an OT that was originally dark green, that is not a true restoration. In this field, the term restoration is generally used pretty loosely. If you want to explore this topic further, you may find it interesting to enter one of your canoes into the Antique Boat Show in Clayton and have it judged... It is an interesting experience!
Yikes! Thank you for your insights. Here's my plan. Since none of you implied that I would writhe in hell for all of eternity if I didn't preserve the decal, I feel relaxed enough to give the preservation a try...AFTER I have the one I'm going to order from WCHA in my hands.

Pimp my ride?...Interesting concept.

Thanks again and...

All the best

Good plan Bill,

Getting to try/practice saving a decal on something that is replacable is a good idea, maybe you will learn something that you can pass on.

I had a similar task on my Penn Yan, I could see the outline of the decal but it was under several layers of paint. I asked and was told to try to lightly sand to remove the paint. Either it didn't work or the decal was already deterated because once I got the paint off there wasn't much to see.

Good luck,

Oh and Zute,

It could also be "not bad", I never hear "that'll do", but I hear/use "not bad" all the time. :)

vagaries of language:
-- "Yep, that'll do" from an ex minnesotan translates as "Fantastic" on the west coast
This is the result of the use of the masking/ mechanical stripping process outlined above. I tried to find a replacement decal, but Schaff pianos are not quite famous enough to generate restorer's supplies. By the way, if you want to teach yourself how to varnish, try a ninety-year-old piano.

When I checked the alligatored, old finish, I could see that the cracks didn't appear to go all the way to the decal. With a good light and a magnifying glass, I sanded my way down to a fair surface, checking often to be sure that I hadn't hit the gold. Then I feathered the edges and piled on the new varnish.