Epifanes Paints

James Stearns

New Member
New here and am enjoying the information I'm seeing. I'm restoring a 1921 OTCA 17' I've decided to fiberglass the hull and am committed now. I've decided on Epifanes paint, I've not used it before and I am not sure if a primer coat is required?
What can you all tell me. Thanks, Jim :)
There are certainly a lot of folks here who believe that those intent on fiberglassing a 1921 Otca should definitely be committed. :)

Assuming that your fiberglass filler coats have been sanded fair and baby-butt smooth with all defects filled (which they should be before you apply any sort of paint or varnish product to the canoe) then there really is nothing for primer to do. Smoothing/fairing and defect fixing won't be needed as the surface should already be defect-free, and primers do not increase adhesion of the paint or do anything magical. Sanded epoxy resin is a better primer than most primers.

As to the idea of glassing a 1921 Otca, most folks will strongly suggest not doing it, and for several good reasons including that it will kill the dollar value of the boat. If you do decide to fiberglass it though, be aware that it is a pretty tricky glassing job compared to glassing something like a stripper. Any depression, tack head dent or crack between planks has to be filled with something and made smooth before the fiberglassing can happen. Otherwise the resin will drain through the cloth and leave what looks like screen wire bridging the gap. These spots are very difficult to get filled and made watertight after the resin cures. You also have to be sure that the hull shape between the various plank edges is nicely fair. The fiberglass you would be adding is much thinner than canvas. Two layers of properly applied six ounce fiberglass will yield about the same thickness as the wall of a plastic milk jug. That's not going to do much at all to mask or hide an irregular surface beneath it.
Todd, thanks for the answer and I agree about the fiberglassing. All the steps you recommended I had done from previous experience on strippers and kayaks. Canvas is something I have never done and honestly looked beyond my abilities not having the appropriate tools etc., to hold the canvas. So I cheated and stuck with what I was comfortable. Even though the boat I'm confident will look good in the end and is intended to be a family heirloom for a friend, it's also going to be used a lot. Glad to the bonding between the hear about the primer answer. Since I haven't used Epifanes products I wasn't sure about the bonding between the epoxy and paint. Now I'll spend the money and move forward. This project is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. :)
Again, thanks for the input.:)
I have no problem with your choice to glass or Todd's excellent advice, however I would like to dispel a few myths that are indicated in your post to perhaps help the next person debating the issue that comes along:

1. Canvassing and filling a canoe is substantially easier than a 'glass job. You can canvas a canoe in a couple of hours. The only tools needed are some sawhorses, staple gun, clamps, chain, and a couple of canvas clamps made from 2x4's. Some folks do it without all the clamps and stretch it by hand.

2. Canvas and filler are very, very, very, (enough "verys"?) durable, and the beauty of the system is that it is completely replaceable down the road. Most of Canada was explored in bark and canvas covered canoes. They stand up to being used a lot.
The re-canvas process isn't too difficult.

My canoe was fibreglassed when I got it. Fortunately, it was an older job and the glass just peeled off without taking the planking with it. Unfortunately, the fiberglass held moisture against the cedar planking and rotted it all out. Had to replace every board of planking.

My canoe had two fist-sized holes through the glass planking and ribs. The only to make the repair was to remove all of the glass.
Piling on to Fitz comments, I would much prefer to canvas a canoe than apply glass...and I've done both. Even if you have never stretched and filled a canvas you can easily figure out how to do it and have a successful outcome. It is indeed easier to do well than a glass job.
Repairing or replacing a canvas is an equally straight forward proposition.
Removing glass is rarely worth the effort. It is a major pain in the rear. I just completed removing a glass job from an old canoe...by the time I pulled the glass, scrapped off the resin, picked the resin from between the planks and out of the tack dimples I spent well over 100 agonizing and itchy hours.....
Your choice has been made but for anyone else considering the glass as an alternative to canvas...if it's a decent boat...don't do it.
I'll echo Fitz and Mike - I've done both canvas and 'glass, and MUCH prefer canvas... the work and the result. I'm restoring a canoe for someone now; stripped off the glass and am putting on canvas. The owner studied the options and decided he'd prefer canvas. I was glad because I'd much rather do a canvasing job. To each his own, though. This is simply my preference.
Canvas stretched over plank and ribs is a “system”. This system allows the wood and canvas to expand and contract simultaneously. When glassed, it throws the brakes to this system. The glass is holding fast, but the ribs and planks want to move. Over time, through many wet/dry cycles, be it rain, lakewater, or ambient humidity, the wood(especially planking) will begin to check and crack. I would suggest that you store it right side up, allowing the moisture that the glass is trapping to evaporate uninhibited.
Sorry you are committed to glassing your canoe. If you should ever need to make a structural repair, you will be relegated to making a less than desirable repair.
I also agree that canvas would be better Dave, but I think you are way off base in much of what you just posted. A poor glassing job can certainly cause problems, but you would need a lot more evidence to prove that one done properly will cause cracks, trap moisture, etc. and storing it right side up to evaporate moisture from the wood is just plain silly. The wood up against the glass is the best protected wood from moisture problems on the entire boat, unlike the unvarnished wood up against a canvas skin. That wood is constantly and repeatedly exposed to moisture and dried out, which is a horrible thing to do to any piece of wood.

My 1972 Old Town Guide has been fiberglassed since the mid 1970s when the canvas failed because Old Town tore it when they applied it, tried to glue a thin Dacron patch behind it so that it wouldn't show, and sent it out hoping nobody would ever find out. The patch let go about 18 months later. I didn't know how to canvas back then, but I did know fiberglass, so I glassed it. It has always been stored upside down. I don't let it sit with water in it, but I wouldn't do that to any canoe. Perhaps you can tell me when to expect the planks to start cracking or having moisture problems. I'm 66 years old and don't have that long to wait.......

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Yours is well cared for. I’m only speaking from what I’ve seen on many of the canoes that I’ve restored. I can say that not all of the glassed canoes that I’ve restored were that way. But several were in really bad shape as far as planking goes....and I think it was from lots of wet/dry cycles. Camp canoes come to mind.
I agree that a well cared for glassed canoe won’t fail in most cases.
The main problem with fiberglassing any sort of wooden canoe is, always has been, and always will be, people doing it without really knowing how to do it properly. An incredibly high percentage of them fail or look like hell simply because the owner did the work without bothering to study the process enough (if at all) before diving in. Canoes are by no means the only wooden boats that suffer this way. Boat forums have an awful lot of threads featuring epoxy or fiberglassing failures or problems which could have been prevented by simply reading instructions or product manuals, which are readily available, easy to find, and usually free. As I said above, glassing a rib and plank canoe is pretty tricky. Anybody trying it should have a decent amount of experience fiberglassing boats. It is most certainly not a beginner's job.
To add another data point... No argument intended; just adding some information for discussion. I've followed quite a few past threads about canvas vs. 'glass, but I'm working on a current project that happens to fit the issue.

The canoe I mentioned in a post above is an early-80s Old Town that was 'glassed at the O.T. factory, never returned for repairs, and its 'glass coating was well adhered to the hull when I worked to remove it. To be clear, I have no idea how the canoe was cared for until now (it was obviously a user but the owner from new until a few months ago left no information). Its bottom planking was in terrible condition. Heavily discolored and somewhat punky in many places, it soaked up thinned varnish like mad on the inside but especially on the outside where it was in contact with the 'glass - much more so than on most canvassed canoes I've ever restored. Many cedar-canvas canoes I've restored were far older and very well used, yet had much better planking than did this 'glassed O.T. I'm not saying this means anything in particular. An n of 1 doesn't have much statistical weight, but at least on this particular factory-fiberglassed canoe, the planking is in poor condition. No argument here one way or another; just an observation for what its worth.

One wood-canvas canoe I remember well was a WWII-era Old Town fastened with ferrous tacks, It had been exposed to so much moisture that when I removed the canvas the planking was literally falling off because the tacks were so completely rusted through. Even so, the planking itself was in very good condition. I put the planking back on (refastening with brass of course), re-using all the original planking except where a large hole had been punched through the hull.

This is an interesting issue and I wish there were a definitive answer. It seems to me that canvas should hold moisture against the outside of the hull more effectively than well-applied fiberglass would, and sometimes-damp canvas should hasten the demise of the planking more quickly than a shell of truly waterproof resin applied to a thin layer of wood that can still dry from the interior side. But this simply hasn't been my experience. I'm regularly amazed by the excellent quality of planking on well-used century-old canoes. On the other hand, however this poor 30-something-year-old, factory-fiberglassed O.T. was treated, its planking sure is in sad shape.
I may be mistaken, and I often am...but I seem to recall that the hulls that were glassed by Old Town had thinner planking than the canvased hulls.
Anecdotally, the 125 year old hull that I just stripped was in really good shape under the glass even though there had been glass on it for about 50 years. It had been reasonably cared for. Another hull that I stripped had been a camp canoe on one of the Saranac's. I don't think it was well cared for and the planking showed signs of holding water and related damage. Todd's canoe is not the norm where glass over a wood hull is concerned.
My experience is that how carefully the canoe is used and stored makes a much bigger difference than if the outside is covered with canvas or fiberglass. Canvas has a clear advantage if you consider the relative ease of future repairs.

Let me add two more data points, while acknowledging that this n is still not statistically significant. Jill and Jeff Dean purchased a fiberglass covered Otca in 1978 shortly before they founded the WCHA. Jill recently reported that it is still in use by her brother's family "at their cottage in northern Wisconsin" and "it is serving them very well." My wife and I purchased a fiberglass covered Molitor in 1982 as our anniversary present and we continue to use it today as shown at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=5305&d=1215358989 on the trailer. This canoe also spent two years in Arizona and even gets used on the ocean regularly now. The only obvious impacts of salt water so far are: 1) the original gold paint in the stripe had enough copper that it turned green (so it has been replaced with gold leaf which doesn't have that issue), and 2) a few of the keel screws have started to turn green from when I got lazy and didn't wash it out carefully enough. These and the fiberglass will be problems for a future restoration but probably not within my lifetime.


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Excellent point: "how carefully the canoe is used and stored makes a much bigger difference than if the outside is covered with canvas or fiberglass". Countless artifacts made of rot-prone woods have survived for centuries because they have been kept dry and otherwise free from harm. Wooden boats have the challenge of being actively used in and around water, and while some are used, cleaned and stored with care, many get subjected to water exposure in ways that promote damage. They get left out at the dock or on wet grass, they get left right-side up to collect water and leaves, and so on. Based upon my (limited) anecdotal evidence, it seems that fiberglass-covered canoes may experience more problems over the broad spectrum of real-world use and abuse than canoes covered with canvas. Canvas rots faster than cedar, and this may be a good thing: mistreated wood-canvas canoes probably don't hold water in the long run as well as mistreated fiberglass/epoxy-encapsulated canoes would. Given this and the ease of canvas repair, I view canvas as a sacrificial covering that will give up before the cedar hull does, and is more easily renewed when necessary. Fiberglass (to me) is a more challenging covering to repair, and may promote more problems in a wooden hull over the full range of real-world canoe use and abuse.

The attached photo shows a fiberglassed canoe (pre-restoration photo) that I suspect held water inside the hull like a bathtub. Unfortunately for this conversation, there wasn't a canvas-covered canoe sitting beside it under the same poor conditions.
Yes, but as usual here, all fiberglass covered canoes are being lumped into the same category - as if they all share the same properties and/or liabilities. The fact that you can find a fiberglass canoe which was obviously and seriously abused and is now trashed because of it doesn't show anything other than the fact that it was owned by an idiot. I firmly believe that during the late 1960s and 1970s there were people at Old Town and some other companies who saw glass covering as the way of the future - something that would become the standard, along with avocado-colored refrigerators and stoves. Unfortunately, the resin technology wasn't advanced enough at that time for it to really happen.

The fiberglassed Old Towns were glassed using polyester resin, which doesn't really stick to or seal wood all that well. This is also why boat graveyards are full of old fiberglass powerboats with rotting sheets of fiberglassed plywood in their transoms. There isn't a single polyester resin formula that has been made with using it on wood in mind. Yes MGC, Trappers (glass covered) Lightweights (canvas) and Featherweights (Dacron) used thinner planking. Others which could be special ordered fiberglassed (Old Town called it "reinforced plastic" covering) still had their normal plank thickness to the best of my knowledge. For those of us who were retailers, one thing about the issue is that the clear finished Trappers always sold at least twice as quickly as any canoe with a painted hull, whether fiberglassed, canvased or whatever. You just hoped the new owners would baby it, because hitting rocks was likely to cause delaminations, which would be very obviously visible.

I'm all for folks doing their own work on their boats when they can, but when it comes to glassing a canoe, there is a very small percentage of them who have the skills, knowledge and experience to do it well, and anything less is likely to have problems down the road. I think the odds of them managing to do a reasonably nice job with canvas are much higher, and even if it isn't perfect, it can always be fairly easily replaced. On the other hand, canvas certainly does not, and will not, prevent serious deterioration and the eventual destruction of the canoe if it is not given reasonable care. That is by no means something which only happens to fiberglass covered canoes, and I doubt the time line for it to happen will be much different.
just a note for my 2 cents. I have had no idea how to re canvas a canoe. I have read a lot on it, but was fearful to try it alone. But I have found so much support in my local WCHA that I am now doing it, well in the process. I have helped with one new canoe we built for the auction. I am finishing the woodworking and poly , etc. Hopefully I will have a Canvasing party in the fall and be ready to use it in the spring. As one mentor said to me " You will develop a unique set of skills which you might use one other time in your life " : ( He has ended up redoing dozens). Enjoy the journey
I am finishing the woodworking and poly
OH NO! the mention of polyurethane. This should sidetrack any discussion on the merits of fiberglass, albeit for only a short while to denounce it in favour of varnish.....
Rebuilt a Minetta recently, new spruce innners , cherry outers and carved cherry decks and thwarts. New canvas, filled with epoxy. Painting in weeks not months, easier to repair and i would argue more tear resistant in all but catastrophic situations. Havent used traditional filler in some time. Discuss. lol


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