"Fay" 1920s (?) Peterborough Canoe

English Rob

New Member
Hi all,

I'm a newbie wooden boat owner and just bought this Peterborough which is roughly dated from the 1920s. The family I bought it from reckon they bought it in 1932 but it was second hand then. It's been in England all this time and mainly stored, including 25 years forgotten in a warehouse!

The length is 15'4" and width 31" and it has Peterborough decals on the metal thwart plates and sign of an oval shape being there on the stern deck, so definitely a Peterborough but don't know which model and can't pin down the year of manufacture. Any ideas?

She has a metal strip covered keel and two wooden side running strips, and some kind of protective patch around the keel (which looks original).

Unfortunately the previous owner put VC TAR2 paint (which apparently is an epoxy non-tar paint) on the hull below the water line, on top of thick varnish, all of which I'm just starting to try to remove. They also woodstained the inside of the hull over quite thick varnish. Pretty much all the woodwork seems solid but there's a few small repair patches near the keel, some splitting around the mast hole etc. But overall seems very clean.

Was thinking of stripping it, maybe with Nitromors paint remover, sanding smooth and building it back up, perhaps with a thin layer of fibreglass, then varnish. Anyone done this before and able to advise whether this plan makes sense?


Rob (Bedford, England)


  • Fay 4.jpg
    Fay 4.jpg
    108 KB · Views: 534
  • Fay 1.jpg
    Fay 1.jpg
    90.7 KB · Views: 614
  • Fay 2.jpg
    Fay 2.jpg
    66.3 KB · Views: 639
  • Fay 3.jpg
    Fay 3.jpg
    79.9 KB · Views: 547
  • Fay 5.jpg
    Fay 5.jpg
    148 KB · Views: 567
  • Fay 6.jpg
    Fay 6.jpg
    881.7 KB · Views: 591
Hi Rob,

You've found a pretty canoe that will be well worth restoring to its former glory. All of the mess on the bottom appears non-original. There's the thick stuff you mention, and what looks like the "protective patch" underneath that think brown paint-like material- that "patch" surely isn't original. The canoe would have had a bare wood bottom. These additions were likely done by a previous owner in an attempt to slow a leak in the hull. The keel and bilge keels (the strips parallel to the center keel) are probably original.

The entire exterior of your canoe may be covered with epoxy resin- there's such a thick build-up around the screw heads at the thwart plates, it just doesn't look like varnish.

There are some great chemical strippers out there. Not sure what's available in the UK (don't know the name "Nitromors"), but methylene chloride-based strippers work very well on old varnish, and there are other chemical formulations designed to remove epoxy as well. After removing all that material from the hull, seek out cleaner/bleach solutions to brighten up the old wood. And finally, don't be too aggressive when sanding- you don't want to thin the hull or sand through fastener heads (it's surprisingly easy!).

As for fiberglassing the hull, you'll find this group to be centered in the "DON'T do it!" camp. There have been disagreements here over the use of epoxy and fiberglass, but the consensus among many antique/historic boat owners seems to be that these materials may do more harm than good.

Search these forums (search button at top) using terms like "Peterborough", "fiberglass", "epoxy", and scan the All-Wood section for more info on these topics and on canoes like yours. And enjoy!

Hi Rob,

The 1909, 1914 and 1921 Peterborough Catalogues list Longitudinal Strip Canoes. Yours could be:

Model 43, Length 15 1/2', Beam 29 1/2", Depth 12"
Model 44, Length 16', Beam 31", Depth 12" ;)

You might like to look for a serial number punched into the inside stems or keelson.

The WCHA Online store has canoe catalogue reproductions, which are delightful and informative.


Bill Purcell
Nice looking boat. My Peterborough has brass thwart tags the same as yours. The serial number was stamped on the front coaming. What I've been told is, that somewhere around 1920 they started putting an aluminum plate with the serial number on it. I'd be interested in seeing a picture of your serial number if you can find one.

Fiberglass would have been the only way to float mine again. I couldn't do it, so I rebuilt the whole boat.

You will have so much fun in that boat!
Thanks for the kind words and glad you like her!

Am working my way along stripping the black epoxy surface off and will try the paint stripper next.

Michael, would appreciate any info you have on epoxy strippers as I have found it difficult to locate anything this side of the pond.

Btw, as I've stripped off the crud I can see that, although the patch is very symmetrical it has been nailed on irregularly so looks like a decent quality, probably professional repair I'm guessing. Would you take that off too? I'm a little afraid of what I might find I guess on an otherwise sound looking boat (fingers crossed). On the other hand I see that professional restorers seem to strip right back and build right back, replacing timbers etc. What's the concensus on that? For instance my front coaming is split. Should it replace with new or treat it as part of the character of the boat?

Is the fiber/varnish debate a bit like this too? Mainly aesthetic or are there practical reasons? I've searched through as you suggested but found myself still with unanswered questions. It's been said that fiber may lead to rot problems, but why is that, bearing in mind that the fiber should keep the water out better? Presumably this has to be weighed against the reduced risk of leaking for the fiber. On the other hand the fiber adds some weight and when it does eventually deteriorate you're back to square one in getting the epoxy off. I guess I need to know whether I can protect the hull properly and also ensure a dry boat without resorting to fiber?

Thanks again, Rob
Hi Rob,

Do an internet search for "epoxy stripper" or similar. The nature of the chemicals in these products often precludes them being shippable across borders, so you'd be est to find something local (surely the products here in N. America won't be available in the U.K.).

As for your repairs, whether to replace vs. repair is highly subjective. Some people will more readily remove and replace things like your coaming, while others will attempt a repair. And decisions like this may depend upon the historical importance, your personal history with the boat, your concept of the purpose of the boat, and/or your interest in history and historical accuracy.

Personally, I'm more interested in older boats, historic boats, the beauty of aged wood, and historicall-accurate (that's a relative term) restoration. Not that canoes in my little rag-tag collection are any "better" or more rare than any other, but I just really like keeping as much original as possible. I work to repair things as much as possible rather than replace them. A cracked coaming, for example- I'd repair the crack as long as it could be repaired well enough that the coaming had a smooth, fair curve and hopefully the repair is not easily visible.

I'm working on a nice Morris right now. One rib was seriously cracked- I repaired it from the backside (search "backside" here and you'll find pros and cons, methods, etc.). Another rib, though was cracked in two places and the section between the cracks was actually missing- here I replaced the entire rib. One of the mahogany coamings was also cracked, and I repaired that because I could make the repair essentially disappear, and because to me there's nothing that compares with the beauty of hundered-year-old mahogany.

As for fiberglass, I don't like it. The general feeling is that fiberglass applied to one side only may trap water against the wood- water coming in from the other side. There are those who disagree, and those who might recommend encapsulating the inside of the boat with epoxy, CPES or something similar (or maybe just varnish). I'm not sure there have ever been any objective studies of the possible outcomes of these treatments, but some people have seen damage that suggests such treatment leads more quickly to rot (bt again, search for past threads here for the variety of opinions). You can get epoxy and/or fiberglass off of wood, but it might not be very easy. On every canoe I've restored where I had to remove giberglass-epoxy- it was no fun, and even with careful removal it was impossible not to do some damage to the wood. Plus, it just took SO long to get a reasonable amount of the residue off the hull. Given just the frustrations of removal, I'd personally never put this stuff on a canoe.

For what it's worth, there's my opinion.

Last edited:

English Rob:

Did you try a heat gun and putty knife on the epoxy/fiberglass/black stuff?

I hesitate a little with the suggestion just because you would have to be very careful and keep the gun moving to avoid burning the wood. But it might make the removal easier and less damage may be inflicted on the hull.

Worth a try?
I agree with Fitz. An electric heat gun is less messy and cheaper than chemicals. Works well for me with a steel scraper especially on the convex outside face. I would then use chemical with a nylon scourer for final cleanup.


Bill P.
Last edited:
Additional negatives of applying fiberglass (ok, fibreglass) : It makes the boat substantially less historical/authentic, and an interest in historic authenticity would seem to be the primary reason for owning such a boat. F-glass would certainly reduce the boat's resale value, as the next likely buyer would be similarly interested in historical authenticity.