Filling under outside stems

ray levesque

Curious about Wooden Canoes
My daughter Michelle and I are moving ahead with our work on the old H. P. Arnold canoe. Progress is slow but at last we can see the light at the end of the tunnel instead of light through the bottom of the canoe.

We have temporarily attached the outside stems and the keel. Now our dilemma is whether or not to fill-in the space between the stems and the canoe’s curved ends to get that “perfect” fit - unfortunately we are not master boat builders. If we decide to fill-in, we have already ruled out using epoxy filler due to probable problems later on if the stems should ever need to be removed. Should we use bedding compound? Would that remain too soft? We intend to paint the stems the same color as the canoe, to hide a few mistakes. Does bedding compound hold paint well enough? If bedding compound is not advisable, what should we use? Plastic wood? Plastic putty? Something else?

We would appreciate any comments on both whether or not the space should be filled and if so what to use to fill it.

With a little luck and an extra long season we’ll christen the canoe this summer.
Since no one has answered, I'll throw in my 2 cents worth. Do not know anything about HP Arnold canoes, but whether you should fill in the gaps, depends on how big the gaps are and how much it bothers you. I would avoid using anything that is stiff, such as putty, it will probably crack over time with the use of the canoe, and/or the dimensional changes from the canoe getting wet and dry. Bedding compound is a good sealant, but not really made for filling gaps, I doubt it would hold paint, but you could easily test that out on a glop of the stuff. You could work on the outside stems themselves to try to resolve the issue, making them thinner may allow them to conform better to the curve, and/or putting in a hollow on the inside of them might also help. There is also caulk, which may make some people cringe, but hey, it is your canoe, you can do what you want with it. Caulk will fill the gap and be flexible, avoid anything with silicone, and make sure it is paintable and mold resistant. Caulk will act like glue, but not to the same degree as epoxy.
I cannot give you any help with your question, but am interested in the canoe, which was made by H.B. Arnold, not H.P. Do you have proof of this, and do you know anything about Arnold, because if not I can help you.

H.B.Arnold only made boats from 1895 to the 1930's (?) in small numbers, not all of them canoes, so they are rare.

If there were a chance to see this canoe, I would be really interested.

Tony Denton
HI Ray, tonight I used Dolphinite (sp) Bedding compound. Wiped off the excess and will be painting over. Seems to really seal things up.
Regards, Dave
Thanks, Martin, Tony and Dave for answering my query.
First of all Tony, you are right the canoe is an H B Arnold ,
that was my typo error. We have however, made quite a few modifications
and it may be difficult to recognize it as such.
As for the outside stems, we've taken your advice and set up
2 tests. One with bedding compound (Dolphinite) and another
with non silicone caulk (3m marine adhesive sealant 5200).
When these dry enough and harden somewhat , we will paint
them and see what happens. As for altering the stems , we cannot thin them any further , but hollowing the inside is something to conside we may give that a try.
Dave ,we would appreciate hearing the results of your painting
the Dolphinite bedding compound .
Thanks again all .
Ray Levesque
Never use 5200 on anything which you or the next owner might eventually need to remove or replace. It REALLY sticks and you will likely destroy both surfaces getting the pieces apart if it's ever needed. You can get plenty of adhesion and similar gap-filling power with 4200 instead and it will be a much smaller battle (but still not easy) if you need for some reason to replace the outer stem down the road some time. In any case, I'd go with bedding compound, not goo in a tube. I think it seals better and you can be sure that any voids that aren't completely sealed are going to fill with water and eventually start little spots of rot.
Listen close and you'll hear a lot of chuckling and knee slapping from the group...

I've used "plumbers putty" (known to the trade as "monkey sh*t") to fill in the outside stem gaps on a number of boats. It is easy to work with. It's paintable. It remains plyable after aging. It comes off when it needs to come off. And, oh yeah, it's waterproof.

Anyone who has put in a sink drain will know what this stuff is. It has the consistancy of children's modelling clay so you can work it into a long 1/2 inch diameter roll and stick it into the hollowed-out back side of the stem -- it will stay there while you fit the stem onto the boat and tighten the screws. This fills any voids.

Go ahead laugh, you can't get to me...
After considering all your suggestions and recommendations to our question about filling the space between the outside stems and boat here is how we proceeded with our H B Arnold rehab.

We decided to stick with dolphinite bedding compound since some of you recommended it’s use and we had some on hand (we used it on the inside stems). We applied it to the cove on the underside of the stem and keel. To apply it neatly we used (don’t laugh) a chefs pastry bag with a ¼” metal tip. With a little practice it worked beautifully. Squeezing and moving the bag along slowly applied more bedding compound where there were spaces to be filled on the stems and moving along the keel a little faster applied less so there was very little squeeze out to clean up. Since the bag and tip are inexpensive, after use we just cleaned the tip and discarded the messy bag.

From what we’ve read plumbing supplies and kitchen utensils all seem to be canoe rehab tools as well so if you don’t happen to have pastry bags and tips in your workshop/kitchen they can be purchased at most grocery or craft stores.