Finish on wood parts; Aesthetics


Wood Girl #1186
Canoe: Otca 1914 #33300 (again)
Dad and I have many hours invested in reconstructing all the missing parts of this seriously rotted vessel. All the planking will be replaced. We are keeping the ribs as we have been able to repair the broken ones from the back. The existing spruce gunwales are too badly damaged to take a glue repair so they will be routed out at the breaks on both port and starboard sides and new spruce pieces will be scarfed in. Since the original outwales are absent, new ones will be made. They will be either Cherry or Mahogany. The new seats will also be Cherry or Mahogany and handcaned with 1/2" oc spacing as the 3/4" spacing leaves too large a hole in the weave. After a bazillion hours of sanding and numb hands, The ribs are sooooo pitted and discolored they look really horrible against the new planking. The question is:How should the interior be finished? Gunwales, decks & combing, seats and thwarts will be stained a garnetty reddish color. Should I use a medium stain of the same color on the ribs and a light wash of the color on the planking to unify all this but also let the woods express themselves with some contrast? OR should I leave everything unmatched and natural? OR should everything get stained the same color and tone so all the wood looks identical overall? It will be painted cream on the outside. Its too late to try to do this canoe all authentic as the original materials listed on the build record don't match the materials on the boat in the first place. Other interesting shortcusts have also been discovered. Really a beautiful boat but appears to have been an end of the day, Friday afternoon economy CS construction in the truest sense of the word. Opinions and ideas requested about this finish. Thank you Splinter

You will likely get many different opinions on finish, so do what you like.

With that said, I like the look of natural wood, even if it has a few dings/dents in it. I "lightly" oil mine with tung inside/liseed outside and finish with traditional varnish. Usually I try to at least get new wood close to the old in color.

I woulds suggest just staining the new wood to match the original as much as possible, leaveing the old wood natural. It would be best to stain the new planking before it is installed. If you take a sample of the old wood and varnish it you will find it will be a much different color than you think. That is the color I would try to match the stain to. The old ribs will look great.
Hi Margaret

Here's my thought. I once thought that the story of the boat would be told if I let the new wood be new and the old, old. I found the contrast to be too glaring and now I prefer to try to get the new wood to match aproximately to the old. I can still see the story in the canoe of its life and rebirth but it is much more pleasing if there are no sharp contrasts. I still don't mind some contrast between planks and ribs but all planks should be similar and all ribs similar, I think.
On another subject, You should've seen the look in my nephew's eyes when I gave him a fly rod/reel/line/flies, and took him fishing in my dad's stripper. And we caught fish, even tho I thought his smile would scare them off.

I like getting all these different views. Thanks for all your opinions. I am going to pick up everything I need to make the bee varnish on monday so after I make it and try it out on an old sanded piece and a new sanded piece I will make my decision. I understand the manila copal and the bee propolis each have color as well and Its possible I may love the color for everything and not stain anything. Dave, your story about your nephew warmed my heart and made me smile. Moments like this are made to be burned in your memory.
Dan was right

I have never had any luck staining raw wood and getting a good match So I kearned this trick from a fella in Kamloops BC For matching up pld/new wood Ive had good luck with one coat of varnish on all ,then stain on the new with a mixture of stains to match the old.Applied with a rag or sponge.Let dry then the rest of coats of varnish over the whole boat.On the last restoration I got the colours so close that I have to point out the new ribs/planks out to folks when showing the canoe.
The bee varnish sounds an interesting project keep us posted on progress will you please.
During each of the 10 or more canoe restorations my dad has done he manages to find cool things like 1896 coins, etc between ribs and planks. Not me, on my canoe, no such luck. I do get to find all kinds of wierd things. This past weekend was no exception. Remarkable how shoddy the workmanship was on this canoe. Example, on the flat part of the stem where the cut-out are to accept the ribs, 2 strange things were discovered. 1) one rib was a little too wide to fit into the cutout so insted of planing it narrower, it was just shoved in there and the edge stood proud of that slot by about 1/8". That explains that bulge. No fairing present. 2)At another of these cut-outs, the rib was bent instead of dividing and beveling to make cant ribs. So the rib is actually fractured in half with the frayed ends beaten into the stem cut out with a hammer! Nails going everywhich direction, rotted wood beneath it and loose nails lying in the vacant space. This explains another 1/4" bulge. Again, no fairing present anywhere on this canoe. 3)The cant ribs are not beveled to the stem at all. Each of those (the ones that could be saved, I properly fit). 4)Ribs not set in the right place or angles into the hull. It just goes on and on.... Removing the tattered planks and burning the splintered mess, I contemplated throwing the entire wreck on the flames. Ahhhh, but it's form is so pretty. Lucky its good looking, Lucky we can see how good it will look with the extreme care it needs. It's the only thing saving it at this point. What a mess. The whole thing is getting stained. End of story.

We have several theories on why. My favorite: Guys standing outside of factory on Friday at 5:00. One guy points to the pile of reject parts destined to firewood. "You know, theres darn near enough parts there to make another whole canoe. What do you say we slap one together this weekend and see if she floats Sunday night, I'll bring the beer"..... This is that canoe.
There may be more to your weekend theory than you guessed. I checked your build record from and the Day of the Week Calculator from to see what days of the week were involved. It came off the form ("half built") on a Friday, was completed and oiled on a Saturday, railed and had the keel fitted on a Saturday, painted ("colored") and varnished on a Friday so some of the quality problems may be due to the day of the week when they were completed. Good luck with the rest of the restoration.

I would think factory workers are the same everywhere.We all know the urban ledgend of not to buy a new vehicle that was made on a Monday or Friday.
I do not know what year the canoe was built but I think that a 5 day work week is a recent deal maybe 50's before that everyone only knocked off work on Sunday for church.Some worked 7 days even

Oh dear.

Well, I now I don't feel so bad about making restoration/repair choices that could fall either direction: Do we make it AUTHENTIC? OR Do we make it NICE? Dad and I are mostly leaning toward making it NICE. We are putting in way too much work and attention to detail to have it only turn out "Authentic". It will be much improved and a real beauty. Well, I have August off so I'm headed out to pick up my caning supplies and ingredients for bee varnish. Life is good and a canoe needs me.... Thanks for your input and research. VERY helpful (at least mentally). Splinter
dboles - Did I understand you to say you stain on top of a coat of varnish then varnish that after the stain is dry? And that works? That would be brilliant!
I Love It!

It seems ages ago since I bought the 1914 wreck from Dave. Many long and occasionally dismal moments and hours behind us, Dad and I are going to launch the Old Otca this weekend. We plan to have a small ceremony christening it with the water of the Tiger Cat Flowage poured over the deck and then we'll paddle it for a while. Then Paul my darling new husband and his lively little hound will paddle it with me to an island and camp overnight. The hull looks great the seats are fabulous and the new woodwork is outstanding. I have to say, that Bee Varnish is the final lovely touch. If I can get some decent photos, I'll try to post them. Not many 50 year old women get to work on a project like this as a team with their dad. I feel so lucky and as long as I have brain cells that hold memory I will always remember this time that we spent making something transformed back to a real beauty.