First project I hope


New Member
Found a 17' canoe with serial # 25604 old town ?? The owners wife wants to make shelving out of it. Can I get a copy of the build sheet for it or any info would help. Hoping to go get it Saturday.
Welcome, the Old Town canoe with serial number 25604 is a 17 foot long, AA (or top) grade, Ideal model with red western cedar planking, open mahogany gunwales, mahogany decks, mahogany thwarts, mahogany seats, half ribs, mahogany outside finish rails, and a keel. It was built between February and April, 1913. The original exterior paint color was dark green. It was shipped on May 3rd, 1913 to Chicago, Illinois. A scan of this build record can be found by following the link at the attached thumbnail image below.

This scan and several hundred thousand more were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you will join or renew your membership to the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join.

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Most people here like to paddle nice old canoes like this so cutting them up to make shelving is usually discouraged. This was a particularly nice one originally so you may find that it is worth more as a whole canoe (if it is in reasonably good shape) than as shelves. Feel free to reply here with your other questions.



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Tag teaming Benson's note, most of us cringe at the prospect of one of these really old boats being turned into shelving. If the goal is shelving, there are far newer less interesting boats available. There are also boat builders who actually manufacture shelves using canoe building forms and materials. Most canoe restorers would prefer you head down that path.....

As Benson notes, this boat is interesting for reasons other than it's age. As an AA, it was built using the best available materials...choice mahogany was not as commonly used as other lower cost materials. Adding to the boats interest, it was built with half ribs. Those were an extra cost optional feature.

If the boat is in reasonable shape it's worth restoring. The pleasures of paddling a 100 plus year old boat you have returned to usefulness is what traps us into this hobby/affliction. Many of the challenges that you will encounter while restoring it would be similar to challenges that you might address while converting it into shelving…presuming that the boat has typical stem, deck and rail rot.For the effort, you might as well turn it into something of value.

There are several restoration books available through the classifieds on this forum
Most of us keep a copy of the Wood and Canvas Canoe as a light read and repair guide. One of the authors is a regular on this forum sharing a fine Down East blend of useful and silly information..

A more recent book, This Old Canoe is a possible consideration although I’ve not read it. I’d take Jerry Stelmock’s book over it if I had to make a choice.

This one:

If you post pictures of the canoe after you retrieve it we can help you assess the repairs….Take pictures of the decks, stems, inside rails (gunwales) and anything else that looks damaged or in need of repair.

Through this site you will get as much help as you need working through the repairs and also locating materials. Through a local chapter (of the WCHA) you might even get hands on assistance and coaching.

Hopefully you'll tackle a restoration....don't cross over to the darkside
NoOOOooooooOOOOOOOOOOO! Please don't let it become shelving :) I started with this.


and now she looks like this


I still have more coats of varnish to do but you can see the potential in your boat.


In my opinion, the Old Town Ideal, with its slender hull, high stems, and nicey curved sheer line, is one of the most attractive canoes around. The Ideal is essentially OT's Charles River model with AA finish (mahogany gunwales, seats, decks, and thwarts) and half-ribs standard. The optional finish rails of this canoe would add to the appeal. Old Town describes the Ideal as "slimmer, sharper, speedier" than either the Otca or the H.W. models.

The 1922 Ideal shown below was very nicely restored by Ralph Nimtz, from this --

picture s.jpg

to this --

cr 100_3434.jpg cr s 100_2775.jpg sm 100_1387.jpg

The Ideal is a stylish canoe that is sweet to paddle -- you should save it from the ignominy of becoming a bookcase if you can.
I'm in Macon Mo. If I can get this canoe bought restoration is the only way to go. I've carved toes for Lion head claw foot tables. Woven Hundreds of press back chairs. But this is a really neat part of history and the outdoors well worth saving. IMG_1251.jpgIMG_1250.jpgIMG_1252.jpg both ends need repair. deck look good but gunwales in and out will need help. Does the planking look salvageable? Can it get too brittle?


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I'm in Macon Mo. If I can get this canoe bought restoration is the only way to go.

Right on!!!

Does the planking look salvageable? Can it get too brittle?

That hull looks really great! The planking looks fine. You'll apply some hull soup on the planking before you canvas. The red cedar tends to be a bit more brittle than white but it's not an issue.
The soup is either straight boiled linseed oil or a blend of linseed oil, varnish, turpentine, tung oil, mineral spirits etc. I apply a hot blend of linseed, turpentine and mineral spirits....very few of us agree on what's best but boiled linseed oil applied warm has been the standard.

Bazaar attempt to install a rib...cutting the inside rail is a bit of a tragedy... no can replace it or possibly splice it. With your woodworking skills you should have the necessary patience to tackle a canoe project.
Greg notes that the ideals are nice hulls...I agree. The lines on the older Old Towns are really wonderful. This should be a really nice canoe when you are done with it.
Thanks for all everyone's comments. I'll let you know if I get it bought. Can you tell me where the closest Chapter of the WCHA would be to Macon, MO 63552
Here is a 1914 Old Town Ideal - 16 footer (in the foreground) to further encourage you. I find it to be a fine paddling canoe.

That canoe looks to be readily repairable/restorable. The planking looks to be in great shape; western red cedar is, by its nature, somewhat brittle even when new -- not much of a concern here, as it looks like little, if any, plank work needs to be done, at least as shown in the pictures.

The unpleasant, messy job of stripping the interior has been done, so you start off ahead of the game.

Right now the entire hull may seem a bit flexible because the canvas has been removed and the condition of the gunwales -- it will become quite a bit stiffer with repaired gunwales and when you put a new canvas on.

In the first picture above -- is the section of inwale shown at the top of the picture mahogany, or has it been replaced with some other wood? Is the outwale there missing?

You will probably want to keep as much of the original fabric of the canoe as possible, both to save money (real mahogany ain’t cheap), but also to keep the boat as “original” as is practicable. Repairs/replacement of sections of gunwales is not uncommon, and a fully functional gunwale can be the result as long as scarf joints that are long enough -- at least 8:1 and better 12:1 -- are used.

The butchering of the inwale shown in the second picture is unfortunate, and was almost certainly unnecessary -- but what’s done is done. Splicing in a short replacement section using scarf joints should do the trick. Replacing the entire inwale is not necessary The curve of the sheer is not great at the point of that cut, so a spliced-in repair should have more than adequate strength.

In the same way, the break in the outwale near that cut in the inwale can be repaired by splicing in a new piece of wood with scarf joints, and again, such a splice should be more than strong enough.

Do you have pictures of the decks and ends of the canoe? We’d love to see them.

Good luck this weekend getting the canoe.

The nearest active WCHA chapter to you is:

Coastal Southeast: (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South & North Carolina): Michael Grace, 605 Sugar Pine Dr , West Melbourne, FL 32904; 321-733-9460; wcha_southeast@yahoo com

He’s not right in your neighborhood, but Michael Grace, the chapter head, is a very knowledgeable (and friendly) guy, and there are a few WCHA members in the Atlanta/Macon area.