Free$$ Canoe


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Knowing in reality there is no such thing as a free canoe, I march relentlessly forward.
I really have no idea what manufacture this is, nor does it much matter with the shape it's in currently. Why it might just be one of those "beyond hope, don't waste the money or time, it'll make good firewood" canoes. But being a Boyscout leader, and wanting the scouts to accomplish something other than sleeping in a tent, again I move forward.
Most of the ribs are cracked at the top, at least four are broken at the water line, the inner rails are junque as are the decks.
The previous owner/abuser tried to glass over the hull......tried is the operative word....failed miserably is more accurate, then left it laying upside down on the ground so the decks could wrought thoroughly. And I even found a few soft spots in the has around six different layers of paint under the fiberglass? which I removed yesterday to find a pretty decent hull, other than at the rails.
Okay so I know the answer, but the Scotsman in me won't let me toss it.
13' square stern, and ugly as hell.
As soon as you stop laughing..........could you tell me where I might start?
And no not with a glass of gasoline!:eek:

The first pic is of the hull stripped of fiberglass, then a long shot of the stripped canoe, and the third was the horrible fiberglass attempt before I ripped and ground it off.


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Free Canoe??

Okay, I went outside to take more pictures for the experts to look at, and I humbly request your honest opinions.

Please remember this is supposed to be a Boyscout is not going into the concours competition, and we won't be restoring it to that condition, unless of course you tell me it's some long lost, one of, irreplacable canoe. My turn to laugh this time.

Here are a number of interior shots.......I think I am beginning to dread this idea already.......but only a little.
As with any project, the satisfaction of the completed job is the best payment one help a bunch of Boyscouts get that same feeling....well that's just icing on the cake now isn't it.


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It's an Old Town. Might have been cut down from a double-ended canoe. Look for the serial number on the stem.
where to start

Complete restoration kit, results guaranteed.:eek:


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Thanks Dan

It was mentioned when I picked it up that it might be an Oldtown. However, when you look at the transom it sure doesn't match the rest of the canoe in any way shape or form. I was thinking it might be a mongrel patchup job. There are no numbers, plates, or any other identifying things anywhere on this. So I am just going to move forward with it, despite the other reply.

The Scouts were over tonight for their weekly meeting, and we went over the project, identified the parts and pieces of the canoe, made measurements, talked about the repairs needed, and what materials and tools we would need to fix it up. And how we would go about doing just that. their enthusiasm was something to behold.And you know something, when it's done, there won't be any matches, or the thought of doing that either.

If you look behind some of the pictures, you might notice a white fiberglass canoe. when it was given to me it was a thin rough fiberglass shell taken from a rough mold.....nothing more. It was in worse shape than the "Oldtown". I finished the hull, gelcoated it, added seat mounts inside, steamed wood for inner and outer rails, hand cut and formed decks from maple, made new seat frames and basket wove nylon webbing. 16', super lightweight, and maneuverable.

We'll get the Oldtown done too.
Serial No. on Stem?

Look carefully at the top face of the stem in the bow under the hand thwart and you will probably find a serial no. It may be very hard to see, but a rubbing like a gravestone or a low angle flashlight beam may reveal the no. Maybe a cut down Carleton or Old Town.
Witty as his "restoration kit" is, I'm sure Andre is just joking... this is a great project for a group of Boy Scouts! It's great that you're taking this on with them- history, woodworking, craftsmanship, all rolled up in something they can actually use and enjoy when finished. Good for you!

Like Dan said- Old Town. And it surely has been cut down. The double holes in the ribs show that it was once a sponson canoe. Two things indicate that it was cut down: (1) the fact that the sponson screw holes go all the way to the next-to-last rib... these would have ended several ribs sooner if this were made as a sponson square stern, and (2) a factory-made square stern would have had supporting wide stock the thickness of ribs around the circumference where planking meets the transom.

No big deal, though. The canoe is what it is. Most important, it is a wonderful project for the Scouts. Hope they enjoy!

Just joking

Hey thanks everyone.......I had actually expected the flame comment, and it's not a big thing really.
The boys were sort of disappointed when they first saw it, guess it's a form of entitlement mentality that most kids have nowadays. You want us to fix it before we can use it?
But once we started naming the parts, what they do, and how and where it was made, the attitudes changed. Then we got into what repairs were needed, material, techniques, and a plan of attack, they took it over. As I said, their enthusiasm was incredible.
Since the day I took over a scoutmaster I have been trying to influence them to take personal responsibility, to realize things worth having were worth working for. Some have understood, accepted, and done well, but others.....well they haven't.
Sure, they'll get board after a while of sanding, planning, and fitting, but with as much work as is ahead of us, we'll keep them busy.

I will take a closer look for the serial number in the ayem!

Thanks again.
Where are you located, Dave? WCHA members are spread around the country and maybe someone nearby can offer advice or assistance.
Whaling City

I'm located in New Bedford, MA.
I'm sure there must be someone close by, and they're welcome to come by and take a look see......have a cup of me how to steam better...whatever!

My wife is not real happy. Seems I have too many unfinished, or needing repairs boats on my property. I'm restoring a 22ft homemade wooden sailboat too. That's what happens when you live on the water, people give you boats. I'm up to 9 watercraft of one sort or another......guess I can see her point. But don't tell her.


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Make it Whole again?

Maybe a more difficult but satisfying challenge for the scouts would be to rebuild the missing end. It has been done before and you probably would end up with a better performing canoe.


Devil's Advocate.:)
Thanks Fitz

I had thought about that, and am considering it......two problems.....and they're huge, (remember I mentioned entitlement attitudes? Where do you think they get that from?) I have parents that are fearful of thoughts of their sons with tools. And not power tools either.
I joked that they would have planes without blades, and well worn sandpaper, but they weren't joking.:confused:

The other thing I am thinking about is the horrible condition of the exterior hull, it has so much superfluous crap on it that to do a total restore would be more than I could expect them to stay focused on. If we replaced all the bad stuff, we would have almost nothing original, at the same time, nothing in the old Scout Troop bank account either. :(

Within Boy Scouts the scoutmaster is a facilitator, the committee supposedly chooses the program, controls the purse strings, and decides yay or nay. Unless I demand.....which isn't a pretty sight at 6'4" and 325 lbs.:rolleyes:

I'm having fun with these little smiles things....sorry!
Given that you managed to remove most of the glass your next step is to secure the hull shape.You could try glueing some ofthe lesser conflicted ribs even if you eventually replace them,and get new inwales fitted.It can be tricky but Jerry Stelmoks book would help.Then decks.Then rotten or broken planks and ribs.Then interior stripping refinishing.Ah the joys of Canvasing.
What appears to be a wreck may be the best format for learning as you can really do little damage.Generally these things turn into a magnet attracting new and better boats as people take an interest in the process.
Wordy,aint I.
I'm glad that their response turned to enthusiasm! It could have gone the other way. Now to keep it going!

Don't fret the condition of the canoe. I, for one, have seen worse. Makes you shake your head in wonder.
Thanks for the insight, and the advice. Maintaining shape and integrity is always important.....with a canoe I mean!
I'm having difficulty today keeping my hands off, and waiting for the boys to get back next Monday. I'm an impatient tinkerer and want to get to work.

As far as wordy goes, I've been known to expound a little myself.
I have no idea what shape the canoe was in when the previous person got it, but the fiberglass job had me shaking my head.....layer on layer, patch on top of patch, but the best was the 1/2" thick folded section over the front edge, with about twenty steel staples into the hull, rusting and making holes in the hull.

I don't know if I dare go down to the canvas, to replace it. Perhaps if we go the rebuilding route as Fritz mentioned above, we'll have no choice.
I'm more interested in keeping the boys in the fabrication of rails securing/replacing ribs, and fabricating the deck.
One step at a time.
serial number found

Today is the first time I have had to look for a serial number. What with the horrible rainy weather, (at least it wasn't snow) it's been hard to get to it.

Funny (almost tragic) story is we had gusts of wind up to 60 mph with the torrential rain, I had the OT leaning against a couple other canoes and such in my side yard. The wind picked it up off the ground, and I found it 40 feet away up on a 3 ft raised flower island bordering my property from the street. Another ten feet it would have made it to the street, where the locals would have used it for an object to conduct a demo derby with.

Anyhow the serial number is 88694 17..........or at least that's what it looks like to these old eyes.
Well, your old eyes may be good - see if some of the details match your boat. 88694 was assigned to a 17' HW model (Heavy Water) in CS (Common Sense) grade. It had open spruce gunwales, birch decks seats and thwarts, a keel and outside stems. It was painted dark green and shipped to Macy's in NY City in May 1927. A copy of the record is attached.

Scans of approximately 210,000 records were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. Additional information about the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. Please join WCHA or make a tax deductable contribution so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to join. A 10 minute video on WCHA is viewable at If you are already a WCHA member, THANK YOU!

It is also possible that you could have another number or manufacturer if this description doesn't match your canoe. Feel free to reply here if you have any other questions.


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So much history, unfortunately there is little if anything of the original 17' canoe you mentioned. The seats as I found them, were pieces of plywood, the deck(s, only one left) and gunwales are beginning to powder in spots, have cracks and breaks.
You can see it had a keel and stems, the holes are in the hull, although filled from the outside.
The Scouts and I will be as respectful to the original specs as we can be within reason. But as I mentioned earlier, this is a re-use learning project. Is there a market for spruce and birch?
Although now I am wishing it was a total restore. Perhaps another time.