Hello from Massachusetts and some questions...


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hello all,
I was pointed to this site by the good people of the 'song of the paddle' forum and it sure looks like a good place to be. Last week I took a drive up to Maine and purchased my first Wood-Canvas canoe. It seems to be in decent (fixable) condition but I must admit the whole project is all a bit overwhelming, where to start... a good cleaning I guess
I'm not even sure who build this canoe, I did find a serial #, 17 11259
here some pics (sorry for the quality but it is sitting in the basement at the moment since there is a bit of a snowstorm going on at the moment)




A good cleaning is first on the to do list but where to go from there... some pointers would be highly appreciated.

Jacob V.
Welcome Jacob,

You have an Old Town canoe which has been discussed here before so you can find a copy of the build record at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=5088 along with some other information. You can start with a cleaning and some of the books from http://www.wcha.org/catalog/ may help. "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow is an especially good overview. Good luck with your restoration,

Thanks Benson,
Sure sounds like the canoe "Steve Vorpagel" describes, ouch... Good thing hardly ever come easy though.
In the description you give though you mention a carry yoke, it doesn't have one, nor does it look to have had one, would this have been installed on it or included as optional? The floor rack is also missing, is the purpose of these structural to provide extra strength to the canoe or something else?
Thanks again

Jacob V.
In the description you give though you mention a carry yoke, it doesn't have one, nor does it look to have had one, would this have been installed on it or included as optional? The floor rack is also missing, is the purpose of these structural to provide extra strength to the canoe or something else?

The second response at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=4225 has some pictures of a typical Old Town carry yoke. The floor rack helps keep things from getting wet in the bottom of the canoe. The thread at http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=3780 has more details. These were both removable options. This project will give you a chance to learn about all the various aspects of canoe restoration. Please keep us posted on how it goes.

Middle thwarts are sometimes on wing-nuts and can be removed and a carry thwart put in for convenience in carrying, or no thwart placed there at all if you need the space for supplies or people. I don't know specifically about your canoe (whether it has a middle thwart on wing-nuts), but this is something commonly found on w/c canoes. Doesn't seem to me that a carry thwart adds to structure unless it replaces a necessary thwart. The one sent originally with your canoe was "an option".

Floor racks are mostly for convenience and they often have gone missing in an old canoe... here's a previous discussion:


Welcome to the Forums--- please keep us posted on the progress of your restoration-- we love pictures-- and remember, many minds are here and can help you through rough spots. There may be a chapter of WCHA near you, where you could connect with others in-person.

Maybe I'm missing something

between all the threads, but the canoe in the photos does not appear to be an AA Grade HW.

Although, the build record reports Spruce for gunwales in the AA grade.

Looks to be a CS grade guide.

Last edited:
Hello Fitz,
What is it that makes you think it isn't an AA Grade HW as the build record says it is but a CS grade guide? I'm not questioning your opinion, I just don't know enough about it... have there been other inaccurate build records or canoe serial # forgeries? Do you see design differences in the pics that make it look more like a cs guide than a aa hw? or are you able to identify the building materials from the pics and do these not match up with the description Benson provided of this canoe...? Seriously, I Just Don't Know at this point, I hardly know anything at all about wood-canvas canoe except the fact that i think they're one of the most beautiful objects made by men and I'm eager to suck up any info you can give me...
The only thing I've been able to determine is that the seat are not original ;), they were bought in 1986 from LL Bean, ...haha... All kidding aside, I'd like to replace these seats with seats more authentic to this canoe, does any one have info on the designs and materials that would have been used on this canoe (AA, or CS grade...)

Thank you much,

Jacob V.

The AA Grade canoes were typically mahogany trimmed. As far as I can see, there is no mahogany on the canoe in the photos. The thwarts, and decks appear to be ash or maybe birch. The ends are not high enough to be an HW. The ends look like a Guide to me. Also the canoe does not look to be old enough...just speculation.

The build record does report spruce gunwales, which is odd for an AA Grade canoe, so there is a chance we are looking at the correct build record.

I have looked at the photo of your serial number. Is there also a chance the second digit is something other than "1"?

The serial number should be stamped on both stems. The other stem might be clearer.

Also, I don't see any evidence of the Floor Rack reported on the build record. There should be hardware or shadowed varnish giving away the former presence of a floor rack.

By the way, if you are anywhere near Eastern Massachusetts, the Norumbega Chapter of the WCHA is a very active chapter. I urge you to get involve if you like. We always like new faces and canoes.


Last edited:
It's got the look of a "low-end" HW, which OT built regularly, though that is not noted on this build record. It does note that it is extra light (and at 67# net, they did good...). I wonder if the AA designation was to reflect the extra expense of building what is essentially a CS grade canoe extra light?
Here's a photo of the serial on the other stem;
I agree it looks it might be something else on the first picture but it is hard to make anything else out of it other than it might be a bit slanted, looking at the serial on the other stem makes it almost unquestionably 11259...

Anyway as far as the Norumbega Chapter goes, I'm located in Mansfield Ma so about an hour and half away, how does one get involved and what might this entail?

Jacob V.

I guess we have to believe the number and Dan's explanation about the lightweight.

Steve Lapey is the Chapter Head and he frequents this forum. I think he is busy for the next week or so with the holidays, but get in touch with him. Chapter events are also listed in the Wooden Canoe Journal. The Annual Norumbega Winter Meeting is coming up at the end of January.