Help in determining model/age/condition of Canvas & Wood Canoe


"Got Water"
I pulled this canoe out of my grandfather’s garage and am going to restore it. I was wondering how to identify the make, model & year of this canoe; can you define it by looking at it? It does have diamond shaped heads on the carriage bolts, which from my research may make it an Old Town? Where would I look to find the serial #? I do not know much about these wood & canvas canoes, this seems in good shape to me, how would you experts out there grade the condition of this canoe? It appears that it has had fiberglass applied at some point in its life, I want to restore it with canvas & filler. I want to replace the inner & outer rails along with the decks. I didn’t see any cracked or broken ribs, although some of the ribs are cracked at the tips (what to do about that?). The planking looks good from the inside; I suppose I will find more on that along with the stems when I uncover it. Speaking of uncovering it, how do I peel away the layers of fiberglass? Where should I begin my restoration efforts? Any help will be much appreciated.







I searched around the stems looking for #'s and couldn't find any. Where abouts on the stems would I find the #'s?
This link has a picture showing where to find a serial number on Old Town and canoes of other manufacturers who placed serial numbers in that location on the stem:

Some manufacturers put the serial number on a rib, or on a metal plate affixed just about anywhere (inwale, thwart, seat frame)... and many used no serial number at all.

The shape of the short deck can narrow down the builder, as well as the shape of the ribs (whether they taper or are beveled on the edge). Planking patterns can provide clues, as well as type of seats and shape of thwarts... people here who may have a canoe by the same builder may recognize something. Deck looks similar to Penn Yan and one of the Thompson decks, and if we pull a bunch of clues together maybe we can figure it out. You can look at canoes by different builders at and scroll down to specific builders on the left and compare.

Old Town diamond head bolts sometimes appear on canoes of other builders because someone fixed the canoe at some point, using those bolts. If they don't truly belong on your canoe and you want to replace them with something authentic to your canoe, they sell pretty well on eBay.

A closeup picture might help others here help you decide if your canoe is in fact fiberglassed. A canvas coevered canoe can appear to be fiberglassed because the filler is sanded and paint applied and the surface is unlike cloth. If your canoe is fiberglassed, you're right in wanting to remove that and canvas the boat. Using the "search" function above can bring up old discussions that might be helpful to you in figuring out what work your canoe might need... but pictures of specific areas of concern should get you the answers you need.

Here is a video showing one method of removing fiberglass... others are discussed at length in old posts found using "search" above... generally, it's accomplished via a heat gun or the pond in your yard.

Wondering why you are thinking of replacing the decks and gunwales. They look okay to me in the pictures. It's my opinion that short decks in particular should be retained if at all possible for reasons including sentiment (all those eyes, over the years, that rested on the canoe's decks).
I can't wait to take a closer look! I hope I can find the #'s I would love to know the history behind this canoe. My grandfather bought it for my mother, my sister and I used it when we were kids and it turned up in his garage after my sister bought the house in his estate. Thanks for your help, I will be back soon.
This forum is a great resource -- as you have already seen, questions almost always get good answers.

Before making any decision about how to repair or restore your canoe, you would do well to get, or at least look at, "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok, and/or "Building the Maine Guide Canoe" by Jerry Stelmok. If your canoe turns out to be an Old town, reading "The Old Town Canoe Company" by Susan Audette and David Baker will be informative.

The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an excellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe generally and how it is constructed (and therefore, how it is repaired) and the third is a great history of the OT company and its canoes. These are available from the WCHA store, are often on eBay, or from Amazon. Sue Audette also sells her book directly ( ).

And keep the pictures coming -- everyone here loves pictures of other member's canoes and how they restore them.
Agreed, more pics and closeups of details.

This is an odd one, to me, it doesn't look at all like either Penn Yan or Thompson.

The closest would be Rehbein, but the deck is a slightly different shape, and the ribs and seats are also not right to be a Rehbein.

There are likely other small builders that have used that deck shape, myself include on my strippers, but I don't have any names off hand.

My canoe has a keel, should I plan on reinstalling it or leaving it off? Are there benefits of either?
Generally folks replace the keel if for no other reason than to fill the screw holes and to maintain originality. That is the reason my canoes have them.

The thread that Benson attached get's down to the question of preference for a canoe with or without a keel.

After re-reading those posts, the majority of the "pro" crowd were in favor because the keel makes tracking easier. No one can argue that point.

What was not said is the tracking benefit comes at the expense of maneuverability.
A canoe with a keel will not turn well. The keel's tracking benefit is a turning and maneuvering disadvantage.
Turning a canoe with a keel is like maneuvering a barge, especially solo.
The keel is literally a barnacle on the balls of progress.

Most of my canoes do have keels but except for one with a shoe keel I do not really like or need them.
My 20 foot White or my son's 17 1/2 Traveler track perfectly without keels with a simple adjustment of my paddle stroke.
I extend the J and steer a bit more.
Without a keel they maneuver well in rapids or when turning. They turn nicely. They can slide over obstructions without getting hung on the keel.

A keel makes paddling in a straight line a bit easier but except to preserve the original character of a restored canoe, they are really not necessary.
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