hull covering


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Good morning,
Is there anyone out there that could give me realistic info about surfacing the hull on my shell lake? I prefer not to canvas the hull, but to coat the planking with some sort of epoxy resin. I was told that there are products that can be applied that will do the job. This is a beautiful 17ft shell lake and restoration is complete except for hull exterior.
With a hull that was originally covered by canvas, there is really no accepted alternative to covering it with canvas, dynel or a like synthetic cloth or glass fibre (and appropriate filler/finish).

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Pardon my bluntness, but you really don't want to try this. To start with (and if it matters, which it may not now, but eventually probably will) the value of the boat will take a very serious hit when you start applying epoxy and/or fiberglass materials to it. We always think we're going to keep them for life, but life changes and many of these treasures eventually need new homes. Epoxy-coating that boat drastically reduces your potential buyer pool as well as how much they would be willing to pay for it.

More importantly, the job you are thinking of can be done, but ignoring any thoughts of whether or not it's the "proper" approach for such a boat, it's extremely tricky to do well and soundly. It's just not an entry level project for someone without some very good, previous epoxy resin/composite boatbuilding experience. There are plenty of boat and canoe building projects where builders can learn the ropes, get experience with resin technology and turn out some very nice boats. Unfortunately, this isn't one of them and the chances of destroying a restorable, classic boat are a lot higher than those of ending up with a nice, restored-but-modified one.

I probably have about as much faith in epoxy/wood boat technology and as much experience messing with it as anyone on this board - but over 30+ years, I've also sawed-up and tossed a few failed experiments in the dumpster. The stuff sticks like glue :D and it's damned difficult to remove if it doesn't work. I love the stuff, but will always maintain that one of the most important things to learn about it is when not to use it. This would be one of those cases.
Plank-on-rib canoes expand and contract with changes in moisture/temperature. They also flex during use which is one of the benefits of the construction method. A traditional filled canvas skin is only attached along the rails and stems allowing it to move with the hull. Glass/resin applied to the outside is rigid, adheres to the planking, and can't adapt to expanding, contracting, or much flexing. A strip-built hull is glassed inside and out essentially locking the wood core permanently and protecting it from changes in moisture so in theory the wood remains stable and does not expand/contract. If perceived durability is your concern I'll offer up the following from American Traders which sells both wood canvas and glass covered canoes:

The choice between a canvas or wood/epoxy covering depends on how you intend to use the canoe. For down-river use, in white water, ice or rock-filled rivers, canvas covered canoes are the better choice. Because as the canvas covering is not permanently bonded to the canoe, the hull is able to flex, thus absorbing any impacts without sustaining damage.

I would qualify that last sentence by changing "any" to "most" ;) but you get the idea.

If the prospect of canvasing has you intimidated, don't be. I've done both (ducking for cover) and I found glassing to be much more difficult to do (and make it look good).

I have a 10-year-old canoe built by a friend who has glassed his boats since he started building over 50 years ago. It spends 50 weeks of the year in a boat house. It started out smooth and beautiful but now is showing seams and cracked planks through the glass as a result of the planking trying to expand and contract. Hope this helps with your decision.
Planking patterns on wood-canvas canoes, while interesting, were never designed to be seen... and the wood wasn't chosen for its appearance, as it is with a modern stripper.
Good morning,
This is a beautiful 17ft shell lake and restoration is complete except for hull exterior.

And the destruction will be complete if something other than canvas is applied.....IMHO
You may then say that this was a beautiful 17ft shell lake until we applied goop to the planking and ruined it.
You will not find too many (any?) owners of wood and canvas canoes that would advocate applying epoxy or fiberglass to your canoe.
Canvas is a renewable and very robust cover that is original to your canoe.
Your restoration will indeed be complete when you return it to it's original condition with a new canvas.
+1 for canvas - I was initially intimidated to do this step by myself, but with the right books, tools, and encouragement (by this forum) it really wasn't so bad... Your boat will be better off for it, for sure...
Where do you live? If you are near Wisconsin, I can help you with canvassing, etc.
Others across the country would probably do the same.
I too, believe it is the best for the value, appearance, and long term health of the canoe.