Introductions, questions


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I'd like to introduce myself and my first wood rib, plank and canvas canoe project. My name is Steve, I live in Linden CA. My project is a Otca 17, serial number 171899-17. Kathy sent me it's build record. You can see "before" photos at

I bought the canoe on Saturday and here is my layman's assessment of it's condition:

  • Old Town OTCA 17 purchased in 1962
  • bought it for $50 from the original owner
  • serial number 171899
  • the stem bands and canvas have been removed
  • rebuilt once before, the keel was removed and a mast block was added
  • hull fell off a car rack and broke some planking and two adjacent ribs
  • using a scratch awl probe no appearent rotten wood.
  • the stems are perforated where the stem bands were applied, probably several times
  • bow stem has been fared out in one spot where rough shore landings probably wore the leading edge away
  • the bow stem is slightly warped above the water line
  • one outwale is fractured
  • planks are 3-3/4" wide but the replacement planks are only 2-3/4" wide
  • the stem bands and old canvas are missing
  • there appears to be six cracked or broken ribs
  • the ends of several ribs are split enough to not hold screws or nails

I've shared a couple emails with Fritz about this project, certainly the right first guy to meet. Fritz is a friendly and helpful guy!

I've removed the seats and outwales and washed the entire hull with TSP and a deck brush. I found a couple more cracked ribs. My next step is to use Jasco stain and varnish remover to strip the hull.

Here are my questions:

Should I strip the outside of the hull as well as the inside? I can't tell if the outer hull is varnished?

Fritz said the planks are red western cedar. The previous planking repair was not so well done and with a different species of wood. How much of the planking should I replace?

I guess I need to build something to steam or boil the plank and rib stock. What do others do?

Is there anyone that lives close by that would be willing to take a look at my Otca and make suggestions on how best to proceed? I'd be willing to transport my boat as long as it's not too far away.


Hi Steve,

As far as I know, I am the closest guy that has restored before. I have helped a couple of guys in Napa.I am located in Reno. If there is any way I can help you, I am up for it. The last time, I drove to Napa and helped one of the fellows canvas his canoe in exchange for dinner and good beer. I supplied all the canvassing equipment, he just had his garage set up for it, ready to go.

I don't bother stripping the outside. Thee hull is usually dry, and doesn't require it.

As far as planking stock goes, I usually mill my own. I'd replace all the non original (dissimilar species). If you need, I can mill it for you, for the cost of materials and shipping.

Check your private messages. I added more thoughts there.
Last edited:
RAndy Hunt restored his dad's canoe before moving to California. It's a long shot but he may be near you. I don't know. HE'd be a good resource. You may be able to search his prior thread here.

Another great resource to search is Eric Beebe's thread.

Sounds like you got a great deal.

You can boil or steam the ribs. I sometimes soak the ribs overnight before bending to assure success on first try. It's not needed for planking. Planking will conform with a wet towel and hot iron treatment. Predrill the tack holes near edges for Western Red.
Hi Steve

I live about twenty miles west of you in Lodi. I am restoring the same boat - a 63 OTCA.

This is my first restoration also, so I don't know how much help I can be. I'm afraid that it would be more like "the blind leading the blind", but I will be glad to help any way I can.

First - Get the book, "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" by Stelmok and Thurlow. You can order it from the WCHA store. After reading the book you will know, in theory, how to go about repairing your boat.

The planks on my boat are 2 3/4" wide. I would suspect that since both boats are the same model and about the same age, both would be the same. There is no 3 3/4" planking on my boat.

Cracked ribs are not a big deal. All boats this age have cracked ribs. As long as the hull is fair and has no bulges I would ignore the cracked ribs. The broken ribs are another matter. If they are not repaired or replaced, over time the hull will bulge at that spot.

I can help you with the planking. I had to replace some on my boat and found a source for Western Red Cedar in Sacramento. I bought a 4 x 4 post and milled my own. You can make your own stem bands using mine as a pattern, or buy new ones - same for the ribs.

I would be glad to look at your OTCA and make suggestions.As I've already stated, this is my first restoration also. So I don't know how much help I will be.

Larry S
(209) 339-9134