Is there hope... ...first restoration


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi. I am in the middle of restoring a 16 foot Bastien Brothers Huron. I have been following The Wood and Canvas Canoe closely. One of my concerns right from the start has been the stembands. Actually, I have two concerns. The first I have already dealt with, but am curious to learn how others deal with it: How do you splice a stem band? Particularally, how do you make a straight cut for the scarf joint? :( Secondly, the stem bands are not in alignment. When viewed along the keel line, one goes left and the other goes right. A friend helped me to shorten the diametrically opposite inwales and pulled them further back on the deck. This helped a bit. I am concerned that the "corkscrewing " of the hull will seriously effect its handling when complete. I have never paddled a twisted canoe, but I assume it is going to be a major problem. The Hull also appears to have some assymmetries. The thing is, after a couple of hundred dollars, and countless hours, spent, should I plug ahead, continuing investing time and money ( canvas, filler, paint, brass stembands, varnish yet to be bought) in this canoe or do I pull back and create acouple of nice bookshelves and keep a whole lot of learning from the experience? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Douglas Stewart
My $.02.

Hi doug, any opiniion presented here is for entertainment purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the general consensus of anyone.:)

Making bookcases is a good way to gain some experience, but my opinion would be NOT (except maybe for your first new canoe). Your canoe sounds rebuildable. As a hobbyist myself, I ponder many of the same issues that an experienced craftsman has done a dozen times. What I have figured out is that there are many ways to skin a cat. Most all ways work. To scarf the stem, most often a long straight joint is good. Some times other types of joinery are used. I saw one where the stem was shortened to solid wood and a 1" x 6" piece of wood was rabitted onto it. the front part of the board that was not inline with the stem was then whittled away to the proper bow shape and the back side was left for stength. It worked.

some canoes came twisted. wind and waves conspire to send us off course. Maybe a little twist doesn't hurt. I would have considered twisting it back and tightening the tacks. Your way probably is ok. Remember it's your first rebuild. go ahead and tackle it. Hopefully you WILL make mustakes. that's how one learns. No mistakes, No learn. I am working on one now that only needs all new: ribs, planks, stems, inwhales, outwhales, decks, varnish, canvas, and paint, Other than that, it ain't bad.
Regards, Dave.
Re stem splices, what follows is a reposting of an approach to this that I have used. It may be of help.

One thing I (several other very part-time rebuilders around here) have done when tackling rotten stem tops is to make and install a kind of “sub-deck” under the real deck. I cut a triangular piece of wood (of ash or any hardwood would do) as wide as the deck plus both inwales and screwed it in place under the inwales and deck, out of sight. Into it I mortised a one inch by ¾ inch by six inch wood shaft, aligned and dimensioned so that it could serve as a backing for the stem and the stem splice. When your stem/splice is finished, it is screwed in place to the shaft on the sub-deck: you don’t have to mess with fitting the stem into a mortise in the inwales.

It also adds a great deal of structural strength to the tip: it essentially re-enforces the whole area. Of course, if the tip of the model of canoe you’re restoring is very sharply curved, it won’t be as simple as fitting relatively flat parts together.

Hope the above is clear.

The idea is simply that rebuilding the tips commonly calls for making new decks, splicing in new wood to the existing inwales, and splicing in a new section for the stem, or replacing the stem entirely. The challenge is that all these four pieces must be fit together very precisely and then fastened together very strongly. When building a canoe from scratch on a form, it’s relatively easy to make stem, inwales and decks come together right, as the form holds everything in place. When doing restoration, it’s another matter.

So this sub-deck is sort of a “mini-form” that lets you custom fit all these pieces into a new tight joint. Plus it lets you to secure the top of the stem into something other than the inwales—which don’t have a lot of room for a mortise anyway.

Hi. Thanks for the advice. I have spliced a piece behind the original stem ( with screw and glue) and did the scarf joint using a japanese pull saw. I think it is strong enough. as for the twist in the hull, I think I am going to try to finish the boat. It may be rough, but as you say, it's the only way to learn how to do things. Thanks for your input.

Good morning guys. I think it is interesting to discuss this question of rotten and offset stems. I encourage you to carry on with your project and try to do it the best. Obviously you took care of the rot on the stem. Concerning the twist, I would determine which stem is out, remove the planking around it, disconnect the deck from the inwales and then, you should be able to make adjustments. Go with your eye ball or with the ropes. Take your time. Carefully look at the decks from the opposite end. Well anyway, a lot of guys here on this forum will give you very good advices. Keep up the good work. Sandpiper, Bury, Que.
Good day. Well, it is another point of view. Bookshelves! But still, the job will have to be well done. It is like an easy way out. It is the "garden exit" . It is true that you can make money with canoe bookshelf. I don't think they are very popular in Que. Maybe more in Ontario. In the States, I beleive they are. There is a guy along the Highway 20 going to Quebec city. He buys old wood and canvas canoes and he sells them to guys fron the States. They make bookshelves. Sandpiper
Off the wall

Please excuse my friend and fellow Buckeye Gil Cramer for his occasional off the wall comments. (see above) He has had years of exposure to lead paint and filler and is probably suffering from Mad Cow Disease. -Chuck
Guys, good morning. We have a good rating. 5 stars.!!! Gil has seen many canoes in his shop I suppose. It must be his job so, it is not a project anymore like it is for the guy in New Brunswick. When I wrote about the bookshelves, I didn't want to start an argument with Gil. I should post a picture of a soapbox car for kids, that I made a few years ago. It was doing well in the race. I'll look into it. But concerning bookshelves it is a fact that it is not popular in the area. So, have a nice day guys. I am going snowshoeing. Sandpiper
Hi Doug;

I am working on my first restoration as well. Mine is also a Huron, but 14'.

I just replaced my stem using the technique in Rollins book as well.
It really is quite simple and I haven't worked much with wood since Junior High School, when I made Salt & Pepper Shakers.

Before removing the rotted portion of the stem, I traced out the shape on corrugate as a backup and then traced it right on to my ash stock.
From there I just used my jigsaw to cut rough shape and a wood file for final shaping.
It doesn't need to be perfect, as the exopy will fill up any small gaps.
I also used brass screws to reinforce it.

When I cut the rotted stem, I used a small handsaw and cut to within a 1/16" and filed the rest of it.

Hope this helps.

Rob Kozak
This war canoe ain'ta gonna be no bookcase!
Hey Gil, We've never met, but I thought I recalled (and believe me, I'm not good at that and I don't recall:D ever working with lead-based filler) being part of a brief forum discussion re. canoes and bookcases, so I was somewhat taken aback with your one word response to the guy doing his first restoration.
Heck, my first restoration is still staring at me every time I go down to my shop. It's much closer to being a canoe than a bookcase, but she won't float anywhere without some large effort on my part and, I suspect, many large contributions from the folks on this forum.

Regards, Tom
My 2 bits worth

I have restored many Huron canoes. They all had a twist or corkscrew too some degree at the ends. That's just the way they are and it doesn't affect the way they paddle. Don't worry about it.
So has anyone taken a beat up, unuseable book shelf and made it into a canoe and then had some antique dealer walk by shanking their head on the waste of a restorable bookself?
Or, has anyone taken a perfectly good antique dealer and made a bookcase out of him and had a perfectly restorable wood-canvas canoe (allbeit with rotted stems and twisted ends) walk by and . . .


I guess I should stop mixing airplane dope and that lead-based filler.
Hey Gil,

The white stuf is fondly remembered as snow. large snowbanks, upon which, I once walked with my snow shoes until the thaw and I made book shelves of them.

Maybe I'll see you at QWS?
Regards, Dave.
pure as the driven snow

well, this wood canvas newbie has learned a lot. I've been educated, chastized, educated again, chastized again, and most definitely amused. I didn't realize so many were so sensitive about bookshelves and canoes. They seem to be the beefalo of paddling. What if you put canoe books on canoe bookshelves? What about canoe coffee tables? I have a pair of paddle shaped coat racks ... Now, what about building a canoe out of hockey sticks? The laminated ash handles could be laminated again for decks. They would make a very sturdy thwart, or could be spliced to make gunwales. Maybe a bow sprit? I like the idea of leaving the paint on (the sticks), but then again, I'm Canadian. Perhaps my southern brethren prefer a different aesthetic. Finally, I was never aware of the general loathing of antique dealers - but I'm all for it! I just wanna belong!
darkwatersimilkameen said:
What about canoe coffee tables? I have a pair of paddle shaped coat racks ... Now, what about building a canoe out of hockey sticks? The laminated ash handles could be laminated again for decks. They would make a very sturdy thwart, or could be spliced to make gunwales. Maybe a bow sprit? I like the idea of leaving the paint on (the sticks), but then again, I'm Canadian. Perhaps my southern brethren prefer a different aesthetic.

D'oh! I use hockey sticks for crossbars on back-country hauling toboggans. Just sent one to friends teaching in a native community in NWT. They love it.
Don't know whether they had even ever seen a hockey stick. They're a strong and cheap material to use for a variety of things. I also make folding campchairs. But the competition at the arena dumpsters is getting fierce. There are retired folks who do the round daily and scoop all the good (ie, not splintered) ones.

For an altogether different aesthetic, see Gil Gilpatrick's book about snowshoe making. He includes designs and detailed info to build forms to create a range of furniture "a la raquette".

Incidently, I modified the form so that three types of snowshoe (Maine, bearpaw, Ojibway) can be constructed on a single form.