Minimalist retoration on '66 OT


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi All,

I just bought a '66 OT 16'. It seems in pretty good shape--it's my first wooden canoe, so I may not be the best judge. I'm hoping for some guidance in getting her seaworthy for use this summer--kind of a minimal restoration/refresh. I've copied some questions/thoughts from another thread regarding some issues I've run into so far.

--I took on a little water when I took the boat out for a test paddle (maybe a pint or so in 30-45 min--noticed the leak right away but it almost seemed like the rate at which it leaked slowed down--wood swelling up??).

--This boat is painted (relatively recently, I'd say) bright yellow and it appears to have definite adhesion issues with the most recent coating of paint. I'm guessing that this could be the main culprit in the leaking? But could be related to the keel and fasteners I guess.

To get it into shape for the summer season I thought I might:
--scrape/peel/sand the most recent paint layer off.
--do a little smoothing/filling of the canvas and old paint layer (if it's not too far gone--how do you tell?)
--scrape/sand interior and gunwales/decks, then add fresh varinsh(not a full strip and re-finish, just a refresh)
--re-paint (good enough to get through a season or two? Any paint recommendations?)
--new stem bands and cane, but that should be straightforward enough

Should I be looking for problems/leaks along the keel?
This boat has outside stems and a keel. In my situation, can I do a bright finish on the keel or would it be best to paint over the keel (as it is now, but hopefully w/o the adhesion issues)?

thanks everybody,



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First – check your private messages.

The following two threads give details on how I approached my yellow canoe to keep it useable for a few years before restoration:

The second thread has before and after photos which might be of interest – look at both p.2 and p.3 or the thread. I did refinish the seat frames and recane the seats, and I am just finishing up a portage yoke to replace the center thwart. These tasks I did in New York. I enjoy working on canoes, but my time in Maine right now is quite limited, so I use that time canoeing, not working on the canoe(s). (I have 5 others needing restoration). In a couple of years when I expect to be spending much more time in Maine, I will enjoy doing the work of a proper restoration.

Except for the seat frames, I did no work on the interior varnish – it’s not in great shape, but it serves well enough to do the job of protecting the wood. Another coat or two of varnish would not make it look any better and would provide only minimal additional protection – but would add significantly to the work of stripping when the time for that task comes.

The paint that came with my canoe wasn’t peeling anywhere, so I felt no need to sand it off – but if the most recent coat of paint on yours is peeling/flaking, lots of sanding may be necessary. My old paint was cracked right through a number of coats of paint, as the photos in the link show – I just sanded a bit to smooth the crack edges, and when painting, worked paint into the crack with my paint brush. Except as noted below, this seems to have done the job.

That gap in paint/filler next to the keel, shown in one of your pictures, looks like it might be the source of a leak – it certainly needs some work even on a temporary basis – if it were me, I think I would try to scrape/sand things down smooth. Just some paint might block any leak, unless there is actually space between the keel and the canvas – then I would try to use plumber’s putty or window glazing compound – both stay flexible and so are readily removed, and both can be painted. On a w/c boat, it is the canvas, and not the wood, that keeps the water out. So even if the wood swells up, it usually will have little effect on a leak.

As to whether to paint or varnish the keel – It is very easy to patch up a minor scratch or ding on a painted keel. We have scraped over submerged rocks a couple of times, and repairing the damage to the paint was easy – just slap a little more paint on the affected spot. I think that such damage to varnish would be a bit fussier to repair, since repairing varnish usually involves at least some sanding. And the keel is usually out of sight anyway.

Now, how has this worked out after 2 seasons of use?

The last time Deborah and I used the canoe this past fall, we saw water coming in at a pretty good rate for the first time – not enough to create an emergency even if we had been out in the middle of a lake, but fast enough that at the end of a few hours of paddling, there would have been a good deal of water sloshing around wetting anything sitting in the bottom of the canoe. But we had not left shore, so we immediately pulled the canoe back out, turned it upside down, and saw that a good-sized crack in the old paint had developed – maybe 2-3 inches long, with both the old filler and the new paint pulling away from the canvas at the crack – about a half-inch wide at it’s widest. Drying the area around the crack, we applied the universal cure for all that ails men and boats – duct tape (don’t leave home without it!) which kept the canoe nicely dry for a few hours of paddling.

A few weeks later, the next time we were up in Maine, I turned over the now-dry canoe, pulled/scraped the cracked paint off where it had separated from the canvas, and applied a few coats of fresh paint to the area. I expect (hope) that it won’t leak when we put it in again this coming season, and last time I looked, there didn’t seem to be any similar new cracks anywhere. When I’m up again (this coming weekend, I hope), I plan to re-do the triangle design along the sheer. Knowing that I’ll be getting rid of the canvas in a couple of years gives me the freedom to experiment a bit, and not worry about paint build up or having a perfect job. Doing the current design, for example, I’ve learned how to paint a series of triangles sized so they fill the sheer line exactly.

I have had varied reaction to my decorative efforts on the canoe – mostly, I think, to the colors of the triangles. The colors would not have been my first choice, but my daughter had four nearly full quarts of paint left over from a school art project – the colors were mixed to her specification at Home Depot. When the canoe was just yellow, nobody commented on it. After the triangles were painted, people in parking lots or on the street commented favorably on it when it was on the top of the car. But some people don’t it. Ain’t no accounting for taste. I’m a bit ambivalent myself (I call it my Easter egg paint job), but it’s been fun, and it did make the canoe stand out from the hundreds of others on the Franklin Pierce lawn at last summer’s assembly.

So -- so far, so good -- minimal work, maximum paddling in the time available.

Great info Greg.

I'll need to figure out my plan of attack in dealing with the corrosion blooms first. Assuming I can ...:confused:

Then it seems that since the outer layer of paint on this boat is peeling, I'll have to see how much elbow grease it's going to take to get down to a level of paint/filler/canvas to which I can feel confidant any new paint will adhere. It may be that since it would be so much easier to just pull the old canvas, perhaps I should just re-canvas now (along with loads more "restoration" work--sounds like it's best to do stripping/re-varnishing prior to the recanvas).

Anybody want to talk about faster fillers (fillers that don't take 4-6 weeks to dry/cure enough to paint)? I'd sure like to use this canoe this summer:)

Interior white halos


Your canoe has been used in salt water and the halos you are seeing on the interior is a brass de- alloying corrosion residue, zinc oxide, This is the common sign of salt water corrosion and if you could see under your canvas , the heads of the canoe tacks will also be showing the same white residue. Dezincification selectively removes zinc from the brass alloy of copper and zinc leaving behind a porous, copper rich fastener that becomes brittle and has lost its mechanical strength. The heads of the tacks can and do pop off when pressure is applied to the planking from the interior. Where you are planning to do a minimal refurbishment in order to get it water worthy for this summer, I would encourage you to consider making a floor rack for it. The rack will help avoid any instances where you might push on planking and possibly pop canoe tacks under your canvas you are trying to preserve..

You have probably conducted a search on the forum for "halos" or "dezincification" but if not , it would be very informative.

I am currently replacing 16 ribs on a 1930 OT for a client that was used extensively in salt water. This entire canoe will be totally re-tacked before being recanvassed. Light pressure on planking applied from the interior would pop the tack heads off the exterior side. Where this canoe is 36 years older than yours, the effect of the salt water corrosion on the brass tacks is probably much more pronounced.

Hi Ed,

Thanks for the confirmation about the salt water induced halos. I have been soaking up information about how to deal with the situation and it seems there is a bit of a consensus that once the canvas is off, selectively pull a sampling of tacks to assess there remaining strength/brittleness. I'm beginning to feel like I might be better served to go ahead and do a more thorough restoration/re-canvassing so I can get in there and see whats going on. I'm hoping that the tacks on this boat aren't too far gone and not too much re-tacking will be needed. It's interesting that some w/c canoes were tacked with copper tacks to begin with--I guess the "de-zincification" causes the remaining copper tack to be more brittle than if copper tacks were used to start with:confused:

Hi Noel,

Copper in salt water will become a green powder (I read that in these forums someplace). Canoes with brass or copper tacks will do fine in fresh water, but it seems that if you plan to paddle in salt water and want your canoe to retain the appearance of historical accuracy (and not have shiny stainless steel on it), you can use silicon bronze.

Here's an interesting discussion:


It was with tongue -in-cheek that I advised you of the
"salt water disease" and I hoped that it would not discourage you. It should not but it is best to be aware of the issue.

I would continue with your original minimalist plans to paint the canvas and use it for a few seasons if the canvas appears to be good.. The canoe may be OK fastener wise. I think you could do a gentle push testing on the planking at various locations on your canoe and it would tell you whether either the clinchings or the heads have failed due to corrosion as the planking will move slightly outward. If all seems OK I would just make & install a floor rack to avoid a situation where heavy objects or something dropped in the interior during use might dislodge planking fasteners.

I recommend removing the keel, makes sanding the hull easier and you do need to re-do the bedding compound (Dolphinite) to ensure no leaks. Re-install the keel before you do your last two finish coats of paint.

Kirby's, Petit, and Epiphanes are all high quality paints but you might want to look at rustoleum colors or tractor paint as they are much less expensive (might fit better with your minimalist approach) and have held up well as reported by other members of this forum .

I looked at your bow pic once again and it does not appear that your canoe has outside stems

On the 1930 canoe I'm working on the fasteners are bad all over but seemed to be most corroded in the areas of where the ribs make the most drastic bend (the bilge area) and on up to the inwales. I suspect that this is due to the salt water being left collected in this area after use when the canoe was tipped or rested on its side. There was very little haloeing on the interior (ribs) of this canoe due to being factory fastened with tacks that appear to be significantly shorter than the 6oz., 1/2" tacks that I am using to re-fasten it.. Being an OT 50 pound model, the ribs are 1/4" thick and the planking is 1/8" requiring shorter canoe tacks and resulting in very little clinched over tack showing on the inside of the ribs. Much more of the new 6 oz. clinched tacks show than the original tacks.