My first restoration

Tom Heys

Paddler/Downwind Sailer
I'm still staring at the '64 50-pounder which I purchased last spring and promptly damaged the second time I put it in the water. I'm well past the thinkin' about it phase and plan to dive in this week! I know lots of you will advise me along the way, and there are at least a couple of members of the Norumbega Chapter who've already offered advice and assistance. It needs a fair amount of work that I know of and probably a fair amount more that will obviously reveal itself as I get into it.

The canoe is quite sound, needing only a few ribs and some planking. I know its been re-canvassed once, twenty years ago. I also know that the previous owner used it for fishing in salt water.:eek: I'm not sure if it's because of a poor canvassing job or the salt water (or both?), but the tack heads all telegraph through the canvas. I was thinking I'd pull the canvas this afternoon, but I left my camera at work, and I want to document my progress. I hope to take initial pictures and get a look under the canvas tomorrow or the next day.

Initial questions: As the interior finish of this canoe is fine as is, I wonder if it's absolutely necessary to strip the varnish? Do the telegraphing tack heads suggest that I'll have to totally re-fasten the planking?

I'm looking forward to this project, though I'll admit to a fair amount of trepidation. I'm sure there'll be plenty of support from the gang here on the WCHA forums. Thanks in advance.

Tom Heys
I'm guessing (sight unseen) that the telegraphing tack heads will mean re-clinching at the very least. That can be done without revarnishing if you are careful to seat the Iron so that you don't make scratches or dents. Since you are going to replace a few ribs anyway, you might consider installing the ribs, pre stained (if you are going to try to stain to match the old - some folks don't). Put 3-4 coats of spar on the new ribs, then lightly scuff sand the entire interior and putting on a final coat or two on the entire boat. This will give a more even appearance and make the new ribs blend in a bit more.

If you have to replace all the tacks because they have been corroded by the salt water - it may be a different story.

My $.02!
i've revarnished without stripping to preserve the original patina on a couple of canoes with fine results. i used a good scuff pad and even scuffed the new ribs in one to add patina to them with good results. remember it's a canoe not a museum peice, meant to enjoy not fuss over too much.
Chain Saws

I bet all kinds of people would get bent out of shape, but I think it's about time that someone ran down the Squannacook with a chain saw to clear a passage, don't ya think Tom??

It would save us some time in the winter shop.


I'm working on a 50 pounder too, same vintage. It's ribs are okay, but it needs a mess of planking.
The Squanacook

Fitz, yeah the Squanacook is no place for a W/C entry into a race even if you're content with a last-place finish. My son, Chris, and I had fun, but I don't think the 50-pounder will see that competition again. :eek: It would be quite a pleasant paddle if it were a little clearer of downed trees.
Mass law on paddling chainsaws

Yeah, but in Massachusetts you have to wear a pfd AND a helmet while paddling a chainsaw from September 15 to May 15. In the summer of course you can just carry the pfd in the chainsaw.

At least (so far anyway), you don’t have to pay for a sticker for your chainsaw.

Of course it is illegal to fish with a chainsaw out-of-season.

But you can hunt Canada Geese with a chainsaw in the winter. So long as they are on a golf course. And have a handicap over 14.
Re-clinching should solve the tack head problem if the tacks are not corroded. You will end up with hammer "blooms" but they can be eliminated with boiling water. I got my clinching iron from Rolin's Northwoods shop - it is an important tool for this job. I had a helper hold the iron while I punded away.


Gents, thank you for your input, especially the series of pictures of your restoration, Eric. I think you can dispense with the reference to "novice canoe restorer"! What a beautiful job.

This is my first posting, just wanted to say this site is a treasure of information. I just aquired an old Peterborough. Thanks to Dan Miller and Doug Ingram, I now know it is a Minetta. I was looking through this thread and followed Eric's link to photos of his Old Town restoration. Wonderful step by step documentation that answered a lot "how to" questions I had. I was particularly interested in how to replace broken ribs. My boat is in pretty good shape. It only needs a couple of ribs replaced, new canvas, and a refinish. I am ready to get started on it now.


  • Canoe 1.JPG
    Canoe 1.JPG
    95.1 KB · Views: 467

nice looking boat you got there, what else do you know about it ?? and where are you and the boat located ?

Actually the title "Novice" is an indulgence on my part.

The fellows here on the forum guided me step by step, question by question through that restoration. I really believe that that 1929 OT boat is a child of the internet. Only through the internet and this forum of veteren experts could I have gotten the information I needed as well as gotten over my several moments of stark raving fear - fear of what I had got myself into.

All of the good parts of that restoration belong to the WCHA membership on this forum. All the mistakes are mine.

Glad the photos are helpful. Many other members have specific photos (and some damn good photographic close-ups) for any problem you encounter. I am sure I tried the patience of many members but they never let on.

So welcome! Here's an example photo of what you have to look forward to- A re-born canoe on the Snake River in Wyoming

Geezer -Canoe Restorer Wantabe


The boat and I are in Tennesee. This little boat hung in barn rafters at a lake camp, in Tennessee, for all of the dozen or so years I have been going there. The old fellow who owns the campground is 96 years old, and announced he was closing the campground at the end of this coming season. I asked if he would sell the boat, and he gave it to me. I only picked it up a week ago, and up until that point I had no knowledge of Canadian canoe compaines. It is amazing what you can learn in a short time on the internet, and it also impressive how many canoe restoration professionals are willing to share knowledge. Befor finding WCHA, I sent emails to several sites related to WC canoes, and everyone of them replied with useful information. What I know about the boat I learned from them. I joined the WCHA as soon as I discovered it, and immediately ordered a couple of books.


More than twenty years ago I let a beloved little 13 foot wood / canvas canoe slip away from me because I was afraid to attempt a restoration. That was before the internet, and before I took up woodworking as a hobbie. I have always missed that little boat, and am looking forward to restoring this Peterborough with a level of excitement like a kid a Christmas. Your picture of your boat on the Snake, rekindled an old dream. When I was in school, one of my 8th grade teachers was an avid outdoorsman, and I remember a slide show he showed us of a summer canoe trip he took on the Snake, and back then I dreamed of taking my little canoe down that river.
After my last post, I noticed your Zern quote. Are you a fly fisherman ? Fly fishing is what started my obsession with canoes. Mostly I fish East Tennessee streams too little for a boat, but I have always loved fishing lakes The little canvas boat l gave away years ago was replaced by a Merrimack Osprey. The Merrimack is the most beautiful a fiberglass hull boat could ever hope to be, and is a fine, classy little boat, but it just doesn't fit the dream the way a wood canvas boat can.
Yes, I do suffer from Trout Madness, an incurable disease.

I hate to admit publicly here on this forum that to me a wood and canvas canoe, while the most beautiful of canoes, is a *means* to the end of coming within casting distance of a rising trout.

I fish bamboo rods exclusively and to me, there is nothing better than being in a wood and canvas canoe with a bamboo fly rod. But, to prove I am no Luddite, I do wear polarized sunglasses.

This completes my confession.
You wouldn't want to hear my horror story about a collection of fine pre WWII bamboo rods my aunt gave me and my brothers after my uncle died. Makes me sick to remember the fate of those rods, I can't shell out what one costs now. Giving something like that to three kids is akin to making a book shelf out of a birchbark.

I wish I had a boat that was in half as good condition as yours appears to be, mine are all complete wrecks. Sweet story too. That boat was made in Fredericton, NB here where I live. After Chestnut bought Peterborough every canoe sold by Peterborough was shipped from here and sold through Peterborough while they exclusively produced small watercraft in Peterborough.

Very unfortunately for us the company basically wasn't able to survive the transition from wooden canoes and they sunk :eek:


Not everything written and posted is necessarily the fact; even museums get it wrong occasionally. Below quote is closer to what happened:

The Canadian Watercraft Limited was formed by the owners of Peterborough Canoe Co. and Chestnut Canoe in August 1923 with the head office placed in Peterborough. From 1923 until 1938 Canadian Watercraft was acting as an operating company and the Peterborough Canoe Co and Chestnut Canoe Co operated as branches. The Canadian Canoe Co. of Peterborough was purchased by the Canadian Watercraft Limited in the fall of 1927 and run as a separate enterprise. To simplify the operations it was decided in 1938 to transfer the assets back to each branch, so that there would be three distinct companies. The result being, that the Canadian Watercraft Limited became a holding company instead of an operating company.

As to who built what:
After 1923 the Peterborough Canoe Co branch concentrated on building their all-wood canoes and boats, but actually built canvas covered as well until sometime in the early to mid 1950’s. However, most of their canvas covered freight and prospector series were built by Chestnut from 1923. Canadian Canoe Co built their own series of canoes and boats, but also built both Chestnut and Peterborough models when the other branches i.e. Chestnut and Peterborough were over extended.
Seems to me that a photo essay such as Eric's, since he calls the boat a child of the internet anyway, should be uploaded as a permanant portion of the WCHA web site, in some manner, No?
It is a rather nicely done step by step that would be a bummer to have fade away when ever the picture posting website he has it on does....
Does the Forum have a files section?