New filler on old canvas?


Dakota Mac
I'm refurbishing a CCC Prospector Y-stern canoe I picked up last summer. I decided all it needed was new paint and varnish, so I stripped the old paint with CitruStrip. But I did such a thorough job, I removed the top of the filler and now the weave of the canvas shows. I figured I'd simply build up the filler before painting. But reading the label on the can, I see Old Town's disclaimer that their filler is for use on "new canvas only - not to be used like paint on previously filled canvas".

Does someone have experience with this situation? As I see it, I can (1) give the filler a try (and risk wasted work, filler, and paint), (2) use more paint to get a smooth finish, or (3) recanvas and do the job right.

The canvas is as old as the boat (unknown age - but surely over 50 yrs), but seemingly in great shape. If I recanvas, it won't be done in time for my BWCAW trip in early June. Maybe I'll have to take another canoe.

I thought this one would be quick & easy, but restoration is a slippery slope!

Thoughts? :confused:
Your option 3, recanvas and do it right, is probably the option that will produce the best long term solution. I have tried rubbing filler into older cracked canvas filler, and then top coating with paint with limited short term (a few months) success. Also be careful with sanding old filler, they are typically lead based.
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I had luck covering small areas w/ an acrylic 'spot & glazing' compound; a product used to smooth out surface imperfections in auto body filler [bondo]. It is not as heavy as bondo and sands paper thin. I don't think it would be afordable for a large surface as it is $12 - $15 per tube at auto body suppliers. It has continued to adhere to my canvas; including a wet sanding and touch up of the bottom scratches...
go ahead and apply some heavy coats of regular paint At the very lest it will get you through this year and maybe a couple more. Keep the duck tape handy. . It would not hurt to put on the canvas filler but it would not be as smooth as the finish paint and it really would not be doing any good. Save the filler for some new canvas. the old canvas is going to crack and at some time you will have to recover but maybe not this year!
Thanks to all who have weighed in on this problem. For now, I think I will work with the existing canvas, as it seems pretty sound and I don’t have the time to “go all the way”. I have ordered a quart of Gluvit and will give that a try as a sealer for the overly-stripped canvas, then top with Epifanes enamel. Hopefully the epoxy will have a smoothing effect, so I won’t need many coats of paint to get a decent finish. I suppose it would have cost no more to just use more paint (as Rollin suggests), but I’m curious about the Gluvit so I thought I’d try that. I can always throw the canvas away if I don’t like the result.

I’m also tempted to lift the canvas from the hull - so I can give the wood a proper oiling – then replace it before the sealing/painting. That may sound like as much trouble as stretching a new canvas, but I won’t have to fill and wait out the drying time.

I need to do a little repair at the transom, and started pulling tacks where the canvas is bedded in the rabbet. I was surprised to find those tacks are steel (and rusty). Tacks holding the canvas under the gunnels are brass. Perhaps the boat was built during the war, and brass was scarce? I see no evidence that this is a previous repair job. There are other places where I’ve found steel fasteners: Steel ring nails hold the stern seat supports to the ribs. The nails were driven from the outside, and on both sides the rear nail worked loose so the head wore a small hole in the canvas, which the previous owner puttied over. CCC also used steel lag bolts to bind the stern ends of the outer rails through the gunnels to a steel L-bracket inside, reinforcing the angle where the inside rail meets the transom. The overall construction seems substantial but utilitarian – it is a working canoe, not a work of art.