New guy with questions.


Rolf Warncke
Let me start by saying the information I've been seeing in these forums has been excellent. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to participate. That said, here are my questions. I currently have two wood and canvas canoes. One is a 1922 OT #67629. I contacted old town and got the build record on that one back when I got the canoe around 1982. I've had it stored just waiting since then.

I was just given a 1945 OT Otca #141272 that a friend got in 1986. Now it's time to do some work. The Otca is the one in better shape so I'm going to start there. I've enjoyed reading many of the comments on restoration and conservation in the posts and am trying to determine the best route to take. The Otca is a CS grade with open spruce gunwales and ash decks and such. Would I be making a mistake by using mahogany to do my repairs or should I stick with Spruce and Ash.

I've put off starting this because I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to find spruce in the lengths I would need to do the gunwales. I'm in New Jersey. Any help and any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to do what's best for these canoes and yet I understand the idea that the point of the whole restoration is getting these wonderful boats back in the water.

I have more questions but I think I'll start here.


Welcome, Rolf-- Glad you came aboard!

You'll find lots of helpful folks in this place. The first thing you'll be told is, "it's your boat." There have been discussions re "upgrading" a canoe during restoration, and it always boils down to "it's your canoe, do what you please..."-- but I believe the consensus would be something like this:

If the model of your canoe was offered in mahogany at the time it was built, it certainly wouldn't violate anyone's code of historical canoe ethics to upgrade the canoe to what it might have been if the original owner had put a little more money into it.

But, it's your canoe...

We'll be putting bookmatched mahogany long decks on a Morris that had mahogany decks that probably weren't bookmatched... but this is our canoe and we want to make it as pretty as it deserves to be.

I believe there's a list of suppliers somewhere in this website... not sure there's someone close to you with what you need... but don't hesitate to post your needs as folks here are very open with suggestions and sharing.

Again, welcome,
I believe that Old Town and others frequently finger-jointed shorter pieces for their gunwales. I wouldn't, and haven't hesitated to use a good scarf joint. If you are careful to match up the grain, the joint will never be seen without really looking for it and it will be the strongest section of the rail. It will be easier to hide a scarf in Spruce or Ash than it is in Mahogany just because the Mahogany grain is tighter and less pronounced.
Thanks for the input. I was able to find some nice 18' long mahogany, but I'm still going to check out some spruce in the next few days.
If you go to your local lumber yard and go through their Spruce 2 by material you should be able to find pieces that you can get clear gunnel material from.
You may have to get 2 x 12 or 2 x 10 to get it though.
I would welcome the hunt through the lumber pile except for the fact that here in New Jersey "spruce" is typically only found in furring strip sizes. Most of the construction lumber around here is either Douglas Fir or what they refer to as "Hem Fir". In doing a little research in Bruce Hoadley's book "Identifyling Wood" Douglas Fir comes relatively close to spruce in terms of wood properties but the appearance might be somewhat off. I'm still planning a call to a lumber yard about an hour and twenty minutes from here in hopes that I can find some spruce there.

Again, let me say, I really appreciate all the input. It's great having a conversation with others as part of the process.

Thanks again!
I just want to echo what Denis said. You will have the best luck if you can find a good private lumber yard. Tell them what you are looking for and they will let you sort (if you put back neatly) and find what you want. They are usually quite interested in your project as well. Drop off a photo of your completed boat for their bulletin board when you are done and credit their lumber. I have made masts, spars, and canoe paddles from construction spruce. You may have to buy an extra wide piece or two to find the straight, knot-free run you are looking for, but it is pretty inexpensive.
If you can make your way north to White Plains, NY, M.L. Condons carries Sitka spruce. They'll mail order as well, but best if you can go up and pick your own boards.
Exactly the place I was planning on calling. Thanks for the suggestion.

Next questions if I could.

The seats on the Otca are wood slats. Is this a repair from the past or was this the type of seat that was on these at the time. I really prefer a caned seat. I'm going to try to attach a couple of photos here.

I'm also wondering if the Inwales are best replaced or repaired given the current condition. Same question on the decks.



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Hi Rolf--

Attached are a couple pages from the 1945 Old Town catalog (from the collection on CD). Note what they say about the seats.

Cane became unavailable during WWII and the seat with slats was substituted, but this was not meant to be a design change. Some people who have OT canoes with slat seats consider it a rare and cool thing... an aspect not only of the history of the canoe but the history of the world. However, it's your canoe... and cane is comfortable and attractive.

We have a WWII era Penn Yan with the less-attractive and more-uncomfortable plywood inserts where cane was supposed to be. Our Penn Yan will eventually have cane!



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I guess the vintage would explain the steel stem bands instead of brass. As well as what appears to be steel nails in the planking.

I can see this becoming an obsession. Thanks for all the great info!!!
Where in Northern Jersey are you? I get down to Woodcliff Lake on occasion (was there yesterday).
Yes it has steel tacks in the planking. It also has steel stem bands. I'm guessing there was a shortage of brass at the end of the war. This is new to me so maybe someone else can shed a little light on the subject.
Some thoughts...

There was a shortage of many things during WWII. Copper was needed not only for ammo but for things like radio components and other electrical stuff... copper is needed to make brass.

"The Old Town Canoe Company-- Our First 100 Years" by Sue Audette is a great book to read while sitting on the bank of a river, with your canoe waiting on the shore.

Looking ahead


Just restored a 1924 OTCA with a great deal of help from many good people in htis forum and a fine professional boatbuilder. You have a great experience ahead. Your boat has really been 'out in the weather', with not only the typical ends rotted off, but the wood weathered beyond recognition. Wait until you see what lies underneath! Materials are all available one way or another, as many have already told you. Your efforts will yield a beautiful result. The decks alone are worth the price of admission. All the best to you as you begin.

Great candidate for restoration, Rolf. Despite the appearance of the ends, this canoe is quite restorable. See below for photos of a sad case- ends rotted out, inside and outside covered in tar and green paint. Sad, very sad. But it came back! On your canoe's better end, rebuild for sure; on the worse end, replacement or repair of the deck is your call... you could save most of the deck, but the repair could be fairly obvious.

About the steel- are your diamond-head bolts also made of steel? Often they were in canoes of this vintage, but usually they are brass in canoes from other times. If yours are steel, they look to be in very good condition. Whenever I've restored WWII-era boats, I've replaced as much steel as possible with brass, but if your steel is in good condition and you protect it, why not keep it as part of the canoe's history? It can always be replaced some other decade if necessary. Check the tacks carefully, though. Steel tacks are extremely strong of course, but if they are corroded, the planking could literally fall off. Once I restored an OT 50# model with steel tacks; had to re-tack the enture canoe, and the effort turned out to be well wirth it in the end.

Have fun!



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Thanks for the encouraging reply. In terms of sad ends, your photos look more like my HW that's been hanging from the rafters. The Otca is in better shape so now that I have it I'm looking forward to getting it going.

Thanks for posting the pictures as well. I was wondering if you might have a close up of the point where the stem, deck, and inwales come together without any planking in the shot. That detail is somewhat lost on all that I have here.

Thanks again for the encouragement.

I like slat seats,

Ever since paddling my Willits with slat seats the comfort is like night and day. you just need to put the slats in the other direction.

Have fun,



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