New member boat serial number


Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Friends at WCHA,

What a great organization you have. Glad to be part of it. Let's get started with Old Town #180,108 18. She is a Guide 18 that came with a boat sticker under the deck which reads Yellowstone Boating Permit 1968.

I love this boat but she is heavy. Who can talk me out of removing the canvas and going with fiberglass and no keel?

This forum is a great resource -- someone will be along with the build record
for your canoe.

Before making any decision about how to repair or restore your canoe, you would do well also to get, or at least look at, The Wood and Canvas Canoe by Rollin Thurlow and Jeryy Stelmok, and/or Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok, and The Old Town Canoe Company by Susan Audette and David Baker.

The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an execellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe, and the third is a great history of the company and its canoes. These are available from the WCHA store, are often on eBay, or from Amazon. Sue Audette also sells her book directly ( ).

Others will be along to argue more against 'glassing your canoe. Fiberglass/epoxy won't likely save you any weight over a proper re-canvassing, and because the 'glass epoxied to the wood does not allow the wood to expand and contract as it naturally will as the wood moisture content changes, cracks in the wood may develop.

Pictures of your canoe would be welcome -- we love pictures here.

Edit/Delete Message
Hello, Scott,

I'll give you the information on Old Town 180108, but you need to re-check that serial number or look very hard at the part of the serial number indicating the boat's length, or measure the canoe... and also post pictures, not simply because we like 'em but because you may have something other than an Old Town.

Old Town 180108 is a 16 foot FG (fisherman guide?) model, completed in 1968. My computer is refusing to properly load my Old Town Catalogs CD, or I could find out exactly what that model is, but the record mentions the canoe was "foamed" and gives the weight at 85 pounds, which is a very heavy 16 footer (if we are talking guide-model canoes), so this may be the correct record. There's no reason, other than excessive fiberglass or another culprit, why a 16 foot wood/canvas would be a heavy canoe.

180108 has a notation after the deck that is unfamiliar to me... but Benson or another who knows Old Towns will interpret that. The canoe was originally dark green.

I'll keep pushing my computer to open the catalog and will add whatever I find there. Wanted to give you the information I have, so that you can determine if it fits your canoe. Old Towns have 5-6 digit serial numbers, followed by a space and the length of the canoe... so 180108 16 should be what you see on both stems.

The scan of this record is attached below-- click on it to get a larger image. This scan and several hundred thousand others were created with substantial grants from the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association (WCHA) and others. A description of the project to preserve these records is available at if you want more details. I hope that you and anyone else reading this will join or renew membership in the WCHA so that services like this can continue. See to learn more about the WCHA and to renew.

Regarding fiberglass-- if you click on "search" above, and put in the word fiberglass, you should find many reasons why this is not a good thing to do to a ribbed canoe that originally had canvas. There may be a reason your canoe is heavy, and it would be interesting to figure that out.

Welcome to the WCHA!



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pros for galss

Thanks for the response. I probably understand most of the reasons not to use glass and epoxy.

The idea that has propelled me forward to consider glass is that OT (or Is. Falls) now builds new boats that way. I used to build fiberglass sailboats, and have really enjoyed stitch and glue kayak construction. It is familiar to me and allows the cedar to show through. I have always read about the poor substitues for white lead filler. The compelling arguement about shrink-swell does resonate however. I wish I had a barn to stretch canvas in. Not many people here near Lake Tahoe get w/c.

Since the canoe needs refinishing inside, doesn't it make sense to encapsulate the inside with epoxy before varnishing? That would solve the water absorption and shrink/swell problem. The climate here is so dry, rel humidity can be 8-10 percent in summer, that wood really dries out.
A "Duh" Moment...

Okay... my guess is that your FG model canoe is a Fiberglas model canoe... then the foam makes sense and the weight makes sense... the only thing that's "off" is the length.
Hi Scott--

Attached is the FG model that goes with the build record for 180108... unless your canoe looks like this, you should check the number again...


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confused pedigree


Thanks for helping.
The canoe is definitely 18 feet, and definitely red cedar planks and ribs. It has the bow decal from OT. You have confused me, although the vintage sounds correct.
recheck the number

Sounds as if the number is wrong. As to 'glassing it. you could- but 'glassing a w/c canoe is not going to save any weight. It'll likely be heavier. And there are lots of problems with putting 'glass on the w/c canoe.

Much of the weight is in the canvas. Number 8 canvas is heavy. Numbr 12 would save some weight at the cost of toughness.

Dacron covering would be the best way to save weight. And lots of it. Maybe 15 or twenty pounds? Some wood species are lighter than others.

I would look at dacron to save weight. I would never 'glass a formerly w/c canoe. My .02 in 2010.
Found it, I think!

Old Town 180708 is an 18 foot guide model canoe with a keel, finished May to July of 1968 and shipped to Sam Hern Marine in Cincinnati, OH, on July 2, 1968.

I'll attach the scan here, and you can re-read the blurb from the first posting to understand the significance of these records.

If you don't think this is the right number, we can keep looking. Is it reasonable that the canoe you have would have gone to Cincinnati?



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If you have cedar planks and ribs, you don't have the "FG" model from the catalog -- ain't no wood in that boat. So it looks like you have to take another look at your serial number.

OT did use fiberglass on some wood planked and ribbed canoes -- and I am not really familiar with them, except to say that they looked very nice in the OT showroom. I have not heard that they present any particular problems. But they were not all clear-coated, and if a wood/fiberglass boat has a colored gel coat, and is in good condition, I would not be in any rush to remove glass just to change to a clear coat -- it is a major job, and I do not know if traces of the colored epoxy would remain after removal of the 'glass.

Assuming your canoe is canvas-covered, I don't think I would make a final decision to glass until I had the canvas off -- w/c canoes were not built with the exterior appearance of the wood planking in mind. I suspect that little or no attention was paid to the looks of planking put on a canoe to be covered with canvas -- or with colored gel. Perfectly functional wood is not always aesthetically pleasing. I have an HA Packard boat, originally canvas covered [then recovered with glass which has since been removed, but with bits of green epoxy still stuck to the wood all over the hull] which has a number of small knot-holes in the planking which will not make any difference when canvas finally recovers the boat.

Removing a keel, if you are not going to recover the canoe, is also problematic, in that you will have holes to deal with -- the screw holes that hold the keel on (unless the keel was otherwise fastened onto a 'glass-covered canoe) . Holes can, of course, be filled, but you'd have to figure out how to do it in a way that would be sound as well as good-looking. How are you going to be using this canoe? If a lot of white water or paddling in shallow, rocky-bottomed water is in its future, you might want to remove it, or replace it with a shoe keel. If it will be mostly on flat water rivers or lakes, there is much less reason to remove it, and indeed, where directional stability may be favored over the ability to turn on a dime, there may be good reason to keep it. Taking it off will save a couple of pounds, I suppose, but not enough to change a heavy boat into a light one.
Unless there are real compelling reasons, and there are none that most of us can imagine, a wood and canvas canoe should not be embalmed in fiberglass.
If you want the maintenance free and allegedly indestructible qualities of a glassed canoe then that is what you should buy. I keep a few Royalex canoes around to use as beaters and for running spring rapids.There is no shame in using a modern canoe.
That said, we generally consider it a tragedy to learn of a nice wooden canoe being "enhanced" with fiberglass. The only thing worse is cutting it in half to make Nick Knack shelves from it.

OT did make glass covered cedar canoes. In these models the cedar base was lightened to reduce the finished weight. I don't know of anyone that owns one of these or that would care to.... but in the long run, they are nicer than aluminum.

Without being glassed, wood and canvas canoes will last forever. Many of us own wood and wood and canvas canoes that are over a hundred years old. Some of us regularly load these canoes up with gear and use them for canoe trips.

Enjoy your new canoe and if you do chose to preserve it, you can count on lot's of advice and support from this groups membership.
Hi Scott,

I agree with Greg and others here, that you'd be doing more harm than good with epoxy and fiberglass (at least this is what I'd be feeling if this were my canoe).

To better answer your questions about climate, you'd do well to meet Mark Adams. He's just up the road from you in Reno, he's a great guy, and for a quite a few years he's had old wooden canoes and built new ones. He's a long-time member of the WCHA, a regular poster here, and a pleasure to know. Just search his name.

OT mystery 1968


Your latest interpretation sounds reasonable. My canoe shows some dark green in its distant past and was likely purchased in 1968. The first owner lives near Reno, NV but likely moved here much later maybe from Ohio. I will check the numbers again. Ones and sevens look alike after lots of varnish.

Its wonderful to hear from all you paddleheads out there. I am one hand clapping most of the time.

Thanks for the contact information here in Nevada. I am impressed with the group at WCHA.
OT mystery


Thanks for the thoughts. You are definitely correct about the appearance of the cedar planking under the canvas. I am being confused by a new OT at a local store, which is glass over cedar and looks spectacular.

I have owned this canoe for 15 years and paddled it a thousand miles on over-night trips. I have built a Pygmy kayak and rebuilt a wood drift boat. The techniques learned on those craft would translate easily. Wood holes, tears, and small amounts of rot can be filled with epoxy thickened with sawdust. I used those methods to make the canoe seviceable upon purchase from the original owner.

The keel issue is somewhat personal. I have a Bell Northwind in royalex for rocks, but have used the OT on larger rivers with room to avoid obstacles. I do not like keels, and prefer lots of rocker as it makes for better handling even in heavy seas on lakes. On the sea kayak, I covered the keel line with a 4 inch strip of glass cloth before the hull covering as suggested by the kit manufacturer Pygmy Boats (Port Townsend, WA).
Hey Scott, Check your Private Messages. I just sent you one with my phone number. Give me a call! I'd love to yak woodencanoes with someone local, not to mention possibly finding a paddling buddy!


I do not like keels, and prefer lots of rocker as it makes for better handling even in heavy seas on lakes.

I also prefer a keel free canoe, especially for tripping canoes. A shoe keel is a nice compromise.
That said, there is nothing that should keep you from removing the keel when you re-canvas. Store it in the rafters for posterity. The only downside from leaving the keel off is that you will have a row of empty screw holes in the bottom of the canoe. If you can tolerate that, then problem solved.....
glass and weight

Sounds as if the number is wrong. As to 'glassing it. you could- but 'glassing a w/c canoe is not going to save any weight. It'll likely be heavier. And there are lots of problems with putting 'glass on the w/c canoe.

Much of the weight is in the canvas. Number 8 canvas is heavy. Numbr 12 would save some weight at the cost of toughness.

Dacron covering would be the best way to save weight. And lots of it. Maybe 15 or twenty pounds? Some wood species are lighter than others.

I would look at dacron to save weight. I would never 'glass a formerly w/c canoe. My .02 in 2010.

My idea for glass is one layer of 8 ounce cloth wetted to clear with marine epoxy. I cannot believe that the traditional method would weigh less. Thurlow talks about linseed oil, canvas, filler, then paint. If you make a pile of the supplies for each method, the epoxy method would be lighter.

I signed up with WCHA to learn more about traditional methods. Most of the members are in New England and the upper midwest. You guys are steeped in tradition, which I like. On the West Coast, lots of great boats are being built with wood, then wetted out with epoxy indise and out, and fiberglass cloth on the outside.

While the WCHA does have a high density of members in the northeastern and midwestern US and in southeastern Canada, it is truly an international organization with members around the world and certainly in all parts of the US. I live in subtropical Florida, and I am very much a traditionalist, partly because I think generally that an old wooden boat deserves a traditional approach. That said, using more modern materials can be a big help. For me, this does NOT include encapsulating a wood-canvas canoe in epoxy and fiberglass. There have been many discussions (search here), and I've seen many many old boats treated in various ways. On the whole, canvas-covered canoes have fared much better in my experience than rib-and-plank canoes that were covered in fiberglass. Some of this may be due to the owners thinking the glass-epoxy canoes were indestructible, and so they were treated more harshly. But again, search here for the merits and demerits of each side. Of course it's your canoe and you can cover it as you wish, but there sees to be a strong consensus across broad geographic regions for the traditional approach. It's not just northeasterners being "steeped in tradition." There are practical reasons.

As for weight, your piling up the supplies may be misleading. There is a substantial amount of volatile material in filler, for example, that dissipate and therefore don't factor into final weight. But even if final weight is more with canvas and filler, by how much? And how's your canoe to be used? Will the possible weight savings really be a benefit in the way that you use your canoe?

A 1968 Old Town isn't a a highly-coveted relic, but it can still be a very nice and very beautiful canoe. I once thought that the clear 'glass-covered Old Towns were really pretty, but not so much now. At a glance, yes, but then all those fasteners and planking lines under the glass- not so pretty to my eye. This construction method just wasn't designed way back then with beauty of the outside- minus canvas- in mind. Compare an un-canvassed canoe like yours to a Herald, Willits, Rushton, Peterborough or other all-wood canoe and you'll see a dramatic difference. Painted canvas (and of course painted fiberglass-epoxy) really adds something to a covered canoe; it makes a striking contrast to the ribs, planking and trim of the interior.

I didn't mean to write so much- sorry. This has been discussed many times in the past. Search these forums and you'll find a tremendous amount of information from a variety of people- from traditionalists and the not-so-traditional, and from many geographic regions including the west coast of the US and Canada.