New repair trick!

Rollin Thurlow

member since 1980
In case anyone is looking for amusing/original ways to repair their canoe, you may find this repair method interesting!
I get a lot of old canoes in my shop for restorations and most of them come in with some kind of old repairs done by people with various knowledge or skills. A common repair is to see some kind of fiberglass/ bondo repair on a rib or the stem.
this Morris canoe came in and about as rough shape as a repairable canoe can be. there was huge glob of bondo slathered on the stern stem. It has to be almost an inch thick in places. As part of the art of globing on bondo the person tried to round over the outside edge where the stem band face would of been. Not content with just rounding over the bondo the person came up with a very original solution to make the round over effect. They layed a twig complete with a bud still on it along the face of the stem embedded in the bondo!
It must of been effective because the repair has lasted for a number of years! I'm not sure if I should give up on brass stem bands and just resort to bondo and twigs!


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Archeology and Fossils...


Gives me an idea for a thriller novel: "... peeling back the glob of bondo adhering to the stern stem of the old Morris revealed a glint of metal, hidden within the old repair. The tube-shaped object was about six inches long, and appeared to be some kind of container. Twisting the metal tube with both hands, the man pulled it free of the tenacious bondo. He noted the reddish-gold tube appeared to be brass with a high copper content. The cap at one end was loose enough for the man to remove easily. Inside, he found a yellowed piece of paper... an invoice of some sort... "Bought of B.N.Morris, builder of Canvas Canoes and Equipments, Veazie, Maine..."

"Aha!" he exclaimed, as he quickly booted up his computer, "this information needs to get into the WCHA Morris Database! What was the name of that person...?"

"Ah, here it is!" he sighed with relief. "Klos... Kathryn Klos. I'll get this canoe's serial number and the invoice with its date of sale to her, and to All of the WCHA, immediately."

Got to admit. The twig is a new and unusual stiffener for runny bondo.
Lets the repairer state that he did so do woodwork repairs on the stem.
I've seen up to 3 inches of Polyester Resin in a stem, stuffed out with styrofoam to help it float.
Grafting Morris canoe

The person doing the previous repair was probably an orchardist. Don't laugh, his experiment was successful. From the scion of a chestnut tree bedded in Bondo grew a full size Morris.

Hoping for a birch bark canoe I have tried a birch twig in Bondo but the result was nothing more than a blob of Bondo with a dried stick poking out of it.

Ingenious repairs

Rollin has described what must be the most unusual past repair ever seen. I would like to read about other unique repairs that have been discovered in that newly acquired treasure. It should be remembered that however curious the past work is it was done with an earnest desire to keep the old canoe on the water for a season or two more.

Here is my most interesting if not the biggest condition I have encountered. The canoe is a very early Canadian Canoe Company canoe that spent its life with one family on the pre-dam Columbia River. Considerable damage had been done to the bow. The solution was to slather it with roofing tar inside and out. Over the tar was carefully nailed thin copper plates. Every seam of the hull was covered with a strip of plumbers tape.

The tar may have helped waterproof the bow but the rot continued and the staining traveled back as much as 30" into the planking. The ribs were still sound but decks, king plank and new inner and outer stems were required as well as planking on both sides. The old parts were a gooey mess but served as patterns for the replacements.


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About 14 months after I bought my brand new, special-ordered, keelless 16' Old Town Guide in 1972, a strange split opened up in the canvas. It was on one side, just below the gunwale near the stern seat, vertical and about five inches long. A bit of poking around showed that they had split the canvas while installing it. To try to cover their tracks, they had glued a piece of Dacron sailcloth behind the split because it was thin and wouldn't make a bump. Then they filled the defect and sent it out as a brand new boat. Unfortunately, most glue doesn't stick to Dacron sailcloth worth a damn and trying to glue fabrics with such different flex/stretch/stability characteristics together is a major blunder in the first place, so the glue didn't hold.

Fortunately for them and unfortunately for me, their sleazy repair lasted just long enough for the warranty to expire - not that it would have done me much good because I would have had to pay freight to and from Maine from Illinois to get any warranty service anyway. As I remember, they didn't even bother to apologize when I informed them of the problem.

Old Town's reputation for quality and their credibility dropped substantially in my eyes that day and has never completely recovered. At least "Bondo-Twig Guy" probably didn't know any better. Old Town should have.

I got them back though....About two years later, I bought out the local Old Town dealership and after that, they had to deal with me on a regular basis. Those of you who know me, know just how picky I am about construction quality. You can bet your bippy that every Old Town boat that came into the store got a thorough inspection.