New to me 15' Peterborough Litelift


Curious about Wooden Canoes
G'day! I am a total newbie when it comes to wood/canvas canoes. I've always admired them from afar but now am the proud owner of one! In my opinion, the wood appears to be in great shape. I can't see any cracked ribs. I believe it's the original canvas. It has been painted over and the paint is now peeling off. Is this something that can be sanded down and repainted to buy a little time on the water before I put new canvas or will i do more damage than good lol?


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Welcome, this looks like some sanding, paint, and varnish could work fine for another season or two. A water test would be good to see if it leaks much. The canvas will probably need to be replaced soon since this typically only lasts for a decade or two in normal use. Good luck,

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Welcome to the WCHA. A nice canoe. As a "total newbie, " when considering any maintenance, repair, or restoration work, whether you plan to do it yourself or to hire a professional, in addition to asking questions here, there are three good sources of information about canoe restoration that you would do well to get, or at least look at, before making any decision about how to repair or restore your canoe:

The Wood and Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok

Building the Maine Guide Canoe by Jerry Stelmok

This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood-Canvas Canoe, by Mike Elliott

The first is often called the "bible" of canoe repair, restoration, and maintenance; the second is an excellent study of the wooden/canvas canoe and its construction. The third is the most recently published and has been well received.

I second what Benson advises above -- you can probably patch the paint and use this canoe for this season. But replacing the canvas is considered more-or-less routine maintenance, like getting new tires on a care. The canvas does eventually fail, and replacing it is not as hard as it might seem.

If you don't want to replace the canvas right now and wish to repair the paint/canvas, keep in mind that no paint job is any better than what is under it. New paint will not keep old peeling and flaking paint in place. You must remove such failing paint by scraping and/or sanding before new paint is applied. If the wood of the canoe is basically strong, and if the canvas is intact, you should be able to use the canoe this season with just a little work.

Here are some links to some discussions in these forums about painting over old cracked or chipped paint when you want the paint to last only a season or three or five before re-canvasing: see pp. 2-3 of this thread!&p=40689#post40689 starting at post 12, on bondo spot putty

My yellow Old Town 50 pounder (seen in some of the links above) has seen 5 seasons of use with old canvas, chipped filler, crackly paint, and a few unrepaired cracked ribs and planks, for just a few hours of necessary work -- light sanding, spot priming, painting with water-based deck and porch paint (and a few more hours just messing around with unnecessary painting of triangle designs) -- I didn't have the time to restore the canoe without losing a season of paddling.
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Welcome aboard Mac!
Beautiful looking canoe.
To add to what Benson and Greg have already said: sand out the bigger cracks and fill them. Then sand to match the rest of the hull being careful not to sand through the filler to the canvas. Then prime the patched spots and paint with good quality paint. Disagreeing with Greg I use oil based gloss paint. Tremclad in my case.

I've done these miinor repairs to both my Bobs Special and Langford to get another couple of seasons paddling out of them before re-canvassing.
Hull repair and repaint resized.jpg

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For the record -- I have nothing against oil-based paint -- the Old Town Ideal in my avatar is covered with a good oil deck and porch paint and when the time comes, will be repainted with it. There are a variety of pros and cons for various types of paint,.

High gloss paint looks great, at least when new. However, dings and scratches (inevitable the way I use a canoe) and the unfair lumps and bumps that are usually present with an old hull, are much more apparent with high gloss than with a satin or semi-gloss paint. Canoes with satin or semi-gloss paint generally suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with a bit more grace than those with high gloss paint. Also, visually, high gloss paint is, in my opinion, just much less effectively shiny with medium and light colors. And subsequent spot touch-ups are generally less apparent with less glossy paints.

When I bought out yellow 15' Old Town, it's paint was in only slightly better condition than Bruce's shown above --
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but to the eye it did not look as bad because of the light color and much less glossy paint. (And on both canoes, much of the damage would be invisible in use, being below the waterline.)

Good oil paint is increasingly hard to find -- Benjamin Moore no longer makes the oil paint on our Ideal -- I got some of the last of it a couple of years ago, in quart cans -- oil paint is generally very hard to find these days in gallon cans. Some folks believe that oil paint is more durable than water-based paint. I don't have any direct comparative experience, but I have been satisfied with the durability of water-based paint, not only on the yellow canoe, but also on wood and concrete porches and sidewalks. The concrete in my Brooklyn front yard, painted with water-based deck and porch paint, gets much harder use than I ever hope to inflict of my canoes.

And there are two-part marine paints -- a whole other category of coating -- more money, probably more work, maybe more durability.

Of course, one of the chief benefits of water-based paint is ease of clean up.

No dogma from me about the kind of paint to use.

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Thanks everyone for the warm welcome and the wealth of knowledge. Looks like I have a lot of reading and sanding to do! Another member on here, Dick Persson, helped me identify my canoe from a phone call. He was able to tell me this model was made between 1939-56. I haven't seen my deck logo in any searches and was wondering if there were certain years it was used? Also, would anyone know what the original paint options were? Thanks again everyone!
would anyone know what the original paint options were?

Page C-8 of the 1943 Peterborough describes this model and others saying "They are all varnished inside, and painted outside flat finish, generally grey or green (our option)." More information like this is available from in the scanned catalogs.

I generally don't question anything Dick says about Canadian canoes but the catalog collection includes listings for the Litelift model from 1927 up to 1962. The 1961 catalog describes it as being available in "Indian Red or Forest Green." The diagonal "Peterborough" shown on your decal was also displayed on the catalog covers from 1941 to 1958.

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Thanks so much Benson. Much appreciated. When I peeled some paint off, it did look like a lighter shade of green on the back. The old owner said he painted over the old paint so maybe it was originally green but who knows for sure.
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Maybe when people ask what the numbers etched in the bottom mean, I will say the 1146 was the month and year it was built lol! I guess those are meaningless? Just a work order number? I like my story better
Welcome to WCHA and wood & canvas canoe life.

Do you have any idea what year your canoe is? If you don't know you may be able to find out a rough idea from the Canadian Canoe Museum. I don't know if they have any build records on them or not. I have talked to Jeremy Ward (Curator) at the museum a few times when I was trying to find out info on my great-grandfather's canoe company (J.B. O'Dette & Sons) and he was very helpful. My great grand-father was a foreman for the Peterborough Canoe Co. from 1903 - 1925 but I don't have any info that may help you if you are trying to find history on yours. Mr. Ward would probably have the most insight on where you could locate information. The search is fun though! Below is their website.

Good luck!

Hello John and thanks. I actually emailed Jeremy a few days ago and I'm waiting for a reply. I was on another thread about the different logos and Roger Young believes my canoe was built after 1954. In my logo it says watercraft, and he believes that followed their 75th anniversary logo. So between him and Benson, I believe we have it narrowed down to about 1955-58. I wasn't sure if the paint options for those years would help, but to my knowledge, (from what I was told by the previous owner) was that the canoe was always a white colour.
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The 1955-1958 Peterborough catalogs specified the Litelift as either light grey or flat grey exterior finish. I suspect that special colors could be ordered upon request. My usual advice is to just paint it a color and shade that you like.

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That is an interesting decal with the cursive Peterborough lettering. They must have gone from lower case pre-54 to upper case (including 75th) to cursive. It would be interesting to know when that happened.