Newbie To Forum And Potential Stripper Buyer


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hello All!

I'm a newbie to the forum and I am considering the purchase of a cedar strip canoe. I have come across one advertised that I am interested in. I haven't gone to look at it yet but I have some photos of the boat. It looks from the photos that the exterior hull is in good condition, but the interior and gunwales look like they are in not the best condition. Before I even go take a look at it I was wondering if those of you in the know could take a look at the pictures and point out any glaring problems that you see and offer any advice as to whether this looks like it is even worth taking a look at.

I am looking to actually use the boat for solo trips to the BWCA. I realize the boat needs some work and would like to take it on as a bit of a project and replace the gunwales and decks in the off season. However, I have read the threads regarding the difficulty of renovation vs. building from scratch and don't want to go down the rabbit hole and do a complete renovation. The owner says the interior is "dirty" but in good condition. It looks to me that there may be more than dirt involved. The first couple pictures were taken when the boat was new. The last four photos are as it sits today.

I love the aesthetics of the canoe vs. a kevlar and would like to put a bit of work into sprucing it up as long as the project is more cosmetic than doing a complete refurb. Any input as far as your opinion of the boat and/or what I should look for when I actually go take a look at the boat would be greatly appreciated. Also, if anyone is familiar with what pattern the boat is I would be interested to know that as well. It's a 15 1/2' solo that the seller acquired from a friend who built it from a kit. They don't know much about it.

Thanks everyone!


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Be sure you paddle it before you buy, you may not be comfortable in it, ie, very tender which is not good for a BW solo boat.
From those pics I have no idea what the hull shape looks like.

As for the canoe, the trim looks a bit blocky and large. As does that solid block in the ends.

I wouldn't pay much over $500 for it, as the construction and design is unknown, and this assumes there is no serious structural damage.

BTW, this will paddle much like a glass or kevlar boat, as that is what it is, fiberglass with a wood core.

Look closely (when you see it in person) at the dark interior. That may not be just dirt, it may be mold in the wood, underneath the fiberglass. Without cleaning the surface, it's hard to tell. But if it's mold, it's not a restoration, it's landfill.

My other thought is, why would someone put something up for sale looking that bad, if it was "just dirt," and presumably easily cleaned? It would look far better, and be more easily sold, if it was cleaned up. Caveat emptor...
Thanks guys. I am thinking there is more going on than just dirt as the seller says. I agree with Ski about why someone would post pictures without even removing the seed pods from the inside. Another thing that has me wondering is the block that is fiberglassed on the floor in picture 5. Obviously doesn't look like a craftsman did it! It is not in the original photos and I'm wondering if that was done because the hull needed some reinforcement due to oil canning or something. In doing some more research it appears to me to be a Merlin design by Bruce Kunz. The dimension fits the description and googling photos of other Merlins it seems to match the shape.
No Way! Nothing that gets done to strippers in normal use ever does that to the interior. It is almost certainly water damage to the core, under the fiberglass or some kind of moldy crap all over it. The boat very obviously has been stored improperly for a long time. Why on earth would you want to saddle yourself with a canoe that somebody else most likely already ruined through carelessness? If that is how they stored it, they must have figured that it wasn't good enough to bother protecting. Walk away.
Thanks for the advice guys. As someone new to a stripper I appreciate your opinions and diagnosis as to what is the cause of the darkening of the interior as I had no clue. I'm going to heed your advice but I'm going to try to arrange to see it tomorrow just to satisfy my curiosity and see it in person. I can only imagine it's going to be worse than the photos depict.
It always looks worse live, than in photos...

Todd's been dealing with these canoes far longer than I; heed his advice.

It'l be easier to build a new one, than to repair this one.
As a Newby, I'd shy away from it. Pictures are deceptive, whether intentional or not !.
As an experienced builder, I see red flags, that I would like to investigate in person ! Trim looks heavy. The block below the thwart, warrants inspection
It does look heavy, and over built for portaging in the BWCA.
The Sabot, reminds me of hulls built by Al Gustafson.
Age and storage methods don't look positive.
I might be interested, but at a very low price.

Okay Guy's, I went to look at the canoe this afternoon and found out a little bit of it's history. It was built by two brothers who were machinists and friends of the seller. It was their second build and they both have passed away. The canoe was built in 2006 and hasn't been used since 2013. Apparently it was stored in their machine shop since its last use until the sellers recently removed it. The dark interior and gunwales is because of caked on dark grey dust from the shop as it was stored right side up. We cleaned up a section of the interior using a soft scrub sponge and some water and I have attached a picture showing the dry, clean section bordered by the dirt. The seller then got his orbital sander with some fine paper and sanded the stern deck and part of the gunwale to show how easily the dirt comed off and what the wood looks like. I kinda scratched my head at that, but hey it's his canoe!! I have attached pictures of the before and after of the sanded stern deck and a sanded portion of the gunwale. I also attached some photos of the hull which appears to be in very good condition on the exterior. The crazy block fiberglassed to the floor appears to be a crude foot brace rather than a structural thing due to its location and the fact that it's well forward of the widest part of the hull.

I'm took lots of measurements and going to look more closely at the Merlin plans, but I'm pretty convinced that's what it is. As far as weight is concerned it is very light. I would be surprised if it is an ounce over 50lbs.

Let me have it guys, am I crazy for considering it in that it seems like some time spent with some soap, sandpaper and some oil and varnish might get this thing looking fairly decent??


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Sorry for the typos above. Was in a hurry on my phone and didn't catch that autospell Gremlins. I know that dirt comes off instead of comed off and "I took" lots of measurements rather than "I'm took". Noticed too late to edit.
Were you able to paddle it?
What is your paddling skill?
If it is a Merlin, find another one and try it.
Just a few weeks ago there was a paddle day on Lake Nakomas, there might have been one there.
Were you able to paddle it?
What is your paddling skill?
If it is a Merlin, find another one and try it.
Just a few weeks ago there was a paddle day on Lake Nakomas, there might have been one there.

I told the owner I would have to paddle it prior to any purchase and he was reluctant to "take it out". We parted ways saying I would think about it. I'm experienced paddling tandem, but not an expert paddler. I live on a lake up north so there's plenty of time to hone my skills in my front yard before jumping into a trip. Not sure how we are going to resolve the paddling issue with the seller.
The original Merlin as designed by Bruce Kunz, is a good design !
Bruce was a small statured fellow, and his Merlin reflected that !
Most of the Merlins I've encountered, or built, were in the 40- 45# range. The trim looks heavy, and that could easily account for the extra weight.
If the stems were plumb, it was probably the original design.
The light colored wood at the stems is designed to make the stems easier to shape. these add a little more weight. Al Gustafson (Founder of North West Canoe), was the first , that I know of to incorporate this into a canoe. He did this with his large Voyager canoes also.

How much were they asking ?

Typical of Minnesota built canoes, it was built without Bead and Coved strips. The glue lines between the strips, and stripping pattern give that away.

Thanks Jim! The seller mentioned that the builders built the canoe after taking classes at Northwest Canoe. As far as weight goes I would say it's well below 50lbs.. I picked it up with ease and it's heavier, but not tons heavier than the Prism UL that I looked at a few weeks ago. Not having been able to paddle it I have tried to find some reviews of the design characteristics and the ones I have found are positive, but not thorough. I'm 6'2", 200lbs. and would be using the canoe for flatwater paddling on my lake and for solo trips to the BWCA, which I happen to live next door to. From what I gather it is a nice tracking and fairly fast boat that handles wind well, but I haven't seen any feedback regarding stability and load carrying ability or whether it would be suitable for a guy of my stature. Seller is asking $870 for the boat, but I'm sure there's movement on his end.

I would greatly appreciate any input from someone who has experience with this design. Thanks again!
Bruce's 38 spl, would suit you much better ! Me ? I'd build !
If time is a consideration, that's different !