Old Town Serial Number practice


Was there a certain date after which Old Town stamped the serial number on both stems of their canoes rather than just the bow?
Don in Vermont
I currently have wooden Old Town canoes in my garage from 1982, 1936, and 1907. All of them have the serial number and length stamped on both stems. The length is closest to the middle of the canoe in each case. My guess is that your canoe, had a stem replaced at some point, had one set of numbers removed, or it may not be an Old Town.

Beginning to wonder

The canoe that prompted my question is one for which you posted the OT build record last week, supposedly a 1907 16-foot closed gunwale model, SN 7384. I believed it to be an Old Town because that's what I was told by the reasonably knowledgeable person from whom I took it in trade for some work I had done for him. Now I see that only one stem is marked with the SN, and the length (16) is stamped further from the center of the boat than the SN itself, making me wonder if I'm on the wrong track re the ID of the canoe. There are some other mysterious features, too, that don't quite jibe with the OT build record. I think I will start over with a new post later today that includes some pictures and a more complete description, and see what you and others think.
Thanks for your help.
Don in Vermont
More on No. 16 7384

I took this boat in from a friend for whom I had done some unrelated work - he thought it was an Old Town, and I didn't know any better. He had stripped the inside years ago, but done little else. It is missing outer rail caps, keel, some deck trim and seats. The serial number appears only on the bow stem, with "16" stamped nearer the bow. (It is unclear whether the stern stem has been replaced.) LOA is 16' 1 1/2 ", beam about 31", depth about 12 1/4". Beam and depth are a little suspect as all midship ribs are detached from the rail - this is a pretty loose basket at the moment!

Now that I have cleaned the canoe up a little I can see the rail caps and decks are mahogany. Ribs vary in width, but average max width of 2 1/4", tapering to 1" at the rail. Profile is simple rounded similar to Old Town, spacing of ribs approximatley 4 1/4" OC. Most of the planking (white cedar?) is 3 1/2" wide, with a 5" plank near the sheer.

Perhaps someone who knows sailing canoes can comment on the holes in the fore and aft decks. Nothing suggests that masts were ever installed - no reinforcement a la mast partner, no mast steps or signs of them ever having been there on the keel (stems) below, and it strikes me that a mizzen set so far back would be problematic. Am I missing something??

There are other mysteries: the boat has no seats at present, but one can see where they were. Where the stern seat should be the bolts are cut off flush with the bottom of the gunwale (can't see the heads w/o taking off the rail cap, which I have not done yet.) The bolts for the forward seat still hang in place, but no seat. A thwart has been bolted on using one of these sets of bolts. In addition to that, short seat risers have been attached to the hull forward of the original seat position, and screw holes in these indicate some sort of seat was once attached to these cleats. I try to imagine the scenario where someone choses to attach these seats (screwed on from the outside) during a re-canvas rather than fix the originals, but maybe the caning was too daunting. So the boat ended up with one seat, in the front(?) (Maybe they paddled it backwards?)

There is also the matter of what was once attached crosswise near the coaming on the aft deck. A faint outline can be seen, and two round-head screws stand proud of the deck as if something had been fastened there. Part of a sail rig?

All this being said, the boat is pretty and readily restorable. I would, however, like to know what I am working on. The attached pictures may help. All ideas and comments welcome.

Don in Vermont
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The photos of No. 7384

With any luck there are 4 pictures attached


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Check thwart


Check the top of the thwart near the rails for a "Robertson Auburndale Mass" stamp. It is usually next to impossible to read, but it might be there. Both ends of the thwart. It is in a "waveform" stamp.

The rib taper and thwart reminded me of Robertson, the deck does not, but check the thwart for a stamp.


Fitz, I can't see any markings on the ends of the thwarts, but what with other post-market modifications to the boat it would not be surprising if the thwarts are not original (especially since one now appears to be fastened where it seems the bow seat once was.) I have attached a couple of shots of the rear thwart. Notice the 1/2" hole in the center, with the imprint of a 1" flat washer around it (?)

Benson, the holes being to hold flags may be just right, but they would seem to be plenty big - the one in the bow has d=1 1/2", which would hold a sturdy staff. The hole in the after deck is about 1" in diameter. Of course it is possible that many of these changes were performed by twelve-year-old adventurers after the boat was already cast off by adults, but its fun to speculate.

I would like to go a little further in tracking the origins of the canoe if possible. How do I go about finding more on the Charles River builders?
Don in Vermont


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ddewees said:
How do I go about finding more on the Charles River builders?

No one has yet pulled together a comprehensive summary of the Charles River builders. Bits and pieces are scattered through the Wooden Canoe Journals and this forum. An example of the Robertson thwart stamp can be seen at http://forums.wcha.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=1467&d=1145494404 in another thread. The best source of information is the Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Company Catalog Collection CD available from http://merchandise.wcha.org/index.php?cPath=90_91 and http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/cdrom.htm on the web.

More questions

Thanks, Benson. I have ordered the CD on historic canoe catalogs, and will study up on some of the likely suspects. A question occurs to me as I start to disassemble the bow of this boat to do some rot repairs. Since I have not worked on the nose of a long-deck boat like this before I am not sure how characteristic the deck contruction is. The forward ends of the rails and the long thin halves of the deck, as well as the king plank that hides the seam between the deck halves are all joined at the bow by fastening into a piece of oak a few inches long which is rabbeted (like the rails) to receive the half-inch-thick deck. In plan view the piece is triangular, and it is about 1 1/2" thick. The stern is identical. When canvas and the king plank are in place, of course, none of this is visible. So my question is: is this construction detail typical of many canoes, or could it be helpful narrowing down who the builder was? (It is possible that both ends of the boat have been repaired, and I am seeing the result, but somehow this looks original.)
Don in Vermont

(I may not have a useful picture of this yet, but will post one soon.)
A picture worth a few words

This photo shows the block that receives the deck halves, and is in turn covered by trim. Does this mean anything to anyone, or is it what you would expect to find on any long-decked boat?


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