OTCA canoe changed shape while stored?

Steve Bartlett

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I started restoring my 1964 Old Town OTCA five months ago, but had to put the project on hold. During the on hold time, with the canoe partially unfastened, the canoe seems to have changed shape.

In preparation for replacing the tops of the stems and the sections of inwale that attached to the decks, I removed tacks from the tops of the ribs near the decks and from the top couple of planks where they attach to the stems..

After having stored the canoe for months outside, covered with a tarp, upside down on sawhorses, through a sometimes wet Massachusetts summer, the rib tops near the decks are now about ¼” higher than the decks.

canoe ribs.jpg

Have the decks lost some curve or has the shape of the canoe changed somehow? How can I correct this or should I just let it go? The ends of the inwales need to be replaced, but the decks appear to be in good shape.
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It appears that your decks and inwales have relaxed from their normal steam-bent shape. Wood that is steam-bent should not be left unsupported especially when exposed to moisture. The most common example of this is when a canoe is left without anything holding the two rails together (i.e. thwarts or seats) - the ribs relax, widening the hull.

You can try to get your decks and rails back into shape by building a jig in the proper shape and tightening clamps slowly over time to gently bring it back into its former curve. You might need to add some moisture in the form of water or steam.

Good luck.
I tried pulling up on the deck. With as much force as I could muster without applying leverage, I could raise the deck about 3/16" - 1/16 short of the original height at the ends. I fear, though, that if I were to re-tack the ribs to the inwale with the deck raised under pressure that it would put an undue amount of force on the tacks when the pressure I apply to raise the deck is released.

What you say about the steam bent shape of the deck having relaxed makes sense. It will be relatively easy to make a jig and see if I can restore the original shape. I can even bag the deck and apply steam. If bending to a jig isn't effective, I may just live with the new profile.

Even with the changed shape, the profile of the canoe is still pleasing and the canoe will still be very usable. This isn't the approach I would take if I were trying for a perfect restoration, but the canoe has other issues that make it unreasonable in my mind to try for perfection, such as corroded tacks from years of use in salt water and several ribs that were gnawed by rodents (which I am in the process of replacing).

This is a family canoe I grew up with back in the 60's and I just want to be able to use it again.

Thanks for your help.