Peterborough wide plank canoe


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hello, I am a new-timer to this service, so I may mess this up a few times. I do need some help as I might be in over my head on this!

I have an old, all wood, plank canoe built by Peterborough Canoe in Ontario (c.1926). The boat has not seen the water for many years and the seams have opened. The varnish finish is blistered and potted and I am in the process of refinishing. My goal is to get the boat in the water by June and now looking for advice on how to get the seams closed up. My initial thought is to use natural materials (turpentine, linseed oils etc) but as this is my first wood canoe, I need advice and direction, having restored dories, sailboats and familiar with caulking techniques and materials (all of which may not be appropriate for a canoe). Hence, my dilemma. Can I expect the seams to swell up by June?
Pictures would be a big help.

Are you sure it is a "plank" canoe and not a "strip" The plank canoe had only 3 to 4 boards on each half of the canoe and battens on the inside would seal the seams.

It sounds like you may have a "strip" all wood boat with rabbited "planking" that is only about 1 1/2 inches in width and about 15 or so to each side.

Varnish was the only thing used to seal the seams of these canoes. You may try and re-cinch the nails, but I don't see them come loose very often. Then is it multiple coats of varnish. You could mix some cedar wood flour with varnish for a paste like goop for the real big gabs.

Good luck,

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond and to include helpful suggestions. I like the idea of "cedar powder" but where does one get that?

As for the construction details; I will give you as much details on the construction as I can, then I will attempt to take some digital photos to pass along.

As to the construction details; the canoe is 16feet by 32inches and about 12inches from deck to the keel.

The ribs appear to be steam-bent, spaced approximately 3 ½ inches on center. (I will carefully measure the size of the rib width and report back.) The ribs are criss-crossed by longitudinal battens (which appear to be made of the same material and notched to accommodate the rib) that run the full length of the canoe, from stem-to-stem. This must have been a huge, labor intensive process as they appear to be individual pieces and not one, long piece.) There are only three rows of these battens as there are only four planks per side; garboard, first and second plank, shear. (I have restored various old carvel planked dories and the construction details of the planks looks oddly familiar, which makes me wonder if this is more of a guide boat than a canoe.) I will carefully measure the planks dimensions and report back to you. I am not sure of the wood yet but it appears to be cedar. The ribs look like ash (?) again, not sure yet and fastened to the planks by copper nails, clinched over. The planks are fastened also to the longitudinal battens also with copper nails clinched over on the inside of the hull. The stems appear to be oak, sawn to shape. The hood ends of the planks are fastened to the stems with copper nails.

As for the other details of the canoe, I am sure you are familiar with them. For example, there is a long, pine (?) rub-rail that extends the full length of the upper edge of the shear plank (flush at the deck line) and is flared at mid-ship to about 1 ¼ inch and ½ inch at the stems. The deck coaming looks like oak, steam-bent and fastened to the deck with brass screws. The decking runs back from both stems for about 24 inches (in place of a breast-plate). These are made up of three pieces of wood, triangular in shape and supported by two wood cleats underneath that hold them together and creates a slight arch. The deck at the bow has a brass fitting for a mast with a mast partner (that is wood) secured to the keel. The keel (which seems in very good condition) has a long, thin strip of half-round brass running from the tip of one stem, down the length of the keel, to the tip of the other stem. This is fastened with small brass screws. All the copper nails seem to be very tightly holding the wood but leak a little turp when I brush it on from the outside of the hull.

I hope this is helpful. Any advise and recommendations are greatly welcomed and appreciated.

Sounds like a plank and batten canoe.

Take a look at the attached picture and see the canoe that is right side up on top of the all wood that is up side down.

The canoe on top is a William English Plank and Batten with four planks per side. The planks are cedar, which I've been told is rare. They were usually made of Bass Wood.

Your canoe should just like it. The battens should be tight to the plank and when varnished should give a water tight seal. Where are your gaps?



  • Canoe%20Workshop%20Weekend%20003.JPG
    722.1 KB · Views: 825
Yes....I believe from what I can see in that photo, you have nailed it!!! I will attempt to send you some of my own photos (provided I can remember how to down-load them from my camera to the PC).

As for the gap; one of the planks appears that the seam did not open but a slight "crack" has run down along the seam in line with the copper nails. While the nails all seem tight, the crack is visible.

I also have some minor damage to one plank which was made up up two short lengths that where "butted" up to make one long plank. It appears that one of the plank was cracked and sprung at the butt joint.

Attached, I have attempted to canoe that looks similar but not a Peterborough. This canoe looks like it has only 3 planks where mine has 4 and there is a oak coaming that runs all around the deck. I am not sure that I have successfully attached this photo it goes!


  • gordon wide board canoe.jpg
    gordon wide board canoe.jpg
    284.1 KB · Views: 1,156
Now we need to look at each item you have a problem with and how to repair. These wide planks would often crack and they would simply add a batten for the length of the crack and tack it down on both edges of the crack cinched to the new piece of batten. I have some repairs similar to that in my canoe. It will not make sense to replace the whole plank just for a crack here or there.

I forgot to answer the "flour" question. You simply use an orbital sander with a dust catcher, most have them. After you strip the outside you're going to sand it down, great care is taken at this step. You use the saw dust collected from the canoe and wood itself to use as flour in your vanish mix.

You'll have to let us know the story of the canoe.


When I get home tonight, I will take a closer look at what I am calling a "crack" because the way you have described your repair, sounds a lot like what I have going on. Hopefully a nice, clear picture will help this out.

I DO have an obital sander with a dust collector. What a great idea!!! Instant cedar flour! I mostly use grits in the higher number ranges from #180 on up.

As for the story; well, not much to tell. About a month ago I was thinking about purchasing a used canoe that I could "bang around in." I live near the Housatonic river in southern Connecticut and love poking around some of the back areas. All I had in mind was a 15ft aluminum, dented but dry canoe, so I asked my friends here at work if they knew of any for sale. I was confident the neighborhoods were full of used and forgotten canoes and I could find one quickly. One of may co-workers told me her brother had two wooden ones in his basement. I had to go look. I did NOT really want a project, just to go paddling around in this century. However, when I got to the location and found two, identical models (one finished, the other in the "ruff"...kinda the before and after versions) I had to take a closer look....and ended up taking home the one in the ruff! My friend has all the sailing parts that go with it and will hold them until I am "ready" for them. It has a lateen sail rig on wooden poles. A clamp-on wood structure with two dagger-boards (one for each side) pivit with large bolts. No rudder or tiller and no rudder type hardware either. As a bonus, my friend thru in an electric canoe motor (signed by Ted Williams and Sears). So, my plan is not to restore this boat this year, but get the outside refinished and the hull water tight. Then have some fun this spring (Father's day....). Maybe next winter, tackle the inside.
<< One of may co-workers told me her brother had two wooden ones in his basement. I had to go look. I did NOT really want a project, just to go paddling around in this century. However, when I got to the location and found two, identical models (one finished, the other in the "ruff"...kinda the before and after versions) I had to take a closer look....and ended up taking home the one in the ruff! >>

OK everybody, sing after me.... "another one bites the dust"

Welcome to our addiction!
What happened to the other canoe???? Are saying it was another plank and batten in restored condition?

Where the heck are the pictures.

By the way send your response via private email. By the time I can get up there it might be gone!

Oh, and your are not going to "bang around" in that Peterborough.


Hello Bill,

The advice to use varnish and sanding dust is great advice, but don’t make your mixture too stiff or pack it in too hard. Wide planking like that has a tendency to swell across the width of the plank (I assume the planks are about 6 to 8 inches wide?). If the varnish/sanding dust mixture is too stiff, the planking might not have space to move and will buckle and crack.

You mention that the rib spacing on your canoe is 3 ½ inches on center. Normally a wide board raised rib & batten canoe has a rib spacing of 5 to 6 inches on centre. Make sure that your canoe actually is a wide-board raised rib & batten. Please post a couple of photos of your canoe and if possible close-ups of the damaged area.

Peterborough Canoe Co wide board rib & flush batten or metallic batten however, had a rib spacing of 4 inches o/c.
Occasionally, when those flush batten or metallic batten type canoes failed (weak plank edges) a common way to repair was to add raised battens inside.

Peterborough Canoe Co used Rock elm or Oak for ribs and the gunnels is likely Maple or Oak

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
Last edited:
Okay...I am not good at this (up-loading pictures from a digital camera) so, if these shots do not look too good, please keep in mind that I am challenged in certain areas.

As for the "other canoe" is right where I left it, sitting in the same basement it was when I took home the sister. I think he wants to keep it but I am not 100% sure of that.

Anyway....the planks vary in width...the garboard (at its widest point) is 8 inches and the other 3 planks vary from 5 to 6.5inches. The rib spacing runs from 6 to 6 3/4 (on center) and are not consistent!

I can not begin to thank you all for the great advice and suggestions. I am very encouraged by your support and feel very confident, I will be paddling up the Housatonic on Father's day THIS YEAR!!!
I am not able to upload photos; I keep getting an error message that says: the image size exceeds the limit. I am not sure what to do now. I would be happy to email them to you separately. Perhaps you could suggest an alternative.

Sounds like a great canoe. I know I'd have taken it without thinking twice, OK, maybe taking a slight pause to think about what my wife would say when I got home...

For posting the photos, you have to reduce the file size of the image. Your imaging software should be able to handle this. Look for words such as "reduce" or "export". An image file size of less than 100 KB will be appreciated by all trying to download it, while still keeping enough detail to see the canoe well.
Here are the photos of your wide-board raised rib & batten Peterborough. This is a quite rare model indeed. I am already quite envious.:)



  • 100_0054.jpg
    121.4 KB · Views: 885
  • 100_0056.jpg
    140.5 KB · Views: 833
  • 100_0057.jpg
    115.4 KB · Views: 826
  • 100_0058.jpg
    174.5 KB · Views: 815
  • 100_0059.jpg
    220.8 KB · Views: 793

Your canoe is likely a little older than you suspected and as I said earlier not a canoe you find very often. I am convinced that it is a Peterborough Canoe Co model # 464 also called the Solid Comfort. The planking is likely white cedar. I believe it was made sometime between 1900 and 1918. However, it might even be older, this model showed up sometime in the mid 1890's. Below is a page from the Peterborough 1910 catalogue.

There are a number of issues visible in the photos you need to deal with. The plank with the diagonal cracks was a poor choice for that position and actually seems to be the original plank. I am quite surprised to see a plank with that wild grain pattern used in that area of the hull.

Dick Persson


  • page-12.jpg
    79.2 KB · Views: 618
Last edited:

Now, to the question of how to repair. In my humble opinion this canoe should not be the object of a quick fix, but instead a very careful restoration. Your canoe might be as old as 110 years or so and there are likely only a handful of that model left today. This model often sold equipped for sailing, so it is conceivable you might also have the original sailing rig.

Dick Persson
Thank you very much for taking the time to post the photos. I am VERY appreciative for your assitance. Another lesson for me to learn about this technology world we live in.

I am also very excited about your analysis and research. From reading your attachment from the Peterborough document and looking over specs, it appears that my model is the 16 footer as all other dimensions (including the description of the inside deck and coaming) seem to fit. I have not found any numbers yet and will start looking closer at the backside of the six brass plates that secure the three cross-bars.

There are also two floor boards (one piece long) that are held in place with small brass "hooks". These are varnished on one side leaving the underside exposed; which appear to be basswood.
Hmmm....I was afraid of that. While I am confident that I can do the restoration, my "free" time is limited and under heavy observation by my wife (I bet you can read between the lines here....) which translated means, that my goal of paddling up the old Housatonic river on Father's day could be in jeapardy.

What course of action are you thinking of?
I agree with Dick's determination of canoe model and his reccomendations that this canoe deserves a full and proper restoration. There are very few of its type and age left. All in all, it really is in very good condiiton, and a very do-able restoration is possible. A lot of the work is just grunt work and consists of stripping the old varnish (well!), sanding, and varnishing. Perhaps farm out the complicated woodwork if needed.

Take your time, do it well, pick up some other canoe to beat around in for this season.

After seeing the photos, given the chance to purchase this canoe, the pause for consideration that I mentioned in my previous post would have been very short! For THIS canoe, my wife would understand.