Red cedar planks?


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
About to restore a 16' 3rd. grade Chestnut prospector that appears to have red cedar planking rather than white cedar . Can any one advise ?
Hi Dave, Western Red Cedar is normal. It makes a nice contrast. It comes in longer lengths. there have been discussions on how to deal with it as it is more brittle and may try to split on you. Here's the quick versiion.
hot water
pre drill
apply pressure to side of plank next to the tack being driven using a scrap piece of plank.
prayers (or some may suggest curses).
I would not worry too much about matching wood species in a third grade Chestnut. Just match the grain pattern with either red or white cedar. Either way you will have stain the new wood to match the color and after its stained it will be darn difficult to tell if its red or white!
I replanked a lot of a Chestnut Prospector with new quarter sawn red cedar. Best technique was to cover the new plank with a damp towel and then use an old iron to iron the hell out of it. Then planks would take the curve and clinch tack without splitting just about 100% of the time.

Let me be more exact. Cut the plank to fit. (I usually did a small area at a time, leaving old planks in place as guides for new planks.) Put the plank where you want it to go. Cover with a damp towel. Heat thru the towel with the iron, (so the heat is damp.) Like you were ironing the plank thru the towel. An iron with a steam function is useful, but still use the towel. Clinch tack to the ribs, when you think the plank is flexible enough. Generally when the towel is pretty dry the plank is ready to be tacked. 1-2 mintes is about all it takes. Do one area over a rib at a time. Don't try to steam the whole plank at once.
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HI Dave
You shouldn' t have much trouble getting red cedar out in Kamloops! No point in shipping out white cedar that's for sure. Lots of builders out in the east here say some pretty nasty things about red cedar for planking but I use a lot of it so have gotten to know it pretty well. The good part about it is that you can get lovely long clear planks. I can make a whole canoe out of a single 18 ft full 4x4!!
I have found the trick to not having it split is to pick the right board in the first place. Vertical grain is the best, but not just any vertical grain. The grain needs to be off the true vertical by maybe 20 deg. or so , so just canted off when you look at the end of the plank. Does this make sense? It is a bit hard to describe. If you can get the grain running like this you will find the plank will bend around the bilges easier than any planking, white or red. The iron trick is great too, and the predrilling the tack holes especially along the plank edges. But I have done canoes with good planking , where I haven't had to drill hardly a hole nor use an iron other than for the garboards. All because of good grain direction.
You will also find that this planking is really stable and wont swell much when wet - so no buckling and gapping.

And thanks Rollin (he was the first one that I saw use it in his great video) for that ironing trick. Not sure where you got it but it sure is way less messy than slopping hot water and trying to run steam from my little kettle onto the planks.

Red cedar planks ?

Thanks for all the great info. but I was hoping too get confirmation that Chestnut used "red" cedar for planking . I was under the impression they only used "white" cedar . Can any one advise ?
Hi Dave,
Of all the Chestnuts I have worked on over the years 3 or 4 of them were planked with red cedar. So I am sure at some point they built using red cedar. The ones I worked on were white cedar ribs and red cedar planked. When you replace planking the old will match very well with the new.
I worked at Chestnut as a canoe builder for a few years in Fredericton during the early 70's. 1970-71. Yes we did build some canoes with western red cedar at that time, but the wood was older stock and harder to work with than our supply of eastern cedar. It looks great when the canoe is done!
Ferrous [ iron ] clinching tacks

This Chestnut also has ferrous tacks . Can any one explain this ?
While we're talking about red cedar planking, I've found that blonde red cedar is often a better colour match for aged white cedar. Mind you, we're kind of spoiled out west in the cedar selection catagory. Blonde red should be easy to find in Kamloops but I suspect this canoe was built with chocolate red, correct?
Red cedar planks ?

Hi Mark - The cedar on this old Chestnut is actually simular in color [maybe a touch darker] than the standard white cedar . Would Chestnut have used a different red cedar other than " western " due to their factory location ?
I believe it was always 'western' red but I do not presume to be the authority on this detail. Due to the volume that chestnut would require I think it is likely that they would import it from BC, however, there are others on this thread who worked for chestnut and may know for a fact if eastern varieties of red were used. I defer to them.
The "eastern variety" of red cedar, or Eastern Red Cedar is also known as aromatic cedar (the kind you line closets with). It is very knotty and unsuitable for boat building. Northern white cedar grows in the northeast US and Canada. All the red cedar used by the major companies (Old Town, etc.) was shipped from the west. I believe all the Chestnuts I have had come throught the shop were planked in white cedar, which makes sense, since it grows in New Brunswick. They may have had red cedar shipped in as well, if supplies dwindled.

Red & White on same canoe

I've just about finished with a 1950 era Chestnut Freighter Company that I replaced about 20-30 ft of planking in. The boat is 19' and most all the ungored plankingwas full length red cedar. The gored planking and the shorter pieces at the recurved stern were white. Of course the canoe was painted inside so it wouldn't have been noticable.
Origional Canvas

No it hadn't been repaired before. The canvas that I stripped off had the factory dates on the bow and stern in the filler under the paint. Just the date and month no year unfortunatly. I assume it was marked on the filler the day after it was applied so the factory could keep track of the filling dates.