Refinishing a cedar strip canoe


I recently acquired a 17 ft cedar strip canoe that was made about 20 years ago. It was stored outside for the last 8 - 10 years. It is structurally sound, but is in need of some TLC. Some of the finish has blistered and flaked off and it appears to have had additional pieces of fiberglass cloth applied in one area to make a repair.

What is the best approach to refinishing this ? Should I try to sand everything off down to the wood strips or just down to the fiberglass cloth ? Any suggestions on methods or a point in the right direction would be appreciated.
sriley-welcome to the best canoe site anywhere-bar non.i hope some of the other fellows chime in here to give you the definitive answers you seek. just to let you know- this site had a complete meltdown a few months ago and years of threads were for ever lost.thanks to the efforts of tim hewitt (and others ) this site is now back up. if you can it would help if you can post pics. of your canoe&/ damage.these guys know there canoes and all manner of construction and will be more than willing to share thier knowledge. "now come on friends and fellows who know me -.agree -that the truth be told we'd rather be paddlin or polein, fishing or floatin while simply enjoying the view. to this we all aspire with heart and desire and maybe some day we'll paddle with you." :D :D :D lee ^.'.
Anyone ever heard of a wonacott cedar stripper canoe made in 1978 or ever seen in any of the old canoe journals or camping journals in the mid 70s till the mid 80s probably in Califorinia.? Help Ineed some positive info....and hope------
Thanks Garry
Garry- I don't know anything about a wonacott cedar stripper canoe, but I was checking this site to see if I could find anything about a wonacott boat I have. Mine isn't a canoe, but looks to be a rowing shell. It is 19 feet and made with 3/4 inch cedar (?) strips with a thin fiberglass covering. Wonacott is written on the side and it also has a serial number. It was part of the decor in an office I purchased in 1987. As far as I know it has never been in the water. I live in Washington state, so it could have been from California. If you, or anyone else, have any info that might be helpful I would appreciate it.
Thanks Doug
Wonacott canoes kayaks and drift boats

Doug Peyton

I Live in boise Idaho and had been told that my stripper was built in Spokane Washington.......diddent believe it but now after hearing from you it just may be so. The person I bought it from said his father had it made in Spokane for $4000.00 lot of money 20 years ago...Upon checking several hundred sites of canoe a tip that the Coast Guard has a sight for registeration of boats in the boating safty devision. go to their sight and plug in your WCL info. Seems as though REGraham had a business in Orange county and built Wood strippers...(Bob Wonacott seems to have been the brains and so one of the readers has said). canoes drift boats and sea kiacks in business 1975-6 closed business in 1987..He may have moved to washington in the early 80s..What was the name of the old business you purchased--that had the drift boat in it? I have several good tid bits of info about my stripper which you might find interesting. What city do you live in Washington? I have a brother in Port Orchard and my son used to live in Eatonville, not far from puwallup. Garry Wonacott
Wonacott Canoes

My father Ray Wonacott founded Wonacott Canoes in the early 70's. The canoes were made in Wenatchee, Washington. One of his later partners was named Grahm or Graham and was located in Long Beach (Orange County) California. The canoes were not made there but in Wenatchee. He made several models including 16 ft. double-ender, 18-ft. square stern, a rowing shell, a dinghy (yacht tender). I don't believe he ever made any drift boats.
If I am reading this board right, your question at the top was never answered and everyone was off on a different subject, so here is an attempt to help you out.

I have strippers that are over 20 years old and they look just like the day they were built, so it is possible to take care of them but it is a little tricky to fix them.

Chances are you don't know if the covering is epoxy or polyester resin so you will be going into this a little blind. If the boat is epoxy covered then the sanding is going to be tough going and the problem with sanding an epoxy coated boat down to the bare wood is the different strengths of the epoxy coating and the cedar strips. What tends to happen is sand paper will demolish the softer wood surrounding the hard epoxy while you are attempting to get a smooth finish.

For this reason I strongly recommend that you do not try to strip the entire boat down to bare wood. You are much better off simply feathering the edges and putting in cloth patches, and then feathering them down. Or you could choose to feather down the edges and re-cloth the entire hull bottom. It will be a bit heavier but will also be a lot less work and easier to do. You may want to have some stains around to try to match colors because the portion of the boat that you do hit bare wood on will most probably end up being lighter than the rest of the boat.

You have to remember that the strips are only 1/4" to start with and you do not know how much the builder took off during their building process so you may be sanding a strip area that is already 1/8" thick. Cedar strip boats do not get their stength from the cedar they get it from the glass and epoxy which is why it is so important to use a good quality epoxy.

Well I hope that helped.

Best Regards

fixing a wonacott

I worked for Ray Wonacott in Wenatchee in 1976 and own a sixteen footer. Unlike other cedar stripper canoes, the Wonacott used a beaded joint, so is extremely light weight. The wood is mostly just a frame for the fiberglass and is very thin. I would strongly recommend not attempting to remove the fiberglass exterior, simply feather in your repair and sand it down with a light air radial sander to proper shape. These fine boats were epoxied so that answers a comment on another response as to the material of construction.

You should be pleased with your is truly a work of art that Ray created.

Be careful in rough water after the repair though as the shell gets its strength from surface tension and this is invariably weakened by the repair. I would hate to see it folded up in a river.


Wonacott Canoe

Steve Wonacott said:
My father Ray Wonacott founded Wonacott Canoes in the early 70's. The canoes were made in Wenatchee, Washington. One of his later partners was named Grahm or Graham and was located in Long Beach (Orange County) California. The canoes were not made there but in Wenatchee. He made several models including 16 ft. double-ender, 18-ft. square stern, a rowing shell, a dinghy (yacht tender). I don't believe he ever made any drift boats.
Dear Steve,

My name is Jerry Annoni and in 1975 my wife and new born son went to Washinton (Sunnyside) for a Falconry meet and on the way we went to Wenachee to buy one of your father's canoes. I had the privledge of talking to your dad and learned a few things about canoe making. The first thing I learned was, it is a difficult business. Your dad told me that his accountant just told him he could not continue more than two more years because the quality of his product was too labor intensive. Just an example; the thwart was made of oak, cut in nine strips, steamed, bent, glued and then hand shaped.

Each 3/4 cedar strip was convex on one edge and concave on the other so they would mate with no gaps. The inside of the canoe was covered with one piece of fiber glass with no darts taken out of it.

When I arrived the canoe I chose was just being completed. The fellow finishing the canoe told me they actually name each canoe and keep it on record. My canoe was named "Beaver". It had "racing stripes" on the gunnals just below the rail, they have since faded.

"Beaver's" serial number is WCL001190575. Truly a work of art.

I just recently refinished "Beaver" for the second time. This time I used a PPG poly vinyl urethane. It is supposed to be 100% U.V. resistant.

Your dad told me the story of when he was invited to the Canadian Canoe Museum when one of his canoes was installed in the museum. As a courtesy he was allowed to try out any canoe in the museum. So he chose a beautiful Indian Birchbark. Being unfamiliar with its trim, when he slid aboard it flipped him right in the drink. He said, "very embarassing."

Well Steve, I hope all is well with you and yours. I don't know if your dad is still with us or not, but it was great meeting him back in '75'. His canoes are quite a legacy. I'll try to attach some photo's of "Beaver".

Jerry Annoni

PS I still have two of WCL brochures.


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Very nice post thank you for the info.
I had posted a query sometime ago about a Wonnacott. This canoe is in the BC interior but the owner never wanted to sell,never even got a look at it.They seem to be beautifully made.
So I have a Cedar stripper made by Wonacott. Serial number is WCL002220978. it also has these numbers in the front gunwale 01 15 222. i cannot post pics yet so i will wait. but i have a lot of questions. I only know very little about the provenance of this canoe. And it was from the former owner. He did not know much. Bought it on craigslist about 5 years ago. it was US $1800. it is in very great shape. As explained by the former owner. He said it hung in the Skamania Lodge for about 20 years. Since i have owned it i have taken it out just 2 times. It is so light and fast! A real thing of beauty. The craftsmanship speaks for itself. The builder had a love of doing this and it shows. The former owner left it outside against his garage for maybe 10 years. because of this the outer varnish is peeling. There is also a crack in the center bottom Fiberglass. it is about 7 or 8 inches long. It does not penetrate to the inner layer of glass. I have perused so many sites for information about these boats. I have only found this site and a few others with pertinent info. I would appreciate any info and advice. I want to refinish and repair the glass crack. I have read other posts about people asking exactly this. Thank you for any info you can offer. i have joined a wooden boat club in tacoma to learn more about building and repairs. Getting excited about it :>)


Michael Maddux
Here are some pics and a couple videos of the canoe.


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Back in those days there were a few builders concentrating on wood strip marathon racing canoes, but commercially built recreational strippers were pretty much limited just to Wonacott and Wilderness Boats in Oregon (originally David Hazen's company, later sold to Bob Foster and Bob Forrester). If a customer had requested a non-standard length canoe it really wasn't much of a problem to adjust the forms on the strongback a bit and build it. It could even be done with no on-paper design work, simply by eyeballing the shape as the form spacing was adjusted and tacking on a few temporary strips as battens to check for fair curves before beginning to actually strip the hull. These were small companies, struggling to make a buck and a special order was worth filling if it could be done economically, so it doesn't surprise me that something could show up that was not listed in their literature. They also didn't have the money to print new catalogs every year, so changes and additions weren't always listed. To demonstrate the small nature of this sort of business back then, at one point Bob and Bob realized that they weren't going to make any money building canoes and offered to sell me the Wilderness Boats Inc, company for $10,000. Luckily, I didn't have $10k at the time, because I probably would have been crazy and dumb enough to buy it.