refinishing my old cedar/fiberglass canoe.


New Member
Hi Folks, I am about to embark on a long awaited promise to refinish my 16' self-built canoe. It has 1/4" ribs, 1mm sheeting and a thin layer of fiberglass, spar varnished on the inside. It is currently in rough condition having been patched after years of "work" (pleasure) in Algonquin Park.
This is new for me. I built it as part of program back in the 70's with some fellow trippers.
Any suggestions as to the best way to strip off the patches, what to refinish it with, and how to get it seaworthy again would be appreciated.
The canoe was modeled in a Prospector style and weighed only 42 pounds while transporting (quickly) 3 men and gear for a 10 day interior trip.
What do you suggest? Leave responses here or email me directly at
Ty Carl
Hey algonq-

I am in a similar situation, although I personally constructed my 18 1/2 ft stripper in 1992. I have neglected it and the poly is peeling up in places and one spot has bubbled under the fiberglass. Are the patches you refer to the fiberglass turning loose from the wood? If so, you have a problem similar to mine. I would doubt that stripping to the wood (removing all the fiberglass) would be proper. I used very heavy cloth on the outside of my canoe and lighter on the inside. I am looking for recommendations of repair kits for the bubbled fiberglass and for the poly or varnish for the outside. Anyone with ideas would be appreciated.
I haven't worked on poly strippers, but have found that, with epoxy resin, you're better off removing a larger area than you think needs to be repaired. Maybe it's superstition, but putting smaller patchwork always looks worse, and seems to come off sooner, than larger ones. There are others here with much more experience than I; hopefully someone will chime in.
If it's done properly there is no reason that the patches should ever come off at all. If you cut out a defect, sand a bit to taper out the old glass around it for a couple of inches, lay on the new glass and sand it to taper out the edges of the patch, you shouldn't be losing any strength. Any spot that's delaminated, bubbled, or shows signs of water intrusion or heavy UV damage should be cut out (or heated and peeled out) and patched over or replaced. Epoxy resin will stick as well as, or better than, anything that would have been used and is the resin of choice for such repairs. After patching, the epoxy should be protected from UV with a good UV-filtered varnish or painted over. Whether it's a spot-patching job or a full re-glassing job would depend on how much area is involved. Very, very few badly damaged strippers are worth the trouble of re-glassing, as it's an easier and better proposition to start over and build a new hull. If your time has any value, it may not cost much more either.

Point of order: There is no such thing as "poly". You can have "polyester", "polyurethane", "polyethylene", "polysulphide" and "Polly wants a cracker", but the word "poly" really doesn't mean anything and just causes confusion.