Refurbishing interior without recanvasing


New Member

I took my (new to me) 1923 OT Charles River model up to the Charles River at the Auburndale (Newton, MA) boathouse yesterday. The owner of “Charles River Canoe & Kayak” met me and helped me get the canoe off the truck and down to the pier.

He suggested I didn't need to recanvas, just sand and repaint. Great! That wasn't a job I was looking forward to. The canvas looks almost as if it didn't get enough filler and is very rough. The paint looks almost the color of the bottom paint I use on my sailboat and sands just about the same as well. Sanding a small spot seems like it will work with good enamel (Kirby) for paint. It’s worth it to try the sand and paint idea first. If it doesn't look good I can still strip the canvas and start fresh.

I had planned on stripping and then using the teak cleaner to refinish the interior, red cedar and mahogany - AA finish. With the canvas off aggressively using stripper shouldn't have been a problem but with the canvas on ... I'd rather not scrape and sand if possible - takes too long.

Any suggestions?


The attachment was taken by my girlfriend on the far shore after we had paddled for an hour or so - great day!


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Hi Ray,

Sounds like you care for this canoe, and justifiably- a 1923 AA-grade Charles River is a nice canoe. So your reluctance to aggressively sand and/or scrape is good, not because it's too much work, but because doing either one could really be hard on your canoe. Aggressive sanding of a finish can really do damage to the wood, just as scraping can, especially if you're working on planking and rib edges. Stripper is always the way to go. I've never tried stripping the interior with a filled canvas on, but the stripper may cause filler/paint problems.

So what to do? First, I'd take a careful look at the canvas, and ask myself if I knew it's age. Maybe sometime soon it would be best to re-canvas. But for now, if you want to leave the canvas as is, how about a light sanding of the interior (not breaking completely through the finish that's already there) followed by a few coats of varnish? You will probably be amazed at how well this will work. It should look good and be fully functional (assuming your old varnish isn't peeling off the wood).

When (if) you do a full restoration, you'll be amazed at the exquisite beauty of the red and white cedar hull contrasted against that aged mahogany. Don't stain! These three aged woods have a rich patina all on their own, even after stripping, cleaning and bleaching.