Repair / Restore dry shrunken planks

Douglas Kestell

Lignum Linter Fanaticus
I’m restoring a 1915 OT Charles River and the ribs and planks are VERY dry.
The planks have shrunk quite a bit. When I washed the interior after stripping the finish the planks swelled and the gaps between them decreased considerably.

Are there any recommendations to restore your he dried planks? I don’t know if a few coats of “cut” boiled linseed oil will have much effect, or if there are any other tips someone can recommend.

Michael Grace

Lifetime Member
These are two perennial questions on these forums, among the most commonly asked. Search around and you’ll find previous discussions. But in short, old canoes very often have planking gaps and apparently dry, brittle planking (and other wood).

Planking gaps usually aren’t a problem on cedar-canvas canoes because of the canvas covering. Gaps of 1/16” or even a bit more are nothing to worry about. A couple of example threads:

Many who restore treat the outside of the hull with thinned boiled linseed oil, tung oil, or varnish, and of course the interior gets varnished. Doing this makes a huge difference.

Bottom line -there have been countless restorations over the years and it’s valuable to trust the collective wisdom that’s been generated. If still in doubt, post photos with additional questions, and read up on the many restorations documented here. There are also multiple excellent books that provide outstanding information. For example:

Hope this helps,
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