Request Reconstruction Help


New Member
We have a decrepit century-old 16' Old Town guide, wood cracked and in places decaying. Currently it is held together with leaky fiberglass. The chance to restore it was refused by several professionals. Rather than sinking it in the Monongahela I thought I would give a try at fixing it myself. I have no hopes of making it showpiece, just a dry usable canoe. I am looking for a comprehensive set of instructions on how to proceed. Is there a written guide or do I need to ask about every step? If the latter is the case - how do I get the fiberglass off? Thanks in advance. JF
If you don't already have your canoe's build record, you could begin by posting the serial number and a volunteer who has a set of Old Town records on CD will tell you what you have! The serial number on Old Town canoes is located on the upper face of the stems at both ends of the canoe. If you can't find the spot, look here:

Removal of fiberglass is discussed on a regular basis. You can use the "search" function above (put in "fiberglass") and you can watch a dandy video starring a friend of mine:

The short answer re fiberglass is that the better the glassing-job, the bigger the project. "Leaky fiberglass" sounds like a good deal!

You will need the bible of wood/canvas canoe repair: "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" by Stelmok and Thurlow.... available at the library or for purchase in the WCHA store or Amazon or eBay.

You can ask for help/support at every step--- and you can show pictures at every step too!

For inspiration, watch the following video completely to its end, and you'll see what Fred did. There's a wonderful article in the October issue of Wooden Canoe about Fred's restoration/rebuild. Also, many of the canoes in the following video needed a lot of help at one time. So, take heart, and know that your canoe can be beautiful again!
Not having seen the boat, I'll offer what little I can.

De-fiberglassing is a tedious and fairly unpleasant task; read the earlier posts that Kathy linked. Get a good quailty heat gun, and use A LOT of patience. Work carefully, so you minimize pulling the wood off with the 'glass. The fumes are not pleasant, and probably not good for you, so use a respirator for organic vapors. Keep a wet towel in a bucket with water nearby, in case something ignites.

This part of the job alone may be why professionals don't want to mess with it. Once the 'glass is off, the rest is relatively easy... and a whole lot more pleasant!

There's a nice boat under that 'glass, just needs some TLC. Give it a whirl; read the book, ask questions, and you'll find a lot of great advice here.

Where along the Monongahela are you located? There may be other folks here from your area, willing to look at it, give advice, and maybe lend a helping hand.

Just do it! You'll be glad you did!
Call me. I'm sure we can find plenty of advice and help within our Three Rivers Chapter right here in Pittsburgh

(412) 831-7066