Restoration of a 1933 Old Town OTCA

Sudsmixer

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I thought I would start a thread and document my work on this beautiful piece of history. I have already learned tons from the forum and perhaps you all can help me avoid any disastrous mistakes.

First, I started out by pressure washing with my new 3000 psi pressure washer.





Joking, haha. No pressure washing.


The canoe had a literal 1/8 inch of compacted dirt from hanging in a garage for 50ish years. Soapy water and a brush and garden hose took off a bunch of it. No pictures of this, I didn't see the need.

Next, I started stripping what ever was on the outer hull. It was pitch black in color, very hard and very thick in some places and not so much in others. Varnish or shellac I assume ? Being a chemist, I used my special home made methylene chloride based stripper. It will dissolve anything including my gloves which I had to change 6 times in 2 hours. Don't worry. I have a respirator :)

It was about 1/3 done in the two hours I worked on it after work yesterday. There was a surprising amount of material removed. Like maybe 1/4 lb of material. The red cedar is beautiful and will be smooth as a baby's bottom when I give it a light sanding this weekend.

Here are a couple pictures showing the stripping in process. Dark areas are where the wet stripper is, and you can see the cedar cleaned off in the middle of the canoe.

The only question I have so far is: I am considering covering it with Dacron when the time comes. I have built 12+ large model aircraft, so I am really comfortable with heat shrinking material. Am I going to need to fill all the tack divots in the hull so they do not show?

Any thoughts or comments are welcome.
 

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Since nobody has jumped in yet, I will. You have more experience using dacron than I, but I have helped others in the dacron-re-covering of canoes followed by painting them. The short answer is that you will see every lump and imperfection which remains on the hull. That includes proud tacks and divots, and the gaps between planks. You're not going to get rid of everything. I have to wonder whether anyone has tried to "paint" a hull with something like a high fill primer, followed by careful sanding, and then dacron, but I've not heard of it being done.

As a retired chemist I am interested in your special stripper recipe. I've worked on some canoes where nothing I tried successfully removed old paint, and I've tried a lot of things. The stripper that I buy has a lot of dichloromethane in it. Tom McCloud
 
Am I going to need to fill all the tack divots in the hull so they do not show?

I am not a restoration expert but filling in the tack divots is usually discouraged since it is highly likely that anything you use to fill will probably come loose eventually and make a bigger problem when it starts moving around later. Good luck,

Benson
 
Thanks for the replies everyone.

I agree with not filling the tack divots. What ever choice I make, I think I will not try to fill them in.

About the time I was getting really tired of scraping off old finish, I found a furniture re-finisher in Toledo Ohio that had a strip tank big enough to fit the canoe. I dropped it off Friday and it will be done Thursday. I will update with the results and pictures later this week.

As I ponder covering with Dacron, I could first tack glue 1/8 inch closed cell medium firm foam to the hull. It would hide any imperfections up to maybe 1/16 and bridge any slat gaps. I think I could do this in just an hour or two. You can make perfect seams by overlapping the material and cutting with a new razor blade. It of course would have to have a melt/soft point above 350 to work. This would add only ounces to the canoe which is the purpose of using Dacron in the first place. The foam is completely impervious to water, mold and mildew. I wonder if anyone has ever attempted this? Of course at some point, the effort and cost doesn't make sense and it would be better to just canvas the canoe.
 
the effort and cost doesn't make sense and it would be better to just canvas the canoe.[/QUOTE said:
Now you are thinking on the right track, Suds!
The rib/plank/canvas system has been working fine for 140 years....
 
Just use #12 if you are that worried. The gaps serve as an escape for water that has gotten inside the hull when in use. Needs a way to escape when it is drying out. Just go with what has been shown to work over the years. There is a reason and experience behind it although not all is stated.
 
Old finish stripped

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The old girl is back from the strip shop and they did a pretty good job. The cost was $300 which seemed a little high for what I got, but I am not complaining. In the first photo you can see how nicely the mahogany turned out. It should really pop when I get 5-6 coats of varnish on it.

If you are in the Midwest, the shop was Central Avenue Strip Shop, Toledo Ohio. (419) 841-7100

A question for you all- The second picture is of the front seat. Unlike the back seat, it is bolted on top of the gunwales. And it used steel carriage bolts. I am assuming this is not original as I have not seen a picture of another canoe set up like this. There are no other holes in the inwales so maybe they moved it from under to the top to get a bit more height ? Why? Any thoughts?

You can see part of the seat is missing. I am going to try to make the missing piece. I found a nearby store with real African mahogany. They do mail order also I think if you are not in the Midwest. They also have western red cedar. I will give a review of the place once I have shopped there.

KenCraft Company
821 N. Westwood Ave.
Toledo, OH 43607

Phone: 419-536-0333
Fax: 419-536-0944

E-mail: hardwoods@kencraftcompany.com
 
Old Town used different species of mahogany over the years. I suspect a canoe of this vintage has Genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) as trim. Also known as Honduran, South American etc. It is typically darker red than African. African could be stained to match pretty well probably.
 
LL Johnson's Lumber in Charlotte, MI which is maybe at the most 3 hours from Toledo has genuine Honduras Mahogany(Swietenai macrophylla). I have bought much from them over the last 40+ years.
 
PS: If you should go to LL Johnson's you do not buy the pretty planed expensive stuff. You need to get out in the warehouse and get the good rough stock. That way you have a better selection grain to face of the plank and 1" is 1" not cut down to 3/4". But then I never buy planed wood.
 
A question for you all- The second picture is of the front seat. Unlike the back seat, it is bolted on top of the gunwales. And it used steel carriage bolts. I am assuming this is not original as I have not seen a picture of another canoe set up like this. There are no other holes in the inwales so maybe they moved it from under to the top to get a bit more height ? Why? Any thoughts?

I can only guess why they moved the seat but it probably didn't leave the factory that way. The pictures below show the more typical way that a bow seat is secured. Good luck with the rest of the restoration.

Benson
 

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We have been covering canoes with dacron (3.8 oz.) for 20 years with great success, Yes, you need to make the hull fair. After reclinching ALL tacks. Do it again. Then, wet the hull and the dimples will pretty much disappear. A light (220 grit) sanding will show up any raised tacks. Before covering with dacron, a sealer(like Epifane Rapid Coat) should be applied.

We use NO tacks when applying dacron. A bonding tape is used. (Tacks are a main source of stem splitting).

Aircraft Dacron does not need filler as it has a tight weave. With a 20% shrink factor it can produce a very tight covering and it has a memory. We used to roll and tip, but now spray (hvlp) using water bourne paints and urethane finishes. You can spray one or two coats a day.
 
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