restoring a chestnut


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I've just begun trying to restore the chestnut canoe that I grew up in (until my dad, brother, and I hit a rock in northern minnesota in about 1985).

I'm wondering if anyone can tell me which chestnut this is and how much rocker it is supposed to have (it appears to have 3-4" at the moment and I'm not sure if that is intentional or a result of the fiberglass).

It is 18' long, 36" wide, and about 16" deep. The serial number 04 9033 is stamped on only one stem. The ribs are 3/8" thick and at about 2" spacing. It was bought in the late '60s.

Thanks in advance for any help in identifying this canoe.

Duluth, Minnesota


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My 18 ft chestnut has a fairly flat run with only 1" of rocker measured 2ft from the ends, almost all the apparent rocker happens in the that last 2ft.
I have just acquired an 18' Ogilvy and before I went to look at it, I went to a members site on and it is the "Jockolgilvy" site and it has numerous catalogs, pictures, descriptions, and dimensions of just about every Chestnut canoe!..........You should go there and take a look@ it. The depth as you decribe yours would suggest it to be a Freighter model but your width doesnt support what I looked at on those catalogs, as well as the space between ribs..I am not a "pro" at this so good luck!
Blue Viking - "It is not how many strokes of the paddle it takes to get there, rather it is the JOY that is in the journey."-Mine
Maybe the owner of this site will jump in and give you some really educated help.
WOW! This canoe has done more than just hit a rock! With much of the gunnels gone, the rocker that you measured could be from any number of causes.

Its definitely not an Ogilvy. I could be a Prospector with that depth and rocker, but its so hard to tell from the photo.

You need to stabilize the structure. I'd get a 2X2 ( or whatever seems appropriate) and screw it to the outside of the canoe, placing the screws in the original keel holes. A 2X2 should have enough flex to take a nice natural curve for the rocker and enough strength to line the bottom up evenly, especially as you really don't know what the rocker should be. Then I'd go about getting new gunnels installed, once you do that, then you can remove the 2X2 brace and carry on.

Good luck!

Thanks for the advice, Doug.

Sounds like a good idea to screw a guide to the keel to level out the humps and find the rocker. You can maybe see from this attached picture that there is a big bulge (right below the sun) that I'm hoping will be correctable.

I was thinking to replace the inwales by securing them at the end without all of the broken ribs, bend new ribs around the outside of that end, put those new ribs every other rib in the other end, and then attach the inwales at that end.

Once it's in fairly 'level' shape, then I hope to start going to town on replacing lots of broken ribs and planking..


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Another thing you can consider, since the canoe is (theoretically) symmetrical end-to-end, is to remove every other rib from the good end and move them to the busted-up end. It will help reshape the end. Inserting a lot of new ribs in a row without distorting the hull is tough - this might add structure to the broken end and give you a reference to shoot for wrt hull shape.
WOW!....thanks for that post Dan!....I have an old Faber that I will be doing and have saved this suggestion as a great way to do that one..It needs just that type of thing to keep its shape!.....thanks!:)
While the moving alternate ribs can work, it is a ton of work and should be saved for when its absolutely necessary, or when your billable hours are cheap! And you still need to ensure that, when you install them, you are not causing any hull distortions.

Keep in mind that the rib moved may or may not cover the planking exactly like the old rib, traces of the old ribs may not be covered.

This particular project doesn't appear to require this approach, but there's a lot that can't be seen just form the photos.
From the depth, it seems like a prospector. Two construction details could confirm. Check the ribs. One edge should be beveled. The other edge straight. Beveled edge always points to narrow end of the canoe.

Check the planking. At the middle, near the sheerstrake, Chestnut always seemed to use a plank conspicuously wider than the other planks--4-5 inches wide.

While great canoe, Chestnuts in late years could be shoddy in construction. Check how well ribs are attached to inwales. Gaps? One nail? This one is so far gone, sentimental reasons might be the sole justification for all the work its going to take. You may need to reattach every rib inwale connection.
I rarely see the wide center plank in any of the Chestnuts that I've worked on, and its quite a few. So its not a universal trait.

They used two different rib styles, the narrow rib which was parallel sided and had a rounded over edge; and the wide rib, which had a beveled edge. The quality of the beveling is inconsistent. It seems to be done before the rib taper is cut, so it is present on the untrimmed side, and along the center portion of the trimmed side.

Being that you're in Duluth, you might take up to Stewart River and see what Alex thinks of it.

And if your ever down in the Cities and want to look at or talk canoes, stop by, we're not far off I35W on the North side.

Other then that, good luck fixing up this canoe.

Should have said look for the wide plank on a prospector, not Chestnuts in general. Fitz's had it. Mine had it. Ditto beveled rib. Steve Lapey has done a few prospectors and they had the wide plank and bevel rib. I have an Ogilvy and no wide plank is on it.