Restoring a Redwood Strip Canoe in AK


New Member
A friend recently gave me a redwood strip cargo canoe of unknown age and origin. I would love to restore it and use it on the rivers and lakes around Prince of Wales Island, AK where I live with my wife, three daughters, newborn son, and my Chesapeake Bay retriever, Coach.

I have no frame of reference for where to begin, so I thought I'd start here. My biggest question is about supplies. We have limited access to certain items (the only place on the island that sells fiberglass cloth is out, and the lady told me she might be getting some in March or April). The Internet is my best option, but I don't feel comfortable shopping on line when I really don't know what it is I need.

The canoe is 16 ft. long and 32 inches wide in the middle. The glass is intact--with some blistering--throughout the inside of the canoe. Most of the glass on the outside is gone with some large patches still on the bow. I don't know if the gunwales are okay, although it looks really soft where there have been bolts, and the seats don't look very secure.

So my question is this: Assuming I don't have anything, what do I need before I start?

Here are some pictures to help show where I am starting:







Thanks for taking the time to look at this.
Step #1 would be to very carefully consider whether or not you really want to take on this project? Unlike wood/canvas canoes, old abused strippers seldom return to their old glory as it's very difficult to get the wood clean enough that it looks nice and isn't blotchy. Paint, inside and out after the fiberglass is replaced, may well be the only way to end up with a nice looking boat. The task is actually more work than building a new one from scratch and not as rewarding. plus the cost of doing it right isn't that far away from starting over with clean, new wood and doing it right the first time. I'm not trying to shoot down your project, but you might get more enjoyment for the same amount of labor building your own boat. It's just not that difficult and this project involves nearly all of the tricky stuff, without the same potential for a nice reward.

16' x32" is not a cargo canoe. In fact, it's at about the minimum 4" waterline beam for a tandem canoe that most folks feel comfortable, stability-wise, as a recreational paddler. Be aware that after all that work, this one might be a bit more tender than most typical recreational canoes. As a general-purpose family boat, a lot of people would prefer something with a bit more beam.
I'd listen to Todd. If someone brought this to me, and asked what it would cost to restore it, my answer would be something like at least twice what it would cost to buy a new one, and it might be a lot more, depending on how much labor it ends up being.

If you want to take it on as a learning experience, consider that you'll learn everything from building a new one from scratch, that you would from restoring this one, only you'll end up with a nicer-looking boat, and you'll experience a whole lot less aggravation along the way. So unless it's a family heirloom, I wouldn't touch it.

It looks like all the remaining glass would need to be stripped. There are posts here describing that process (slowly & carefully, with a heat gun & putty knife). I'd take the outwales off, leaving the inwales & thwarts installed (to help maintain the shape), then strip, clean, sand, & re-glass the outside, and then repeat the process for the inside. While working on the inside, you'll need to use some rope, straps, or other rig to keep the hull from splaying out toward a flatter shape, but make sure you don't get washboard-y along the sheer lines. For all the trim (gunnels, thwarts, seats, decks) I'd make new ones, as it's a lot easier than cleaning the old ones, even if they don't have soft, rotted spots... which you'll probably find as you take all these parts off.

I'm sorry the news isn't better, but it's best to have realistic expectations.