restoring original Old Town finish


New Member
I am going to be restoring a 1941 OTCA that is in excellent condition, but needs some work. It currently has its original clear finish on the inside which is a beautiful antique orange color, but is worn down to bare wood in some places and is flaking off. Does anyone have advice on what is the best way to refinish the interior without losing that antique look? I was told that they may have added a brownish pigment to the shellac.

Also, on the thwarts, seats and deck (made of birch) you can see wood grain under the finish, but again it appears as if pigment was added giving it an almost brown paint look.

Thanks for any advice.
It should be a varnish not shellac on the inside. Try putting some denatured alocohol on a rag and lightly rubbing in a hidden spot. If it comes off it is shallac. If nothing happens it is varnish. Shellac comes in a number of grades, Bleached, Amber/Orange, Garnet as well as "raw" bug lac. Bleached is that "clear" stuff that is skind of white in the can. Amber/Orange is unbleached but pretty well refined. Garnet is a darker hue and not as refined. Bug lac is generally pretty dark and waxy with lac beetle parts etc. which is why it is called bug lac. Hope this helps.
It'll be varnish. If its not real dark just sand it and varnish over it, thats what I did with my 1964 Old Town Guide.
Shellac sealer?

Do you have the build record for your canoe? OT may have noted on the build record the use of shellac as a sealer on the canoe interior before varnish. I have seen this on several OT's made during the early 1940's.
Thanks everyone for your replies and advice. I do have the build order and it says varnish, but I thought they might have used that as a "blank" remark for any finishing.