Seliga restoration completed


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I just got back from picking up my `55 17' Joe Seliga canoe from Alex Comb - Stewart River Boatworks. Alex did a wonderful job on the canoe and I highly recommend his work for anyone else who is looking for someone to restore a fine old canoe. Interestingly, he had an old B.N. Morris right next to it in his storage garage.
The Seliga is number 554199; originally one built for the Sommers BSA Canoe Base. The fellow who bought it from Sommers had removed the fiberglass covering and replaced the canvas, gunwales, decks, thwarts, and seats in a manner that was not up to the original standards of the canoe. Alex took the canoe down to the bare hull and replaced all those items along with either replacing ribs outright when both tips were in bad shape or cracked, or scarph jointing new rib tips where needed. Alex was able to find some really nice mahogany to use for the new outer rails and did a beautiful job replacing the inner rails with Sitka spruce. I opted to have him use black cherry for the decks, seats, and thwarts. Some of the planking had been previously replaced with mismatched flat sawn cedar that had cracked. Alex took the time to find cedar that would closely match the original material and redid that area of the hull. Note that this Seliga is one of the wide 6" planked hulls.
The hull was recanvassed, filled, and repainted in a 50:50 mix of Epifanes #72 and #65 yacht enamel. It really shines and I love the color green. Not too light or too dark, but it changes depending on the lighting.
I am attaching some photos that I took today and hopefully I will be able to bring it to one of the annual assemblies soon.
John Schnettler


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Congratulations on getting your Seliga,

Alex did a great job, I'm sure that it looks better now then when it was new. (as Joe wasn't using much cherry back then, the front now looks like his latest versions. FWIW, I did the same thing on my 58, up-dating it to look like new version)

BTW, all the 6" planking should be western red cedar.

Be sure to post pics of it's maiden voyage.

prettier but not better...

I'm not sure if it is better than new, but it is prettier. Well... with no fiberglass perhaps it is better ;)
I went back and forth in my mind over whether to try to stay true to how the canoe looked originally. The problem was I didn't really know what woods were originally used (probably was a lot more ash on the boat). And there was no way I was going back to fiberglass :(
So, like you, I figured I would go to what Joe did towards the end of his career. It is pretty much exactly what I would have ordered from Joe had I gotten the chance. Only difference might have been no keel.
I already had it out on a lake up in Northern Wisconsin on my way back from Duluth last week. The canoe paddles really nicely. I'm not sure about the rear seat location though. Based on my before and after photos Alex moved the seat forward about 2 ribs (5 " ???). The original seat wasn't as far back as some of the Sommers canoes I've seen (boy those Charlies had narrow butts), but it wasn't this far forward either. It trims a little different now and I ride a little lower.
I can't wait to take it back up to the border lakes. Maybe this fall if I can find a partner. Until then it will be evening paddles with my wife on the lakes here in Ohio and hopefully a trip to the BSA 100th anniversary Jamboree in Virginia this July. :)
Beautiful canoe,

If I recall correctly Sommers did not offically outlaw poop decking until about 66 or 67, about the same time they banned riding the swimming moose and jumping off before the swimming creature could get his feet on the bottom.
I was told of the increadible number of fleas that the moose rider had to share space with as they headed for high ground.

The poop decking practice neccesitated moving the seat back as far back as one could get it before cutting into the corners of the seat. The practice of moving the seat back continued after the ban both for the greater elevation of line of sight and the narrower hull profile from which to paddle from all day ,requiring a little less reach for the paddle stroke.

An ageing Charlie
extreme example

Here is one of the more extreme examples. I believe it is still available from Steve Piragis.


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Wow, that seat is way back. :)

Having the rear seat placed as far back as possible is a very old practice, and I suspect that with Joe being a relatively small guy, he also biased the rear seat rearward. And in fact, on our 01, that we got new from Joe, the rear seat is farther rearward then I would prefer, and can't really fit in the seat, (due to my very wide rear. :) )

As for the wood species in yours, I can take a pretty good guess, based on our 58 and other canoes in the record.

Stems, seats, thwarts, yoke, keel - ash (local, white or black)

Deck - mine 58 had birch, it could also be ash, Joe didn't start using other woods until later, then he also used mahogany and ultimately cherry.

Gunwales - my 58 had spruce inner and outers, they could also be ash in the early years. Again, later he also used mahogany, I've near seen or heard of himusing cherry but you never know.

Ribs - white cedar, (I've never seen or heard of a canoe the Joe didn't use white cedar for the ribs.)

Planking - could be either Northern White or western red, depending on what he could get, all of the 6" planking is western red, that he got from a supplier in the Cities who would resaw it for him to roughly 1/4", all he had to do was the final sizing and it was ready to use.

I think you were right to not re-fiberglass it, while Joe used glass for about 10years, he didn't like it and switched back to filled canvas in the 60's.

FWIW, the 58 is our favorite canoe, for some reason, it is more comfortable (to us) then the 01.

Sorry this isn't the best of pics, but a Charley guide moose riding in 1964



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That's crazy!

Wow, that is totally crazy! Just don't let PITA get a hold of those. ;)
Whenever I am out in moose habitat I am wary of Mama Moose. She is very protective and can do alot of damage to a human with those 4 hooves. I know they are pretty much defenseless in the water, but still...
Thanks for digging up the pics.
Here are two of mine:
First is Charlie John Graham preparing sweet roll dough for baking in a reflector oven. He always wore his sash, flannel shirt, and suspenders. He also smoked a pipe. Pretty sure it was tobacco :D Yours truly is on the left with the hat.
Second is John with his Seliga on some portage along the border. Could be the miler around Upper Basswood Falls. I vaguely remember taking pics while resting on that one.


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Hey Guys,

Love the pics. Sure am looking forward to getting up.

I've seen pics of moose riding before but they were always older ones, these are relatively recent.