Steel Fasteners

T Michel

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I recently picked up a 1943 Old Town Otca (AA Grade) with a steel stemband, steel stem band screws and steel tacks. The gunnel screws and diamond head thwart/seat bolts are brass. As with any old canoe, they all look beautiful or most of them do.. and this gives new meaning to beauty is only skin deep. I have some stem work, and a few tips, rib ends and maybe a deck tip or two to fix along with thwart ends and gunnel screw holes. I expect I will need to do some refastening as well. Does anyone have any sources for steel and or galvanized steel clinch tacks. Does anyone have any restoration experience with such a WWII vintage canoe? Ted Michel, TVKW
1943 Guide

Hello T. Michel:

I finished a 1943 OT Guide for my dad last year. There is a thread here about it:'s+Guide

I found the steel tacks in this canoe were very competent. They were actually a buggar to pull. Your mileage may vary depending on how well the canoe was taken care of.

Good luck and keep us posted on your project.


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Howard Caplan said:
Is the use of steel fastners related to wartime rationing?

Yes, the availability of brass, bronze, copper, canvas, and cane were all limited during the Second World War so steel fastenings, slat seats, and many other adjustments were made to keep production going.

Hi Ted,

As Benson said, steel was the thing during the war years. Not just tacks, but other items as well; Old Town even made diamond-head bolts in steel. I've restored a number of these war-years canoes, and sometimes the steel diamond-head bolts are so corroded that they disintegrate as you try to remove them. Be glad you've got brass there. In one war-years CS-grade HW canoe, the corroded bolt heads left such nasty stains that they were impossible to remove.

Tacks leave stains as well. See attached photo of a 15' 50-Pound model after stripping, cleaning, bleaching (next to a 1917 canoe with brass tacks- clean!)... stains still there in the 15-50. A saturated solution of oxalic acid will help, but it is much more effective on light stains and some woods (i.e. white oak) than others (i.e. spruce, cedar).

As Fitz pointed out, steel tacks are a bear to remove. But if you do have to replace some, brass is fine- under varnish and after they surface oxidize, you'll not be able to tell the difference. On one restoration a few years ago, the steel tacks were so corroded that the planking was literally falling off the canoe. I replaced the original planking with brass tacks, and used more brass to shore up other planks. When finished, you'd be hard pressed to find the differences... except for lingering iron stains around the old steel fasteners.



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Thank you all, Fitz, Howard, Michael and of course Benson for responding so soon. Form initial observations, the tacks in this canoe are tight, and planking is tight. I will know more when the canvas is off. The part of the hull that I did expose is clean. The tack heads have some light coorosion - white surface. Inside, the clinch tips (some but not all) have created a whitish stain in the wood. It does not appear to be decay but I will find out.
Unfortunately stripping weather has almost disappeared here in VT so that will wait until spring when I can use the garden hose and Citrus Strip outside. Micheal, I used "snappy teak nu" from Jamestown Distributors as a bleach / wash after stripping another canoe. It did a fine job of bleaching and then removing the usual post stripper blotches. And Benson, in spite of my earlier exhuberance for this project, I fear that my initial findings will delay launch from Peterborough to the year after, where ever that may be. As this progresses and I master this Thread business, I may post some pictures. Fitz, if I can make this reply work, I may reply to another thread of yours. Thank you all again, Ted Michel, TVKW, Orwell, VT
Hi Ted,

Those white stains around tacks (and other fasteners) are corrosion, perhaps caused by salt water or other chemical exposure. While they won't disappear 100%, they'll probably be pretty un-noticeable when the canoe is finished.

Re "Snappy Teak-Nu"... what a name! This is the brand I currently use, and I like it so much that I buy it directly from the manufacturer in 8-gallon lots. The other excellent product is Te-Ka. Many of the off-the-shelf products, like West Marine's store brand and others, don't work nearly as well.

While winter is closing its grip in your neighborhood, down here in the sub-tropics, we're just getting into the finest part of the year. My brother called tonight from South Carolina complaining about the cold... I told him that as we spoke, I was canoe-restoring in the workshop with the doors open and the breezes washing through, wearing shorts and t-shirt. Gorgeous evening, even a little cool (about 70F)- tonight is much like many of our January/February evenings!

18' 1944 OT Guide

I got this 44 OT Guide a month or so ago that was built for U. Maine Orono and was used to Lasso and tag moose as part of a research program and was sent back twice for repairs..........I took the canvas off and just about every steel clinche nail head is literally Popping of due to rust. It is presently "wrapped" with a twine like line to keep the planking from flying off. It is presently covered and put away until spring due to the weather here in Maine...I have a couple of pounds of brass clinche nails and will basically re-build this one from one end to the only input to this is: When in doubt...replace it with brass !" If you find a problem removing the outwale screws....try a little remover on the tip of an artists brush and "dob" it on the screw head. It will loosen the varnish enough to get the screw out!