Stem Band Keel Transition


Rolf Warncke
I'm getting ready to finish up my first restoration. 1945 Otca. The canvas and stem band were off when I got he boat. I'm hoping someone could post a photo of where the stem band transitions to the keel. Do they just butt together? I need to make the new keel and get it attached so that I can begin painting Wednesday... weather permitting. Also need to know how best to get a nice shine on the stem bands. :confused:

Thanks so much!
Tapers to Nothing

The keel tapers in thickness and width to nothing under the stem band. I can shoot a photo tomorrow of the one on the lightweight, but as far as I know they were all done the same way.


The junction depends upon whether your canoe had outside stems or not. If it had outside stems, the stem and keel meet with a continuous, flush surface, and the stem band runs across the stem-keel junction and protects it. If there were no outside stems, then as Fitz says, the keel tapers. But it tapers down to nothing, gradually, only in the VERTICAL dimension. In the lateral dimension, the keel should taper in width from each side, only down to the width of the stem band. This provides a surface upon which the stem band rests.

Taper the vertical dimension by eye (I start on the bandsaw, then use block plane and/or spokeshave), making it such that the stem band lies in a continuous curve, without any lumps or bends. Then mark the lateral dimension using the stem band as a guide, and taper it (carefully so as not to damage the thin trailing end) with a block plane.

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Thanks Mike, yes I misspoke about the width. It tapers to the width of the stem band.

I fabricated a keel for a 17 ft OCTA with Steve Lapey's help on the table saw. He made up some jigs to do the work. Here are some dimensions:

The keel that came off of the canoe was 13 ft 6 in., 7/8 inch high, and 1 inch wide. The tapers extend almost 24 inches from the tips and the bottom side that mounts to the canoe hull has a neat concave cut. The sequence of the cuts is critical.

The bottom taper is cut first, then one side of the blank is beveled to 20 degrees. Then the concave cut is made followed by the second bevel cut.

The last part of the deal is the taper/bevel cuts on the sides of the keel, this requires two different taper jigs, both of which are used on the left side of the blade with a piece of 2 x 2 used as a rip fence on the table saw. These jigs are equipped with clamping devices to hold the keel firmly in place while making the last cuts.

I began the tapering with a long blank 1 1/2 inches wide and 7/8 inch thick and worked that down to the final dimensions.

The concave cut helps hold some bedding compound underneath. I have seen keels with no concave area as well.

I'll post a photo as soon as I can. The varnish on the rails is wet, so I can't flip it just yet:eek: .

The 1940 Old Town Guide was handy, so I took some photos of that:


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Great help!

Thanks for the pictures. They really clear things up for me. After doing some additional detective work with what's left of the old keel I'm finding that the keel on my 16' Otca is also 13'-6". Is that normal that a 16' and 17' canoe would have the same length keel? I'm headed out this morning to get the material for that.

My next step is to fabricate the keel and put a coat of varnish on the side that goes against the hull. Should I prime the hull first before I attach the keel or do I just use the bedding compound up against the filler. I don't want to assume that it doesn't make a difference.

Also my question from the original post. How do I get a nice polish on the stem band?

If you're going to prime, why not prime the hull and keel at the same time? If so, then attach the keel first.

As for stem bands, the brass will polish up as nicely as you want. If you're re-using old bands, you have to be very careful not to bend and break them at the screw holes. New ones are much easier to polish before you drill. Sand if needed, using some fairly fine paper (like 320 maybe), and then polish on a bench grinder with buffing wheel and compound. But the shine will tarnish fairly quickly unless you keep it polished. You could lacquer the stem bands, but any coating is going to get nicked and scratched as soon as you start using the canoe.


Thinking back to the OTCA, there is a chance that the keel was replaced previously (but well done by a boatbuilder years ago). When I put the new keel on, I remember thinking it was a bit short for my liking, so if your keel is 13-6, I would go with that for your 16 footer. The taper runs the last 24 inches.
I am not going to be able to provide pictures, but my 1918 Otca has outside stems and keel. The stem bands were inset into a tapered grove in the keel leaving no hard corners. I spent a lot of time at the Assembly this year looking at stem bands and none were inset (that I saw) and very few were tapered.
If your canoe didn't have outside stems make sure the keel you mill is long enough that the ends overlap the inside stems. The mid section is usually attached from inside the hull with screws through every other rib and then the ends are attached with much smaller screws from the outside, through the keel and into the inside stems. The stem bands then overlap the ends of the keel protecting them and the screws driven from the outside.
For what they might be worth, here are some pictures of the keel/outside stem/stem band junction on a 1931 50-pounder. I believe that, except for the paint, this is the original configuration.

The keel itself on this boat stays narrow for its full length -- I assume to foster the light weight of the 50-pounder.


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Thanks again to everyone for the input. I fabricated and attached the keel yesterday, and will be starting to paint today. I really enjoyed all the pictures that everyone posted. I hope that my results are as they should be. Thanks again.