Stretching canvas

Ed Blakeslee

Curious about Wooden Canoes
I'm going to canvas my canoe. This is my first attempt. Is it better/easier to do it with the canoe suspended right-side up or upside down on saw horses?
Thanks Ed
Blefuscudians cover their canoes, in the original style, open side up. But Lilliputians canvas their canoes open side down.

I've done it both ways -- open side up is exciting; you've got things moving and wiggling; there's tension and drama; there's something to describe and brag about when you're done! Open side down is more like the missionary position.
i like open side up except i've fallen out of the canoe a few times leaning over the gunnel to staple the canvas. upsidedown reminds me tooooo much of previous canoe trips! :eek:
bob goeckel said:
i like open side up except i've fallen out of the canoe a few times leaning over the gunnel to staple the canvas. upsidedown reminds me tooooo much of previous canoe trips! :eek:
I hate when that happens!!
Dear Ed,
I am no expert, however I have canvassed several canoes. The answer is for the first steps of canvassing--right side up; then for the last steps, turn the boat over. I followed the procedure outlined in the book The Wood and Canvas Canoe, A Complete Guide to its Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance, by Stelmok and Thurlow. These expert builders suggest: canoe right-side up--canvas suspended with wooden clamps---well anchored at one end---come-along winch at the other. Some sort of heavy 'ballast' in the boat. Then once you achieve the proper tension on canvas, attach canvas at each rib with help of artist's canvas pliers. Then to do the lap joint at the ends---turn the boat over on saw-horses and work along the stem toward each end of the boat. If you don't have the book I am refering to, purchase it. Read the section on canvassing. I followed those guidelines each time, there are many details I omitted in my email worth learning from the book, then procede. I did this and ended up with fine results each time. ---Sam
I'm in the canvas upside down camp. It is easier for single-handed canvasing than right side up, and requires less set up - all you need is a couple high sawhorses and two fixed points. You can do it in the back yard between a couple trees or bumpers, in the garage with a couple eyebolts anchored down low, etc. I bought a cheapo office chair and roll around the canoe as I staple the canvas on.

For specific details on the technique, see


The only major difference I do is that I no longer use the double stick tape but instead use bedding compound to lay up the ends.

I don't have any photos of the actual stretching but with my daughters help would be able to post finished product, if that would be of assistance. I used the information Dan Miller provided. Ed
Yump (said with Maine accent).

Headed for Yellowstone in the family truckster July 1th. Planning to canoe both the Snake and the Green rivers.

I told my 11 year old in Yellowstone in 2001 that when he made Eagle Scout we'd come back to Yellowstone. Well, he made Eagle in May.

Years ago a pal had given me a painting of a map of the Snake from Jackson Lake down river to Wilson. It had a fly-fishing theme with pictures of various flies fished in the Snake. I never really paid much attention to it until after that trip in 2001. Then I started thinking about a canoe project and bought that 1929 OT Guide from a fellow in Vermont. We restored it "via the internet" using this board in 2003-2004. We've had it on my local Duck hunting lake (250 acres) but not on a river. Anyway, it all comes together as we "canoe the painting" just after July 4.

I've always fished bamboo fly rods (I am of Irish descent with no visible sense of rythym or timing - things indispensible in flly-casting) because they forgive bad casting better than modern graphite rods. They are beautiful as well. In any case, I plan to be fly-fisihing a 1936 F.E.Thomas rod out of that 1929 OT canoe.

Yes I do suffer from nostalgia. :)

The link below has some "wet" pictures as well as a phot of our 1978 Seliga.