To strip or not to strip the old Varnish


That old varnish on your Willits canoe is in VERY rough condition. It would be much better to strip and re-varnish. The one very important piece of advice here is that whatever you do, be sure that any sanding is done lightly and carefully, especially if there has been any previous sanding (likely, given that your canoe has been worked on in the past). The tack heads on your Willits are small, thin, and easily sanded down to nothing. They are what holds the outside longitudinal planking onto the canoe, so losing them can lead to delamination of the hull. Search the forums for "Willits" and you'll find lots of info on their history, construction and restoration. And of course Pat's book on Willits is a must-read; it includes not only detailed history but also lots of good information on care and use of the Willits canoe.

I agree with Michael's advice (particularly about my book!!). :)

From looking at the photos of the outside of the hull it is obvious that it has been sanded at least once. You can tell this because many of the tack heads are sitting higher than the wood. Also, there is at least one photo where the tack heads are missing altogether. You'll want to reclinch all the tacks and probably replace many of them. Don't skimp on any of this as it is critical to the continued survival of your canoe, at least if you want to do more than just hang it on the wall.
Where can you get suitable tacks and what is the best method for cinching them ?