Where do I start? (Restoring 1969 Old Town Trapper)


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I inherited this old beaut from my Grandpa. My Grandma bought it for him in 1970 and he passed away in the mid nineties. It’s been sitting unused in my grandma’s garage ever since, until a month or so ago when I brought it to it’s new home. I’ve inspected the inside and outside and it looks like it’s in pretty good shape with a few exceptions. My goal is to do all the repair work myself and get it ready to get it back in the water this spring. Here are the issues I’ve discovered:

1. some of the planks have cracks and are peeling up on the inside (pictured) this seems like the most pressing of issues. I’m guessing the boat just dried out over time. How does one go about repairing these spots? Do they need replacing with whole new planks, or can I use some sort of filler and rehydrate the wood to get it back to its original form?

2. there are spots on the hull where it looks like the boat has rubbed against one too many rocks. (Not pictured, but I can go take some pics if necessary) None of the spots are actual holes, they just look like the finish has worn off. What kind of finish would this boat have had? I’m definitely a beginner to the world of wooden boats, but it doesn’t look to me like there is fiberglass on it. It just looks like wood and maybe some sort of shellac based finish. Hopefully someone on here can help educate me.

Any and all advice from the members of this forum would be greatly appreciated.


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Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
A Trapper from 1969 would be covered with "reinforced plastic" (a.k.a. fiberglass with polyester resin) as described in the catalog page at http://www.wcha.org/forums/index.php?attachments/44429/ from 1974. This will make any significant repairs unusually difficult. You may want to just use it gently if it doesn't leak too much. A good new coat of marine varnish with ultraviolet (UV) protection will help on the outside. You can post the serial number here if you would like a copy of the original build record. Others here can probably offer more detailed suggestions. Canoes with a family connection are always extra special. Good luck with the project,


Dave Osborn

Benson is correct. There is no way to fix or replace the cracked ribs and broken planking because the glass doesn’t come off to allow access to the breaks.
If you wanted to do correct and long lasting repairs, patience, a few hand tools, and a heat gun will allow you to remove the fiberglass.
At that point, make your repairs and either stretch canvas or re-glass it.
Short of that you may be able to syringe some epoxy under the lifted planks and use spreading clamps to force them down.

Greg Nolan

It looks to me like a couple of ribs are cracked above the split planking (not just peeling from drying out)-- indicating that the canoe hit something pretty hard, breaking the planking and ribs. If the fiberglass/polyester skin is still sound (not leaking) you can probably continue to use the canoe as is, knowing that it has been weakened where the wood is broken, and if the fiberglass has separated from the wood, you can perhaps help a bit if you can inject some epoxy between the skin and wood as Dave says.

The original interior finish would be varnish, not shellac.

Fiberglass with polyester resin is reputed to be easier to remove than fiberglass in epoxy. If you remove the existing fiberglass and make repairs, use epoxy if you are going to re-glass the canoe -- but recovering it with traditional filled canvas should be given serious consideration.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. I think for now I’ll be able to fill the cracks and give the outside a couple coats of varnish and she should be good to go. I’m going to save the re-glass or canvassing job for some date in the future (hopefully years from now)

Jim Dodd

LOVES Wooden Canoes
If the hull was glassed with Epoxy ? I'd be tempted to sand off the varnish, and add a layer glass (6oz) over the outside of the hull, up to about the 3" waterline. This will add some weight, but stiffen, and add abrasion resistance.

If Polyester resin ? It should peel off, with the aid of a heat gun, and pliers. I've redone a few hulls this way. Not that bad to do, especially if done outside. Reglass with epoxy and cloth.

You are not going to be able to effectively fix the breaks, on the inside. A coating of thickened epoxy, over them will aid in sealing the breaks, slowing down the rot process.

Quite doable !