Wood Canvas Paint problem


New Member
I have a wood canvas canoe that I built following "The Wood and Canvas Canoe" book. It was a great project, and turned out beautifully - to look at anyway. The problem is the first time I used it, I bumped the shore very gently and the paint just peeled off.

It seems the paint or primer is not bonded very well. I am not sure if the filler was not completely cured, or if I there was some sort of contaminate on the filler when I primed? I filled it last fall, and finished it this spring.

I think I should probably take the canvas off and start over, but at this point in the summer, I would like to get some use out of it first. Does anyone have any ideas on what could be done to make it usable at least in the short term. I am thinking that an extended trip is going to lead to some bumps, and I am not sure I would feel safe traveling in it the way it is.

Basically once the peel starts the paint layer can be pulled off pretty easily.
leave the canvas on

Sounds like the filler should have been well cured. If the paint peeled from the primer they did not like each other. Sand with 120 or 180 then paint. I use Kirby's or tractor enamel from the local TSC store.
x2 on leave the canvas. No reason to replace it! Sounds like a compatibility issue between the paint and primer. List the specific materials you used and I'm sure someone can help. I used Rollin's filler on my boat, no primer, and Interlux Premium Yacht Enamel. It has bounced off rocks with little more than light surface scratches.
Let's back up a bit; what filler did you use, what paint did you use, did you use a primer, what grit did you do your final sanding of the filler with, how long did the filler cure before painting? The more detail you can provide, the better we can troubleshoot.

The details on what I did

For filler I used the recipe that was in the Wood and Canvas Canoe book. It was last fall, and I had the book checked out from the library, so I do not remember the exact stuff that was in it.

I filled it last October and began the priming/painting in April.

I sanded with 120 grit before priming, and between coats of paint/primer.

The primer and paint were both hardware store Rustoleum enamel. ( now don't ask me what I was thinking when I put in hours and hours of work on the thing and then selected the cheapest paint I could get - especially since there is a boat works about 1 mile from my house!)

I have sanded the whole canoe with 120.

I am sort-of waiting here until I get a good plan on what to do.

I have used the Interlux 1 part paint on a couple stitch and glue kayaks it has proven very durable - but that is over a hard epoxy surface.

So maybe I should switch to a better paint. Are the marine paints a lot more durable?

Would a polyurathane clear coat over the paint help?

I have even considered epoxy over the paint but not ready to go there yet.

Maybe a 2 part poly paint - although I am not sure if it would be compatible.

I was thinking maybe I should make a couple test panels and see what works best?
Tremclad/Rustoleum works just fine.

One thing that I have found that can cause a problem is when the filler is sanded with too fine a grit. All that silica can really wear out the paper and you end up just polishing it, you need to refresh it often. I always use 100 grit hand sanded, just to know off the fuzz and grit. I use finer paper on paint only.

When did you varnish the interior - before or after you canvassed and painted?

Just a poll really. I will admit that I have had some problems with paint adhesion and a look at my Prospector after a recent trip makes me wonder.

PS: Was the interior of your canoe wet when you had the paint problem?


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The quality of my finish is not as good as I would like but I do not have adhesion issues. I sand with 120 and clean with alcohol. I use good marine paint.
There are several past threads on blisters due to water in the canoe wicking through the canvas and causing blisters between the filler and paint. Most went away when the water (canvas) dried. ex. http://forums.wcha.org/showthread.php?t=2625&highlight=blisters

I had a double ended rowboat returned from a camp after about 6 years because they noticed a huge bubble of paint under the boat. The boat had been left in the lake for the summer and bailed when it rained. I called Bill Clements for advice and he suggested removing the paint (Kirby's) back to the filler below the waterline and coating with red lead paint. This I did and then repainted (Kirby's). No problem since then. We also did other double enders for the same camp and those have never had a problem - same filler and same paint - go figure...
I've varnished after painting, but the last canoe I did, I had some problems with the paint softening up along the stems. But that was in a few spots, not the whole canoe.

One nice thing about rustoleum is how easy it is to clean things up when you've run across some barnacles. The rattle cans are a surprizingly good match.
Paint adhesion

I varnished after painting.

The paint only peeled in 2 spots about 1 inch in diameter, right next to each other. But right where the bottom bumped a rock. My guess is the canvas moved a little and stretch split the paint and once split it peeled away.

Then I noticed I could peel at the edge and get it to lift off. I am not sure if the whole thing is like this or not. I have tried rubbing various areas and it did not peel, it is hard to guess the force that a bumping a rock would have, probably alot more than I think, considering the weight of a loaded canoe on a small impact area.

My latest guess is that maybe there had been frost on it over the winter, that I did not notice since it was stored away, and that moisture somehow compromised the filler?

I have sanded the repainted the damaged area.

So now my question is, should I put a hard polyurathane clear coat over the paint, or will that be a waste of time? It seems like it needs something harder on it. Also the rustoleum does not seem to be as slippery as something like Interlux. Has anyone noticed that. It is smooth, but I would not call it slippery.
I don't know exactly what type of clear-coat poly you are thinking of, but putting a hard finish over a softer one is nearly always a mistake that will eventually come back to bite you. Yes, enamel is fairly soft in comparison to some modern paints and finishes, but it's also usually easier to repair neatly.

If you are worried about your paint adhesion and ready to face the music (whatever it may be) you could always give the paint job the old duct tape test. Start laying strips of duct tape in various places on the hull, press it down tightly and then peel it off to see what, if anything, comes off with it. Any bits of finish that do come off are unfortunate and mean work to fix, but were not properly binded to the hull in the first place and were just waiting to peel later. We did a whole chunk of hardwood floor in our old house that way once, to remove a layer of finish that wasn't properly bonded to the others. It's not fun to watch big hunks of a nice finish peel off with duct tape, but it's usually just a matter of time before they do it on their own and nothing can cure that problem.