Working On An Old Town Square Stern Boat...


New Member
Good morning,

I recently picked up a 16' Old Town Square Stern Model. I am looking to paint and varnish the canoe myself and I am looking to have some pieces (a deck, seats) made by a builder/restorer that I found on the WCHA commercial directory.

My 1st question is... where would you start with this canoe? The outside canvas is in terrific shape so I would not like to replace it. Can I lightly sand down the outside and paint it? I am not crazy about the color that is the only reason for a change.

My 2nd question is... where would you begin with the inside of the canoe? I saw a post saying to clean the inside with TSP and then use a scraper to to get any varnish off. I am not looking to use a stripper as I do not want to ruin the canvas. As you can tell from the pictures the wood is also in pretty good shape.

My 3rd question is... where do people buy wood for pieces they like to make themselves? I am looking for wood for a floor rack. I believe I am looking for 3/16" by 1-1/4" pieces for the rack? Any suggestion for finding wood for the deck and the knees as well? Although I intend on having those pieces made up it is always interesting to learn more.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you for sharing your experiences.



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Repainting canoes is done all the time, with all kinds of paints. Most use an oil based paint, and many use “marine” paints. Some use various other paints intended for exterior use – house paint, porch and deck paint, etc. Oil-based gloss paints are most commonly used. Water-based paints can work, as can semi-gloss paints. They are easier to apply, and may be easier to touch up in the future – the chief disadvantage I have found with semi-gloss is that it is not so easy to keep clean, a particular problem with a light color.

No paint job is any better than its foundation – surface preparation is critical. Painting over peeling paint is pointless – the old paint will continue peeling, taking the good paint with it. But if the old paint is basically sound, and/or if you scrape/sand off the loose paint, a fresh coat of paint can make a canoe look better, even if the new paint job is not perfect, and even if the old paint is a bit cracked.

Using premium marine paint over an old paint job is likely a waste of money. A good exterior paint – house paint, porch paint, Rustoleum enamel, or something similar – should do the job.

Your pictures don’t give any good indication of the condition of the paint, so it is hard to comment. If it is really sound, you might get away with a scuff sanding followed by a couple of coats of paint.

More information on prepping a canoe for repainting can be found at
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Scroll down the page there a bit for links to several discussions about painting.

As to your canoe’s interior -- it is hard to tell from your pictures the condition of the interior finish, so it is hard to give any specific advice. It looks pretty worn, so unless you strip the existing finish, you won’t get “like new” results. If it is varnished and the varnish is sound (that is, not flaking or alligatored), a good washing followed by a scuff sanding may be sufficient preparation. Once the wood is completely dry from the washing, use a good marine varnish with ultra-violet inhibitors -- don’t use ordinary varnish, don’t use polyurethane or any other clear finish. Some folks like an oil finish -- but that won’t work if your canoe is already varnished. However, if the interior is already finished with oil, a good cleaning and re-oiling may do the trick. Any oil finish, however, is never as protective as varnish and requires frequent (often annual) re-oiling. Varnish can be applied over an oil finish.

And for wood -- Some outfits more-or-less in your part of the world listed in our canoe Builders and Suppliers directory (click on “Home” above) that sell wood and wood parts andd might be able to help you: Goeff Burke, Chocorua Boatworks in Tamworth, New Hampshire; Jerry Stelmok, Island Falls Canoe Company, Atkinson, Maine; Rollin Thurlow, Northwoods Canoe Company, Atkinson, Maine; and Dylan and Emily Schoelzel, Salmon Falls Canoe, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts -- I can vouch that all are good folks to deal with.

And a google search will turn up a number of hardwood dealers in Massachusetts who will sell you lumber -- but I haven’t dealt with any of them.

Do you really need that massive addition to the transom? I suspect that a previous owner ran an outboard motor on it that was really too big for your boat.

Good luck -- nice boat.

Thank you so much for your reply.

This website and others like it have been a terrific resource because of the members and insight shared. Thanks for taking the time.

As far as the addition to the transom goes no I probably don't need it but I do like it. To each their own.