Sunday, May 10, 2009

Old Town Canoe Revisited

A few months back, I showed you some pictures of a 20 foot Old Town canoe I acquired in a trade. (Can't seem to resist a good trade!). My intention was to work on it over the winter, but I'm just getting back to it now.

This Old Town is an older model #172538/20 which, near as I can tell, is around 1960. There are extensive records on these canoes, so the actual build is available (I'll find it when I get time!) The Old Town Canoe Company Build Record Archive Project indicates that 2% of all Old Town Canoes are 20 footers.

The story is that the 20 foot freight canoe may have been used in the Vietnam War for reconnaissance in river deltas. This is a lively story, but I doubt this canoe has seen such rough treatment.

You can see that it's a stout boat, with half ribs in the bottom that are so close, it's almost filled in solid between the full ribs. There are two cracked ribs, which I plan to ignore, since there seems to be little loss of structural strength. The original canvas skin was replaced a long time ago with a polyester fiberglass coating. I considered stripping the 'glass off, but decided against it when I found it adhered so well the wood stripping was damaged trying to remove it. The 'glass had been applied carelessly and not fared out, so I sanded and sanded and sanded. Then recoating with epoxy restored the hull to very acceptable condition.

Now the canoe is right side up and the real challenge has begun. It was originally varnished inside, which is good since several subsequent coats of paint scrape off the old varnish easier than if the paint had soaked into the wood. Some of the wood hull strips have softened, especially where water was allowed to sit in the bottom of the boat.

Spruce is a very soft wood and deteriorates rapidly when exposed to weather. I'll probably coat the inside of the canoe with penetrating epoxy before varnishing, to restore some structural strength to the wood fibers and seal against further weathering.

The shear guard was a black plastic composite material which turned to shards when removed. Believe me, the boat looks better with no guard at all! I have some very pretty Oboto mahogany that will look just super as a shear guard.
I intend to cane the seats. I re-caned some antique chairs years ago, it wasn't too difficult, it looks good and will be authentic to the original.

This is a big canoe, nearly three feet, extreme beam! It takes three people to carry it, and no doubt it would hold an expedition worth of gear with no effort. As my readers know, pulling boats are more my style, so hopefully someone will come along who really loves this boat and offer me a good trade!

Sorry, I will not be replacing the hand painted decals on the bow (a duck in flight, on the port and a bear fishing, on the starboard)!


Unknown said...

Pure beauty and functional simplicity

doryman said...

The Old Town canoe is a production boat, which doesn't mean it wasn't made by hand. Most of the new ones are fiberglass. The old wood ones are indeed beautiful and have a lot of character. This one is in good shape, especially for being nearly 50 years old!
The next time you see her, will be in the water!

Anonymous said...

Sweet as hay-ell!!
I just found one of these in a friend's barn..been sitting for 30 years--in puur-fect condition. He's selling it to me for 700 bucks. It however has all the original leeboards, and rudder, etc, but no spars. Do you by any chnce know where I can get plans for the originals?

doryman said...

michael b said...
Peter, 700 is what I paid for this one and was a bit disapointed. Sounds like yours is in better shape.
I'm afraid that outside this one boat, I know very little of the Old Town line. If you find more info, I'd like to hear about it: