by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
email: artisan@canoeshop.ca

Sometimes, in the course of your restoration, you may discover a cracked rib in your canoe. The damage may not warrant replacement of the entire rib or you may want to strengthen the rib while preserving as much of the original canoe as possible.  In this case, a back-side rib repair is your best option.

Start by removing the planks to expose the area on the rib to be repaired.

With a permanent ink marker, draw the boundaries of the repair and the shape of the “dish” that will be carved out on the back-side of the rib.

Use a belt sander to dish out the back-side of the rib around the crack.

Shape a new piece of cedar that is slightly longer than the repair area. I don’t have a disc sander, so I use my belt sander turned upside-down.

Work in small stages, checking regularly, until the convex profile of the new cedar matches the concave profile dished out on the original rib.

I find polyurethane glue creates a very strong, waterproof bond. Wet the new cedar as well as the dished out area on the original rib.  Apply glue to both surfaces.

Clamp the new cedar to the original rib and let it cure overnight.

The next day, use a random-orbital sander to shape the repair until the new cedar has the same profile as the original rib before the repair.

When the crack is on a curved section of a rib, the back-side of the rib is sanded flat with a random-orbital sander  ̶  removing the curved portion of the original rib around the crack.

When shaping the new piece of cedar, the glued surface is flat while the top surface is curved to replicate the original rib section.

The new cedar is then glued and clamped as before.

Once the glue has cured overnight, the repair is sanded and shaped to replicate the shape of the original rib.

 

A back-side rib repair employs a methodology similar to that used in a rib-top repair. Once the new wood is stained to match the original wood, the repair is all but invisible.

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The entire restoration process (including rib-top repairs) is described in my book – This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood Canvas Canoe.
If you live in Canada, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the USA, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the UK, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
Si vous habitez en France, CLIQUEZ ICI acheter le livre.

If you have read the book, please post a review on Amazon, Goodreads and/or any other review site.

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by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
email: artisan@canoeshop.ca

reinstalling-the-keel

Speaking strictly in terms of form and function, canoes and keels don’t belong together.  Canoes are designed to sideslip easily in large, rapid rivers in order to avoid various obstacles along the way.  However, wood-canvas canoes have often been part of the family for decades.  In this context, they must also be seen through the lens of family history and tradition.  Many wood-canvas canoes were built with a keel installed and that is the way the owner wants it to remain.  For this reason, I have no problem re-installing a keel in a wood-canvas canoe.

remove-old-bedding-compound

Most keels were removed at the beginning of the restoration project and are being re-installed.  Therefore, the first step is to clean it and remove old paint and bedding compound.  This is usually a two-step process.  I start with an angle grinder set up with a 24-grit sanding disk.  This cuts through the worst of the old material and gets down to the original wood.  Care must be taken in order to remove only the old paint and bedding compound.  Finish the job with a random-orbital sander set up with 80-grit sandpaper.  This removes any marks made by the grinder and creates a smooth surface for new bedding compound and paint.

Having just spent a lot of time and effort creating a waterproof canvas cover, it seems a little strange to then poke a dozen or more holes through the bottom of the canoe.  It is essential, therefore, to use a bedding compound that seals the keel to the canoe, creates a waterproof barrier and stays flexible for decades.

keel 03 DT

Having tried a variety of products, I have returned to the old school.  Dolfinite 2005N Natural Bedding Compound is a linseed oil-based compound with the consistency of peanut butter.  It is the same as the bedding compounds used a century ago.  Unlike more modern compounds (such as 3M 5200 or Interlux 214) it stays flexible for the life of the canvas (several decades), seals well, accepts paint well and yet allows the keel to be removed from the canvas if necessary some years down the line.

keel 04 DT

Most canoes use 1” (25 mm) #6 flat head silicon bronze screws combined with brass finish washers.  Begin by driving one screw into each end of the canoe.  Turn the canoe on its edge to allow access to the bottom of the canoe inside and out at the same time.  This is where it is useful to have the canoe set up on two canoe cradles.

keel 06 DT

With one screw at each end, move to the outside of the canoe and line up each screw with the original holes in the keel.  Use a permanent-ink marker to show the position of the keel on the canvas.  Then mark the location of the screw where it comes through the canvas and mark the location of the screw hole on the side of the keel to facilitate attachment later.

keel 07 DT

Apply bedding compound generously to the keel with a putty knife.  Any excess will be cleaned up later. For now, it is more important to ensure a good seal along the entire length of the keel.  Then, open the original screw-holes at each end to make it easier to find them.

keel 12a DT

Not everyone has my “wingspan” – 79” (200 cm) from finger-tip to finger-tip – so not everyone can hold the keel in place with one hand and drive the screw with the other at the same time.  Installing a keel is normally a two-person job.  Get someone to line up the original holes in the keel with the screws coming through on the outside of the canoe while you drive the screws from the inside.  Sometimes, the original holes in the keel have been stripped.  In this case, use larger diameter 1” (25 mm) #8 screws to secure the keel.  If the keel has warped a little, you may need 1¼” (32 mm) screws to draw it tight to the canoe.  In this situation, especially with Chestnut and Peterborough shoe keels (3/8” thick), the screws may go right through the keel and poke out on the outer surface.  That will be dealt with later.

keel 14 DT

Once both ends are attached, check to make sure that the keel is properly lined up with the centre of the canoe.  Once aligned, drive the rest of the screws along its full length.  Usually, it is necessary to apply some pressure on the keel in order for the screws to catch properly.  Sometimes, I need to get under seats to drive the screws.  This is where a flexible drill extension comes in very handy. Most of the time however, I have removed the seats to refinish or re-cane them, so access to all of the screw-holes along the canoe’s centre-line is not a problem.

keel 15a DT

Remove excess bedding compound from the edges of the keel and apply more to areas that are not completely sealed.  Remove any bedding compound stuck to the canvas using medium steel wool soaked in lacquer thinner.  Use a file to take care of any screw-tips poking through the keel.  Finally, let the bedding compound cure for a few days before applying paint.

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All of this (and much more) is described in my book – This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood Canvas Canoe.
If you live in Canada, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the USA, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the UK, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
Si vous habitez en France, CLIQUEZ ICI acheter le livre.

If you have read the book, please post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or any other review site.

by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
email: artisan@canoeshop.ca

Wood-canvas canoes are works of art. However, in Canada, they are also working boats.  They help their owners navigate large, rapid rivers on a regular basis.  In the course of these journeys, the stem-bands will knock against rocks.  After a while, the canoe will begin to leak as water seeps in through the screw-holes.  I restored a canoe for a client a few years ago and now he brought it back to the shop for a little repair work.

The screws holding the bow stem-band to the hull had worked loose and the seal had broken between the hull and the stem-band.

I started by removing the stem-band. Some of the screws had been worn down to the point where a screwdriver was no longer effective.  A cats-paw pry-bar and a mallet popped the stem-band off in short order.  The stem-band was set aside to be re-installed later.

The location of every screw-hole was marked with a grease-pencil.

Small pegs were whittled from a scrap piece of cedar. The pegs were dunked in water, coated with polyurethane glue and tapped into the screw-holes with a mallet.  The glue was allowed to cure overnight.

Each of the cedar pegs was cut flush with a Japanese cross-cut saw.

The entire painted surface of the canvas was sanded with 120-grit paper on a random-orbital sander. Most of the bottom was scuffed and/or gouged by encountered with rocks.  The sanding smoothed out the surface and prepped it for a fresh coat of paint.

The stem-band was re-installed with new bronze screws (in this case, ¾”- #4 flat-head, slotted screws). It was sealed with Dolfinite marine bedding compound and allowed to set overnight.

The outwales were masked with tape before a fresh coat of oil-based alkyd enamel paint (thinned 12% with paint thinner) was applied with a disposable foam brush.

The masking tape was removed about an hour after the paint was applied.  Any paint that ended up on the outwales was removed with a little paint thinner on a clean rag.

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The entire restoration process is described in my book – This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood Canvas Canoe.
If you live in Canada, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the USA, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the UK, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
Si vous habitez en France, CLIQUEZ ICI acheter le livre.

If you have read the book, please post a review on Amazon, Goodreads and/or any other review site.

by Mike Elliott, Kettle River Canoes
email: artisan@canoeshop.ca

Once you’ve got your canoe out of the shed for the season, you’ll need some way of supporting it off the ground when it is not on the water.  I can still hear my father saying, in no uncertain terms, “The bottom of this canoe touches two things: air and water”.  One of the most convenient support systems is a pair of canoe cradles.

They are quick and simple to build and can be stored easily when not in use.  They are also essential tools when repairing or refurbishing your canoe.

For the cradles I build, each one consists of two vertical struts, two base struts, two horizontal brace struts, two sling clamps and a cradle sling.  All you need to build a pair of cradles are:

  • 4 – 8’ 2×4’s (spruce) to make the struts;
  • A bunch of 2½” deck screws to hold the whole thing together and;
  • 2 strips of material 3½” wide for the slings (I use pieces of carpet or scraps of canvas leftover from a canoe project).  I have seen some people use 3/8” rope for the slings.

As far as dimensions are concerned, I find a stable design that still holds the canoe off the ground at a comfortable height have vertical and horizontal struts that are 28” long.  The base struts are 24” long and are oriented parallel to the centre-line of the canoe to create stable “feet” for the cradle.  The sling material is about 50” long.  The clamps are just scrap pieces used to hold the sling material to the vertical struts.  These can be about 6” long – whatever you end up with.

To build a cradle, start by creating the two sides.  They each consist of a base strut attached to the end of a vertical strut to form a T-shape.

Next, the 28” bottom brace strut is attached between the two sides and the 28” upper brace strut is positioned somewhere in the middle of the vertical strut.

I take a minute to round-off the inside corners of the vertical struts.  Otherwise, the sling material wears out quickly and has to be replaced frequently.  I use an angle grinder to round the corners, but the same job can be done with a rasp and a little elbow-grease.

Construction of the cradle is completed by attaching the sling by means of the clamps.  The whole process takes the better part of an hour for both cradles.  If you want to pretty them up a bit, the struts can be rounded off and sanded smooth.

Any cradles that are going to spend a lot of time outside are finished with an opaque oil-based stain to protect the wood.

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All of this (and much more) is described in my book – This Old Canoe: How To Restore Your Wood Canvas Canoe.
If you live in Canada, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the USA, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
If you live in the UK, CLICK HERE to buy the book.
Si vous habitez en France, CLIQUEZ ICI acheter le livre.

If you have read the book, please post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or any other review site.