So, I just purchased a used Wenonah Jensen Kevlar Canoe, from 1984. It’s been stored indoors for 25 years, and covered. In really great shape, I could just wash it up and be done with it. But looking for a nice project. It’s got wood inwales that could use a light sand. I used to use Watco for the wood on the last canoe I owned, around 20 years ago. Anything else to use? What can I do to the Kevlar, inside and outside, to spruce it up. The aluminum everything else is dull with some nicks and scratches. Anything to do here?
You can oil or varnish the wood trim.
The kevlar on the inside can sometimes be touched up with some marine epoxy to retain the golden color. I have repaired the inside kevlar boats and painted them with success.
You can use alumabrite on a rag to remove oxidation from the aluminum.
Some people prefer an oil finish on gunwales and wood trim and others prefer a “bright finish” which implies varnish or urethane. There are potential advantages to both.
For a canoe that is going to see whitewater or fairly hard use I prefer an oil finish on gunwales because a bright finish gets scratched up too quickly. But despite the fact that the makers tend to tout their oil products as “penetrating” they really won’t penetrate dense wood to any significant extent. Just from my hand rubbing on the gunwale the oil finish on the outwales of my wood-trimmed whitewater canoes is gone near the center after only one trip downriver.
Bright finishes take longer to apply but are much more durable. But when they get scratched up they are also harder to restore. For flat water and recreational canoes I have come to prefer a bright finish on gunwales and I have found that the best durability is achieved by using two or three coats of a low viscosity clear “penetrating” epoxy which really gets down into the exposed end grain, followed by three or more coats of a good marine varnish such as Pettit’s Captain’s Varnish or one of the Epiphanes varnishes. I like System Three’s Clear Coat epoxy for this purpose.
Another option is to use a bright finish on seat frames, seat hangers, thwarts and yokes (which are relatively protected inside the hull) and an oil finish on the gunwales.
My favorite oil used to be Deks Olje but it has become a bit hard to find in this country and is pricey when found. Watco Teak Oil seems to penetrate ash well and is more resistant to mildew than some oil products.
I would try some superfine 0000 steel wool on your gunwales. If the Kevlar on the interior or exterior looks to be a bit “dry” and/or scratched up you can restore its appearance with a light coat of epoxy as ppine suggested. Again, I like a low viscosity epoxy like Clear Coat for that application.
Congrats on your new boat. When I pick up a used canoe my routine is:
Scrub it inside and out with a brush and non-abrasive cleanser (like Bon Ami). Then give it a bubble bath with Dawn and rinse thoroughly.
Snug up all the screws on the boat. Don’t go crazy with torque, just snug them up since they tend to loosen a little over the years.
Treat the boat inside and outside with 303 aerospace protectant to give it UV protection. It will make the boat slippery. Treat it again once or twice a year. If you prefer you can use a marine wax on the outside which may last a little longer than 303 but 303 is so much easier.
If your seats are webbed treat them thoroughly with 303. If they are cane treat them thoroughly with oil like boiled linseed oil. Webbed or cane seats on older boats dry out and often fail the first time you sit on them.
On wood trim I use 100 grit, then 150, then 220. Watco is still an excellent choice and may be the most durable oil finish. I prefer oil but if your host will be stored outside varnish is the most durable option.
I’ve never touched up any aluminum trim. If all you have is a bit of dullness and small marks after 36 years your aluminum trim doesn’t really need any help but it’s fine to spiff it up if you like.
It’s fun to pamper a canoe that hasn’t been used for some time; it’s one of my favorite therapies.
If it was mine I’d use 2 part fast-setting epoxy, fill the cracks, cover it with Saran Wrap, weight it down from the top and maybe clamp it from side to side. Saran or Glad Wrap will keep the epoxy from sticking to stuff other than the canoe. After one treatment I’d remove any weights and clamps and add more epoxy to any remaining cracks if necessary, then sand smooth. Then you can sand all the wood trim and apply Watco. I’d give it at least three coats of Watco letting it sit at least 24 hours between coats and I’d let the final cost dry/cure for a few days.
It’s a nice looking boat and looks like it will be very fast.
I have used West System G Flex epoxy to repair wood and bond wood and have been very happy with the results. It will also bond well to the hull itself.
If you have some bar clamps or pipe clamps you can probably treat the wood at the edge of the voids and narrow the gap with clamps applied transversely across the boat. You will need to make either 2 long or a number of short wood wedges to keep your clamps from sliding down toward the stem as you tighten them.
West System sells a 650-K kit that you can find on-line for about $26 plus shipping. This includes some colloidal silica powder, mixing cups, application tools but also a couple of “dental syringes” with long, drawn out tips that can be very useful for getting epoxy down into narrow crevices. If there is no or very little wood missing from the inset deck plate, you may be able to rebond it to the hull and inwales leaving very little gap to fill in with epoxy.
I would thicken the epoxy moderately with colloidal silica powder (cab-o-sil) for the initial bonding and use unthickened epoxy to fill in any voids that remain as the unthickened G Flex will cure to a honey color that will not look at all bad in contrast with the wood.
That boat will be a screamer. Gene Jensen knew how to design a fast canoe.