Finally bought the Old Town Columbia

The local outfitter here in Columbia SC has had a 1985 Old Town Columbia 18ft canoe for sale for 2 1/2 years and it is finally mine! It was stored indoors by the original owner for 25 years and NEVER paddled until they lost its storage and decided to sell. I first saw it in 2010 shortly after it was placed outside on a for sale rack. It was in FULL exposure to the sun and rain but still virtually BRAND NEW. Nary a scratch on it and perfect wood. Well 2.5 years of the elements have faded the finish some but I can deal with that. Its the wood gunwales that have suffered and the split seems have seperated some and the wood has some light rot. I think I am going to use my pressure washer to carefully remove the embedded dirt and rot before allowing to dry and begin the sanding process. The inner and outer gunwales are made of SQUARE cross-section wooden strips which are BAD for the OUTER rail because it will surely grab my nuckles and fingernails. I will take my time and sand a rounded edge to make for better paddling.

congrats on your purchase. looks like a little work ahead but that one is well worth it!

Sounds good
I always like to see not-so-common canoe models rescued from a life of neglect.

You might be able to use a router or shaper to put a nice contour on those gunwales, though imagine trying to do that in any manner that’s a bit improvisational might be risky, as far as causing damage. Careful work with a belt sander would do in a pinch though, especially if you make yourself a template out of stiff paper with which to judge your progress.

OK I did pressure wash the wood and have HAND sanded about half of the gunwale surfaces. Looking good and no wood needs replacing. Certainly a labor of love. I can just see from the lines of this boat that it will paddle wonderfully. Kinda like a longer Malecite with a rounded bottom instead of the shallow-V. I had a Malecite and it was the sweetest paddling tandem I have owned,…that is,until NOW! I already gave the finish a good wax/polish and it looks virtually perfect. It has just a couple little scrathes from the original owner during storage and stowage! Pictures coming soon,…although it looks exactly like FATELMO’s Columbia. Medium blue with a orange/amber interior color!

been following your post and …

– Last Updated: Jan-07-13 10:49 PM EST –

..... waiting to hear what the true condition of the gunnels turns out to be .

Originally you mentioned some possible rot and cracks . It now sounds like the gunnels are in nice condition and worthy of any efforts you wish to work onto them .

So I thought I'd chime in about an easy and accurate way to get the gunnel's edges rounded over like you wished . I know you can hand sand them to rounded edges ... but I just wanted to suggest you could use a round over bit (ball bearing guide type or non-bearing type w/a fence guide) in a router or a laminate trimmer , and then a quick fine sanding by hand . The round over bits can be the 1/4 round type (1/4 of a circle) , and in the size you wish most ... example , a 1/2" is what 1/4 of a 1" circle looks like because the 1/2" describes the radius of a 1" circle .

If there is any chance you can use (own or borrow) a router or laminate trimmer to shape your gunnel edges before finish sanding , I would do so ... you'll much appreciate the final outcome .

just a suggestion ...

Thanks for info
I was considering power tools but I can’t take very much wood off or the slightly recessed gunnel screws will get exposed. I am just taking down the knife-edge of the outwale a little before I finish it with,…? Its pretty obvious the canoe was never paddled or else the original owner would have done this after ripping his knuckles open! I am leaning towards oiling instead of varnish. I know there are pros and cons for both but a penetrating waterproofing type finish sure seems the best,…HMM

a 1/4" round over (1/4 round) …
… that doesn’t take off much but it’s a clean accurate edge when done .

It’s funny because just today I used my laminate trimmer with a 1/4" round over bit . Using it to ease off the edge of some trim work I’m doing . Makes a fine feelin edge . It’s been so long since I used that smaller one that I had forgotten just how little it can be set to take off .

These round over bits are especially good for wood of any hardness … the edge is slick as ice and even all the way .

Congrats. I like the router idea. Two and a half years is a lot of sun exposure in places like Nevada. I hope it is cloudier where you bought the canoe and lower in elevation.

Congrats. I like the router idea. Two and a half years is a lot of sun exposure in places like Nevada. I hope it is cloudier where you bought the canoe and lower in elevation.

non-power option
I use these for such jobs. A lot easier to keep out of trouble…

Congrats on the nice find!

Like that tool,…gotta get one.
Thanks Steve,…good idea. I am finished hand sanding the sharp edges of the gunwales and have already oiled-em up good. Took out ALL the thwarts, seats and grab-handles, scuffed them and shellaced them with a high quality marine product. It all goes back together tomorrow and the Columbia will be re-commissioned. Christening and sea-trials coming next week! LOL BTW if you do reside in Idaho,…I Lived in Idaho Falls for 4 years back in the early nineties. LOVED the outdoors and that’s were I fell in love with canoeing.