Painting a canoe

Earlier this week I picked up a used Sawyer Summersong. Previous owner spray painted it UPS brown. Looks horrible! I plan on sanding or using a solvent to remove the brown paint. The original color of the boat is red, which I’ve seen by sanding down a small area.

My question is: What kind of paint can I use to cover the canoe once it’s all sanded and cleaned. A gelcoat, epoxy based paint, should I prime it first?

Also, there’s a decal along both sides of the canoe that says Sawyer canoe. It too is painted over, but the letters are recessed. I’d like to keep the decal in place, but am unsure as to how to get the paint off without destroying the decal. My goal is to completely restore the canoe. The canoe does have have some poorly done patches which I intend to remove and repair.


Acrylic-urethane automotive paint

Remove paint
I’d use acetone and scrubbie[s] to remove the paint and get down to the red. Then sand and buff to restore the original red gel.

How well the decals come out is up to you and time on target - I’s buy new decals from Scott Smith at the new, 5th re-incarnation of the once proud line.

Daily caressing
He sat by his canoe daily caressing it with his hands. No a vaulting task like Harvey Fite, but 40 years just the same.

I’d give citrus stripper a try
It’s still a mess, but it’s not a dusty mess. You would have to do it over some kind of drop sheet. IMHO it would be the fastest, easiest way to get the bulk of the paint off, with the least damage to the glass. Test on a small area, like the a patch, fisrt. I think you’ll be out of luck on the decals.

It’s March
the time for painting a restoring is over. It is time to start using it. You’ll scratch off a lot of paint and thereby save time next winter when it is time for the stripping of the old paint with citrus stripper.

Once I badly painted a camo pattern on a good canoe and made some good but extra ugly patch jobs to reduce its likelihood of getting stolen.

I’m with FrankNC
You want to end up one of those people that spend all their time in the shop making everything look pretty, or do you want to go paddle it? At least see if you like it. You may figure out you can’t work a single blade.

If you must do this work, wait for the long dark months of winter. Meanwhile, see how much paint you can scrape off on river bottom. And those patches are fugly but I think the boat will paddle just fine with them as they are.


Truth is…
I enjoy doing stuff like this. I’m in no hurry, but am getting all my ducks in order and will do some preliminary stuff tomorrow. The planning and the research and then the actual work is all fun as far as I’m concerned. And once I’m done, hopefully I’ll do a decent job, the boat will look like new. The ying and yang of it is that I need something to counter my rugged good looks. :wink:

Okome Fest
I might have spelt dat wrong, but Okome fest is put on by Ches. Light Craft in May down my way. I’ve safety boated for the festival. You are starting to sound like those guys.

At lunch I sat with guys who spent 15 mins or so discussing how to get the highest shine on the hulls and what boat they were going to build next. I asked what type of paddling he was going to do in the next boat and he was kind of flumoxed because he had not launched the first boat he made and had at the show. He was going to launch it that afternoon, maybe, if the wind and intermittent rain drops stopped. A bit blustery, but actaully a pretty nice day. I saw him in the afternoon and he had decided to postpone the launch to the next day.

Nothing at all wrong with enjoying the building. And, I was silly enough to spend 200 hours fixing that Chipewayn canoe. I do like it. I did use that canoe a lot, though, at least 200 hours on the water. So, at least it was a 1 to 1 ratio. I was still a paddler that liked to fiddle in the shop, not a shop craftsperson that liked to dip a paddle now and then.

P-netters are individuals and we can enjoy whatever we please! I wonder if they have this conversation on the tool guys’ site. “That BT guy, I think he likes his paddlin’ more than his tools!” Guilty!


Given a choice…
I’d rather be paddling than working on the boat. I may paddle tomorrow, have to see how the day shakes out. But, if I paddle, it’ll be a kayak.

i always use acetone all the time outside if i can and paint i use rustolium but any paint will scrape off and i just painted 2 canoes brown!!!

I would recommend against gelcoat. It can be done, but it’s easy to goof up. But if you decide to go that route, Jamestown Distributors has a nice selection of gelcoat. You would want the stuff with wax in it - the wax floats to the surface and seals it so the gelcoat can cure underneath it, or something like that. Getting it sprayed by an auto body shop like mintjulep suggested always sounded like a good option. The auto paints can be pretty tough. Another alternative is one of the two-part marine paints that dries super hard. Just make sure you give it plenty of time to cure. Sometimes those paints appear cured but aren’t as much as you might think. A friend of mine found that out when he left his “cured” hull setting in some leaves overnight.

Andy , use the citrus gel stripper …

– Last Updated: Mar-06-11 3:49 AM EST –

...... all over the canoe at one time or do it 1/2 and 1/2 . Put the stripper on thick , let it work on the paint for a long time , re-apply more stripper to reactivate , let it set for and hour then remove it all (do this in a semi-shady spot if possible) . Buy a gallon of it . Do it outside on sawbucks . Once you soften that paint there's good a chance you can blast it off with a good high pressure washer , if it doesn't budge then just scrape it off ... do a test stripper and blast first before assuming you "have to" scrape it ... clearing the paint with a powder media is the easiest but takes special equipment , so probably not an option for you .

You want to get to the gelcoat first w/o removing any gelcoat . This is why you do not want to sand off that brown paint . The existing gelcoat (and hopefully enough thickness is left) ... is where your prep work for new finish should take place . You'll have to grind (#60 paper , random orbit) off the existing patches and perform proper patch repairs that are invisible once new finish is applied .

Your goal to begin with should be to save as much of the existing gelcoat as possible , but it must be sterile prior to any finish consideration ... try not to sand in any garbage , always sand on the most sterile resin surface you can achieve by washing and acetoning it first , and repeating in progress as req. . Have a gallon of acetone on hand because you will (or should be) constantly washing (soap and water) and acetoning once you get to or near the existing gelcoat , and during prep of the existing gelcoat . Buy yourself (2) pairs of the orange above the wrist heavy rubber gloves ... you'll have these gloves still in good shape when you're all done (they look like the old kitchen dish gloves but are heavier work type) .

The finest finish will be new gelcoat sprayed on . If you are willing to compromise then a two part polyurethane paint (you do not want to try to spray that two part on yourself , it's too dangerous for you) ... Interlux Perfection is a great two part , "it" can be brushed on also which is safe for you to do . If you chose to go with the Perfection just follow the prep and application schedule as supplied by Interlux .

If finishing w/new gelcoat it will add maybe 5-6 lbs. which I think is OK because the gelcoat finish will be like any gelcoat finish you are familiar with , great durability , easy washing and maintenance , easy shine up . having a new gelcoat finish sprayed on takes the proper equipment , mix ratio thinning and know how , so best to let a shop do that if you aren't set up and capable . When sprayed on properly the final wet sanding and buff out is a simple job ... when sprayed on improperly , the final wet sanding and buff out is a nightmare .

Strip it over two days , patch it properly another two days , paint or gelcoat two more days ... done in 7 or less days ... go paddle it . Don't try to make a piano out of it , it will look and perform great if you just knock it out the same as if you make a life project out of it .

The supplies cost money , the work easy , it's a canoe not a cruiser hull . Get it out of drydock fast and don't be foolin around with it .

Just think remove as little as possible starting with the paint , then keep that as priority as you prep the existing gelcoat . Expect to spend 350. for materials to get a nice gelcoat or Interlux Perfection job plus your labors and professional spray labors (if applicable) . The difference in cost between the gelcoat and Perfection job is that you can save the spray cost (by brush and tip off) ... the difference in quality is that the gelcoat is the best , the two part polyurethane 2nd best (but it will never be like gelcoat durability or nearly as maintainable) .

Man I hate making post of this legth , the editing of typos and mis-spells takes 5X as long as the initial 5 min. post .

Geezz , almost forgot to tell you this ... make "absolutely certain" you remove the gunnels , deck plates etc. before staring the project ... do not even consider leaving them on . Just make up your mind RIGHT NOW that you will "have to" re-install them . If you don't follow this remove the gunnels advice , you deserve every pain in the ass head ache that will come your way .

Short of what I have described here Andy , just paint over the brown with your favorite color and go paddle it ... in my mind there's no middle of the road ... it's either A or B , anything else is a waste of time , money and efforts .

Put my first coat of Citrus stripper on
Doing it in 3 stages, bottom, port side and starboard side. Then I’ll probably have to do some spot cleans ups.

Did a sample spot yesterday and the stripper did a nice job of taking the paint off.

Now I’m working on one of my kayaks, the skeg cable kinked and haven’t had a chance before to fix it.


Gotta love it!
I admire your willingness to undertake a laborious restoration of a worthy craft. I hope you’ll continue to share the experience with us.

Bon Chance!

It’s raining here today, so there isn’t much I can do, but I’ve progressed. My guess is I’ve got about 70% of the brown paint off, and I think I can save the Sawyer decals.

It’s a very time consuming process. Apply citrus gel, let it sit for at least an hour, then scrape, then wipe with a cloth. Reapply citrus gel and repeat previous steps. Some of the paint in some areas is harder to remove than others. The original red gel coat looks to be in ok shape, but not great. It’s got a very dull finish, so I will definetly paint the hull once I’m done, but do a much better job than the previous owner.


There are some commercial citrus-based
floor finish strippers that are liquid and come in squirt bottles that might help with cleaning up residue. I like those plastic Dobie pot scrubbers for that stage. Scotchbrite pads are good too, if you don’t mind the fine scratches.

I also like the idea of having a good auto-body shop do the spray job. Done right and buffed out, it’ll look showroom! Of course, then you’ll need new graphics.

Planning on speaking with an auto body shop tomorrow to get an idea how much they’ll charge. So far I’ve spent about $40 on the boat. I paid $200 for it. I’m willing to spend a couple hundred for a “showroom” finish.

Citrus stripper results…so far


Yucko. I’m glad it’s you and not
me. Looks like a lot of work. It’ll be worth it in the end, though, even if just for seeing the envy on FE’s face.