Vintage Canoe Restoration

Hello! I have a question to ask on the off-chance someone will have any advice/thoughts to offer.
This spring I was fortunate enough to come across a canoe being sold for pennies on the dollar. It’s a 19’ Old Town dating back approximately to the 1920’s-1940’s I believe, based on research I’ve done on the internet. Sadly, it was not well-loved, and appears to be beyond repair due to wood rot, insect infestation, and exposure to the elements. Still, it has a great deal of character and patina, and so I would like to clean it up to be used as a display piece. Does anyone have any advice as to where I should begin or any sources online I could refer to? In particular, I’m most concerned about restoring/preserving the gorgeous polyurethane on the interior which is currently filthy and peeling terribly, as well as not bringing any insects that currently call it home into my home! Thank you in advance! Happy paddling!

Head this way:


rival51 is right on. WCHA is the source, just watch out for attitude.
You should be able to get the build sheet from the serial number on the stem. Then you will know who built it and when and what the model is. Does it have diamond shaped bolts suspending the seats? How long are the decks?

I would love to see before during and after pictures

“Beyond repair” are important words. I am working on repairing a 1953 OT Guide 18. It is amazingly labor intensive. Do not get confused about trying to bring your canoe back. Wood and canvas canoes have a lot of fastenings, and a lot of parts. Once they get old and decay, removing them and replacing them takes a lot of work. It becomes tedious because you are trying to remove tacks without damaging the relatively delicate ribs and planks.

Do not get seduced by the beauty of the boat. Let it die a dignified death.

Agree that the project will be beautiful regardless of color changes to the woods after restoration. I just finished restoring what was left of an 1916 HW old town, AA grade mahogany deck, seat, thwart and gunwales and cedar ribs and plank. Some day i may be able to complete an entire canoe.


Sincere apologies for the belated response to your kind input…in terms of interior construction, my canoe looks nearly identical to yours, which is surely a thing of beauty!! I appreciate you sharing both the pic and the encouragement-it has inspired me to pick up the project again and given me a goal of what I’d like my finished product to look like!!

Sincere apologies for the belated response…thank you so much for taking the time to help point me in the right direction-your suggestion was extremely helpful!!! Happy paddling!!

I’m a WCHA member. Lots of good advice there. However, we part ways sometimes on the user end. I restore wood canoes to use not to show. I’ve modified a few and motorized them as well. A showpiece wood canoe is breathtaking. But no one wants to scuff and wear a time intensive restoration. My advice:… it’s your canoe. Restore to use or restore to show. It’s your choice. Anyway, even with a mediocre restoration you’ll likely have the most beautiful boat on the lake.