Wood canvas canoe repair questions

-- Last Updated: Jan-03-06 10:13 PM EST --

I am looking at an old wood canvas canoe, thinking of purchasing it. It has some cracked ribs and the bow has a bit of rot at the very tip. Seats need caning and it needs new canvas. I have some questions.

1) On working with the wood ribs. Are these available to buy or does one have to form these themselves? Can the cracked ones be spliced or strengthened and kept in use?
2) How difficult is it to re-canvas one of these and what is the expense roughly?
3) I have caned seats before, antique household seats, but do I use standard cane or do they have a "marine" or special cane?
4) Do they make these wood parts anymore, like the bow and gun whales?

Thanks for any help and advice.


all do-able, but with a note…

– Last Updated: Jan-03-06 11:00 PM EST –

The beauty of a wood/canvas boat is that essentially everything in the boat is repairable or replaceable, provided you have the time, money, and interest in doing so.

Before you step into the world of canoe restoration, it might be worth taking a look at Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow's book THE WOOD AND CANVAS CANOE, since they'll show you what you need to know before taking on a big restoration project (and what you've described sounds somewhere between cosmetic work and a major overhaul).

The other consideration I'd take into account is the actual boat in question. If it's an Old Town, a BN Morris, a Chestnut, or any of the other classic boats from the 00's through the 60s, and the price isn't too high to begin with, it can be an excellent investment in time and money. If it's a boat that someone built in their garage because they couldn't afford an Old Town, it may or may not be worth restoring.

One more website to take a look at is the Wood Canoe Heritage Assn. site, at http://www.wcha.org/toc.html . Tons of info about classic wood boats.

Wood and Canvas
Yep, as mobrien suggests, get a copy of the Bible of Wood Canvas canoes - Rollin and Jerry’s book and frequent the WCHA website. The website has a list of builders by state and they can likely provide materials/parts and maybe some advice too.

Ribs can be repaired, but it depends where the break is. If the break is at a turn in the bilge etc, it is likely not a good idea. A break in the flat bottom part of a rib is repairable. Backside rib repair involves taking the planking off behind the rib and chiseling out a space across the break and epoxying a new piece of wood across the break and putting the plank back. However if you need to recanvas it is probably better to replace the rib while you are at it. Otherwise when your beautiful boat is done the cracked rib will be staring you in the face every time you take it out. Steambending is fun to do.

A canvas and filling job can be done in a day. The cost is for the canvas (maybe $100) and enough filler (1 to 2 gallons depending on the size of the boat) at about $50 per gallon. Then there is lots of sandpaper and some paint. You’ll need to rig a canvas stretcher.

Cane is the same cane as used on chairs.

Old Town also sells parts, but see the list of builders/suppliers on the WCHA site.

I have some wood canvas canoes and some project pictures here to give you some idea of the process:


PS. When you get it done, don’t let on about how nice it paddles and how easy they are to repair and maintain 'cause all these folks paddling oil canning milk jugs will get tipped off and there will be a rush on wood canvas boats!!!

It’s not too hard
We repaired our canvas some years ago. New gunwhales, decks, seats, thwarts, some planks, some ribs and the canvas. From your description, this sounds like what you need to do.

The canvas is a big job made easier with many hands. People hold while someone staples and mucks around with creases.

If you don’t have a good home shop you may want to source out a canoe repair course. That’s what we did. A little chit-chat with the instructor and we got to use his shop and his help with the repairs.

How much $?