We got the chance to get out canoeing a couple last weekend, but those canoes sometimes need maintenance. Luckily I also had the time to get some repair work done this week.
Our Swift Kipawa is about 13 years old. I re-finished the wood back in 2003, but now some of the screws in the gunwales weren’t holding properly. Tightening them didn’t work and when I would sit in the canoe or carry it by the yoke there was a noticeable shift between the inner and outer gunwales. That meant I had to add some screws, so I added a handful on either side spaced between the existing screws. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it out and see how it works yet. I wanted to order some square drive (what those crazy Canadians use) to match, but ended up using phillips because I had the proper screws on hand. I figure since there are phillips elsewhere on the canoe anyway it wasn’t going to inconvenience anyone.
Our Penobscot takes a beating, but that is why I bought it. I wanted something to be an everyday canoe and take some of the wear off the more expensive boats. When we bought it 3 years ago the bow seat had a hole in the cane. When I replaced the center seat with a yoke I used the center seat to replace the one in the bow. Soon the stern seat had a hole in the cane and I replaced the cane with webbing. Well now the bow has a hole. So I pulled out the original to continue the game of musical canoe seats and set to work.
First thing I do is use a chisel to take off the cane and level the spline that holds it in. Then I fill in the gaps around it with an epoxy/sawdust mix. I like a bit more comfortable seat so I used a spokeshave to put more of a radius on the edges of the seat (both because the seat gets
sat in both ways). Then some scraping to get the varnish off and a bit of sanding.
There are two types of canoe finishes: oil and varnish. I am in the oil camp for most canoe related things. I prefer the feel of oiled wood, and the ease of repair. Varnish has to be stripped and then re-applied, and can trap moisture in the wood. I use Pure Tung oil diluted with mineral spirits. A couple of coats and the seat is ready to web.
The first step to webbing is to figure spacing. I have a big roll of 2″ poly webbing that I use for sewing projects. any width could be used though. I start with the short direction and 5 widths of webbing leaves a bit too much gap, but 6 works with just a bid of side overhang. I cut my strips to length, leaving a bit of extra to pull on, and use a flame to seal the ends.
Attaching the strips is pretty simple, but can be like
wrestling a bear. I staple the first end and use a small pair of Vise-Grips to pull it as tight as I can and another set of Vise-Grips to hold the webbing in place while I staple it in. Keep going in that direction and then figure out the spacing for the next direction. I used 3 strips with about 1/4” between them. Weave them in and then staple.