Some Canoe Work

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.

Adding screws

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.

Removing the cane and spline.

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

Filling in the holes with thickened epoxy.

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.

Vice-Grips helping out.

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.

All done, and ready to be attached to the canoe.

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.