Monday, July 12, 2010

Found out MORE about the original owner

Mary Susan Chapman Dalton.  That was her name!  At Camp Allegheny in West Virginia "Susan" attended summer camp in 1954 and 1955.  She was born July 29,1941 to Dr. and Mrs. Charles Chapman and they resided in Welch, WV.  At camp she was known as "Chappie", a fun and energetic teenager who apparently loved canoeing on the Greenbrier River.  It appears that her father ordered her this wood-canvas canoe to have it delivered by Christmas in 1954.  He even had her name painted on the bow!

I tried last week to find Susan.  I learned from the Welch High School website that she has died.  Her obituary from Apache Junction, AZ., indicates that she died on November 12, 2007.  I had to compose myself. See, I wanted to find Susan and have her take me for a ride in her canoe.  I found one of her children (Emily Pike).  She lives in Lexington.  I hope to have Emily or one of her children to ride in Susan's canoe soon!

On the Camp Allegheny website, you can click on their history section and look over photographs that were taken from when the camp got its start back in 1922 to current photos.  I wonder if Susan is in any of those black and white classic photos?  I want to think so.

You see, a canoe is not just a boat.  It is the thing which connects an individual to wilderness.  Canoes seem to be a seemless connection which enables us to explore lakes and streams.  I remember when I first began working on "Susan" - the canoe - the brass nails seemed to slide out of the hull as if they were helping me to put her back on the water.  The longer you are in a canoe you become part of the canoe.

So, Susan Chapman Dalton, we paddle your canoe to feel your connection you once had with wild places.  Your canoe which once gave you great pleasure is now bringing pleasure to others.  Thank you for sharing!

Friday, December 4, 2009

55 years ago is it floated AGAIN

On Dec. 2 1954 the Old Town Canoe Company shipped a finished 16' Otca to Welch, WV to a Doctor who gave the canoe to someone named "Susan."  I bet it arrived for Christmas.  The name "Susan" was painted on each side of the bow hull over the red painted canvas.  I wonder if Susan was his wife, daughter, friend, relative?  I would like to have seen her eyes when this fabulous gift arrived!  I bet they looked like Annas when I showed up at the Harrison Branch boat ramp Wednesday, Dec 2 to give the canoe back to her.

The wind was blowing probably over 40 mph on Tellico Lake.  I have never seen Tellico look like this before.  I thought I was at the ocean. Literal waves were being formed and would crash against the shore just like ocean waves hitting the beach.  It was raining to put icing on the cake.  However we were determined to get that boat on water!  So, at 2:00 on Dec 2 it floated for the first time in about 25+ years!!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009


December 2 Anna and I will put the renovated canoe back on the water!  It is finished!   Phillip and I put the seats, thwarts and handles on last Saturday.  Anna and I agreed that the 2nd will be significant since it was shipped to its owner Dec 2, 1954.  Now this canoe sat dry for about 25 water under it.  It took 151 hours of labor to restore it.  54 seperate work days.  So, next Wednesday it goes on the water.

Old pieces cannot go into a common landfill!
I burned all the old planking, outwales, ribs, canvas and assorted other parts.  The ashes were kept and my bag will be taken to BWCAW!  Anna has another bag.  I just could not throw the odds of an Old Town wood-canvas canoe into the trash and think they would sit beside dirty diapers, trash bags, turkey bones and other trash.  So the ashes will be taken to a place canoes ache to be....the Boundaries and maybe a few places right here in Tennessee!

Ready to load to take to Tellico Lake!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brass Stem Band is installed...looks classy

Brass stem band went on like a dream!  Underlaid with bedding compound and attached with brass #4 screws, the stem bands begin at the underside where the inside stem begins and they wrap around and on top of the deck. NOW I am excited!

     Nelson tells me the paint and varnish need to sit and cure for about 2-4 weeks...especially the
paint so it will not come off in sheets once it is wet.   I will take his advice!   Also, the place that a wood- canvas canoe is prone to leak (if it does) is where the brass stem band is attached to the keel.  That is why the gooey "bedding compound" is used.  It stinks and is very sticky.  So I slopped a bunch under the stem band and now I will cross my fingers until it cures as well.  So, the canoe is just about finished.  I need to reinstall the seats and thwarts but that is no big deal. The holes are already drilled and I have the seats, handles and thwarts already varnished.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Final Coat of Paint is on!

Finished with all the sanding, varnishing, bending, painting, etc.  Now I will let it cure for about three weeks so the paint and varnish will not flake off.  On Saturday I will install the brass stem band and put the seats and thwarts back in.  I polished the brass bolt heads on Sunday...they look great! 

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Outrwales Shaped and Varnished

Last night I got the outwales shaped, sanded and varnished.  They amazingly match the 55 year old inwales in color but just a smigent of a shade lighter.   Tonight I will sand the varnish with 220 and apply another coat. Tomorrow do the same and Monday one last time.  Then I will take it outside Tuesday and let it set out for two days in the sun.  Hopefully by Thursday I can put the two remaining coats of red paint on, let it set for two days then put on the LAST ITEM....the brass stem band.  Then it will be FINISHED!!!!  If all goes well it may be ready for water by Nov. 15.  I really got to have a lot of sun to set the paint and varnish.  In reality it needs to cure for about two weeks before being put on water.  I certainly do not want the paint to come off in sheets!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Ouwales created, bent and now installed!   No breaks!  What a relief!  The South American Mahogany outwales took awhile to convince they needed to bend but finally I got them into place and used the original brass screws to secure themto the canoe.  Now all I need to do is put a few coats of varnish on and we are ready to paddle!

I took a long walk last night.  Not a single "creak, crack or pop".  Fantastic!  Anna look what I am doing n your boat!  I am standing in it.

This is what I felt like...."Just push me into the stream, son."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Outwales bent...FINALLY!

    Third time is a charm!   My first couple of tries did not work well.  Here is two outwales bent on the form.  I will take them off on Tuesday.
    African mahogany does not bend very well.  South American mahogany does.   The procedure is to clamp one end to the end of the mold. Next pour two gallons of scalding hot water on the strips.  Now, bend onto the mold within one minute.
Tuesday I will bend the other end, let it dry for two days then clamp onto the boat. Horray!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The outwales are the toughest part yet!

 Mahogany is expensive!   I broke both outwales.   One was a mistake with my sander....BANG/SNAP.  The other was trying to bend it onto the end of the canoe without steaming it.  Dang.  So, I had to create two more.  One is now on except for the steam bending and the other is drying (scarf joint epoxy).   I hope the scarf dries by tomorrow morning.  If so I will do the preliminary sanding then put it on the boat.

Once both are on, I will do the soak and steam bend technique.  Not looking forward to that!   If I pop these two I may have to go with a softer wood.   The ash I put on my other boat bent easier than this!

So, another waiting game.  The good thing is, once the outwales are on all that is left is installing the seats, handles, thwarts and stem-band.  All that has pre-drilled holes and are setting ready to go at a moments notice.  That part will not take but about an hour.  Its these outwales which are holding up progress!

Monday, September 7, 2009

First coat of paint!!!!! (Sept 7)

First coat of paint has been applied!  Look...its RED!  The red paint did very well over the grey primer.  This morning I had to put bedding compound under the keel then screw it on from underneath the canoe.  I hated to drill holes through perfectly good canvas!  I will wait until Wednesday night to sand the first coat with 220 then I will put on a second coat.  My plan is to sand it with 220 again on Friday night.  Between now and then I will rabbet the two outwales in order for the outwales to fit over the hull planks with a small groove that will place the outwales at the same heigt as the inwales.  Currently the rales are made from two 11 foot pieces of mahogany with a scarf joint.  They will be attached probably next Sunday to see if I need to steam bend the ends...I hope NOT.  I hope they will bend into position.
The problem with shows every bump, nail head, canvas bias, etc.  Paint is very telling of the job underneath.  Sort of like our life huh?  Our words, smile, facial expression all tells what is going on the inside of us.  Paint hides minor imperfections but it is really a veneer.  I believe the canoe looks pretty good for my first go around restoring a wood canvas boat!

Keel created and primer applied (Sept 5)

Lots going on quickly!  First, I sanded the filler with 220 sandpaper, created a keel out of stock (had to do a scarf joint), created the outwales out of mohogany (another two scarf joints!), varnished the bow seat and applied primer.  Now we are getting somewhere!  That keel was tough to make.  It has two angle cuts and I had to make a cove by running the stock over the table saw sideways.

Anyway, the keel and primer are on!!!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

What Color?

What color shall the canoe be painted?

Joe Seliga would say GREEN
The first owner said RED
I think it would look nice BURNT ORANGE
Widgi would say GREY
What do you think?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Filler wait one month!

Last night between 8:30 and 1:30 this morning I applied three coats of filler. Filler is an oily mixture which penetrates the weave of the canvas in order to make it more waterproof and durable. Since I have never filled the weave of canvas this task looked perplexing however it is not a problem. Just keep stiring the gallon bucket in order to suspend the ingredients. So, 5 hours into the project I finished! It looks like a grey whale!

Applying the first coat. The canvas absorbs the filler quickly.
The finished product with three coats. It does look like a whale! The problem with this step is the filler in concert with the canvas shows every bump, nailhead, plank seam, etc. Its not forgiving! Perhaps the paint will help to smooth some of that away.
The canvas after the first coat. The weave can still be seen. However after the third coat the surface is a smooth as a baby's behind...and just as stinky!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Old Towne is CANVASED!!!!!!! Aug 3

The Old Towne is canvased! Charlie and I put the cotton duck cloth on the boat this afternoon. Here are some pics...

Stretching the canvas between two trees with a come-along

I tacked and Charlie stretched

Charlie stretching the canvas while under the boat....this was difficult!

Giggle Giggle Giggle worked!

Back in the garage where I tacked the ends and applied Dolphin "bedding compound".
Tomorrow I will put the waterproofer (filler) on the canoe and smooth it our real nice like. I can paint it on Sept 4th! You vote...what color should it be? I vote for a dark orange...not VOL orange but a deep burnt orange feel. Joe Seliga green would be nice. The original color was red. What do you think?

Monday, July 6, 2009


Yehaw! It is now varnished! Six coats of Epiphanes High Gloss varnish has brought this canoe alive! Here is the final product with the handles, a seat and thwarts hanging to dry. Tomorrow I will be making my canvas stretching pieces and hopefully it will be canvased by the end of the week complete with filler (from Northwoods Canoe Company).

Friday, July 3, 2009

VARNISH COMPLETE! Well, almost (July 3, 2009)

Epiphanes High Gloss Varnish is the choice of many boat builders...including me. However it is a little pricy!

Looking good!

The newly varnished stern

I giggled! You will not believe how pretty this canoe is once I put three coats of varnish on it! Absolutely beautiful! I brushed on the first coat whicj I thinned with 50% thinner. Once finished I was a little hesitant...the next day it did not shine very well and even after 24 hours it was still tacky. I waited another day and then sanded it. On day three I put the second coat on with 25% thinner. That looked nice. I let it dry 24 hours and sanded again. I applied coat three and boy did it shine! Tonight I will sand and recoat with number four then do a total of seven coats. That is a lot of sanding. On coat one I thought it was enough but I am so glad I took the time to sand, clean, recoat, sand, clean, recoat, sand, clean recoat! Each time it was nicer. I believe God does that with me. Just when I think things can get no better, He spends time sanding away those things that need not be in my life, cleans me then builds me up. The process in the Wesley theological tradition is called sanctifying grace. Its the means whereby God shapes us into the "vessel" (good pun huh?) He wants me to be.

So, when you think God is quiet, not saying a word, has forgotten about you or things just don't seem to be going the way you had hoped, why not ask God to sand you with 220 grit sandpaper (his shaping) and recoat you with His spirit. YOU WILL SHINE!

My hope is to have the canvas on the boat and the filler on by Saturday night the 11th. That way it can cure for the two weeks while I am on vacation. Two weeks after that we can paint! Yehaw!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bring on the Varnish!

Next up...varnish. The canoe had its application of linseed oil about three weeks ago. I believe it is mostly dry now. I hope to varnish it this weekend if it does not rain. I am going to take the canoe to a friend's paint booth at his work place...he does not know it yet. ha ha ha. By the way the wood did lighten somewhat. The rough places can still be seen. Lets call it "character" and move on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Linseed Oil Applied

The outside of the hull with the linseed oil mixture. Note how the brass clenching nails shine after they got lightly sanded with the hull!

A BIG difference between the older (55 year old wood) and the new ribs and planks. I did not realize the oil would make the lighter wood turn dark. But...its OK!

Close up of the two woods after the oil was applied

My home part linseed oil and one part turpentine being heated over our stove. Joy just rolls her eyes. I am used to it!

50% turpentine and 50% boiled linseed oil. That's it. Now put it in a double boiler then brush it on the canoe. That was the next step and boy does it look different! I am a bit disappointed actually. I had hoped the canoe would retain the light colored look but the oil mixture actually darkened the wood and shows every gouge, sanding mark and cross-grain scrape. I hope once it fully soaks in and dries out I can go back and try to clean some of that up. If I had know it was going to be darker I would have only oiled the outside hull.

Oh well! She is STILL a beauty! I used just under a gallon of the mixture and saturated the wood on both the inside and outside. It will probably be dried by the first or second week of May. Until then I have to prepare my canvas stretching system and give it a test run.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stipping Finished!

I know its been a while since I have written about Anna's canoe. The weather for the past few months has been cold and rainy and is not conducive to working on a boat...especially when there are so many trails to hike before the gnats arrive!

Anyhow, the canoe is completely stripped of the old 50 year old varnish! Yesterday I gave it one more going over and then washed out all the residue. After that I gave it it's bleach water bath and my goodness how pretty!

Right now its sitting outside in the sun drying out. I will sand any damages areas from all the scraping and the outside hull this week and hopefully get the linseed oil on it this weekend. I want to do that inside and out. It must dry for about three weeks.

After the linseed oil I will varnish the inside and get that all looking good. That puts me at May 1 to begin the varnish. The varnish will require several coats and in between sanding and varnish, sanding and varnish, etc. Once varnished then I will flip the boat and put on the CANVAS! If I can get the canvas on that week I can then put the filler on and let it set (cure) until about the middle of June. With all this said I want to delver the canoe before I go on my summer vacation in the middle of July.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Let the Stripping Begin!

Anna and me with dangerous chemicals. I am glad we are not lab rats who live in California!
We are not smiling because we are enjoying stripping a 54 year old boat....I think it had to do with the fumes!

The directions state to let the stripper work for about 45 minutes. We found that the varnish came off better when the chemical was at work for only about 10 minutes. After that the evaporation time was FAST!

That silly Charlie! He thought HE was supposed to strip! Isn't the English language funny?! We were "punny" all afternoon with stripping (the canoe). Anyway...we just KNOW that under all that old varnish there is beautiful wood. The chemicals had to be bought, thick rubber gloves were used, scraping tools and metal brushes were "the ticket" to removing the goo. Under the layer of varnish we found beautiful cedar boards and ribs.

Its like a person who needs to be restored! With a patient friend, counselor or relative the restorer helps to remove all the dark, thick, ugly outside layers sometimes easy and most of the time difficult. The "sludge" of their life is scrapped away revealing a person who underneath it all, shines! If we are not patient we can get into a hurry and gouge, remove more than is necessary and actually damage the person...just like we did when we remove canoe varnish without a careful touch.

I am glad Jesus Christ removed my ugly, damaged, dried out layers of sin. Now I can shine!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Planking is all FINISHED!

Hey, I just finished the last plank! This is the ceremonial last plank which is at the left bow. Just a small piece but a piece none the less. I am so glad to come this far. Next week I will remove the varnish from inside the hull. Anna, let's set a day to do that! By the way, the canvas is in the cardboard box sitting behind Anna's canoe. Its almost time!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008


All six ribs went into place with no trouble whatsoever...yea right!. The honeymoon was over last night! Wow! What a struggle! I had to remove the old broken ribs which means I had to manually pull about 200 nails away from the ribs and planking then beat on the ribs to come loose. Afterwards I had to push, pull, bend, twist, tap and convince the ribs to go into place. All six took about five hours total. The reason it takes so long is if I pushed too hard the ribs would bulge the side. If I pushed too easy there would be a wave going into the side, so I had to spend a lot of time convincing the ribs where to go. (Actually the ribs were trying to convince me where not to put them ...ha ha)
As you can see the new ribs are very light in color while the old planking and ribs are dark. Would you believe that when this canoe was shipped to its owner, it was about the shade of the new planking you can see between the new ribs. Well, next will be STRIPPING THE VARNISH...oh joy!
Here is a bent rib just off the hull ready for installation.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ribs Bent!!!!!!!!!!

FINALLY! I have bent the six ribs. I only snapped one. So I had to create a new one. I wonder if God did that with Adam. He was asleep then "SNAP!" His rib broke as God was trying to bend it to create the new human. Maybe that is where the expression "Snap" came from.?! Anyway, I am sure that is not the way it happened. So, I placed the rib stock in a hot shower for about 30 minutes then let the hot water in the tub soak into the wood. After about two hours I took the ribs out one at a time and presto...they are on the canoe hull. I will let them dry for about 3 or 4 days then I will flip the canoe and install the new ribs. Yeah!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bow tips and deck finished! (8-23-08)

"Before" photo

"After" photo

I just finished with the bow deck and tips. I sanded it down really smooth and applied linseed oil. The piece of mahogany I used for the deck tip reconstruction is unfortunately a shade or two lighter than the original. I may try to stain it darker or just leave it. Doesn't that mahogany look beautiful!? The tips were broken off and dry-rotted farther down and the deck tip was dry-rotted and missing the last few inches. Note the stain of the Old Towne decal on the original! Just think, that was put on there 54 years ago. Now I will add a small piece of planking to each side and that will be finished. I hope to get my boiler set up this week and bend those ribs. All is ready!
About dry-rot. Wood can look firm and solid on the surface. However by applying the least bit of pressure you can cause the dry-rotted wood to crumble like dust. Like with people....if we do not have our life built on the solid rock of Christ we can look good on the surface but will crumble with the least bit of pressure. That will preach!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ribs ready...Bow tips ready (8-16-08)

I succeeded in shaping six ribs today. I realized after I completed them that the ones near the bow are shorter. So, I had to begin again with those three and do them again. Bummer. Hey, Northwoods Canoe Company in Maine sent me an extra rib and an extra 3' of planking at no extra charge! Ye haw! Above you can see the final ribs. They are all 60" right now. They are 2 1/4 inch wide at 30" and taper after 15" down to 1 3/4" wide near the ends. You can really see that taper on rib #6 above. By the way the ribs are leaning against my outdoor solar shower. I have a 5 gallon bag that the sun warms all day. At night I can take a long warm shower without being connected to the power grid. Would that be a "Green" shower?

Here are the six ribs lying on the canoe where I will be bending them. I will boil the cedar ribs in a rain gutter and quickly bend them over the outside of the canoe clamping them to the rails. I will let them dry for about three days and then I will take them off the hull and turn the boat over where I will finally install them inside the boat.

Here is the bow inwale tips being replaced. Since they were rotten and broken I had to replace them. I used pieces of the old outwale rather than using new wood. I wanted to use as much of the original wood as possible. The deck plate was also created and it is sitting in a clamp as the epoxy is drying as well. I had to make a new tip for it as well since it was also broken and rotten.

Next....I will put the deck, inwales and stem all together as one unit as I did the stern. Cross your fingers.