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A winter of canoe restoration

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

I've spent the winter working on restoring a 25' Old Town War Canoe. This particular wood and canvas canoe was made in Old Town, ME in 1930, and seats 11 smaller humans. It was sent to Torrington, CT to be sold at a sporting goods store. I'm still researching how it has spent its life, so far.


My boat builder fiend Garett got the boat at a museum in upstate NY and brought it back to Maine several years ago with the intention of restoring it. But many other boats and projects got in the way and there it continue to sat, outside next to the boat shed. It's seen a long life and had some serious rot. I approached Garett about restoring it myself back in November, and I took several weeks to mull over the possibility. Well, I loaded the 25' canoe onto my truck and took it to the Montville chicken barn. But on the way I paraded it around Appleton and Hope, sharing my excitement with friends. Friends' muted and skeptical reaction pointed to the amount of work this vessel would take to get it back in the water. They might not have seen all the potential I saw. They probably focused on the rot. I might have saved it from the compost pile.


Over the last few months, I've put in many nights and weekends removing fiberglass, removing hundreds of 90 year old bolts and screws, removing old rotting wood, and stripping varnish from a million different tiny planes with chemical stripper. The months of February and March have been focused on sourcing and milling wood. Several failed attempt at steam bending exceptionally dry white oak led me back to boat building Garett, who used his schooner connections to source exceptionally green white oak, which bent beautifully. Out of the hundreds of linear feet of 5/32" western red cedar planking, I only needed about 80 new feet, so my friend Dan helped me to mill some of Viking Lumber's most expensive cedar into beautiful new planking. A trip to Dewey's in Liberty got me my white cedar for ribs, and I'm still looking for some long and straight ash for the outwales, but that's months away. A trip up to Island Falls Canoe for some hardware and canvas. Lots of phone calls, scouring books and the internet is paying off.

Does the canoe make this bathtub look small?


Cedar picking up tacks in the chicken barn. This room in the chicken barn is 32 feet long. The boat is 25. That means I often have to walk 55 feet to pick up a tool that's just across the boat.

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