Thursday, 20 February 2014

Chestnut Canoe Co. the Peach model


About 10 years ago I restored a couple of early 14' canvas covered canoes built by the Chestnut Canoe Co. Unfortunately, I lost the CD containing most of the pictures from those restorations. Last weekend the lost CD was found so here are some of the pictures and a write up on one of the restorations.


14' Chestnut Peach
Almost 100 years ago, in May of 1914, 
this canoe was purchased from the 
Chestnut Canoe Co dealer Ketchum & 
Co in Ottawa, by my customer’s great 
grandfather to be used at the then new 
family cottage at Britannia Bay just 
outside Ottawa.

The canoe had been used by several generations and was now well patched 
with duct tape, but otherwise in good condition. However, it needed new canvas, replacement of 3 ft. of planking, 
repair to the inwales, careful stripping of 
the varnished interior and new seat caning.  



After stripping the canoe of its old varnish the real condition of the hull could be observed. The hull was remarkably well preserved and true for a canoe this old. A quick check in an old Chestnut catalog and I could identify the canoe as a 14' Peach model 2nd grade. Proof of this was quickly found; the stripping highlighted ribs and planking with small knots and not the best grain orientation. 


Stripping of hull interior
Chestnut Peach deck with old style decal



The Chestnut canoes built in Fredericton, N.B. before the fire of December 1921 were significantly different from what was produced later. During the rebuilding, forms and jigs for most canoe models were changed. The side's "tumble-home" and the "kick-up" of the shear line in the bow and stern were reduced and many other smaller changes, all in order to speed up production and generate higher profits. 


How to recognize a prefire Chestnut.  



As mentioned above look for considerable tumble-home and high bow and stern profiles, closed gunnels or as here open gunnels where the rib tips are tapered and feathered along the decks to taper and close up the distance between inner and outer gunwales. Take also note of the peculiar notching of the stem tips. The thwarts should be nicely shaped with tapered ends. Seats might have sculpted frames and should be bolted directly to the gunwales without spacers. If your canoe is a pleasure model it should also have heart shaped, crowned and undercut decks and of course an old style decal if present. 


Chestnut Peach bow interior
Stem detail




Plugging the old gunnel screw holes 

The interior re-varnished, new canvas installed, filled, sanded and painted. Here I am gluing in small wood plugs in the old screw holes to make ready for installation of the out-wales. 
                                                                                     
14' Chestnut Peach ready for new adventures.
Isn't this a sweet canoe? Here it is ready for another 100 years of adventures.

Chestnut Peach - nice curves
Chestnut Peach bow























After taking the lines of the Peach for future builds it was off  to the beach for a test paddle.

Jeremy Ward test paddling the restored Chestnut Peach








Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Chestnut Indian Maiden canoe

Recently a lady called me asking if I had or knew of a Chestnut Indian/Maiden canoe for sale. She had seen the photos I had posted on Facebook of the latest Indian/Maiden I had restored for a customer  just last summer and wanted one. She had received one in birthday present in 1961. Unfortunately, that canoe had been destroyed in a storm some years later.

Chestnut Maiden restored summer 2013

Chestnut Maiden - new clothes 

I have restored several of this model, but no, I didn't have one for sale. So this blog posting is a short write-up about that canoe model and if you know of one give me a call, I know of a motivated buyer.

From its humble beginnings in the early 1900’s and an offering of only three models, the Chestnut Canoe Co had grown quickly. With the end of WWI and a renewed strong demand for their canoes the company added many more versions to their line-up of canoe models.

1934 catalogue page

The Chestnut Indian Maiden was one of those; it was introduced in 1922 in two versions, the Indian and the Maiden both 16 ft. in length. The difference was the finishes; the Indian with gunwales, thwarts, seats and decks trimmed in mahogany and the Maiden with spruce and ash gunwales, cedar decks and seats and thwarts in maple or ash.

The model was advertised as the craft for use at summer camps, resorts etc. and designed specifically for those wishing a jaunty looking distinctive model. It sure is distinctive, with its high and strongly curved ends. The hull-shape is very similar to the company's cruiser model with a narrow beam, an arched bottom and a very fine entry. In my mind, more a canoe for experienced paddlers not resort and camp paddlers. 

The Indian/Maiden model was offered for sale until the mid-1950’s. In 1960 and 1961 it showed up again in the company’s catalog. The model was also sold by the sister company Peterborough Canoe Co under the name “Iroquois”in 1960 and 1961.

Chestnut catalogue1961

In 1978 the Chestnut Canoe Co "dusted off" the old form with the intention to produce a Special Edition of three hundred canoes of the Indian Maiden model. The model was proudly displayed at the“show circuit” of 1978. 

Show circuit 1978

However, the Special Edition Indian Maiden was meet by very little interest – and apparently only three were built. Later the same year the company closed its doors for good. The Special Edition Indian Maiden has the distinction of being the last model built by the company.



Thursday, 26 December 2013

Chestnut Cruiser


A while back, I wrote briefly about a 16' Chestnut Cruiser slated for restoration. This model of paddling canoe is one of my favorites. I finished the restoration of this cruiser in the early summer of 2013 and had a chance to take it out for a test paddle one early morning. What a treat this canoe is to paddle! 


Chestnut Cruiser the 16' Kruger model, after restoration.

The initial offering in the Chestnut Canoe Company's first catalog from 1905 wasn't large. The company offered only three models; the pleasure model, the cruiser model and the guide special model. Each of them in three lengths; 16 ft., 17 ft. and 18 ft. 



The Cruiser and Guide Special were always built on the same form. In the early years both models had a flat bottom, very slim bow and stern and high ends. In the mid 1910's the building form changed to produce a rounder bottom and changed again after the devastating fire in 1921. 

                             Restoration of the Chestnut Cruiser



                       
The customer did not know who had built it or when, only that the canoe had been around their cottage for a very long time and had spent at least the last 10 years on the ground under the cottage. After cleaning off the worst of the accumulated grime, I found a faint outline and a small remnant of a Chestnut Canoe Co. decal on the bow deck. The canoe's measurements, the very narrow decks and the slightly rounded hull bottom definitely identified it as a Chestnut Cruiser the Kruger model. 

Initially I estimated the building date to be mid 1950's. However, a closer look showed a number of building details that point to an earlier building date of 1930's or perhaps even earlier. The canoe has no serial number, it has vertical grain planking and ribs, seats were bolted directly to the gunnels without the use of spacers, the thwarts have the typical earlier well rounded shape with tapered ends, and the decks are slightly crowned and nicely undercut.


Charlie chem. stripping the Chestnut Cruiser

This canoe had been worked on several times before. There was signs that the bow and stern height had been cut down a tad. The canoe's last canvas covering, was a Verolite canvas, and oh man what a mess and stink when I started to remove the covering. There was hardly any canvas left, just the outer vinyl skin, the rest mildewed and rotted away. When last re-canvased the hull exterior had also been made smooth with the help of drywall mud. It came off in large chunks. The hull interior was chemically stripped of its varnish and washed with several applications of bleach to remove most of the black stains.

16' Chestnut Cruiser the "Kruger" model 
 Chestnut Cruiser with the damaged and rotted planking removed 

The rot had spread to both inner and outer gunnels, the two top rows of planking and a good number of ribs and rib tips, resulting in the need to replace the gunnels, 9 ribs and splice in fresh wood to 18 rib tips and the stem ends.


The Chestnut Cruiser with new gunnels and planking.

With the wood work taken care of the canoe was well sanded inside and out. To blend all this new wood to the old, the interior received a wash of stain and was topped with four coats of varnish. The hull exterior was sanded smooth and treated with an application of tung oil followed by a coat of varnish.  



Chestnut Cruiser ready for new canvas

Charlie rubbing in filler




















A couple of weeks later the canvas was installed. The canvas was as usual treated with a zink-naphthenate mildewcide after installation.  A smelly but absolutely necessary job if the canvas covering is going to last. Use of respirator and gloves is essential, and leaving the canoe outside to dry. You don't want to breathe in the fumes from it. In the old times of lead based fillers this step wasn't necessary as the lead in the filler was a very effective mildewcide. 


Chestnut Cruiser 16 ft. Kruger model.
  
The filler needed only a light sanding to prepare it for painting. Three coats of a fire red marine enamel was applied with light sanding between coats. When the paint was dry the outside gunnels were installed. The seats had long ago lost its caning and the framework was severely cracked, so new seats were made patterned from the old ones. 




Friday, 13 September 2013

The restoration of a classic J.B. O'Dette Trapper canoe.


A couple of years ago an acquaintance dropped in to my shop with a little 13’ wood canvas canoe in need of lots of TLC. I could have it for free if I made sure that it was properly restored and later went to a good home.

It wasn't hard to identify it as a trapper canoe built by the Peterborough firm, O’Dette and Sons, from the mid 1930’s. The O’Dette trapper is a 13’ canoe equipped with three keels; a regular keel and two bilge keels. All three keels in turn protected with full length bang irons. Canoes so equipped were commonly called "winter canoes" or "trapping canoes" if you will and used by local trappers and hunters. The keels protected the hull bottom when the canoe was pushed over beaver dams and ice in early spring.

ca. 1938 catalog
The boat building enterprise J.B. O’Dette was established 1926; however John Baptiste O’Dette was not a newcomer to canoe building. "Bat", as he often was called, learned the business of canoe building working for the firm Wm. English Canoe Co, starting in 1877 only fourteen year old. He left Wm. English Canoe Co in 1895 to work for the Peterborough Canoe Co. He rose to the position of foreman, a position he held until 1925 when he left to start J. B. O’Dette Canoe. In 1930 his son George joined him and a couple of years later his oldest son Vernon also joined the family business. The company produced canoes, skiffs, motor boats as well as oars and paddles. The company became well known for their high quality canoes and boats and was the go-to place for trapper canoes. The O’Dette’s also run a successful boat & canoe rental business; “Peterborough Boat Livery” with two locations along Otonabee River.

Restoration of the O'Dette Trapper canoe.


Despite its condition and some heavy handed repairs over the years; the quality of the original materials’ and workmanship used, shone through. The canoe had had the canvas replaced in the 1970's and the shear-line lowered in the bow and stern. After stripping the canoe of its old varnish the real condition of the hull could be observed. The canoe had suffered the usual discolorations, blemishes and scars from hard use and old age.


Stem repaired and a new cant rib installed.                       New ribs being installed and repairs to rib ends.


The outer gunnels were beyond repair and the inner needed repairs in the ends. The stems needed fresh wood spliced in. Twenty eight ribs were broken and worn from heavy work boots and a visit by a hungry porcupine, and had to be replaced. Four new cant ribs were installed and thirty rib tips received extensions spliced in to return the shear-line to its original position. 


Bill installing canvas
The old seats had long ago lost its caning     and the framework was severely cracked, so  new seats were made with the old as a pattern.  The decks had at an earlier time been replaced with a pair, crudely made from pine.  A new set of decks and a pair of lift handles were made from white oak and installed. 

About thirty feet of cracked planking were also replaced. To blend all this new wood to the old, the interior received two washes of stain and was topped with four coats of varnish.

 
The O'Dette trapper canoe with new canvas covering.
    The hull exterior was sanded smooth and    
     treated with an application of tung oil 
     followed by a coat of varnish.  

     The canoe’s new owner wanted to help out        with the canvas work, so with two extra               hands the work was quickly finished.
      
     A few days later the canvas was treated   
     with a zink-naphtenate mildewcide. A  
     smelly but absolutely necessary job if the   
     new canvas covering is going to last.
     After drying for a few days, the canvas 
     received an oil based silica filler. 


J. B. O'Dette trapper canoe.
The cold spring this year extended the filler's drying time with a couple of weeks. However, in the late May it was finally time to move the canoe outside for sanding of the filler.

Four coats of shop mixed grey/blue paint
and the canoe was ready for the final details. Two new outwales and two new outside wood stems were made and installed. The center keel was re-installed
and the two bilge keels were saved, but left off, as the canoe now will see much lighter use then in its earlier life.

The new owners picked up the restored O'Dette trapper canoe in June and ensured me it will be well treated and used as it deserves.



The new owners and the restored O'Dette Trapper canoe.





Sunday, 3 February 2013

Calvin Rutstrum and an ingenious canoe portage arrangement!


I recently started re-reading Calvin Rutstrum’s books, one of my favorite authors of my youth.  I had almost completely forgotten how much I liked his writings. As the jacket presentation on one of his books say; “if you ever go to the woods… or even just dream about it, you want Calvin Rutstrum as your guide”!

Illustration by Gary Jones 

Here is a snippet on how to portage your canoe!

“As we were making a portage around a rapid, we met two Indian youngsters dragging a birchbark canoe over the portage. A girl and a boy; they could not have been more than ten to twelve years old. One on each side of the canoe's bow, handling it with a cross pole fastened to the gunwales, dragging the stern along the trail. What was ingenious about the arrangement was that the canoe’s stern was suspended in the crotch of an alder sapling elevating the canoe's stern above the rough trail. The stem of the sapling sliding on the trail also served as a spring to take the ground undulations and incidental bumps. It was a method I had never seen used before, something these youngsters had learned from their elders”.

Rutstrum, Calvin. Chips from a wilderness log. New York: Stein and Day, 1978

Here is a list of Calvin Rutstrum's books, many still available in libraries or on the internet:

Way of the Wilderness (1946),
Memoranda for Canoe Country (1953)
The New Way of the Wilderness (1958)
The Wilderness Cabin (1961)
North American Canoe Country (1964)
Wilderness Route Finder (1967)
Paradise Below Zero (1968)
Challenge of the Wilderness (1970)
Once Upon a Wilderness (1973)
The Wilderness Life (1975)
Chips from a Wilderness Log (1978)
A Wilderness Autobiography (1979)
Hiking Back to Health (1980)
A Columnist Looks at Life, Here's Cal Rutstrum (1981)
Backcountry (1981)

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Three Great Christmas gifts for outdoor folks!


Holiday Shoppers,
Check out these three new items. They aren't on our website yet, but will be soon.... to get an order in, email us at boat@buckhorncanoes.com, call us at (705) 657-2601 or visit our store in Buckhorn. We will be glad to help.

Wetterlings Bushman Axe


The Bushman Axe is the result of a collaboration between "Survivorman" Les Stroud and world renowned Swedish axe-maker Wetterlings.


Wetterlings Bushman Axe
The Bushman Axe is unique as it is both an axe and a hammer. The wedge shaped head ensures good splitting power. It is great for chopping, felling and even some detailed work. The neck is a distinct hammer and good for driving pegs. The axe head is notched for your fingers so that you get a close grip for detailed work. The handle is long enough for  two hands when being used for heavy chores.

1.65 lb. carbon steel axe head.
22” hickory handle.
Leather sheath.
Price: $149.00 


The shipment from Wetterlings is on its way and is estimated to arrive around December 17. Call now to order your Bushman Axe.


Wetterlings redesigned Small Splitting Axe

Wetterlings Small Splitting Axe
Wetterlings Small Splitting Axe is redesigned with a more efficient head, a shorter hickory handle and a new quality 
tanned leather sheath with fastening strap.

Even-though a smaller size this is a powerful axe, made for the splitting of smaller logs and kindling.  Can be used single or double handed. Splitting axes are meant to split the log along the grain, not cut it, therefore the cutting edge is shaped at a fairly big angle and the sides of the bit is ridged. This makes splitting easier and ensures the axe does not get stuck in the wood.

2lb. Swedish carbon steel axe head.
18" Hickory handle.
Comes with a riveted leather sheath.
Price: $115.75



We estimate that the redesigned small splitting axe will arrive around December 17. Call now to order!


Svante Freden's Folding Reflektor Oven

Folding Reflector Oven
With this reflector oven you will be the most popular chef in the camp. Svante Freden makes these reflector ovens in his shop in Sweden. They are lightweight and durable and will provide many years of campfire baking. Bake muffins, cinnamon buns, pizza, bread - you name it. The possibilities are endless. This little ove works like a charm. It folds flat when not in use.

Dimensions
Open: 16" wide, 11" high and 9" deep
Closed: 13"wide x 9"deep x 1/2" thick
Price: $85.00 
Folding Reflector oven










Order over the phone or purchase directly in our store. 

Buckhorn Canoe Company
1910 Lakehurst Road, Buckhorn, Ontario, K0L 1J0

1-705-657-2601

www.buckhorncanoes.com


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Perdita II a decked cedar-strip canoe built by Lakefield Canoe Co.


A couple of months ago I wrote about one of my favourite canoes, the Chestnut motor canoe. To continue on this theme, this story is about another favourite; a decked cedar-strip canoe built by the Lakefield Canoe & Mfr. Co. in 1907.  It once belonged to George M. Douglas and is today part of the Canadian Canoe Museum’s collection. Its name is Perdita II and it can be found in the Canadian Canoe Museum’s gallery “The Peterborough Tradition” where it hangs upside down in the ceiling.

Perdita II, a decked cedar-strip canoe built by the Lakefield Canoe & Mfr. Co.
I came across Perdita II for the first time in the fall of 1997 when identifying and documenting canoes for the Canadian Canoe Museum. What caught my eye was the narrow width, only 24" and the round to V-shaped hull bottom. A true reflection of the racing dugouts that once raced on the lakes and rivers of the greater Peterborough region in the mid 1800's. Perdita II takes on greater significance, as regretfully very little material evidence of the racing dugouts of that time remains.

It is a canoe I sponsor through the Canadian Canoe Museum’s cool fundraising program “Adopt-a-canoe”.

For just $15/month you can also adopt one of the canoes in the Museum’s collection. Find out more about the fundraising program and how to adopt your canoe here:  http://support.canoemuseum.ca/index.php?option=com_jcollection&view=category&catid=1:adopt-an-artifact&Itemid=2

This is the story of this canoe; actually, it is the story of three canoes; the old racing dugout Perdita, and two decked cedarstrip canoes; Perdita I and Perdita II.


In 1884 the two young brothers George and Lionel Douglas fished a racing dugout out of the waters of Katchewanoka Lake just north of Lakefield. Their father, Dr. Campbell Mellis Douglas, an avid canoeist, canoe collector and inventor, took an interest in the dugout and brought it to the Lakefield canoe builder Thomas Gordon. The old leaking dugout was restored and fitted with new butternut decks by Thomas Gordon and Charles Grylls. The old racing dugout got a new lease on life and was named Perdita. The Douglas family named their canoes and boats after Shakespeare characters. Perdita was the name of a character out of A Winter’s Tale.

Perdita was enjoyed by the Douglas family and its visitors for many years. Although a refined and well-built craft with uniform hull thickness and long fluid lines, it suffered all the usual dugout problems; crankiness, excessive weight and of course the bane of all dugouts; severe cracking of the hull. In early 1893 the dugout was again brought to the Lakefield canoe builder Thomas Gordon, who converted the old dugout to a mold from which the hull of Perdita I, a decked cedar-strip canoe was produced.


Perdita I a decked cedar-strip canoe built by Thomas Gordon.
In 1894, Dr. Campbell M. Douglas applied for a new commission in the British Army to pay for his children's education. The family farm “Northcote” was sold to much distress of the boys George and Lionel. The family moved to England and with them came a handful of the collection of canoes and boats, among them Perdita I.  The canoe was kept at Easton Lodge, the private residence of Countess of Warwick who was a friend of Dr. Douglas.

Dr. Campbell M. Douglas and his son George paddling
Perdita I at Broughty  Ferry,  Scotland  October 4, 1899.
With his education taken care of, George Douglas revisited Canada and Lakefield several times and finally bought back the family homestead, “Northcote” in the summer of 1907.

During George Douglas time in England, the Lakefield canoe building firms Thomas Gordon and Strickland & Co had amalgamated to become the Lakefield Canoe & Mfg. Co. Inquiring there about the whereabouts of the old racing dugout mold “Perdita” George was successful in finding it. He placed an order in the fall of 1907 for Perdita II to be built on the same old dugout mold by the Lakefield Canoe & Mfr. Co. 

Perdita II paddled on Katchewanoka Lake, Lakefield
After the death of his father Campbell M. Douglas in late 1909, George managed to secure the return of the Perdita I to Lakefield after a lengthy correspondence with the Duchess of Warwick who reportedly felt an attachment to the canoe.  Both canoes were now part of an growing fleet of canoes and boats at "Northcote" to the enjoyment of the many visitors over the next 50 years.

Perdita I is today in a private collection and Perdita II in the Canadian Canoe Museums collection. The racing dugout/mold Perdita was most likely destroyed in the December 23, 1910 fire of the Lakefield Canoe & Mfr. Co

Thank you to Kathy Hooke for the access and use of the Douglas family photos and diary's.