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|
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.
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|
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.|
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.|
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.|