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, 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.

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
1887 Lakehurst Road, Buckhorn, Ontario, K0L 1J0


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:

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. 

Wednesday 30 May 2012

A classic - Old Town Charles River wood canvas canoe

1912 Old Town Charles River wood canvas canoe

100 years ago, in January of 1912, this classic wood canvas canoe took shape in the factory of Old Town Canoe Co in Old Town, Maine. In mid April the same year it was wrapped in oiled paper and burlap with hay for cushioning and taken to the railyards for shipment to Goodwins Limited, a well-known mail-order and department store at the time, in Montreal, Quebec. The canoe was purchased that spring by my customer's grandfather and has stayed within the family ever since. 

Old Town Charles River canoe.
The canoe had suffered the usual discolorations, blemishes and scars which come from long use and old age. At some time an excited hunter had "accidently" shot the canoe not once but twice. One must wonder what the canoe had been mistaken for????

The canoe had had the canvas replaced sometime in the 1970's and the original seats and thwarts replaced with generic ones. 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. I was however surprised over the dark varnished interior. It was clear that this canoe must have been stained and then varnished at the factory.

The gunnel caps and outer gunnels were beyond repair. The inner gunnels needed repairs midships as well as at the ends. There were rot in the stems, so fresh wood needed to be spliced in at both stems. The canoe also needed five new ribs, a couple of rib-tips, about twenty feet of planking, a new keel, brass stem-bands, and of-course new seats and thwarts patterned from another early Old Town I restored a couple of years ago.

Work in progress
With the stripping of the hull interior done, I removed the decks and spliced in the new gunnel ends and stem pieces as well as repaired the breaks in the gunnels amidships. The five broken ribs and rotted rib tips were next to be replaced. About twenty feet of severely cracked planking were also replaced. The chemical stripping of the hull interior removed most of the dark stain. However, several applications of bleach, stain removers etc would not remove all staining, the wood still had a blotched appearance. I am not a fan of stained wood, but in this case I used a stain, as the canoe had had originally, to even out the blotched appearance of the wood.

New seats and thwarts                                               Restored deck

A light sanding of the interior prepared the wood for a mix of a diluted  Minwax stains called English Chestnut and Golden Oak. The result was very close to the original colour, only lighter. The interior then received four coats of varnish with the last coat cut from gloss to a satin.

Application of filler.
The hull exterior was sanded smooth and treated with tung oil followed by a coat of varnish. A couple of days later the canvas went on without a hitch. 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.

Installation of gunnel caps.
The filler needed only a light sanding to prepare it for painting. Three coats of a dark green marine enamel was applied with light sanding between coats. When the paint was dry it was time to install the gunnels and gunnel caps. One would think that the thin gunnels and caps would be easy to bend without steaming, but they aren't. I prepare a piece double thickness, steam bend it and clamp it to a form. When dry I remove it from the form and split it in two on the band-saw. All the pieces are sanded, sealed and varnished before installation, a final coat is given after installation. The painted hull exterior easily get scuffed and scratched when the gunnels are installed. I like to apply the final coat of paint after the outside gunnels, that also gives me the opportunity to seal the seam between canvas and gunnel with paint .

Old Town Charles River awaiting pick-up

The 1912 Old Town Charles River was completed in late November and has been in storage awaiting spring and the customers pick-up of it. Now that spring is here I have taken it out of storage given it a dusting and made sure it is ready for its second century of service.

Monday 16 April 2012

Wetterlings Axes

World renowned Wetterlings Axes

High quality, well-made hand tools hold a place of honour in any craftsman’s toolbox! So when I moved from Sweden to North America in the 1980’s my toolbox contained a few tools I didn’t want to leave behind; a trusted Wetterling sloyd axe, an old Hults Bruk camping axe, a Isaakki Jarvenpaa puukko and a drawknife, tools I still use almost every day in my canoe building business and around my home. A couple of years ago I lost my old Wetterling. To replace it a friend gave me his Gränsfors Bruks hunting axe. A wonderful present in itself, it has been well used, but it was not exactly what I was missing. To make a long story short, this led me to contact Wetterlings Axes in Storvik, Sweden and to carrying their axes for sale in my canoe and outdoors gear store.


Wetterlings has been making hand forged axes for more than 130 years, making it the oldest axe maker still operating in Sweden. The company was founded in early 1880 in the village of Bäckefors Bruk, by Sven Axel Wetterling. In 1882 his brother, Otto Wetterling, returned home from the USA where he had studied industrial axe manufacturing. To be closer to railroad transportation and therefore easier access to raw materials the brothers moved the company to Storvik in 1885. The brothers, there created a piece of legendary Swedish industrial history, using the knowledge and experience of Sven-Axel and the new ideas and technical knowledge of Otto.

With the death of Otto Wetterling in 1915, Sven Axel Wetterling decided it was time to retire. He sold the company in 1917 to a former competitor and old friend, Magnus Liljeblad. The factory was expanded and its machinery and equipment were modernized. 

Vintage Wetterlings Axe Labels

In 1950 the ownership of the now world renowned company was passed on to Gustav Jungefors, a nephew of the owner. The company had grown to employ 40 workers and had also expanded into making their own axe shafts through the purchase of Söderhamns  Axe Shaft Factory. During the postwar era, Wetterlings enjoyed a growing export, and among others, Argentina and Brazil had become important new markets. In the best year ever, Wetterlings produced 160 000 axes. Almost one third of the production was made for Sandvik, which for many years had been an important customer, but also Husqvarna and others purchased Wetterlings axes for re-sale under their own brands.

The late 1970’s came with hard times for the world’s axe makers. The chainsaw had already taken a good part of the market and with the latest innovations in forest machinery such as harvesters and processors, the axe had taken a definite backseat. Sweden had in the early 1900’s more than twenty axe manufacturers. In 1966 there were only three left; Wetterlings, Gransfors Bruk and Hults Bruk.

Today, it’s not commercial loggers using axes, its people like you and me; homeowners, campers, woodworkers, hunters etc. To meet the demands of this market segment, Wetterlings changed back towards old production methods based on craftsmanship. A new assortment of axe models were developed many based on old re-designed and improved models from the company’s early years.

In 2007, Gabriel Brånby (former owner of Gransfors Bruk) purchased Wetterlings and together with new CEO Julia Kalthof, restored this legendary company back to its former glory.

Vintage hammer presses                                             Forging in the power hammer

For a casual observer and visitor to Wetterlings today, it seems almost as if time has stood still. Wetterlings forges and shapes each axe by hand using old hammer presses and tools, some almost 100 years old, followed by hand finishing the final details on the traditional anvil. This is a task that demands patience and time and is totally dependent on the skill of the blacksmith.

Forging                Finishing the final details by hand               Axe heads               Edge grinding

The forge is still in Storvik, twenty kilometers west of Sandviken, an area in Sweden where people since the time of the Vikings have worked with iron. Today, ten people proudly continue the tradition of producing Wetterlings world class axes.

Wetterlings Axe

Hand forged traditional axes made by Wetterlings, the oldest existing axe forge in Sweden. Made from high grade Swedish steel, hardened and tempered to Rockwell 57 – 58. American hickory handles. All axes supplied with leather sheaths.

An axe from Wetterlings is made to last. With a little care, your axe could be passed on from one generation to the next. With a Wetterlings you have not only an axe, but a friend for life.

Isn’t it time for you to get a Wetterlings axe?

 Order online, over the phone or purchase directly in our store;

Buckhorn Canoe Company
1887 Lakehurst Road, Buckhorn, Ontario, K0L 1J0


Friday 16 March 2012

Northland Canoe V-stern

Northland Square stern canoe.
The Northland Square stern canoe is completed, at least my portion of the work. Now the owner will finish her; sand and refinish the interior as well as rebuild the seats.

Northland Square stern canoe. 

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Northland Canoe 14 ft. V-stern

I am presently working on a Northland V-stern canvas covered canoe, a model you don’t see that often. This is the first of their V-stern canoes for me, although I have restored many Northland canoes over the years.

Northland Canoe deck with decal.

The company started out sometime in the mid 1940’s just north of Huntsville. The present owner, Albert Maw, started with the company in 1956 as an employee and purchased the company in 1964. At one time the company produced up to 200 canoes a year with a lineup of eight different models.  A fire destroyed the company and its assets in 1995. Northland Canoes is still in business, although today only as a one man shop doing mostly repairs.
This Northland square-stern canoe was covered in a #10 canvas and filled with a polyester resin. A practise the company started in the 1960’s; later the canvas covering was replaced with fiberglass cloth on all their canoe models. A polyester resin was also brushed on the interior woodwork substituting varnish.

Removal of canvas glued to the hull.

Sanding to make the hull smooth enough for the new canvas.
The canvas was well glued to the hull especially on its sides. So, I knew I was in for many hours of unpleasant work with a heat gun and putty knife, followed by a lot of sanding to make the hull exterior smooth enough for the new canvas covering.

The canoe was planked with white cedar, mostly flat sawn. As is common, with canoes planked with flat sawn planking there is a fair amount of buckled planking which need work, especially as the distance between planking tacks on this canoe was too great. I have replaced the planking with the worst buckling and cracking, in some areas re-nailing and adding extra tacks was sufficient to flatten out the buckled plank. When all tacks were well clinched and secure I carefully sanded the hull followed by an oiling of the hull exterior with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine.

Stretching and stapling the canvas. 

View of v-stern with new canvas.

The canoe’s owner wanted to watch and help out with the re-canvas work, so that morning I had two extra hands which finished the work on record time. On a v-stern like this the canvas is folded around the transom and fastened down in bedding compound. The stern is then covered by a fitted trim piece, in this case made from cherry.

Application of mildewcide to the canvas.

Warmer weather and some sun the next day gave me the opportunity to move outside to apply a zinc-naphthenate mildewcide to the canvas covering. 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. I apply the mildewcide with a foam brush and stop 4 or 5 inches short of reaching the sheer, the mildewcide will migrate down. 

In the old times of lead based canvas fillers this step wasn’t necessary as the lead in the filler was a very effective mildewcide.

Zinc naphthenate preservative.

A word of advice; If you are restoring or having your canoe restored don’t skip this step! Apply mildewcide to the canvas or purchase canvas which is pretreated with it. It is also a good idea to ad mildewcide to the filler, I do both. Without mildewcide treatment your canvas covering might not last more than a few years. 

Sunday 5 February 2012

16' Chestnut Cruiser

A couple of months ago I wrote briefly about the 16’ Chestnut cruiser slated for restoration over the winter.

Chestnut Cruiser with Verolite  canvas covering.

Bow deck with a faint trace of  an
outline of a Chestnut decal.
I brought it into the shop a couple of weeks ago. There
was no serial number stamped into the stem, but I found
a faint outline and a small remnant of a Chestnut decal
on the bow deck. It's measurement; 16’ x 33 ¾” x 11¾”
the very narrow decks and the slightly rounded hull
bottom definitely identify it as a Chestnut cruiser the
“Kruger” model. I estimated the build date to be mid to
late 1950’s.

A number of building details, however, point to an earlier
building date, most likely in the 1930’s or perhaps even
earlier. Almost all the planking is slash cut (vertical grain
angled about 30 degrees) and so are most of the ribs,
seats are bolted directly to the gunnels, the thwarts have
the typical earlier well rounded shape with tapered ends, and the decks are slightly crowned and nicely undercut.  There are also signs that the bow and stern height have been cut down slightly, which indicates that it once had the early higher cruiser ends.

16' Chestnut Cruiser the "Kruger" model.

I have removed the last pieces of the Verolite canvas, the outside gunnels, the keel and almost two rows of the cheer planking. All of it more or less rotted away. The rot has spread to a good number of rib tips resulting in that at least 45 ribs need new ends scarphed in and three ribs need to be completely replaced. The hull interior needs a complete stripping of the varnish, which means I will have to wait for warmer weather as I don’t like to perform this work inside. More about this canoe later in the spring.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Chestnut Canoe Co, motor canoe

As a canoe builder and restorer I am often asked: Which is your favourite canoe? Well, it’s not one, I have many favorites; paddling canoes, motor canoes, sailing canoes, some are canoes with interesting stories and some are favourites because of their construction, design and style. Here is one favorite, the Chestnut motor canoe, a rare one. I will occasionally present a few others that I think are worthy of special mentioning.

Chestnut Canoe Co ad.

In the early 1900’s the internal combustion engine changed most aspects of life and commerce, on land and water. The most common small engine of the day was the single-cylinder, two-cycle engine often called “one-lunger” or “make-and-break”. One-lunger referred to the single cylinder and make-and-break referred to the ignition system. This little motor was used as marine engines, stationary engines powering farm equipment, sawmills, and washing machines, and much more. It was the choice motor for fishermen and pleasure boaters alike for the next two decades beginning around 1900. Motorized boats found an eager audience in a growing population with time and money to spend.

E. M. White motor canoe ad.

One of the first of the North American canoe builders to recognize this new market was the E.M. White & Co in Maine. Already in 1902 they had a stock model motor canoe for sale to the public looking for a new and modern way to get out on the water.

In 1905 the Chestnut Canoe Co was a small regional canoe maker, with its first catalogue just out, offering only three models. It is clear that the company a couple of years later was doing a very good business right across Canada with a large line-up of canoe models to choose from. Clearly, the Chestnut Canoe Co wasn’t shy about “borrowing” ideas and quickly had picked up on the idea of a motorized canoe. Their motor canoe, first offered in 1907, was an almost exact copy of the E. M. White & Company’s motor canoe with “invisible sponsons”.
The Chestnut Canoe Co introduced their 20 ft. freight canoe in 1907 and its hull was also used for the inboard motor canoe. Ten motor canoes were produced that first year.

The cross section above shows the peculiar shape of the hull and the built in invisible air chambers which were added onto the full length of a canvassed hull and extending below the waterline. The hull was then again canvassed, filled and painted, making the air-chambers completely sealed. These chambers make the craft so steady that it is practically impossible to upset it and they make the canoe so buoyant that it will support more people than can be crowded into it.

Chestnut foursome.

The Chestnut inboard motor canoes were made in two lengths; 18-ft. and 20-ft. A range of options and equipment were available such as; Harlow awnings, special chairs and seats, spray hoods etc.
The canoes came equipped with the customer’s choice of three versions of an engine made by the St. Lawrence Engine Co in Brockville, Ontario. Their basic single cylinder engine model was produced almost unchanged for sixty years. Each engine was hand built one at the time.

 By 1920 the inboard motor canoe models had disappeared from the Chestnut offerings and had been replaced with the new fad; the square stern canoe equipped with the outboard motor.

A Chestnut motor canoe with the invisible sponsons is quite rare, I know of only a handful, one of them in the collection at the Canadian Canoe Museum. Their canoe, or what is left of it, is unfortunately in poor condition and is missing all hardware, motor, propeller, tank and piping, bow & side steering wheels, rub rails, oak coaming, keel, seats, chairs and its canvas covering. Two feet of the stern have been cut off and replaced by a transom.

If any of you have a Chestnut motor canoe for sale, I am interested.

Monday 16 January 2012

Burleigh Falls cedar-strip canoe

The Burleigh Falls cedar-strip canoe is now almost finished. Installation of two new brass stembands and painter rings and this cedarstrip is out the doors.

Fresh varnish, almost done.
The canoe looks pretty good now, compared to the badly weathered and stained wreck I started out with. It now has new gunnels, deck coamings, king-planks, keel and brass stembands. It was hard work to remove those old gunnels, fastened as they were with one-hundred and fifty steel nails and twenty steel screws.


Stern with fresh varnish.