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.