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Bringing a very old canoe or guideboat back to life is a detailed and time-consuming endeavor. From start to finish we view our work as art restoration. With this perspective comes a high level of care and attention to every step of the process while employing only the best materials available. Below is a general outline of the steps taken with each of our fully restored watercraft:
- Following removal of seats, thwarts and hardware (these are refinished separately) as well as the old canvas, the interior hull is completely stripped of old varnish and other finishes.
- Carpentry is then performed as needed. Damaged or significantly worn structural elements are replaced with materials that match the original construction specifications. Cosmetic imperfections are repaired with an eye to preserving historical accuracy whenever possible. Fortunately, the vast majority of our inventory was well cared for in its past life so we've not had to undertake major reconstruction of any unit.
- The interior and exterior hulls are sanded to reduce imperfections with 60, 150 and 220 grit abrasives.
- We then rejuvenate the flexibility of the cedar ribs and planking by liberally applying a 50/50 mix of boiled Linseed oil and Turpentine heated to almost boiling. Cedar that is nearly a century old has lost much of its natural oil, so this treatment is extremely effective for putting "spring" back into the wood. The hull is then allowed to absorb this mix for 4 weeks.
- No. 10 canvas duck is tightly stretched over the hull and affixed using brass tacks. Three coats of filler are applied to waterproof the canvas and provide excellent durability. Both the canvas and the filler are supplied by Jerry Stelmok and are considered to be the best materials on the market today.
- Once the filler has cured for 3 to 4 weeks the canvas is sanded, the keel and outwales are reattached with polysulfide bedding compound (to insure watertightness) and the entire exterior hull is covered with marine primer and 3 to 6 coats of acrylic enamel paint to match the original production color(s) of the craft.
- The interior hull, decks, gunwales, seats and thwarts are given 6 to 8 coats of a special Spar varnish that contains additives for extra surface hardness and enhanced UV protection. Between each coat we carefully sand the surface with 320 and 400 grit abrasive.
The result, after 3 months and several hundred man-hours, is a handsome watercraft brought back to the appearance and durability of its youth. With proper care and storage, it will provide many years of aesthetic and paddling satisfaction.
The story is in the Stembands
One last note about our work. Most of our watercraft have historical significance that we strive to maintain. This involves the reuse of as many original wooden and hardware components as possible. Our restoration objective is not to recreate something that looks "like new", but clearly shows its pedigree of high quality while carrying with it a bit of its past. If there is a small piece of wood missing from a gunwale, it's not filled but rather smoothed and sanded to minimize its appearance so as not to replace the entire gunwale with new wood. While the brass stembands and seat hardware are brightly polished, they retain most of their nicks and scratches as testimony to what we are sure is a long and interesting history of launches and landings. These so-called "cosmetic imperfections" constitute the patina of character held by each craft and speak to its individualism. They are minor but, in our eyes, essential to maintain. Within the detailed information given for each canoe or guideboat, you will find a precise listing of all repairs and replacement parts used in the restoration.
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