Naked or No?

by Steve on November 21, 2008

Now that I have your attention, give me your opinion: cover it with clear fiberglass and resin or the traditional canvas which is then filled and painted. I’m leaning the traditional route because to me all the joints and tacks that are visible on the outside detract from the work. Here’s a couple of shots with the hull wet to swell the hammer blows prior to sanding.



Now before you jump all over me with “Why would you hide all that pretty wood?”, study one of Rollin’s boats with the traditional covering of filled and painted canvas:



To a builder/woodworker the outside when finished clear exposes some rather ugly work while the inside holds a beautiful pattern of varnished ribs which hide the necessary compromises involved in planking a complex shape. Fiberglass/resin traps the wood, confines it to a fixed shape, and doesn’t allow the hull to move and flex as much. Essentially you have now have a plastic boat with wood trim. I’m told the traditional wood/canvas canoes paddle entirely differently than ones made of modern materials. Now I grew up in a wood/canvas canoe but it was a 20′ battleship with about 30 lbs of paint on it. There were so many coats on the hull that it had the appearance of death valley so any handling characteristics attributed to its method of construction were lost by the time I knew her. I always carried a bucket to return the water to where I felt it belonged and did my best to keep her off the rocks.


ManlyDad November 21, 2008 at 9:57

Canvas, I’m guessing right now. Either way, it’s a beautiful piece of work. You can pass this down several generations. Keep your written account and photos where your great-grandchildren can find them.

John Carmichael November 21, 2008 at 11:23

My vote is for the traditional canvas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the look of fine woodwork, and to this day I think some of the old Mahogany runabouts of the 30’s and 40’s with their varnished (shellacked) expressed wood, are some of the finest works of art in the maritime world.

But alas, I like the contrast of exterior homogeneous -vs- interior complex presented in such a fine project as you have undertaken.

Either way… your art is your art!


BigFootTom November 21, 2008 at 17:04

What I’d like to see is your compiled links to your construction pictures. I’ve seen maybe half of them on here, grinning at each exposure to your progress. Thanks for sharing, now could we see the whole sequence?. Have you such a set of links? Maybe with even more pictures? Please, and thanks if you do so.

Steve November 21, 2008 at 23:17

Tom, there are indeed more images although not as many as I should have taken. I’ll be sure to make them available in some format for those that are interested in more detail.

Thanks to all for the kind encouragement.

SJBill November 22, 2008 at 16:50


You’d make any New England canoe builder proud. Very nice work!

Regarding the finish, that’s a prety personal call. Painted canvas is the traditional favorite, and it is renewable.

A close personal friend of mine glassed his boats over the wood and they looked great. The fabric and resin added a lot of weight to the finished product. After a cuppla seasons of trout fishing in the White Mountains, the boat didn’t look quite as “fresh” as when new.

Be advised you’ll need Wellies during the cooler fishing season. Beaching a work of art is not an option if your beaches are of stone.

FIN November 27, 2008 at 0:48

I have a fond memories of fly fishing for trout in a painted canvas canoe on Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta CA.

She was heavy to portage, but smooth as silk in the water.

May I suggest Battleship Gray with shadowed numbering?


(A fellow War Hoover flyer)

Steve November 29, 2008 at 23:49

Fin, you frozen in up there yet? Think I’ll pass on the gray!

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