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Family canoes are my favourite to restore. Mostly because I get a glimpse into the story of the canoe. 

This canoe was bought by Jim's parents in 1971 or 1972.  At the time, the family was taming a piece of wild Crown Land that Jim's father had bought in what was then called Canton de Ponsonby, located in the Quebec Laurentians, near the municipalité de Boileau.  Since there was no road access, Jim's family used an aluminum Peterborough boat with a six-horsepower outboard to get to the property and to carry all the building materials for building a cottage.  The canoe, however, was used for recreation.  At the end of every day, after the work was done, Jim's father would paddle his mother around the lake while she dipped her paddle in and pointed out the beavers, loons, and other birds and wildlife which abounded. Jim and his sister would take the canoe out whenever they could. Except for when Jim's father recanvassed the canoe at home (and changed it from green to red!), the canoe has never left that wonderful spot.  Going forward, the Huron will find new adventures on the many paddling routes in the Mississippi Valley and Lanark Highlands, while also, of course, frequent visits back to its original home to once again paddled around the lake where it spent its first 50 years.

The Project

For this project we will be rebuilding the bow and stern ends, replacing the decks and gunwales along with a recanvas. However, there are a few interesting features to this canoe that I am not sure how to approach.

1. There are scratch marks (possibly chewing) on the cedar ribs at both the bow and stern ends. I could cut them out and replace but because they pose no structural damage, I may just leave them. It is this story of the canoe that I want to preserve.

2. The previous canvassing required a great number of staples that have since rusted. I pulled them all out but the residual holes left behind could be a problem. Do I fill them or do I cut each rib back and replace it with a new piece of wood?


The pinhole marks left by the staples may be problematic. I will fill them to prevent any further damage.


Possible porupine scratches? All part of the canoes story.


Notice the nail on the bow end that attached the stem to the deck.


Stern end requires a new deck and rebuild on the stem.

Repairs and Sanding  

I needed to replace the bow and stern decks as there was too much deterioration to save. Next was the rib tips and a few planks that needed to remove to get to the decks and stem.

However, the biggest job is the sanding. Luckily, Jim stopped by to help with the sanding of the hull. This is a big job as it requires to sand the old varnish off both the planks and ribs.


I will use the old decks to make templates for the new deck


Sanded the hull with the help from Jim! Thanks for the use of the great Wood Clamps!

Canvas and Prep for Filler

Before the canvas I rubbed Tung oil into the old planks 


Laying the canvas.


Tacking the canvas.


Burning the fuzz off before I apply the filler.


Preparing the gunwales.

After great deliberation, green (the original colour of the canoe) was chosen.


I find the most interesting parts of the Huron canoe are the inwale top plates and the Babiche seats. I have been learning the weave pattern for the babiche seats and it is a challenge! I am in awe of the canoe builder's ability to produce hundreds of these seats- it takes me a full day and a lot of untangling rawhide!


It's amazing how a few coats of varnish can make the inside planks and ribs "pop"


Restoring this vintage cedar strip, canvas-covered canoe is a labor of love that can bring about some dramatic changes. These canoes were built to last, but over time, the wood can become brittle, the canvas can rot, and the overall structure can weaken. The restoration process involves a lot of meticulous work, from stripping off the old canvas to repairing and refinishing the wood underneath. The result is a canoe that is not only functional again but also a stunning piece of art. Jim's restored canoe can have a new life, ready to glide across the water with ease, and can bring a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for the craftsmanship of the past. The dramatic transformation is a testament to the power of preservation and a reminder of the beauty that can be found in the restoration of the old and the forgotten.

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