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The Oldfield Canoe


According to Amy's dad, this canoe was bought by her grandfather in the late 1960s from Frieman's Department store at Westgate Shopping Centre in Ottawa, Ontario. It travelled with the tent trailer (and station wagon) all over Ontario on many family camping trips. Amy's grandfather used it right up into his seventies!

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In the Beginning

One of my favourite parts of this job is getting to know the canoe I am working with. I try to reflect that connection through the images; the sleek lines and aged wood show a personality unique to that boat.  


Staples, not tacks, were used to secure planks to the ribs and canvas to the hull. I estimated that close to 5000 tacks were used on this boat.


A common spot for wood degradation is at the bow and stern ends of the canoe where the water tends to pool over winter storage. 


Another familiar site of wood deterioration is found along the outwales. after close to 50 years of dedicated service, I will retire these gunwales and replace them with new ash ones. 


On the Olfield, some of the planks have rippled. Could be a combination of water penetrating the wood and popping the staples over time or some other phenomenon I am not familiar with. Either way, I think I can tack most of them back into place without having to replace all the planks. 


With the skin removed, the canoe begins to reveal more history. I can see that this canoe has never been recanvassed- that is pretty amazing for a 50-year-old canoe! you don't see many vehicles last 50 years!

Repairing the Bow and Stern

A couple of interesting notes here. One, the tips of the last ribs on both port and starboard sides needed to be cut back and attach new ends. Two, there is a bolt at the end of the inwales to hold them together. I have removed the bolt and scarf joint two new pieces. I will then attach new tips to the ribs.


I know putting in a scarf joint I should use 1:6 ratio: 1" width to 6" length. But cutting back the damaged inwales on the bow and stern decks I don't want to disrupt too much so I went with a 1:2 ratio.


Repairing the tips of the damaged ribs.


This knot in the wood has survived over 50 years with the canoe, would replacing this plank be removing part of the essence of the canoe?


Laying the canvas


There are many decisions I have to make during the day; what glue should I use, do I use a screw or tack? Should I measure from the top or the bottom?

Sometimes the decisions are quick and require little effort in terms of thought. But then there are the bigger questions like, 'how much do I change on the canoe before it is no longer the original?'

This is where I am now, I have replaced about 30 ft of planking to the hull but I am conscious of working with the original material and repairing only suspect pieces. I have resolved that if the part is damaged beyond repair or poses a safety concern, I will replace it. Otherwise, I will strive to maintain the integrity of the boat by leaving it as is. 


Stretching the canvas over the canoe


Rubbing in some Tung Oil to the wood to help with preservation once the canvas is on.


Tacking canvas to the canoe. 


Final Tacks and ends completed.

Old guy tacking the ends.


For the first coat of filler, I use a spatula to apply in downward strokes in order to ensure it penetrates the canvas. 


With the help of my good neighbour Pat, we fabricated a new ash keel with the same dimensions as the original.

The Keel

I have probably already discussed this on other canoes, but the keel stresses me. Aligning and ensuring it is straight (true) is one thing but I am always conscious that if the canoe will leak, it will be from the keel. It is the part of the boat where holes are made through the canvas in order to secure the keel. I am super aware this piece of the canoe needs to be properly sealed in order to prevent leakage and wood rot. I use the mastic filler to ensure there will be no water intrusion. But still, I am stressed.

The Gunwales

If the keel causes me great stress, then the gunwales cause me great joy! This is my favourite part of the restoration process because it starts to bring life back to the canoe. It begins to bring clarity to the final product. 

The Mystery Tag

The Final Piece to this puzzle is who was the builder of this canoe? Amy was able to confirm that her grandfather purchased the canoe in the late 60's early 70's from Frieman's department store in Ottawa. Other facts worth mentioning: 1) the bow and stern decks are a concave shape with not a lot of distinguishing features, 2) the original skin was a verolite material (canvas/vinyl hybrid), 3) the canoe was assembled with staples rather than tacks. 


And then there was the Tag.

TC 286. TC could stand for Tremblay Canoe, who was a canoe maker using verolite materials during this time period. Could The Tremblay canoe company have produced canoes for the Friemans's department store at this time?  However, I have a Tremblay Canoe and the decks are Convex- they push out not in. 


The Oldfield canoe deck is Concave


The Tremblay Canoe has a convex deck

So, next is to determine if the staples vs. tacks can provide any other insight. If Tremblay Canoes were sometimes made with staples then I think we may have a match. Obviously, this will be an ongoing investigation but my curiosity is now invested in trying to determine the builder of this canoe. My Tremblay was made with tacks but that doesn't mean it wasn't made by Tremblay. Did Tremblay produce a variation of their popular model?

New Begininngs

I was first introduced to the Olfield canoe in June of 2021 by email. A collection of pictures from Amy showed me the condition of the canoe. I was excited by the challenge and eager to get started but it wasn't until October that I was able to sink my teeth into this project. As always, I had lessons in patients. Now the Oldfield is ready to go, reconditioned bow and stern, new canvas, new paint, and new adventures with the next generation. I hope she gets to sail again along with some amazing paddles. 

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