Patching Boy Scout canoes on Maine’s Allagash River in the mid-1960s was ROLLIN THURLOW’s first successful canoe-building experience—successful, but not very graceful!
Rollin has taught canoe building and restoration at a variety of locations throughout the U.S. Rollin Thurlow has been building and using, writing and teaching about wood-and-canvas canoes for years.
Loved the wood-and-canvas canoe construction course, met so many great people, and fell in love with Maine! Location: England Restoring a classical canvas canoe I am restoring an old wooden framed canvas canoe. I was just wandering of how to cover it and if stitched seams or glued seams would be better. Location: maine I believe you only have seams on the ends , which are tacked one side over the other and covered with a brass half round. Location: Tasmania,Australia You will have seams at the end and also at the gunnels.
You only need to sew the material, but you will need to apply some type of waterproofing over the stitches.
There is some structural advantage to gluing the material to the stringers, but it makes repairs harder.
Location: California In the mid 40's I learned to canoe with the wooden canvas covered canoes.
No special paint that I recall and there probly wasn't any such thing either at least in the north woods.
You must realize that these canoes cannot be run up on rocks or a shore etc like the aluminum or fiberglass canoes - you have to be super vigilant. If you have a classical canoe you shouldn't do anything that would make the next restoration difficult, like using glue! Location: Brisbane dory is right, KISS is what these little suckers were all about, we simply tacked a battern onto the overlapped canvas and appield an oil based paint, lasts for years and years. Location: Kemptville, ontario yup, these pics were taken before that process, the canvas has been tacked along the length, the ends cut and overlapped with bedding compond and tacked.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Please note that owing to time constraints, we are not currently building Peterboroughs to order, but rather schedule them around other jobs and sell one from time to time when they are finished. A The fact that some of these canoes are still around today and still being paddled testifies to their durability and illustrates an important fact about this type of construction: all parts are replaceable and so the canoes can be continually refurbished virtually as new.
Many people feel drawn towards wood canvas canoes for their looks, their natural materials, and rich historical connections that plastic canoes simply do not have.
Durability: Wood-canvas canoes are much more rugged than you might expect from looking at the materials used to build them - very thin cedar strips and canvas cloth. Also, the hull is A held together by opposing forces: the ribs are springing the planking outwards and the stretched canvas is A constricting it inwards. However, a wood-canvas canoe will not withstand the level of punishment that you can give to a plastic canoe. We portage rapids where we judge that our skill level is not sufficiently high to give a reasonable chance that we will not hit a rock. Maintenance: Wooden canoes require some maintenance - they dona€™t thrive on neglect - but it is not particularly onerous. The design is the standard 16ft x 32" x 12" model that was produced by the Peterborough Canoe Co (and forerunners) with little modification from around 1888 until at least 1941. Many people we have spoken to would really like to build their own wood-canvas canoe but have been put off by the need to make a full building form complete with metal bands for clinching the brass planking tacks. We now are offering the opportunity for you to build a classic canoe under our guidance using our form in Chesterfield for the ribbing and planking phases; then finishing the hull at home.


We will agree on a flexible scheme designed to match your woodworking skills and tools that you possess - from you sourcing the wood and preparing the individual ribs and planking, through to us machining most of the parts before you arrive for the actual construction of the hull. Clearly, the cost of the build will depend on how much of the woodwork you feel able to do on your own.
After graduating from Maine Maritime Academy and a tour in the Navy, Rollin attended the wooden boat building program at Maine’s Washington County Vocational Technical Institute. Not only are they wonderful to look at and a pleasure to build, they also perform quite well. Between steps, there may be time to carve your own paddle—a fascinating project unto itself. Carry em out into the water then load and get in - get out, unload then pick out of the water. A They are the direct descendants of native American birchbark canoes and second only to a well-made birchbark in terms of visual appeal.
Their strength comes from the construction - no parts are rigidly fixed - which allows movement so that impacts can be absorbed to some extent into the hull structure. Depending on the type of canoeing you want to do, this might well be a drawback but you can also regard it as a good thing. Also when landing on a rocky shore, we get out of the canoe before it grounds on the bottom.
A We wipe over the gunwales with boiled linseed about once a month, and keep up with any deep scratches in the filler with a touch of Plastic Padding.
However, all wood-canvas canoes put on weight as they take up water and can gain 5-10lbs on a wet trip.
It was their most popular model having the "size, proportions and shape considered an optimum compromise to satisfy most canoeists looking for a general purpose canoe". A Ribbing and planking normally take a couple of weekends, and the later processes of canvassing and filling (which can be done at home if you wish), a further weekend at Chesterfield.
Most people understandably want to make full use of their existing skills (and of course learn new ones) to A have the biggest input into building their canoe and so experience most fully this unique and compelling craft.
The basic raw materials for making a wood-canvas Peterborough should be somewhere in the region of A?600.
His interest lead him to collaborate with Jerry Stelmok to start their own wooden canoe building company.
Building a variety of his own designs plus historic reproductions, Rollin’s shop in the small town of Atkinson, Maine, the Northwoods Canoe Company, has become known as one of the premier wooden canoe shops for both restoration and new wooden canoes.
This construction method permits a clean, sharp entry and a subtle shape that is difficult to achieve with aluminum or fiberglass.
Then comes the fitting and fastening of the planking—a good chance to practice hand-tool skills in a very satisfying process.
Three students will leave this course with a new canoe nearly ready for paint and varnish; all will leave with knowledge and experience of what is probably the most indigenous of American boatbuilding techniques, a process directly evolved from birchbark canoes and still very much alive today. He was very willing to share both his knowledge and expertise in building cedar-and-canvas canoes.
We carried stuff to patch and repair which included among other things needle, thread, extry canvas and Orange Shellac to water proof the canvas.
I think the canvas went up under the gunnels and was tacked there ie and attaching the gunels held the canvas.
You could paint first then add the Gunwales but there is lots of opportunities to mark up the paint doing that.
We chose this design because it is a fast, attractive canoe that has enough volume for tripping for two, but not so much freeboard as a Prospector, which unless well laden, is apt to catch the wind. There is just something about the beauty inherent in the rib and plank construction of both birchbarks and wood-canvas that makes these canoes look stunning.
Based on our experience of almost 20 years using our wood-canvas Peterboroughs, here is our impression of their performance.


Wood-canvas canoes were used to explore many of the wilderness regions in Canada - a sure testament to their durability. Other than this, the boat does not need special handling and can be dragged out onto sand or shingle, as you would with any other type of canoe. Your wood-canvas canoe will probably need a new canvas every 10-15 years or so if used heavily in rocky environments, but much less frequently if used only very occasionally, or only in deep water.
When we were looking into the origin of the design, we received a very nice letter from Gerry Stephenson (grandson of John Stephenson one of the original Peterborough builders and holder of the original patents), which filled in some of the historical details. We are happy to guide you every step of the way, or leave you to do at home as much preparatory work as you wish. The wood then needs to be cut into strips and the ribs, decks, stems, thwarts and gunwales shaped. While wooden canoes have had a long history, Rollin and Jerry discovered that there was precious little written about the actual how-to construction of the canoes. The century-old technology of clenching thin planks to steamed frames and then covering the hull with a tight canvas skin yields an amazingly flexible and rugged craft. Attaching the keel without causing a leak thru the canvas was a problem I don't remember how I did that. Wood-canvas canoes are structurally the same as birchbarks except that canvas replaces the bark and brass tacks are used in place of spruce root lashings. A It is unlikely that the old-time canoeists would recognize the spectacle of a plastic canoe bouncing from rock to rock down a rapid as having much to do with canoeing at all.
The design figured in the catalogue of the Ontario Canoe Company (which in time became the Peterborough Canoe Company) as Model no 44, and cost $50.
A The minimum cost of the build plus materials (assuming we do the more technically demanding jobs) is likely to be around A?1300. The canoe company became a real reinventing-the-wheel type of project—long on desire but short on capital and business skills, leading to the demise of the original company. If the Prospector is the Workhorse of the North, then the Peterborough is the Thoroughbred. They were developed largely in response to the explosion in recreational canoeing in North America around 1880. Having your canoe remain wet for long periods of time will greatly reduce the life of the canvas. It became Model 604 by the 1909 Peterborough catalogue, and Model 1427 "The Canadien" by 1941. But it was not long before with renewed interest and skills, Rollin started his own company, the Northwoods Canoe Company.
The supply of birchbark could not keep pace with demand, and many people rapidly tired of having to re-gum leaky birchbark canoes. The earlier canoes had numbers rather than model names apparently because most canoes at that time were given names by their owners that were painted on (this could be done in the factory if desired). Co-authoring with Jerry the book the Wood and Canvas Canoe ensured that the how-to and historic information they had collected would become available to the public at large.
A Equally importantly, wood-canvas canoes are made on a mould or form which allowed more rapid construction and a much more consistent hull shape and quality.
The 32" beam model was advertised as being suitable for "avid" canoeists whereas the wider 34-36" flat-bottomed models were considered more suitable for ladies and children.
Many wood-canvas canoe builders sprang up, notably in Maine and Ontario, and their canoes have become classics which today change hands for rather large sums of money.




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