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1924 Kennebec 18.5 foot Maine Guide rebuild

Jun 12, 2012
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Appleton, Maine
This may take a while, but I figured it would be nice to share this rebuild. In a previous post, I mentioned I picked up two wood canvas canoes in the Boston area. They where free and we all know what that means, nobody else wanted them.
Well, I started working on the Kennebec right away, pretty much cause it was fiber-glassed and at 18' it was too heavy for me to lift up into the barn loft for storage.
Before I get into that, here's some information that was supplied by the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association about this canoe from files on record in Maine.

Kennebec Canoe with serial number 15604 is shown on page 273 of volume number three in the Kennebec ledgers. This was assigned to an 18.5 foot long Kennebec Guides Model. It was planked by Cameron on December 17th, 1921. The canvas covering and first filler coat were applied by Tuttle on the same day. It had no keel and the rails where applied by Clifford on March 29th, 1924. The original color was green and it was shipped to location "24-106" on April 17, 1924.

So late this afternoon I put the canoe up on horses and with a claw hammer and pair of carpet stretcher pliers I went to work on the fiberglass. Much to my surprise, it started coming off easier than a skin on a Clementine tangerine, leaving very little resin stuck to the cedar planks

The plank on the bottom of the canoe was very brittle and dry rotted, but it stayed in place.

I considered myself lucky and after all the fiberglass was removed, I went to work on the rotted plank. I then removed all the old tacks left in the ribs with my little handy tack puller shown here. I thought about Mr Cameron hammering those tacks thru the plank and into the ribs almost 90 years ago.

Lots of fiberglass for the landfill.

Left over resin on some of the plank is an issue, but it could have been alot worse.

I'm not sure what's next for this canoe, I have other projects ahead of it, so it might be gently stored till it's turn. I'll pick up where I'm leaving off soon.
Thanks Robin, for all the trouble you're taking, photos and all, and sharing it with us. I know how when I'm involved in some project how I zoom in to some kind of tunnel vision and pretty much loose myself; that you're able to step back and give the history and take those fine photos is really great. So they have records back to the point where you know the name of the man who did the work, working along where the orginal builder was before must seem just a little bit ghosty in a good way.

My wife is all tangled up in that Ancestors.com thing, which leaves me cold; but if I could see some of their tools or maybe what they built that would sure mean something.
I have a old 30-40 Krag, going by the stamping on the side of the stock it was made in 1896. The machine work is just perfect. If I do my part it shoots very well.
I call it my "history" gun; twenty years before it was made Custer had a little misadventure on the Little Bighorn, twenty after was the Somme Offensive where the British lost 60,000 the first day. Twenty years after that, Hitler was well on his way and firmly in control of Germany. Twenty years after that (lacking one) we listened to Sputnik sending from orbit.
I often think of the hands that made that rifle and thousands like it, what their lives were like and how they saw the world. They say that youth looks ahead and old age looks back; for me they were other days and better times.

Best Wishes, Rob
"I have a old 30-40 Krag, going by the stamping on the side of the stock it was made in 1896. The machine work is just perfect. If I do my part it shoots very well."

That's a nice piece of history.

My Chestnut canoes have serial numbers, but all information was lost in a fire when the Chestnut factory burned down, and afterwords it was just poor record keeping, I believe. One of my Chestnuts, a 15 foot Bobs Special, I got from my friend Dennis (a member here), has no serial number, but it has extra wide planks which denotes a real old Chestnut, a "before the fire" boat, which helps date it some, but no written proof. It needs some curved stem work which I'm somewhat putting off, but it's next in line for the shop after I paint two canoes, so pretty soon I'll be working on that.
Thanks for sharing Robin. I am envious that the 'glass came off so easy, but very happy that it did! It doesn't look to be too bad from the pictures, I'll be looking forward to when you do pick back up on it.
The rest of the planking is better than what was on the bottom, but to be honest, the whole canoe, ribs and planking are somewhat brittle. I'm not sure if this canoe will be a paddler or a hanger (hanging in someones Great Room). Maybe when I get the paint off the ribs, some new plank in to replace the old, and some heavy canvas it will all come together as a good restoration and someone will enjoy it, or it will just be too brittle and it will look nice hanging from the ceiling of someones Great Room.
I hope it's a paddler.
Robin, about that "brittle wood". Assuming it's not in fact in some first stages of rotted; I'm wondering if something in the wood has evaporated and in theory could be replaced? The wood you're working with isn't all that thick so that ought to allow the mystery fluid to penetrate.

Some years ago now, I was very interested in the longbow and had the chance to observe some very old, nice bows and the owner's attempts to start using them. The first one shattered in a most spectacular manner, although it hadn't been drawn to full draw before it broke. What was really interesting was the amount of small slivers, the thing just exploded.
After that experience, the owner decided to start gently flexing his other bows a little bit at a time over several days. Gently, ever so gently. Well the long and short of it was that none of them broke and in fact became shooters.
This really wasn't a scientific test of any sort and I surely don't know what if anything was happening inside the wood, but it is interesting to ponder.

Now this is apples and oranges but: I once did a test of the glue bonds I could get with various glues and after the glue had cured well I tested the joint to breaking. Very impressive.
I wonder if you couldn't do a similar test on your "brittle wood". Treat the wood with linseed oil or what ever and just see if you can induce some degree of flex? Maybe someone here on canoetripping has some experience with what happens as wood ages.

Best Wishes, Rob
" Treat the wood with linseed oil or what ever and just see if you can induce some degree of flex? Maybe someone here on canoetripping has some experience with what happens as wood ages. "

That sounds like a good idea, bring some life back into the wood. Since I have so much plank removed, I can get to both sides of each rib to apply whatever I end up trying, Linseed oil is my first choice, but I'll ask around and see what others say when I do get to work on this canoe.
The canoe also had 1/2 ribs, which are small ribs between the main ribs just covering the flat surface of the floor. I removed them and at first wasn't going to replace them with easy to make new ones, but I would bet they will also add strength to the where the old main ribs are weakest and take the most pressure. They look nice, but add weight to an already heavy canoe.