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Possible Pre-Fire Chestnut Canoe

Feb 1, 2013
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Hoping some of the wood canoe experts on the forum can chime in about a new acquisition. I think it might be a possible pre-fire Chestnut built before the Dec 1921 fire destroyed the factory and all the building forms. Apologies for the quality of the photos which were taken during a freak snow squall right after I set it up outside...



It looks to have seen some restoration during its lifetime so not everything is original, but here are the details that led me to this conclusion. Please feel free to chime in with your opinions & observations.

- dimensions perfectly fit with the pre-fire numbers of a Twozer (15' x 31" x 11-1/2") taken from this site here. The hull was measured using the earlier technique mentioned in the 1920 catalog after which Chestnut seem to have changed its measuring system...

"In the past we have measured our canoes for catalogue purposes as follows: - for width from inside to inside of ribs and for depth from top of rib to top of gunwales. We are now changing that method to agree with that in use elsewhere and in the future measurements will be for width, from outside to outside of canvas at widest point, and for depth from top of gunwales to outside of canvas."

- the post-fire numbers for the Twozer put the dimensions at 33" wide and this one doesn't reach that width no matter how it is measured.

- features closed gunnel construction with copper nails.

- ribs are 2-3/8" wide tapering to 1-3/8" where they disappear behind the inwale.

- the cant ribs are not the wider type seen in later model canoes but are similar width (untapered) as the ribs in the hull.

Evidence of previous restoration is as follows:

- the heart shaped decks don't look original to me but may be wrong. They are quite bright compared to the existing woodwork, lack major crowning and have minimal undercut. The Chestnut decal also looks slightly worn but the colors are still "fresh".


- center thwart is birdseye maple and nicely carved but not sure if this would have been the original style for this model.


- The existing canvas has torn off the sheerline revealing newer looking planking secured with brass tacks rather than copper. Haven't fully removed the canvas yet to reveal any original planking.


- the 3/8" brass stem bands are secured with brass #4 Robertson square drive screws instead of slot screws.

Any other things I should be looking at to confirm pre- vs post- fire? It'll also be my first attempt at working with a closed gunnel system so any tips or suggestions would be most welcome.
Murat, you seem to have made persuasive deductions based upon the dimensions stated on the WCM site. I don't know that THIS SITE or THIS ONE add any additional info.

The only other dimensional candidates would seem to be these two post-fire 15 footers, measuring the width from canvas-to-canvas at the max tumblehomed width (not width at gunwales) and the depth from top of gunwales to canvas: Chum (15x32x12) and Gooseberry (15x33x12).

However, your cant ribs may rule out all post-fire canoes, although it's a little difficult for me to believe that cant rib dimensions vs. regular rib dimensions never deviated during the pre- or post-fire periods. Builders seem to vary many things slightly due to customer requests or just whim from time to time.

Very much look forward to the restoration.
Ooh, ooh... a Chestnut identification thread!! I will visit my restored Chestnut Chum and my supposedly pre-fire Chestnut Bobs or Ranger tomorrow and report details on measurements. The Bobs/Ranger decks are off the canoe currently and here are some photos of the heart shaped lobe details. They are definitely crowned but flat on the underside, and significantly undercut presenting a very fine trailing edge. 45836CAA-57A3-4B56-9EBF-3C9BD07FA86F_1_201_a.jpegtempImageGFhHSM.png

The undercut appears to have been made on a bandsaw with no subsequent tooling or sanding.
Your thwart looks to have the correct profile, but I imagine it's a replacement. I can't imagine a factory was installing random birdseye maple thwarts!

I find the whole measurement issue to be somewhat fuzzy with Chestnuts. I've seen a lot of reported measurements that don't fit the stated catalog measurements.
Nice canoe Murat, I’m no expert but here’s some thoughts. I think those can’t ribs as you describe point towards a pre fire. Closed gunnels went into the late 20’s though, Chestnut used curly and tiger maple thwarts randomly back then. Is the thwart thicker top to bottom in the middle than where it’s bolted to the rail? How many bolts in the thwart? Does the canoe have tumblehome. Width of plank, 3 & 3/4? Seats, decks and thwarts can be changed over the years so that can confuse things. Robertson screws didn’t get invented till mid 20’s iirc, but then close gunnels didn’t use screws. If the decks are not original, the screws in them might not tell the correct age.
If the stem tips are original, you might learn a lot from them, but if the decks where replaced, well then the stems might have been repaired.
Thanks for the responses everyone.

Patrick, very much appreciate your images of your deck showing the undercut on the lobes. For sure my decks are replacements.

Robin, I'll definitely re-examine the thwart tapering and plank width. The Robertson screws and the brass stem band must be newer additions from a previous restoration. Once the rail caps are off, I'll be better able to see the bolts attaching the thwart. Dan Miller also suggested I look at the stems to see if they are tapered at the tip, which will require some canvas removal at the ends to see. With bad lighting I couldn't see a tip splice on the stem but once the area is deconstructed, I'm sure it'll reveal its secrets.