top of page
  • Alick Burt

Felix's Canoe the Rebuilding of a Genuine Antique Day 2.

The first thing to do when faced with a canoe that has gathered dust for thirty two years is to give it a clean so you can see what you are dealing with. I began by vacuuming off the dirt and leaves that had collected Inside the decks at each end and then went over the surface with some white spirit using a plastic scourer to help lift the dirt. whilst cleaning you begin to notice things that need attention.

I noticed a few woodworm holes and got out my killer.

For her age she is in incredibly good condition. The planking looks to be undamaged and there are no large holes or repairs. Both stems are intact although the keel band has come adrift and the timber underneath looks a little worn and soft. The decks have no large cracks and all the ribs are in place though some do have a bit of woodworm and the odd crack.

The most obvious part in need of repair is the gunwales at this end that have deteriorated to a point where I will have to splice on a couple of repairs and treat the soft parts with wood hardener.

Curiously the thwarts seem to have been cut and glued back up and I thought about this and jumped to the conclusion that it may have been done in order to nest the canoe for transport until I spoke to Nick later and he told me that Jane told him they had been cut and re-glued in the 1970's by Felix ( probably as part of a rowing conversion!)

One of these joints had come unstuck.

I decided that before I began stripping the varnish I should re glue the thwart in order to prevent the hull spreading during the wet part of the process. In order to do this I decided it would be best to take the thwart off so I could plane the slightest of shavings off the surface to be glued.

You look at the thwart fixing and think it is just a couple of screws. One might think that's easy... unscrew them and a minute later I can put the thwart in my vice and plane its end. However, years of working with antiques old buildings and old screws has taught me this is not the case.

First off you need to be sure the screwdriver fits the head of the screw perfectly. Forget your cordless electric one unless you want to mash a big hole in the wood when the blade slips!

You need to apply a lot of pressure to it whilst attempting to turn it and watching the head for movement.Ratchet drivers are really good at this. I try turning it backwards first then forwards a little and always stop as soon as I feel the driver begin to move out of the slot.If it doesn't move a tap with a hammer can sometimes help. At this stage my first screw had moved one millimetre forwards so I reversed the driver back and then tried again each time increasing the amount it would turn and never forcing it enough to break the screw head or make the driver slip.Eventually after a few minutes the screw was completing just one turn but still I kept turning it back to the start position until it became easy and was able to be removed fully after 15 minutes. You might think that I took a long time but the point is I didn't break the screw or chew its head and I now had an original screw that could be reused.

I got the long piece of the thwart off and looked at its end I photographed it so I could check my timber data base later and determine its type.

I also noted that although it is the same timber as the rest of the thwart the grain doesn't match so I think Felix might have put the original part back in but turned it end to end when he glued them.

I think the timber is butternut which is nothing to do with butternut squash but is related to american black walnut.

I didn't take the short bit of thwart off the canoe as this was easier to plane in place and then I put it back in and glued it up with waterproof Polyurethane glue. I know some will complain “that's a modern adhesive that wasn't around when the boat was made” but the thwarts hadn't been cut either so I don't think the purists should object!

And that's where I leave it to set for now till next time.

Thank you for reading.


bottom of page