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  • Alick Burt

Building a Wood Canvas Canoe - Part 7

With the canvas covering the canoe and closed at both ends the next stage is to fill it. On close inspection the weave of the canvas has quite a lot of texture. Prior to filling some canoe makers also do something called burning off the nap. Nap is small bits of fabric on the surface that are like little bits of fluff. The method involves taking a blow torch to the surface of the cloth and running it over the surface till these little imperfections are burnt off.

Some of you may notice a danger here as we have a wooden canoe that has taken hours to get to this stage and is covered in flammable fabric, not to mention that it is sitting in a woodworking workshop. Can you see a problem...?

For this reason most dispense with burning off the nap so I don’t bother.

The purpose of the filler is to provide a smooth sealed surface for the paint to adhere to and over the years formulations were often trade secrets and many contained nasty substances such as white lead which led to many untimely deaths in the canoe making industry!

In Canada and America people still make their own and it can also be bought from some suppliers but nowadays these are safer concoctions.

In the UK you will not find it anywhere but luckily my friends from the WCHA came to the rescue (Thank you Nick and Sam!).They recommend the use of a product called “Zinsser Watertite”.

This is actually a waterproof masonry paint and apart from doing the job it has one big advantage over traditional formulations. It doesn’t take anything like as long to dry. Some other formulations can take weeks before you can move on to painting.

I started by painting on a thick coat. It soaks in quickly so I kept applying it till quite saturated then left it to dry.

Coating the canvas with waterproofing filler.
Sealing the canvas with Zinsser Watertite basement paint.

Once dry a day later (in summer) it was quite a rough surface.

Canvas duck coated with watertite is like sandpaper to touch.
Rough surface of canvas once first coat has dried.

This was soon rubbed down and as I worked I noticed a bit of sanding with my fairing sander would help to remove a few minor lumps and bumps.

Rubbing down zinsser watertite paint on canvas of canoe.
Use of fairing board to smooth filler on hull

I gave it another coat as some of the weave still showed in places and again left it to dry.

Next day I decided to make another fairing sander for my finer paper that would conform to the curve without being quite as stiff. First I cut two pieces of metal tube along the length on one side only.

Making a home made fairing sander using metal tubing.
Cutting metal tube to make a more llexible fairing sander.

Then I held it in a vice and slotted the ends of my paper in.

Metal tube device for sanding canoe hull fair.
Fitting a length of abrasive paper with tube handles.

Now I had a long piece of sandpaper with two handy handles to go over the hull again.

Fairing wood canvas canoe filler
Making a wood canvas canoe hull fair and smooth.

Then I gave it a final coat and left it to dry again.

Basement paint used to fill and seal wood canvas canoe.
Hull sealed and filled with zinsser watertite basement paint.

Till next time ….



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