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  • Alick Burt

Building a Wood Canvas Canoe - Part 8

When using Zinsser Watertite to fill a canoe it doesn’t take as long to dry as with traditional fillers but it is still best to leave it a few days which of course is better than several weeks!

I left the filler to set and began to think about what colour and design I would like to paint the canoe with.

I have been a member of the W.C.H.A (Wooden Canoe Heritage Association) on and off for a few years now and have seen many pictures of wood canvas canoes and the different designs and colours of their paintwork.

Some are really straightforward paint jobs in a single colour whereas others are decorated with stripes or have elaborate patterns and images on.Further research in various books revealed a whole page of designs put out by the Old Town Canoe Company some with designs that hark back to native American traditions.

I read Jerry Stelmok’s book “The Art of the Canoe with Joe Seliga” and saw a lovely Dark green colour which I decided I liked for the main colour of the boat. I could paint it this forest green but I was still unsure if I would do it in a single colour, or opt for something more challenging.

Then I thought back to a canoe I had seen at Beale park at one of the WCHA and OCA combined meets a few years ago.This canoe was a real beauty made by Jerry Stelmok. One of a series which he calls the "Millenium Sojourner" is painted with a series of images depicting wildlife and the Lewis and Clarke Expedition.

Suddenly I had a lightbulb moment! What if I could create a canoe like this but featuring U.K wildlife scenes.

There were a couple of snags to this idea. The first was that I didn’t know enough about the technical issues. For instance, should the artwork be painted directly onto my filler coat or could it go on top of an overall coat of green. Maybe I should paint the green areas first leaving the area where the artwork would go in a primed state. I also was unsure what paint to use.

The second and quite a large one is that although my father was an art teacher I am certainly no Picasso so I would have to find an artist to paint the artwork.

Luckily for me my sister Sarah is an accomplished artist! so I contacted her and we discussed the idea. Sarah told me she would like to use acrylic paint for the artwork but like me she was unsure of the technical issues so I decided to contact Jerry Stelmok and ask his advice.

Jerry was quick to reply and told me the acrylics would be fine so I decided to work on the next stage which would be to paint the whole hull with primer followed by masking it off where the artwork was to be and painting the rest with the lovely forest green that I like.

Priming is straightforward and I used the primer to match my green topcoat which was to be Epifanes Forest Green. These are not the cheapest paints and you can use any exterior paint but I decided to see if the Epifanes would give me a good finish.

Before painting the green I had to mask off where the artwork would eventually go. I wanted the area from the waterline down to be green with a border of green at each end and along the underside of the gunwale.There are various ways to achieve the marking of the waterline and I opted to work it out on the drawing of the forms and measure points down from the gunwale.I did this and then adjusted pencil marks slightly and marked the end borders with a pencil gauge. You can also see Dabchick 5 in progress behind.

Marking out a wood canvas canoe paintwork edge.
Use of pencil gauge to mark border of paintwork.

Then I masked up to the lines I had created and painted the first coat of green.

Painting up to masking tape on bottom of canoe hull..
Painting up to the masked edge line.

I left the paint to set for a couple of days as the weather was cool. in warm conditions it is still best to let it dry overnight between coats.

Then I de nibbed it starting with 240 grit wet and dry with soap and water and then using a scotchbrite pad to flat it down well.

Smoothing paint with wet and dry sanding block between coats.
flatting back and de-nibbing paintwork on wooden canoe

I then dried it off and recoated with green. Its not the painting that takes the time but the preparation. Then I left it again undisturbed to dry.

wood canvas hull bottom painted prior to artwork on the sides.
The resultant paintork is glossy and smooth.

Thanks for reading



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