For the past three or four days I’ve been stripping the fiberglass off a cedar strip canoe. This is one of the three I bought back in August for the Pathfinder club, and it is most definitely the worst of the three. It would be generous to say that it was inexpertly fiberglassed when it was built. Whoever did it did not get the glass to lay flat on the hull, so there are wrinkles and waves about every foot or so. Not only does that not look good, but it allowed algae and spiders to set up camp between the fiberglass and the hull.

Algae growing beneath the gunwales.

Algae growing beneath the gunwales.

I read on Canoe Guy’s Blog that you can remove fiberglass from a wood/canvas canoe using a heat gun. I have a heat gun, so I whipped it out and gave it a shot. It worked marvelously! I had been dreading this step thinking I was doomed to several hours of tedious sanding.

Today I finished removing the glass from the inside of the hull. It is looking so much better now. The original builder (let’s call him OB) “corrected” his wrinkled glass errors by pouring some kind of gunk on it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a light yellow color and has something like a latex feel to it. Or wood filler. Or carpenter’s glue. I just don’t know what it is, but it was sure ugly, and I don’t think it was very effective either (didn’t keep the spiders out). I removed a bunch of that too. I think OB must have used some bondo on the hull to instead of fairing it properly with a plane, or using epoxy+wood flour as filler. I’ve been chipping that crap off the hull too.

He also didn’t take the planks all the way to the stem.

Planking is shy of the stem

Planking is shy of the stem


He should have made the planking overlap the stem so that the planking had something to attach to. Instead, he glommed on more of that latex/whatever stuff and a quart or two of epoxy. The stem is a mess, but it’s salvageable. Normally a canoe will have an in-stem and an out-stem. All he has here is an out-stem. I will make an in-stem and epoxy that to the inside of the out-stem as well as to the planking. I think that will do the trick. I believe I should do that before I strip all the crud off the canoe’s nose, or the planks will just spring apart. They are threatening to do that up at the top where I have already removed a lot of the junk.

I also got a start on removing the glass from the outside of the hull.

Pulling back the glass

Pulling back the glass


I think I will wait on finishing that until I have made and fitted the new in-stem.

I didn’t take a photo of the inside of the hull like I should have. It looks so much better now that the glass is off. I will still need to sand it though, and then smooth it with a hand plane and a sander. But it will look so much better once it’s glassed properly. This – the worst of the three canoes – will probably end up looking the best, because I am taking it down to the wood. I can’t afford to do that to the other two, as it will take a full gallon of epoxy (which runs about $90) plus about 12 yards of 60″ wide fiberglass (which I haven’t priced yet, but it’s not cheap either).

Glassing should be done at about room temperature, so I can’t do that until I get some space cleared out in the basement or until the weather warms up. And speaking of weather, we did end up with a white Christmas this year. It snowed about an inch over night. The better news is that we have another foot or so on the way starting tomorrow night.

Maybe I can get some snowshoeing in then.

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