Tips for Restoring Older Merrimack Canoes
Tips for repairing and restoring older
-Common sense and a little care will keep your Merrimack canoe
on the water for many, many years.-
Visit our "Care and Maintenance" page.
We have been making these great canoes for over fifty years now, and most are still being used and enjoyed by their owners, including some that are quite old. Though we've built them to provide a lifetime of use, neglect and abuse can take a toll.
We do repair and restoration work at our shop in Crossville, Tennessee, by prior arrangement only. Call if you are interested in having us do the work. Please bear in mind that the cost to transport a canoe to and from our shop can be prohibitive. Generally it only makes sense if you can deliver and pick up the canoe yourself.
Here are the most common repair questions we get. Also, you will find a list of the replacement parts we have available.
Q. The gunwales/decks on my canoe need to be replaced. Can I buy new ones from you?
A. No, we do not sell replacement gunwales for a couple of reasons. The style and shape has changed many times over the years. Gunwales can be up to 18 feet long, making shipping difficult and expensive. We recommend that you remove a section of the original gunwales and have a local woodshop cut new ones. Likewise with decks. Remove whatever you can and use the old as a template to make new ones. Several varieties of wood make good gunwales and decks, including ash, cherry, mahogany, maple, and other hardwoods. Being able to get long, clear pieces for your gunwales will determine what you use.
Q. What kind of wood is my canoe made of?
A. Early canoes were made of mahogany. Canoes from 1971 and earlier may have mahogany ribs, seats, thwarts, and trim. Most canoes built after that will have been built with ash for all the wood parts except they will have cherry ribs. More recent canoes are built with a combination of cherry ribs, and cherry and ash trim. Ash is the whiter colored wood, cherry and mahogany are darker in color. For DIY repair work, you can use other woods. We recommend sticking with ash for structural components such as the inwales and seats, but we have used walnut, cherry, maple, and mahogany on other trim parts such as the outwales, decks and handles.
Q. How do I refinish the weathered, dried wood on my canoe?
A. We like oil as a finish for the wood parts of our canoes. Using oil instead of varnish or polyurethane eliminates the need to sand or scrape off old, peeling finishes in the future. We use Watco Teak oil, but any good grade of marine deck oil is fine.
If your canoe hasn't seen any oil for a long time, start by sanding the decks, gunwales, seats and thwarts to a smooth finish. Next, apply a liberal amount of oil to a rag and rub into the wood. It will soak in quickly, but any that has not soaked in within about ten minutes should be wiped off. For a really smooth finish, you can sand the wood while it is wet with oil using a 400 grit, wet/dry sandpaper. The black stuff. Wipe the wood off immediately after sanding, while the wood is still wet. You can apply a second coat right away if you wish. You may apply three or four coats of oil over a period of a few days, allowing the oil to dry in between. The nice thing about oiling the wood is that you really can't mess it up. Just make sure to wipe off any excess within a few minutes, otherwise it will become sticky and hard to remove. Reapply oil once or twice a year and your canoe's woodwork will last forever!
Q. How can I restore and reseal the interior ribs of my Merrimack?
A. The ribs in the interior of your canoe have been sealed in several coats of resin, and the floor of the canoe is covered by a fiberglass mat that is also sealed in resin. Early boats were built using polyester resin, later using vinylester resin.
If the ribs are gray and the resin finish is gone, they can be resealed. Sand the affected area until the wood is smooth, then mix and apply new resin following the manufacturers instructions. Small areas can be sanded and sealed with polyurethane if you wish.
Q. I see that new Merrimacks have a brass ring on each end. Can I get those from you and put them on my older Merrimack?
A. Not without doing considerable work. Older brass stem bands were secured with wood screws. On newer production canoes the stem bands that incorporate the brass ring are secured by through-bolting into a block of wood located in each end of the canoe. This provides the considerable strength needed if the canoe is being tied down or towed by way of the ring.
If you want to use the brass stem bands with the ring, you will need to cut out the flotation which seals off each end of your canoe. The floatation can be removed by sliding a hacksaw blade in between the hull and the flotation, sawing through the expoxy which holds it in place. Then, install a small block of wood, bolting the new brass bands through the wood block. Reinstall the flotation using a small amount of new epoxy.
Q. How can I repair scratches in the gelcoat finish of my canoe?
A. We hope folks don't worry too much about scratches on their canoes. We understand the pain of the first scratch, but remember that the gelcoat is really just a protective finish for the fabrics that compose the hull. It is intended to absorb the occassional encounter with a rock. Even deep scratches are usually just cosmetic and nothing to worry about.
Most scratches can be avoided by not running your canoe up onto the shore but rather, stepping out of the boat when in shallow water, then lifting it onto shore. Likewise, you should not get into the canoe when it is on shore, then drag or scoot it into the water. Generally, transfering your canoe from air to water, and then from water to air will save much of the wear on your fine canoe.
We realize that encounters with rocks are sometimes unavoidable, so if you wind up with some deep scratches that you want to do something about, you can use a gelcoat repair kit for minor work. Small mix and match repair kits are available at marine supply stores and online. A company called Evercoat makes one. Very fine scratches can be buffed out with a power buffer, as you would use on a car. Bear in mind that you are removing a small layer of gelcoat when you do this, though.
If you have an older canoe with a badly worn gelcoat finish, consider having the hull repainted at an auto body shop. Consult with them about the appropriate type of paint, but polyurethane based paints can work well for canoe hulls. They can sand and prime the hull before applying a new finish to your canoe. You might also want to check with your local boatyard to see what refinishing services they offer.