Reviving an old Sears canoe

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Badfish740

Minister of Fire
Oct 3, 2007
1,539
I've had an old canoe from Sears since I was a kid-it was given to our family by my uncle who had it and never used it. I inherited it from my dad when I bought a house between two big lakes and my wife and I did use it, but not as often as I'd like. Paddling on open water can be tough when there's even a slight breeze, and to get anywhere interesting it can take a while. So it sat for a while-until I got a free 3 HP Gamefisher outboard from my neighbor. It ran great, but I tore it down completely, cleaned out the carb, etc... The 16' x 3' canoe is rated for a 3HP motor and 4 people with a combined weight (gear included) of 750lbs, so the motor is a perfect match for a family of four with two small kids and a wife that tires of paddling quickly if the wind picks up ;lol It should push us along at about four knots, which is plenty:



She's a little beat up and needs some reconditioning, plus I will be redoing the seats which were never comfortable to begin with, replacing the aluminum gunwales and thwarts with wood, and integrating a motor mount to the hull rather than just using a clamp on mount which I just don't trust:



These canoes were not top of the line models, but they work. Most of the canoes sold by Sears, Montgomery Ward, etc...in the late '70s/early '80s were made by a company called American Fiber-Lite, which churned out all kinds of stuff made from chopped fiberglass. Chopped glass is exactly what it sounds like, random fibers, chopped up, mixed with resin, and shot out of a spray gun onto a mold. The glass was then gel coated on the outside and painted on the inside. These canoes are sometimes known as "chopper gun" canoes. The main criticism is that they're heavy (this one probably weighs about 85lbs), and that the chopped construction is not as resistant to puncture compared to woven mat construction. I would not take this canoe out on the Upper Delaware for that reason. A collision with a rock that would dent an aluminum canoe or that a woven mat canoe would bounce off of would crack this canoe. It's not a concern as we won't be doing any river trips with this one-just tooling around the local lakes where there are no rocks to smash into at speed. However, many canoe aficionados will turn their noses up at boats like this one for those reasons. My thinking however, is that I paid nothing for it, I won't be putting much into it, and in the end I'll have a very functional little boat that will move my family around the lake with ease. Also, it's been a real pleasure working outside this summer-of course, this makes it even better:



Beginning to remove the old aluminum gunwales:



Drilling out rivets can be annoying, however, I discovered a tip: When you have a stack of them on the bit like this one, grab them with a set of vice grips firmly. Keep a firm grip on the vice grips and slowly speed up the drill. The pressure from the vice grips will hold the inside of the rivet against the sharp edges of the bit, hogging out the hole and allowing them to fall off:



All aluminum parts off-just the bare hull:



These cast stem and stern caps I'll save to be incorporated into the new gunwales:



Measuring for a deck that will be the base for the motor mount in the stern. Two pieces of 3/4" CDX plywood will be laminated with a polyurethane glue to form a deck that will flush mount with the sheer. Once the new wood gunwales are on, those plus the deck will make the hull super stiff in the rear, providing a strong mounting point for the outboard-the old seat was clamped in place because with no thwarts or seats the sheers are very wobbly and I wanted to make sure everything was in alignment before I measured:



That's all for this weekend-time to head back to the real world for a while :p Other plans include a new paint job (maybe even some type of DIY bedliner material) inside, sanding out the gel coat and painting the exterior, and of course the new gunwales and thwarts. I plan to scarf (fancy word for joining long pieces of wood) the gunwales at some point this week with a homemade jig and a router. More pics to follow...
 

Shari

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2008
2,332
Wisconsin
Looks like an interesting project - will look forward to progress pictures. :)
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,079
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I had a canoe like this at one time . . . as you said . . . you hit a rock and you put a hole in the canoe. The good news for me is that it was so old that I would simply throw down some fiberglass matting over the hole and coat it with rosin each time I put a new hole in it. At the end it looked like it had the pox . . . I dubbed it The Ugly Duckling since it was so hideously ugly.

Sadly, I lost that canoe on a fiddlehead gathering expedition when I attempted to exceed the weight limit. Last I saw of The Ugly Duckling was it floating down 25 Mile Stream towards Burnham . . . never to be seen again.

The good news is a few months afterwards I won a much better canoe in a grand opening drawing at a local supermarket.
 

Shari

Minister of Fire
Oct 31, 2008
2,332
Wisconsin
a fiddlehead gathering expedition
I had to google that term as I've never heard of gathering fiddleheads in our area. Sounds interesting.......... I think. :)
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,297
Northern NH
I have seen folks give them a good sanding and then reapplying an coat of exterior gelcoating. Makes them look like new
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,085
Lackawaxen PA
Nice summer project. We had one like that for a few years. It was real heavy. I remember was tuff to handle when the wind picked up on the lake. I kayak the upper Delaware, with a plastic boat that bounces off the rocks.
 

fossil

Accidental Moderator
Sep 30, 2007
10,568
Bend, OR
I think I'd just buy a new boat. :rolleyes: How's the sweet little Badfish doing these days? Rick
 
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JustWood

Minister of Fire
Aug 14, 2007
3,596
Arrow Bridge,NY
Had an old 12' Sears fiberglass years ago that I trapped/hunted out of for many seasons in shallow swamps in the area. Got a pretty serious crack in it quickly. Bondoed it and sold it.
Wasn't willing to risk my gear on the bottom of even a shallow swamp.
I sure wouldn't risk my family out on a deep lake.
 

Badfish740

Minister of Fire
Oct 3, 2007
1,539
I have seen folks give them a good sanding and then reapplying an coat of exterior gelcoating. Makes them look like new
I plan on just sanding and painting-gel coating would be too much hassle and too expensive. If I spend $50 on this boat it would be a lot. I finished scarfing and gluing the new outwales last night using .75" x 1.5" stock I had laying around, and a half used tube of polyurethane glue that was bought for a cabinet making project.

I think I'd just buy a new boat. :rolleyes: How's the sweet little Badfish doing these days? Rick
Eh...I enjoy the work plus it's good practice for a larger (20' x 5' flat bottom skiff) project I have planned for next year. Lil' Badfish is good-although "little" doesn't really describe her accurately anymore :):



She'll be three in September and will become a big sister in November! One other reason that I don't have much money to spend on this project or for a new boat ;lol

Had an old 12' Sears fiberglass years ago that I trapped/hunted out of for many seasons in shallow swamps in the area. Got a pretty serious crack in it quickly. Bondoed it and sold it. Wasn't willing to risk my gear on the bottom of even a shallow swamp.
I sure wouldn't risk my family out on a deep lake.
Canoes like this one don't just crack on their own-you have to hit something, and hit it hard for that to happen. I used the example of the Delaware River because there are lots of rocks to hit, and (especially in the spring when flows are higher) you can get moving at a pretty good clip through some of the rapids. Out on a lake with no rocks to hit I'm not sure how you would punch a hole in one of these much less crack it unless you ran it up onto a rocky shoreline pretty hard, at which point you'd be in shallow water in no danger at all. Needless to say, in the highly unlikely event that the thing does split in half inexplicably out in the middle of the lake, we don't go out without PFDs, (Type IIIs for us, Type IIs for the kiddies) so we'd end up wet and slightly annoyed, but very much safe. Again though, the boat is 30+ years old and only has superficial scratches and dings. I would think if it was going to fail catastrophically it would have done so by now.
 
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Badfish740

Minister of Fire
Oct 3, 2007
1,539
Whoa!, Congratulations!
Thanks! We're very excited. This pregnancy has been a (thankfully) uneventful one. For those of you who don't know, Lil'Badish had a rough go of it in her first few months of life, including a major surgery on her right lung and aorta. Lots of prayers and well wishes from the hearth.com community helped my wife and I get through it. Regardless, she is a happy, healthy, loud and rambunctious two, soon to be three year old now who is very excited about the new addition. We're keeping it a surprise in order to make it fun, so stay tuned!
 
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Badfish740

Minister of Fire
Oct 3, 2007
1,539
A little progress this weekend-inwales scarfed, sanded and glued to the sheer:



The screws are regular old drywall screws-I don't own near enough clamps, so the screws serve to hold the inwales tight to the sheer while the glue cures. They'll be removed before the outwales go on-the holes will be covered. At the stern you can see the plywood deck which the outboard mount will be secured to:



After cutting the shape from 3/4" CDX plywood I installed cleats on the underside with glue and screws. The athwartship cleat will serve as the mounting point for the thwart that the outboard will hang from. The two fore and aft cleats just serve as blocking for screws to bite into, making sure that the deck is well attached to the sheer. After assembly, it was coated liberally with Titebond III wood glue, which will seal against moisture. The topside will be coated with TBIII as well and then topcoated with black latex porch paint, as will the gunwales, thwarts, seat mounts, etc...

Stern deck installed:



One of the neat things about getting rid of the old banged up and crooked aluminum coping is the fact that the boats lines really show now. It should look really nice once the outwales go on. I'm planning on going with a hunter green porch paint on the hull and have been reading up on how to do a good roll and tip paint job. It should look nice on the sanded gel coat.
 

Badfish740

Minister of Fire
Oct 3, 2007
1,539
Hi - It looks like it has an inner bottom, above the outer hull? Or is it a very flat bottom? Does it have a sealed floatation layer underneath an inner deck?
Nope-flat bottom, single hull. There are flotation chambers fore and aft though. I'm also considering getting ahold of some closed cell UV resistant foam and adding sponsons like these for a little extra insurance:

 

Dune

Minister of Fire
Nope-flat bottom, single hull. There are flotation chambers fore and aft though. I'm also considering getting ahold of some closed cell UV resistant foam and adding sponsons like these for a little extra insurance:

Large enough sponsons will add significant roll over resistance.
 
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