View topic - Restoring an original Swift Sawyer

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PostPosted: July 16th, 2019, 8:14 pm 
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Wow I just got this for free on a facebook group and is in very good condition - very restorable. I already emailed these photos to Swift to ask about year it was made and what materials were used.

15.5 feet
34" beam
50 lbs on the nose

https://photos.app.goo.gl/ChMpGCigi7cnRhjr9

Overall hull in great shape - 3 impact spiderwebs that are chipping away a bit and one section maybe 4cm x 5mm gel coat chipped right away. I was going to spot-fix those places with a dremel and epoxy, maybe small amounts of glass or filler depending upon how much gel coat has to be dremeled away.

I was even thinking of sanding the whole surface and doing an epoxy paint over it - I've seen a few good youtube videos on that.

A few questions:
- can I use a wood penetrating epoxy on the gunwales to buy me a few more years on them? I think they have a few years on them already just with some penetrating oil
- why kind of epoxy should I use for the hull?
- same epoxy for spot fixing as for painting the whole hull?

I think that is it for now. Would love to be able to make some quick progress on this to get it into the water to try out. We'll see whether or not I can eke out some time.


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PostPosted: July 16th, 2019, 8:14 pm 
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Got it from the daughter of the original owner.


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 8:21 am 
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Wow Swift are awesome - I emailed them asking for details and here is what they told me.

Quote "Our best guess is that it is a muskoka 15 or 16 which is very similar to the swift algonquin 15 and 16 we still make. Judging by the cracks in the gel and the interior of the canoe it looks like a kevlar fiberglass hybrid. Meaning the most outer layer is Kevlar and the interior of the canoe is fiberglass. We believe that it was a standard vinyl ester resin as apposed to the epoxy resin you are inquiring about. "

And manufactured in Aug 1988!


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 9:41 am 
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Nice pick up!


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 1:25 pm 
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Prospector16 wrote:
A few questions:
- can I use a wood penetrating epoxy on the gunwales to buy me a few more years on them? I think they have a few years on them already just with some penetrating oil
- why kind of epoxy should I use for the hull?
- same epoxy for spot fixing as for painting the whole hull?

Would love to be able to make some quick progress on this to get it into the water to try out. We'll see whether or not I can eke out some time.


First off, I’m really curious, what is the Sawyer-to-Swift connection? I know Swift once produced some Sawyer designs (the Cruiser?), but the HIN is plainly SAW, and illegible 80-ish?. I do not know vintage Sawyer canoes that well, but I think the Cruiser was close to those dimensions.

?#1 – I don’t think the gunwales are worth much effort to preserve even short term. I know replacing gunwales is a PITA, but so is having stuff fail catastrophically when a wale snaps or a seat hanger bolt pulls through or the inwale separates from the outwale.

?#1a – What kind of replacement gunwales? Whole nother discussion.

?#1b – The nicely sculpted yoke looks salvageable, as do the remaining set of bolstered hangers on the sliding seat. The stern seat looks like it had some kind of cob-job repair at the front. If that is OEM it is an odd way to rectify the stern cant angle.

Which is a long way of saying you will want to take the seats and hangers/supports and yoke and carry handles out to sand and refinish, at which naked-hull stage you might as well replace the aged gunwales.

You can always use it as is for gentle day paddling, and see if anything fails or looks/sounds like it is about give (gunwales separating from the hull, cracking noises from the seat, etc).

?#2 - I would use a decent quality epoxy resin. You could use Vinylester, but epoxy is easier and the leftovers will be more useful in the future. I am partial to West System 105 resin and 206 slow hardener with metered pumps. That is not the “best” nor the least expensive quality epoxy, but that’s a whole different discussion.

Do not (NOT, NOT, NOT) use cheap hardware or auto store polyester resin.

?#3 – You can thicken epoxy using Colloidal Silica or microfibers (or other stuff) to spot fix fill any really deep voids or gashes in the hull. Spider cracks should be debrided of loose/flakey material and filled with new gel coat or thickened epoxy.

You could wet sand and roll out the entire hull with a coat of epoxy, if that’s what you mean. If you are thinking of coating the hull with anything, epoxy or just paint, you might as well use epoxy on the spider cracks as well as any big voids. And it’s not like you are going to match that UV faded hull color exactly with new gel coat.

Since it would be a lot easier to roll out a coat of epoxy, or even just a couple coats of paint, without having to repeatedly mask off the in-place outwales, I’d gut the canoe of everything (measure and record the seat and yoke placements, or mark them on the inside) and rebuild it from hull up so it is good for another 30 years.

If you go that route you might as well add Dynel and peel ply skid plates before you repaint it some near-hull matching color so the inevitable paint scratches don’t contrast.

One benefit of a total gut and rebuild; you will learn a lot about canoe construction, and getting up close and personal with a naked boat often reveals hidden areas that need attention.

As far as “eeeking out time” a full-on rebuild it is not a rush project, but it is worth doing slowly and thoughtfully. There is a lot of wait-a-few-days time for revarnished brightwork and patches and epoxy and paint to cure enough for a light sanding and recoat. A lot of hour’s work a night time, hopefully interspersed with a weekend morning when you can plow ahead G, H, I, J, K for a few hours before walking away.

Or you could just slather more oil on the toasty gunwales and hope for the best.

“Quick progress”? For me the fastest way to rebuild a canoe is to go slow, step back and think about what I am doing and the next logical sequence of steps, instead of rushing ahead and finding out later that I did step A, B, C and F, and have to take things apart to make D and E right.

I have rebuilt a couple dozen boats and I’m still learning things. One learned peculiarity is to keep a running task list, and revise it frequently for the next most logical sequence, ie having rolled out the hull I have some wait time, which gives me a couple days to lightly sand and revarnish the brightwork. Move “Brightwork” up the sequential list again. And, finished making shop sanding dust, I can then do epoxy or varnish work.

I can’t possibly think of every staged step when I get first get started, but if I write it down the most efficient sequence somehow become more obvious. Doing a halfway rebuild may result a lot of wasted effort when you have to strip the canoe down to bare hull in a couple years.

Which is a long way of saying I’d either do as little as possible, or go all in.

It is a cool old canoe with some interesting build features. If you like it you will eventually want to do it right.


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 2:51 pm 
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Thanks for the input Mike. As for the Swift-Sawyer connection I have this directly from Bill Swift in Spring 2018 when he was at the local Trailhead here, he said they started as Algonquin Outfitters and according to him that business and Swift Canoes are still essentially one business even though they are two separate entities - canoes is run by him and Outfitters by his brother. Their parents started it all, and back in the 80s when it was just the outfitters they got the idea that they could save money / make more money by making their own canoes, so they struck a deal with Sawyer to get a set of molds from them and produce Sawyer canoes under license. He didn't get into the details of the deal but it sounded like for the first several years there was no "Swift Canoes" per-se they were making Sawyer under license. He also did not get into detail on why they decided to change that arrangement.

You are right that this is an excellent learning opportunity for me, and I look at it that way too. I just would really like to avoid a full rebuild in the short term mainly because I really have no idea how to even approach gunwales. I'd really like to be able to put pentrating epoxy on them and be done, though I realize that even with that approach it would be best done by taking them off first. So maybe I do have to go all in.

I think I can start with the hull in any case and get that done before moving on. At least the spot patching part of it. I've done that before and it is relatively easy.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 9:23 am 
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My first canoe was a Sawyer Cruiser. It had been wrapped and the side were torn out of it. I paid $25 for it and learned how to repair fiberglass boats. I had it for years and sold it for $400. It was fast but plunged through big waves on rivers. I miss that boat all the time.

I had a Sawyer Charger that was an earlly kevlar boat. It was 18.5 feet the choice of the McGuffins for traversing Canada. I really loved that boat. My favorite tripper of all time. It finally start to fall apart. Sold it for $400.

Like most people I have had a bunch of canoes but Sawyers were my favorite.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 9:57 am 
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Prospector16 wrote:
You are right that this is an excellent learning opportunity for me, and I look at it that way too. I just would really like to avoid a full rebuild in the short term mainly because I really have no idea how to even approach gunwales. I'd really like to be able to put pentrating epoxy on them and be done, though I realize that even with that approach it would be best done by taking them off first. So maybe I do have to go all in.

I think I can start with the hull in any case and get that done before moving on. At least the spot patching part of it. I've done that before and it is relatively easy.


The Sawyer-Swift history lesson is interesting; I had overlooked the “Ontario” on the HIN plate. I wonder if Swift re-badged/renamed the Sawyer designs they made.

If your plan is to coat the gunwales with epoxy you will either need to be very, very careful if done with the gunwales left in place lest you inadvertently epoxy the gunwales to the hull, which would make future gunwale removal/replacement more difficult.

If you take the gunwales off to epoxy them (including the undersides) you will need to be very, very careful as well; handle them gently and support them well while epoxying and curing, lest they break or crumble.

If you just want to do some minor bottom repairs (not painting or a full bottom epoxy coat) and then test paddle the hull, saturating the gunwales with a few coats of oil might be better than either in situ epoxying or trying to remove them.

Easy DIY oil mix – 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 turpentine, 1/3 old varnish from a can going crusty. Add a dollop more turps to the first coats. Inexpensive, easy, effective, penetrating and a great use for old hardening varnish dregs.

Regunwaling? That does involve some choices.

Wood: Anything from finding a straight grained 17’ or 18’ plank and milling your own; routing, sanding, calculating the screw placement (avoid where the seat and yoke hardware holes will go) and countersinking screw holes before installation. Not that hard if you have decent tools or access to a friend’s shop. Probably the least expensive way to go and the most educational, but time consuming.

You could buy ready-made wood gunwales, or even a knock-down kit with scarf joints. Ed’s Canoe sells them and no doubt there are Canadian suppliers. Go kerfed for the composite hull and at least 16’ long. You can easily make a top-mounted deck plate of your size/design choice and be done with it.

https://www.edscanoe.com/14kndogusy.html

Vinyl: Or actually vinyl with aluminum inserts. Easy peezy just needs a gunwale-holding helper or two, a rubber mallet, a 3/16” drill, a pop rivet gun, seventy or so 3/16” pop rivets and a free afternoon. Plus some vinyl deck plates or caps that fit the vee of the stems.

Vinyl won’t look as traditional, but will need less upkeep. And will cost more than DIY’ing wood. If you have a well stocked outfitter shop or canoe manufacturer nearby you could just pick up a set of vinyl gunwales and bring them home strapped to a ladder on the roof rack (or stuffed and tied inside a 17’ Prospector); shipping 18’ of vinyl gunwale would be outrageously expensive.

Aluminum: I do not want to ever again install aluminum gunwales, at least not the one-piece type. There are now two-piece aluminum gunwale systems with separate inwale and outwale pieces that promise to eliminate the nightmare of installing a straight (not pre-bent to hull shape) piece of aluminum along the sheerline curve of a canoe and struggling mightily as the hull channel pinches closed tighter and tighter. Can be done with helpers, a rubber mallet and a couple (or four) broad blade metal putty knives, but what a PITA.

But all of that is based on simply looking at photos of the gunwales. I have no firsthand touch and feel and knife-point-poke sense of how dry/brittle/punky the gunwales may actually be, and they might hold up fine in the short term. If you do take them off I’d be curious if the hull shows signs of having been regunwaled previously (multiple screw holes).

My bet is that the hull has been at least partially rebuilt. The yoke looks too bright to have been original, and is hung with cup washers and not carriage bolts as with on the seats and carry handles. The stern seat looks to have been repaired or replaced and there are old seat bolt holes behind the existing location. Those old ¼” holes would kind worry me with the worn gunwales, especially the proximity of the current seat hardware to the old holes.

If those extra seat mounting holes were an OEM re-positionable seat feature that is the first time I have seen it done. And kinda doubt it.

It is a very cool old canoe, and I like the dimensions and weight (have you actually weighed it?). For a 30 year old canoe the gel coat is in extraordinary condition; I have more chips and spider cracks in my 10 year old hulls.

It is worthy of a full-on rebuild, especially as a freebie, where a couple hundred bucks and X hours of educational take-apart and rebuild labor will result in a remarkable canoe. Literally remarkable; canoe-heads will stop and ask when they see it. I would.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 10:26 am 
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Thanks again for the input Mike - yes I weighed it at 50 lbs on the nose.

As for Swift / Sawyer not sure what you mean by "rebadge" but basically from what I gather Swift did not really exist as a brand while they were making Sawyer canoes under license. They stopped making Sawyer and rebranded to Swift. I think my recollection is correct from the talk with Bill Swift in spring 2018. Though I do have a poor memory for such things.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 1:24 pm 
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Prospector16 wrote:
As for Swift / Sawyer not sure what you mean by "rebadge" but basically from what I gather Swift did not really exist as a brand while they were making Sawyer canoes under license. They stopped making Sawyer and rebranded to Swift.


What I mean is that I do not have a lot of familiarity with late 80’s Sawyers, and something badged Algonquin 15 or 16 from Sawyer isn’t ringing any bells. Sawyer Cruiser, or maybe a detuned Sawyer 190?

Some confusing discussion, including John Winter’s self-deprecating design commentary.

https://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewto ... 20&t=27172

That kind of canoe designer evolutionary history stuff is fascinating to me.

Cool 30 year old canoe, it would be worth investigating the history to know exactly what you have.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 1:41 pm 
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Oh no their comment was that the Sawyer boat I have is basically an early design for what is now the Swift Algonquin, and that the Swift Algonquin is still very similar to that original design.

I think I know exactly what I have - not sure what more there is to know.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 1:49 pm 
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Oh after reading the other thread I see what you mean about figuring out exactly what I have ...


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 4:44 pm 
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Your gunnels are in worse shape than the hull. Best to replace them i'd say . The hull just requires a good paint . Even a 2 part paint if you want that expense .
Wood gunnels are a good choice if the canoe is stored indoors .


Last edited by canoetripper on July 21st, 2019, 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 7:53 am 
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I know the gunwales are worse than the hull but I'm still not sure there is an urgency in replacing them. My other wood-gunwaled canoe was worse when I bought it and I did end up having to replace them the following year.

I'm also looking for input on using a wood penetrating epoxy on them and whether or not that will get me anywhere. I just did a google and found this guy using it for a boat seat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BchBGYFdysw

I guess I'm to the point now where I know I have to take the gunwales off if I want to treat them.


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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 8:51 am 
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Having trouble finding Total Boat Wood Penetrating Epoxy in Canada but did find this

Smith's Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer
https://www.marineoutfitters.ca/index.c ... 5676000032

And of course there is "Git Rot" but it says you have to inject it.


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