My other passion in life is home-built aircraft. I love building, flying and restoring them. One area in particular, that I’ve always enjoyed, is the process of fabric covering. Strangely enough, when they started building aircraft, early in the last century, many of the techniques used were adopted from boat and canoe builders, fabric (canvas) covering in particular. When I first got interested in restoring canvas covered canoes, I wondered if modern fabric techniques might be applied to wood and canvas canoes. I soon discovered a wonderful article by Alex Comb of Stewart River Boatworks entitled “Dacron for Wood and Canvas Canoes”. I was also fortunate enough to consult with Dick Persson of Buckhorn Canoe in Ontario.
Aircraft covering offers several advantages over traditional canvas covering, first and foremost being that synthetic aircraft fabric will never rot. Also, once one gets the hang of it stretching aircraft fabric over the hull is much easier, at least in my mind, then the traditional canvas “envelope”. It’s also glued in place rather then stapled or nailed. leaving the planking and stem much less vulnerable to water intrusion and rot. Covered with a special epoxy primer/filler, developed for aircraft use, it’s also incredibly strong and UV resistant.
The only drawback is that, because the fabric is literally shrink wrapped to the hull, every imperfection in the hull becomes visible. The solution to this is to use a latex filler over top of the epoxy primer/filler. This also has the advantage of adding a rubbery outer layer to the canoe and is in fact the same filler employed by many shops using standard canvas.