Posted by: Dan Sprague | May 20, 2012

A Canvas covered boat deck

The first sailboat my family had was one that had a canvas covered deck. A cub scout troop in our home town was wanting to buy a new sailboat and one of the troop leaders asked my dad if he would buy the old boat they had to help out the troop. My dad was a Doctor in the town and what they wanted  was a donation for a new boat. What my Dad did was give them a big donation so they could get a nice new boat and he gave me the old junk boat they had, to fix up if I wanted it. I WANTED IT! 😎

The boat was in real sad shape. The canvas covered deck was cracked and peeling off and the hull had roofing tar on it as bottom paint. I spent most of the summer, scraping, repairing, making and replacing parts, sanding and painting the boat. The deck was the last thing I did. My Mom got some heavy 12-oz canvas from somewhere and Dad came up with a glue that had very little smell and you could clean it up with water. I think it may have been wallpaper paste but I do not know what it was.

My Dad took charge of recovering the deck. Dad had been in the Canadian Air Force and he had said that canvas was used to cover air plane wings in older planes and was both strong and looked nice. To start, ”I” got to sand the deck all down, and then I had to round over all the edges where the canvas would be stretched over so there were no sharp edges.  Then I had to put a coat of varnish over all the rounded edges and ends of boards so the glue would not soak up in these areas.

Mom cut out the canvas for the deck so it had about a 4 or 5 inch overlap around the deck. After everything was sanded, we put a thick coat of glue on and Dad and I laid the canvas on the deck. We gently stretched the canvas and stuck it in to the glue, and Mom made sure we kept the weaving lines of the canvas straight.  We squeegeed the canvas down to get some of the glue to come through the canvas and to get the lumps out. Then we tacked the edges of the canvas down.

The next day we wet the canvas down with a squirt bottle and we used Mom’s OLD iron to iron the deck. I thought this was great fun. It made the canvas shrink a little and it smoothed the lumps of glue under the canvas out.

Then the canvas had to dry for about 3 days. After a very light sanding, I got to paint the deck with another coat of very thin watered down glue to fill the canvas cloth. This was let dry for another day. After a light sanding the deck was painted with 3 coats of a gloss oil base enamel. This was not fun. The paint filled the canvas pores and after the last coat the deck was the best looking thing on the boat. The deck was non skid and beautiful. We used a thick twisted rope to tack over the area where the canvas had been tacked down to give it a finished look.

We got to sail the boat the last few weeks of the summer, and the cub scouts could not believe it was the same boat. My dad enjoyed sailing the boat so much he bought a “REAL SAILBOAT” over the winter.

I learned a lot working on the old boat, probably more than if we had gotten the “real boat” first. But I really liked the “real boat” better. Every time I have had to do deck work on any boat since then I think of the canvas deck we did on that boat and how great it looked when we were done with it.

After doing a little hunting online I found that the glue you need to use if you are doing a canvas deck is Tidebond II. It is a polyvinyl acetate glue and  water is the solvent for it.  It is a general woodworking carpentry glue, and it is waterproof on drying.


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