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You have two options to touch-up your Souris River Canoe.  Remember, however, not to try this on other KEVLAR® canoes. Our canoes are built with an outer layer of fibreglass, which can be safely sanded. Other manufacturers use KEVLAR® as their outer layer, which will turn to fuzz when sanded.

First, you must decide whether to use polyurethane or epoxy. Either will give a great finish, but polyurethane is cheaper and easier to work with. Epoxy, on the other hand, is preferred where there are deep scratches, or where the fibreglass is starting to wear. 

Work in a dust-free, well ventilated area. Wear a dust mask when sanding. When working with epoxy resin, wear disposable gloves a mask that filters organic compounds (carbon filter).

Option One: Polyurethane
  1. Choose a quality polyurethane. Gloss will give you the best results. Make sure you buy an oil-based product. Most varnishes now are water-based, so check the label. (See below for polyurethane options.)

  2. Decide whether you want to refinish the entire hull, or just the bottom. If you choose the latter, adhere an even line of masking tape from bow to stern. Otherwise, mask the gunwales.

  3. Wipe the entire hull two or three times with alcohol (methyl hydrate) or acetone. This will remove any wax or UV protectant that may be on the hull. Wear gloves if using acetone. Acetone is quite volatile and will dry your skin as it evaporates. Be careful not to wipe decals with acetone, as it is a powerful solvent that will smear the ink. Alcohol won't do this.

  4. Sand the area of the hull to be refinished. This can be done by hand, or with an orbital sander, using 120-220 grit sandpaper.

    The white residue shown in the photo to the right is oxidation on the canoe's exterior due to weathering, long-term wetness and UV exposure. This is a harmless issue, but an unsightly one. It is completely correctable by the refinish procedure above. Minor oxidation can sometimes be removed using a grit-based auto pre-polish cleaner on a polishing pad on a rotary polisher. These pre-polish cleaners are available at most auto accessory stores. Cleanup with a dry rag, followed by an alcohol wipe.


  5. Thoroughly clean the area to be refinished, removing all sanding dust using acetone or a similar solvent. Allow to dry completely.

  6. Note: do not allow the solvent to come in contact with your decals, or they may smear. (You can also remove the old decals with a razor blade and order a new set from us.)

  7. Use a small (four-inch) 5 mm lint-free roller. Avoid foam rollers, which tend to leave air bubbles. Apply and roll the varnish over the entire area. Be watchful of runs, and re-roll areas that appear to have too much varnish. A wide-bottom plastic container, such as a two pound margarine container works well for holding the polyurethane.

  8. Remove the masking tape before the varnish has dried completely.

NOTE: A polyurethane re-finish should only be considered on newer canoes. Older canoes almost always need an epoxy re-finish, as the epoxy protective layer on the hull diminishes over time due to weathering and wear. An epoxy re-finish restores that protective layer. (See below.)

Polyurethane Options

Home Hardware: Wood-Shield Alkyd Clear Coat

                              Helmsman Spar Urethane (gloss)
Noah's Marine: Epifanes Clear Gloss Varnish

Home Depot:  Varathane Premium Gloss Wood Finish

Option Two: Epoxy

The other option is to mix-up some epoxy resin and apply a thin coat of resin to the scratches. You could use this option if your canoe is badly scratched. Make sure you carefully follow the instructions on the package.  Epoxy resin works best in a warm envionment, about 24 degrees Celcius (75 degrees Fahrenheit).

  1. We recommend West System 105 resin, with 207 hardener. This combination gives good results, fills cracks, and requires no thinning. This is one of the few resins that will not discolour over time. It also contains UV inhibitors. If you are using another epoxy, you may need to thin it with denatured alcohol or acetone. (Alcohol is effective, and safer than acetone.)

    A one litre (quart) can of West System will do the job. Buy the pumps to ensure accurate ratios. About 18 pumps will do a 17 foot canoe. However, do it in three batches if it is your first time, to give yourself some working time.


  2. Prepare the surface as described in steps 2 - 5, in Option One, above. If you have deep scratches you can sand about ½ inch on either side of the scratch and on the scratch to reduce the depth of the scratch.  In effect, you want to feather from the outside of the sanded area into the middle of the scratch. You do not have to make the scratch disappear, just reduce the depth so that a thin layer of epoxy resin will make it disappear.  This will create a small depression in the hull of the canoe.  You can then rub some epoxy resin on to fill that depression.

  3. Apply the epoxy as described in step 7 above. Watch for runs.

  4. Remove the masking tape before the resin has set.

See our repair page for a list of epoxy suppliers.

Decal Removal and Application

By far the easiest way to remove decals is by heating them slightly with a hair dryer or heat gun. Once heated, they will easily peel off, leaving no scratch lines. You can also remove them with a razor blade, but this could mark the canoe if you are not careful.

NOTE: If re-finishing a canoe where the decals are in reasonably good condition, don't remove them. If you do remove them, you will find that an image of the decal remains on the canoe. This is because UV radiation darkens the canoe somewhat over time. As the "paddle" decals are almost impossible to install exactly over the old location, you will be left with a cosmetic problem.

You can sand and epoxy or urethane over all existing decals with no problems.

If you do have to install a new decal, be sure to wipe the area with alcohol first, to ensure proper adhesion.

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