Skid Plate Repair by Red Rock Wilderness Store
Many folks get all bent out of shape when they see that their skid plates have worn in the wear zone of their canoe or a canoe that they are about to buy used. That’s almost always a small area on the bow and/or stern and it is unique to the specific hull of the canoe and how the canoe was slammed into shore during its indentured life in a canoe livery. As a private owner, an easier way to avoid this type of repair would be to not plow your canoe into shore like a farmer sinking a plow blade into black dirt preparing for this season’s corn crop, but some folks never quite figure this out. I’ve seen evidence of that at the canoe landings and particularly enjoy watching Brand X kevlars slamming into the gravel at Lake One, Moose Lake and Fall Lake. They don’t hold up like Souris Rivers and in fact I saw a Brand X canoe that had a bow which looked like shark bite in an Oreo cookie. Nontheless, this example is for those among us who need to solve this skidplate wear problem because we haven’t figured out that the massive grinding sound we hear is made by the bow when 240 lbs. of “Bubba” slides up 30 inches onto shore at about 20 MPH. The answer is not necessarily to install an entire new skid plate, however. In most cases, you can simply add a little piece to the boo boo and go back to plowing Bubba into shore again. In the example you’ll see below, I’m actually going to build a stronger reinforcement that matches the existing black skid plate of the canoe. It’s a Souris River, Le Tigre kevlar, Quetico 18.5 three-seater, and after a whole summer of “Bubba-Paddle-Harder x 3 – PLUS gear”, this front plate has finally shown a little wear. The wear is indicative of making portages shorter the hard way. I’ll also refinish the canoe with a coat of varnish so you can see how nicely a Souris River handles a beating and then recovers minus the patches you’d see on those Brand X canoes which simply can’t hack paddler brutality as well.
SR Quetico 18.5 with worn strip in the front skid plate. This is no where near the end of the world.
This is what the wear zone looks like. You can see the Le Tigre kevlar beneath the black plate. Most folks would now put a new skid plate right over the top, but the rest of the plate is fine. They usually only wear in one spot, so why replace the whole thing?
This is what kevlar felt looks like. It is simply felt which is made of kevlar fibers. I just cut a little strip to start. BUT, the key is in the cutting. You’ll need really sharp, good quality scissors. Kevlar is unbelievably tough to cut and also comes from Texas Tea.
Here I’m just placing the piece of felt with the ends trimmed to points. The points make it lay down over the old skid plate better. If you had a non-black skid plate and were doing this, you’d be skipping the next steps with the aluminum powder and graphite.
Here’s where the felt will end up after you soak it in resin.
Here’s what you need to start. Epoxy resin, cup, stir stick, rubber gloves – for a regular skid plate canoe. Add aluminum powder and graphite for a black skid plate canoe. I use larger containers of 105/205 resin/hardener by West System. You would not need to use these because they a cost a lot of dough and are WAY more resin than you’ll need. I’m just trying to scare the tar out of you with this intimidating looking junk. You can use a couple of West System repair packets which cost only about $16 for a 6 pack. Two of those packets would work just fine. You DO need the disposable blue glove, a stir stick and the plastic cup.
Mix the resin
Put the resin and hardener into the cup and mix well. I would use two packets of resin from the 6 pack (not pictured because I’m using the pumps)
Now here’s where I get technical. Add a teaspoon of aluminum powder and mix it into the resin. It’s not super critical about the amount. This stuff makes the resin harder by adding microscopic (or at least really fine) aluminum dust to the resin. When it cures, you can see little “sparklies” in the black epoxy which help reduce wear caused by the Bubba factor.
Add a teaspoon of graphite powder. This stuff is REALLY messy. Don’t do it when it’s windy outside. Stir it in as well. This secret ingredient makes your skid plate slide more easily so that big honking rock has a harder time connecting with the resin. The fresh rosemary adds that delicate hint of spring and and goes good with a white wine.
Mix well and you’ll end up with black goo, Texas Tea, or at least this stuff is made out of Texas Tea – epoxy resin is a petro chemical.
This is what kevlar felt looks like. It is simply felt which is made of kevlar fibers. I just cut a little strip to start. BUT, the key is in the cutting. You’ll need really sharp, good quality scissors. Kevlar is unbelievably tough to cut and also comes from Texas Tea like epoxy resin. Without oil, we’d all be paddling birchbark canoes and trust me, the repairs are much more difficult in birchbark – let alone the crazies who’d be protesting and beating tom-toms at the canoe landing for your using a tree improperly. And then, there’s the stepping on helpless, baby protozoans in the parking lot as you carried your birchbark canoe to the water, issue. How insensitive!! We need more laws to stop this!!!
Trim the Felt
Check the felt for size by laying it over the boo boo. I like to cut the ends of it into points to make it lay down more neatly and make a smoother bump. There will be a little bump because the felt swells up with resin. In fact, that is what we are trying to accomplish. The felt allows us to make a thick layer of resin reinforced by a zillion kevlar fibers to prevent it from shattering on impact as a thick layer of resin minus the felt fibers will do. It acts just like reinforcement rod in concrete.
Put the strip in the black goo and stir it. You goal is to get it completely soaked in resin.
Looks like a synthetic blood sucker.
I like to squeeze out some of the excess goo so it’s not too drippy on the canoe to try to prevent it from running down the sides. Note the gloves. Since this is epoxy resin and since epoxy resin can be a skin sensitizer to some folks, you want to wear gloves and minimize your skin contact with the stuff lest ye develop an allergic reaction to it. It can bother some people like a bad bee sting reaction and we suspect that it bothers women more than men. Well, that would make sense given men’s superiority when compared to women – KIDDING!. Actually, the folks at Souris River are who let us know about the allergic reactions of epoxy in men vs. women and found (anecdotally) that women appeared to be more sensitive to the epoxy resin (and a whole other bunch of issues that we won’t cover here – Kidding, again!) Anyway – wear gloves no matter what your gender.
Simply set the gooey strip onto the boo boo area.
Not hard to do at all, in fact I’m doing this in one of my very best, slightly wrinkled T-shirts.
Making it Smooth and Shiny
Next you cover it up with Saran (or other) plastic wrap and use some tape to stretch it smooth. Kind of like stretching a high-tec beaver hide. Squeeze out the air bubbles under the plastic with your now ungloved thumb. Work the air bubbles to the edge of the resin under the plastic. Try not to squeeze the black goo down the sides of the canoe. After you are done with the air bubbles, flip the and rightside up and not on the new resin and allow it to cure for about 5 hours. After 5 hours, flip it back over and peel off the plastic. Take a sharp knife and you can carefully slice off the excess resin which may have run.
Skid plate is done – on to varnish.
You can now sand down the canoe with 120 grit sand paper to somewhat smooth out the scratches. An orbital sander works best. You should wear a dust mask for this because it gets dusty. Then wipe down the canoe with a brushing thinner and follow it immediately with a good quality UV blocking, marine varnish by either wiping it on with a rag or with a foam roller. The rag will initially do a nicer job. Wear disposable rubber gloves and clean up will be a snap. Allow it to dry two or more days then sand down with 200 grit sand paper, wipe down with thinner and recoat the canoe either with a foam roller or rag. I prefer the foam roller here because it’s a bit easier to control a uniform coat. If you do use a foam roller, once the canoe is coated in varnish, grab the roll to prevent it’s rolling and drag it uniformly over the canoe (called tipping) to knock out the little air bubbles that the roller leaves. Allow canoe to cure for two days and then paddle with abandon or even a friend or family member!
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