Chicagoland Canoe Base
Repair & Restoration

Transport yourself back in time and step into the workshop of master craftsman Ralph Frese, who is known throughout the world for his boat building and restoration skills. From birchbark replicas, to the restoration of your everyday family canoe, the master builder treats each project as a challenge and devotes his full energies and intuition to its completion.

The work of restoration varies greatly as many kinds of craft have been brought into the canoe base in various stages of repair. No two are alike and in most cases, they require more time and skill than at first apparent. The shop time and the cost of materials can become expensive and for this reason, we often inspect and offer advice so the owner can tackle the job himself if desired. When the owner of an old craft decides he would rather have the restoration or repair work done professionally, the canoe base will take on the project and work their magic.

Here are a few samples of the work which Ralph Frese has done over the years. Click on any photo for a larger view of the project.
A 1928 Thompson wood/canvas canoe, with canvas rotted off along the gunwales, a line of cracked ribs and assorted problems due to neglect.
A line of broken ribs repaired by splicing new sections as the half ribs prevented the old ribs from being removed.
New hand-caned seats copied the originals faithfully. Only one original deck was left so it was duplicated by slicing it in half horizontally, glueing new wood underneath. New outwales added the final touch.
After canvassing the repaired hull, new brass stem bands and a coat of green enamel plus varnishing restored this classic almost like new.
An antique Peterborough Model 16 cedar strip canoe, brought in for repair with gunwales and decks rotted.
The stem ends, upper planks and the tips of all ribs were splintered and rotted.
After new outside stems, gunwales, thwart and seats were installed, and the hull stripped and revarnished, the canoe is once again presentable.
Another Thompson wood/canvas canoe, an example of the utmost neglect, but the owner wanted it restored as a family heirloom.
Virtually total rebuilding was necessary as it needed neew inside stems, inwales, ribs, seats, thwarts, etc. before recanvasing.
The final appearance gave little clue to the condition of the canoe when it first arrived.
Bow view of a 14-foot PenYan Cartopper, a lightweight wood/canvas fishing boat that arrived with 38 broken ribs and three large holes in the planking.
Stern view of the PenYan Cartopper completely restored and ready for a fishing trip.
Two old 18 foot long Peterborough wood/canvas square stern canoes found abandoned near a moose hunting camp in Ontario by the late John Case, an outdoor writer and friend of Ralph Frese. The one on the right is as found and the one on the left was restored using fiberglass instead of canvas.
This $200 Mitchel paddle was salvaged by having a new grip fashioned after the original came apart.





This Grumman canoe had a tree fall on it, caving the keel about 8 inches. We were able to restore its original shape and a small riveted patch took care of a potential leak in a severe crease.  
Unusual Projects
Take a closer look at some of the unusual boat building and restoration projects we have undertaken.

Contacting Ralph For more information about our restoration services, contact Ralph Frese at ralph@chicagoland

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