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Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/12/2009 11:23 PM

Hello there,

I've recently purchased a 1981 'Smoker craft' canoe. I have found (by filling with water and crawling underneath) 18 leaking rivets. I'm hoping to get some suggestions on what to do about this.

Thanks,

Ron

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#1

Re: How to repair a leak in an old aluminum canoe?

10/12/2009 11:25 PM
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#2

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/13/2009 11:37 PM

I had the same problem. To tighten the rivets, I held a piece of flat iron (as an anvil) against the rivets from the outside of the boat while my friend struck each one from the inside with a hammer. You don't want to over do it by striking them with too much force. This made my boat air tight. It hasn't leaked since and that was several years ago. It requires good communication though so you are both on the same rivet.

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#9
In reply to #2

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 10:22 AM

There is a limit to the benefit of hammering on the rivets before it becomes destructive. Sometimes the problem is not only loosening rivets but some electrolysis. You might try some liquid seam sealer after you pein the rivets. Search the internet for SilNet or a similar product. Apply to the inside of the canoe if possible.

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#3

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 1:04 AM

Don't fill it with water & definitely don't crawl underneath?

Failing that... go with post #2. The heavier the piece of iron (anvil) the better - within reason.

It will resist the hammer from inside better, & will cause less vibration within the canoe shell as you hit it.

Cheers

Tony

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#4

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 2:07 AM

Hi 4123,

You could alway use a big hammer underneath while you peen the rivet inside the boat.

Or remove the old rivets, make sure all edges meet correctly, and put new rivets in the holes you had previously drilled out the original rivets from. Perhaps you could also use a thin 'caulking' compound' or ready made layer of 'caulking'?

If you get a leak while out canoeing, I once used sap from a pine tree. Can't recall it for sure but think I 'cooked' it, or heated it a little before applying to the gap between the surfaces to be riveted. Never had any problems with any more leaks. I think it stays flexible, which is why is it a good routine to up-turn the boat in a sunny place to dry and to keep the sap soft and working? I found this out by accident when I had to mend 3 small leaks along the same edge and it worked.

Good luck.

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  1. How to Fix a Hole in a Canoe | eHow.comDangerous rapids and whitewater aren't the only obstacles for a canoe. ... old-timer's trick: Using a small stick, apply pine pitch along the leak. ... Dents in plastic or aluminum canoes are sometimes pushed out from the inside. ...
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  3. Bateau2 - Builder Forums • View topic - Aluminum Canoe Repair Question10 posts - 6 authors - Last post: 7 Jun 2004A generous family just donated an 18-foot Grumman aluminum canoe to my sons' Boy Scout Troop. It's been used pretty hard, but only has two ...
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  4. Blind rivets - Google Books ResultPopular Science - Oct 1975 - 184 pages - Magazine
    An ordinary chisel works fine on aluminum, but use a file on harder metals. ... water- or pressure-tight seal on a canoe, van, anything that shouldn't leak. ...
    books.google.co.uk/books?id=LQEAAAAAMBAJ... - More book results » -
  5. Cliff Jacobson Notes Archive Page: Copyright Cliff Jacobson, 2001 ...When I arrived at the start, there was no canoe in sight. ... Can you mend a broken yoke, torn pack strap or a hole in your rubber boots? ... from Tandy Leather Company, are useful for repairing pack straps and, in an emergency, aluminum canoes. ... the tubes leak and epoxy contaminates everything in the tool kit. ...
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  7. Repair Products UK Ltd - 41 Metal RepairWATERWELD will plug or seal practically anything that leaks. It will patch holes and cracks, and mend almost anything that is broken. .... Available in steel-reinforced plastic, aluminum and copper formulas ... golf club grips, fletching arrows, fishing rod tips and guides, tents, canoes, boats, outboard motors, ...
    www.repairproducts.co.uk/page41.htm - Cached - Similar -
  8. In the Same Boat - Paddling.Net

Let us know what you do and the outcome please.

take care and good luck.

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#5

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 3:06 AM

Loose rivets are a consequence of age. Wear of the aluminum skins, corrosion or galvanic reaction. The wear depends on many factors.

You might try a bucking tool and hammer to tighten them but not only is it risky to the aluminum, it's time consuming and requires two people and the results are not likely to last.

Short of replacing them (also risky) I would first try a fuel tank sealer like those used on monocoque aircraft to seal the wing tanks buit up from Alcad. It's a popular repair methos and has the endorsement of the FAA should you ever want to add wings and an engine later (sic!)

Alas, epoxies won't work well here. Even the best of them have a tough time ataching to aluminum.

If you go the tank sealer route, you mght consider adding a coat of fine traction sand to the coating while IT'S still wet. It will improve safety.

Good luck

L.J.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 8:46 AM

Duck Tape it!

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#12
In reply to #6

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 1:34 PM

Us kayakers do a duct tape, heat gun, duct tape, heat gun, duct tape, heat gun method of repairs. It works really well and lasts for quite a while.

Growing up with an aluminum canoe (6-10 yrs old in the early 80s), I remember always having small sticks to shove in the rivet holes when one would pop out on the riffles, rocks or logs. Aaahhh, the good old days of bailing water with a coffee can!

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#7

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 8:58 AM

Tig weld them from the bottom...All that "banging" will loosen the surrounding rivets!

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#8

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 9:38 AM

What I would do is paint the boat, then fiberglass it inside and out.

Then you won't have to worry about leaks again and your boat won't reflect so much glare when you're in the water.

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#21
In reply to #8

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 10:19 PM

Janissaries:What I would do is paint the boat, then fiberglass it inside and out.

Then you won't have to worry about leaks again and your boat won't reflect so much glare when you're in the water.

dude, this is a classic ride.........any old town would fulfill your needs :)

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#10

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 1:08 PM

I am in the same boat. I purchased ($20.00 US) a flat bottom with several leaks. The rivet heads had pulled through the flanges on the bottoms of the seats. The previous owner used roofing tar and Bondo to seal the leaks. The tar sealed the leaks but did nothing to repair the seats. I used aircraft paint remover to get the tar and body filler off of the outside bottom so I could replace the rivets. I purchased new rivets and aluminum washers to go under the heads on the interior of the boat I also made a punch for my air hammer / chisel. I machined the rivet head profile into the face of the new punch to create a nice rounded effect instead of a plain flat pancake style head. This little feature will also help keep the punch on the rivet during hammering. I had a small jar of machine screws and nuts about the same diameter as the rivets. I have started installing screws in the holes where the rivets were so I can line all of the sheet metal parts back up. The next step for me will be to remove a screw, install a rivet coated in silicone caulk, and using a buddy with a back up block hammer in the new rivet. I will be replacing around 50 rivets in my boat. Since I have not completed the project yet I cannot tell you how well it worked. I work with a guy that did this to his boat and his turned out great. When I am done I should have less than $60.00 in the project including the $22.00 for the gallon of paint stripper.

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#11

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 1:12 PM

Hello,

I have a KISS solution for your leaking canoe rivets. Rather than drilling out the rivets or whacking them (where you could possibly miss the opposing anvil and hence severely damage the aluminum surface), you could do a repair with DURA-WELD and a plumbers standard torch. I've used this stuff to permanently weld aluminum stock and sheets together,.

Just make sure you remove all the paint off the aluminum surfaces, inside and outside, before you apply the heat!!!!

Also, don't overheat the aluminum surface...follow the directions religiously! This is an idiot-proof way to stop the leaks and will last a lifetime!!!

Just my 5 Cents worth added for good measure!!!

GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR REPAIR!!!!

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#13

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 2:05 PM

Most people don't know this but aluminum can be soldered with common household soldering equipment. Provided you control oxide formation, the soldered repair will probably outlast the rest of the canoe. Check out the American Welding Society tips for soldering aluminum:

http://www.aws.org/wj/2004/02/046/

Cheers,

Steamer Stan

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#14

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 5:24 PM

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you have a big welding pron=blem with repairing those rivet leaks on any type of boat. The boat hull and rivet material on boats and canoes is usually a good weldable quality and this is not the problem. The problem is algae or what ever you call it that grows under the rivets and the fact that there is no way to get it 100% cleaned out. The algae will burn off when you start to weld on the rivet, displace the shielding gas and cause the aluminum to be contaminated with porosity(small pinholes) Most of the times after the first weld attempt the porosity usually creates a larger leak.

I must have welded a thousand of these nasty little rivets in my life. I had the same problem as well as lost my butt on the man hours it takes to get them not to leak every single time I repaired one. If you are a very experienced welder and very lucky too then you may have a chance and not spend over a day repairing 18 rivets.

The best way I have found to weld them is to first clean them several times with acetone and on the first weld pass try to seal them by TIG welding and be careful to keep most of the heat on the thicker rivet by and use the mass of the rivet as a heat sin. You will probably get a nasty looking little weld covered with black soot and porosity and probably not seal the leak on this try but this is OK because hopefully you will burn out the algae on this first attempt. Next lightly grind the weld down (be careful not grind on the thinner hull or grind down the rivet) to just over flush with the top of the rivet and clean it several more times with acetone. Be sure to let it cool down completely and then TIG weld a second pass over it. This where you have to be extremely careful if you over heat the hull to much it will suddenly melt thru and the rivet, weld and a small part of the hull will simply drop through and leave you a hole about 1/4"-3/8" OD The good thing about having a hole is that the algae problem is over but now you have a "fill the hole up" problem that can be just as bad or worse as the leaking rivet. If you have access to one, a MIG welder will do this second pass much better than TIG as well as be allot easier/faster to make the welds. MIG deposits metal the instance it starts and this will help keep the metal cooler while welding. The MIG welder doesn't work as well as TIG on the first pass because on this pass usually the metal you deposit will have porosity and MIG will put down more metal that will just take longer to grind out IMO Every once in awhile you may run into a rivet that just won't seal off no matter how many times you try to weld it and the more times you weld on it causes the metal to become so contaminated it will not weld. At this point you can drill'her out and use a larger rivet or piece of material to weld on and seal up the hole or just get out the epoxy metal filler. I would not recommend trying to seal weld a rivet more than 3 or 4 times in any case.

I have tried just about every cleaner, welding process and technique I know to seal those rivets and this is the best way I have found to repair them. I finally got to the point where I could refuse to work on them and I am better off just saying no any time someone drags an aluminum boat up to my shop.

I hope this helps you and good luck

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/14/2009 9:47 PM

Nutzerts

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#16
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Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 6:54 AM

Hi guest,

I think you mean 'Nutserts', but this is a UK answer only'


  1. Nutserts, inserts, rivet nuts, tsn, Primary Fastenersnutserts, pop rivets, Rivets, tsn, avex, Fasteners, Rivet Nuts, Primary Fasteners Ltd.
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#18
In reply to #14

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 11:42 AM

I dont think that algae build up is a major concern. I have canoed for many years and have never had a problem with algae.

As long as you make sure all the kit is clean when you take it you of the water then it shouldn't be an issue.

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#20
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Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 5:07 PM

You can't clean under the rivets and it will probably be a problem, using a canoe has nothing to do with welding on one. I have welded for a living for many years and I am speaking from experience of welding on many different canoes and aluminum boats from 12 foot john boats to 250 foot tug boats many times. I may be incorrect in calling it algae but it is some sort of green substance that gets under the rivets on canoes and boats or any other place that you can't get to to properly clean. When heat is applied it then burns and displaces the welding shielding gas and causes major problems with welding especially welding aluminum. The only way to get it out is to take out the rivet completely and this will cause even more problems or burn it out with the first welding pass like I said in my post. I took the the time to tell the best way I know of to do it as well as what the problems are after doing it many times and trying near all the applicable welding process. If you can do it or ever have done it without this being a problem please share your method/process and experiences.

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#17

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 10:47 AM

There is a product called Alumalloy which works great on aluminum. It is a special welding rod that is applied with a propane torch (low heat vs hi heat TIG welding) and is very easy to use even for a novice. You can find it on the Internet. We have repaired many aluminum items (Jon boat, canoe, bellhousings, starter housing, thermostat housings, etc.) with this stuff and I always keep a pound or two next to the propane bottle.

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#19

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/15/2009 3:57 PM

I don't have a good suggestion for a fix, but a story you may appreciate. When I was around 17 a friend and I made regular canoe runs down the local creek. A rivet popped out somewhere on the first mile of travel, perhaps when we hung on a rock or something. Being in the middle of nowhere, we would either have to continuously bail water or improvise a solution. I looked around and found an old piece of rubber hose and a mesquite thorn. I rolled the hose up and worked it into the hole and jammed the mesquite thorn into the middle of the rolled rubber. It held for the rest of our 20 mile journey!

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#22

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/16/2009 11:07 AM

When we were teenagers we had a Grumman 17' canoe that we used on the local rivers and creeks in south Alabama. I don't ever remember a rivet leak problem but we finally wore the bottom through pulling it over sand bars and logs on the small creeks that it started leaking. I patched it several times but eventually had to install a whole new bottom in it. That was a big job to say the least but in the end It worked very good and my friend's son still uses it today on those same creeks.

When I bought my bass boat in 1995 I bought a 17' long all welded (not one rivet) Sea-Arc brand aluminum boat with a modified V design. I special ordered the boat to have a .100" and bottom and .080" sides, aluminum decks and s/s screws and fasteners. Sea-Arc builds commercial aluminum boats in a modified V and the traditional flat bottom john boat design. They also use this heavy duty model as the base boat to outfit for their bass boat line. The company is owned by Monark which pretty much invented the aluminum john boat. These boats are some of the best made aluminum boats I know of and I have had no problems with it since it was new. Hopefully I will never have to replace anything or weld on it by having no wood to dry rot or rivets to leak.

I am not sure who makes the best canoe these days or if any company offers an all welded canoe. If I was in the market to buy a canoe I would sure see if I could find an all welded one. The old Grumman canoe we used was a very sturdy and well built boat and I think they still build canoes and boats. One of my scariest experiences was getting trapped on the river during a flash thunder/lightning storm wondering if we would be struck by lightning before we made it to shore.

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#24
In reply to #22

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/19/2009 8:36 AM

I've had similar experiences...It seems the best canoeing is during the rainy season! .

My favorite was working around the trees that layed across the creek. Turn the canoe sideways, get out of the canoe onto the tree trunk. Lift the canoe over, jump in and paddle like crazy....Needless to say we got wet a few times doing this!

My canoe is a 17' lowe (I still have it!). It too has a patch on the bottom, but the hole came from a fence post. We had a small twister come trough and pick the canoe up and ran it across the post. I think I popped the rivet because of the way I had tied it down. Being a teenager at the time, I learned my mechanics from experience...

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#23

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/17/2009 5:08 PM

Automotive seal sealer. Go to the trunk of your car and lift the trunk mat. That globy looking stuff smeared on all the panel seams is seam sealer, available at auto paint stores. It comes in black and tan and can be painted. It is also used under the floor carpeting. The entire rest of the panel can rust away to nothing and if you can get the seam sealer off you will find fresh metal underneath. I suggest putting down strips of masking tape on each side of the seam to keep things neat and smearing it on the inside and outside of the entire seam. It might not be pretty, but if your boat is no longer on the Boat Show circuit, who cares. Certainly not the fish. It takes about an hour to dry (it's made for auto paint shop production), which makes it a good thing to have on hand in the field for emergency repairs (soda can patches).

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/19/2009 9:07 AM

Dose this sealer dry hard or does it stay kind of soft after it cures? I tried a type of sealer that was supposed to cure soft and flex with the canoe but I it hardened up after a few weeks and then started cracking and of course leaked. It worked very good until it hardened and I think that anything that would work well would have to be able to flex somewhat. All I could figure is that it was not made to stay submersed in water for long periods or I got an old batch that had went bad on the shelf. Although it cracked it did not have a problem sticking to the aluminum and It was very hard to remove. I finally had to use a steel wire brush on a 4.5 " grinder to get the stuff off.

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#26
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Re: Repairing a Leak in an Aluminum Canoe

10/19/2009 12:04 PM

It does dry stiff, not as flexible as silicone, but I've not seen it crack in automotive use. When I've had to remove it, it does come up in chunks but that is due to severe tearing. I realize an aluminum canoe has some flex though I'm not sure if it is too flexible for that sealer. Being subjected to continuous soaking might be an issue but it is designed to deal with moisture. It might even be a UV thing.

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