Bleach stained gunwales?

Just bought a used Bell Morningstar with the wood trim. The gunwales appear to be solid but have some dark staining, probably from outdoor storage.

Is it OK to use an oxalic acid wood bleach on the trim? Or should I just sand it?


Did Bell ever stain their gunwales?
You might turn the boat over and experiment on the bottom surface of the gunwales. I’m not sure I’ve ever used oxalic acid, but I’ve used wood bleaching kits to lighten or stain alder. The effect can be unpredictable, because with time or light exposure, the color may drift.

If the color is fairly uniformly dark, I would sand first, lightly, and then apply oil to see what you get. If you try to reach the original ash tone, you may end up with uneven appearance.

If it’s mildew, a Clorox/water solution
will get rid of most of it. Oxalic acid (deck brightener) will work on some gray stain from weathering. Niether will work on a previously applied pigmented stain. Don’t bother with the two-part stuff unless you’re really desperate and determined. I’d go ahead with the household variety first and then, if necessary, the other. You’re gonna want to sand before refinishing either way.

make them darker …
… sand first , bleach , then stain nice dark color . Dark would make a nice look I think , good contrast .

I finally got around…
to oiling the gunwales on my Encore. Couldn’t find Watco Exterior Oil locally, and none of the online stores would ship to RI, so I used Teak Oil from a local marine store. It darkened the work considerably and gave it a deep, rich color. Hopefully it will also take some abuse and protect the wood.

I wouldn’t be too fussy – sand it, oil it, and paddle it.

Siding cleaner
which usually calls for the addition of Clorox…

Scrub with nylon scrubbie and mask off the part of the hull next to the gunwale. You will want to finish with various grits of sandpaper and you don’t want to scratch the hull.

One canoe restorer I know of uses phosophoric acid to bleach gray areas but I have not tried that.

You probably already know this…but wear an apron.