Carbon Caps

-- Last Updated: Feb-13-10 4:22 PM EST --

I hope this isn't too commercial but I've recently developed a new product that should be of interest to many on this forum.

There have been numerous posts over the past few years from people inquiring about about wood gunnel replacement. More often than not the problem has been damage at the bow or stern, either as a result of rot or physical damage. Often the rest of the gunnels were in good shape. I've had many boats in the shop with similar damage. To me it always seemed overkill to entirely replace the gunnels for such minor damage. Occasionally I would scarf on a new end or repair the damage with epoxy and filler but if one wanted the boat to look "new" there was no good alternative.

Recently I've been working with Colden Canoe on some prototype deck caps that they may offer on the new Fire Series. I got the idea that I could form caps to match any deck/gunnel profile and that they could be used as either a repair item or simply to protect the nice woodwork.

I recently brought an older Bell FlashFire into the shop with just such damage. I filled and shaped the damaged outwales with epoxy and filler. I then proceeded to tool a plug over which to vacuum form the new end caps. The caps are a carbon fiber composite and weigh only a couple of ounces. As you can see, once installed they look like a factory option and the entire process is a small fraction of the cost of regunneling.

Marc Ornstein
Dogpaddle Canoe Works
Custom Paddles and Cedar Strip Canoes

Great Idea Marc!
Fat Elmo is constantly bumping into rocks and trees with his canoes. He might be your first customer.

Seriously, it is a great idea and looks good too.!


Very nice
Those look very nice, Mark.

For those who would prefer a simple do-it-yourself option, kydex is very easy to work with and can be heated and molded by hand. It doesn’t look as good as your option, but it does look almost identical to the molded plastic factory end caps.

Mmm… Carbon!

– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 10:37 AM EST –

I’ve seen dozens of wood railed canoes with the problem you’ve described. While a dutchman or epoxy patch is an adequate fix, visually it will always appear to be just that, a fix. By incasing damage behind a nifty custom carbon cap the flaw becomes a feature. I can see where the canoe buying public would be attracted to the protective properties of a carbon deck cap, just look at all the Kevlar skid plates that have been applied to perfectly good canoes. A friend of mine owned a small sandwich shop. He always said, “Put bacon on it and people will want it.” I think paddlers are the same way with Carbon and Kevlar.

For someone who can’t avoid being abusive, i.e. loading a canoe with one end on the ground or as a fix to rotted wales I like your solution. But as a feature on a new canoe I would fear that caps would exacerbate the problem of entrapped moisture. I believe you will find that 7 out of 10 canoe buliders would agree, moisture is the number one cause of gunwale decay.

I agree with all of that
except the rotting whales part. Peeeuuuw!

Rubber caps?
Would rubber/silicon caps, possibly on top of what you have, reduce impacts further?

Two part silicon polymer/epoxy can be purchased over internet. Kits come at various degrees of hardness.

Cool idea!

– Last Updated: Feb-12-10 7:43 PM EST –

We tried carbon end caps for or CobraSox rails at Pb a few years back but didn't like the look. Marc's work is better looking, but seems to retain Bell's projected rails, which is the original problem.

It is worth remembering that Sawyer and Moore Canoe made black FG caps to close the ends of their Alu rails.

Bell transects the inwales, leaving a 3/16 section to cross the laminates' tip. Outwales are screwed in place and chopped off. The hull is then turned over and a slurry of epoxy and sawdust applied to fill the void, tape keeping the goop from draining out the front. When the epoxy sets, the end is shaped with a belt sander.

The length of the rail's projection places significant force on the thin section[s] of the inwale cuts. After some weathering with water working past the epoxy, etc, they tend to crack.

Worse, since all four rails are epoxied together it is problematical to replace just one rail, as they tend to break when separated. Hence Marc's cap.

Please note Marc's slight ridge and drain hole. Three coats of a penetrating sealer on the wood before fitting the cap should also help solve moisture issues.

Any impact that might split a three layer carbon end cap will probably damage the hull. It seems to me that light, inexpensive, attractive and ~ bombproof caps are good enough. Those who put an end on the ground to get their hulls up on the top carrier might be pleased with just one.

I am interested Marc!

– Last Updated: Feb-09-10 12:15 PM EST –

My '05 Magic has end outwale attachment holes drilled not in the center of the outwale, but centered on the apex of the protrusion (if that makes sense). Because of this there is little meat between the screw holes and the underside of the outwale. As you might guess, splits have developed.

I have considered contacting Bell (it is a defect in workmanship as far as I am concerned) but the thought of total outwale replacement is something I would rather not get into.

I have also considered scarfing in some type of outwale replacement. But your caps are elegant and would look "right" on my B/G hull.

When we thaw from this deep freeze I will contact you.


First off, thank you all
for your comments and useful suggestions.

I should have noted that after taking the photos I did put drain holes in the caps. Most high end boats are not likely to be stored, long term, upside down, outside but there may be exceptions and drain holes eliminate that concern.

I’m currently looking for suitable rubber or plastic bumpers that will look good and can be adhered to the tips of the caps. Although the caps are quite tough and would not likely be damaged by being bumped or rested on the ground while loading/unloading, the bumpers would prevent them from being scratched. Ideally the bumpers will be of the self stick type so individuals can choose to install then or not.

As soon as I find what I’m looking for, I’ll post updated photos.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

I saw the protype carbon caps at The Colden “Skunk Works”. They look good. My Bell Flashfire had the same problem described. I thought it was from a rather spectacular collision with a log at a tricky hairpin on the Connowango creek. Charlie explained the real cause and weakness in the stem area and recomended trimming back flush with the hull like Hemlock does. I decided to keep the “crash bumper” for future whoops events and inletted a 3/16 mahogony inlay into the problem area. I may add Marc’s caps for extra insurance,but hate to cover up that pretty inlay.


BTW Marc,
I assume that you refinished the brightwork. Looks to be fine furniture quality!


finally done, great work Marc

– Last Updated: Feb-12-10 10:06 PM EST –

Have always thought about carbon doing that job, great stuff Marc. ..But value Conk's..

You are correct
I did refinish the brightwork. The boat was in nice shape to begin with but a couple of hours with some sandpaper, wood bleach and finally Watco Oil and it looks like new. It’s a rare boat that leaves the shop without having the woodwork spruced (no pun intended)up.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Sorry Marc.
Your response to my attempt at black humor got axed when I deleted the post. Charlie Wilson, former congressman from TX passed on today. I thought everyone here listened to PBS.

My bad.


Nice work
That’s a clean job on those.

The Ranger canoe comes with composite molded deck caps that are similar looking. I drilled three 3/16" holes in each one on my boat for drainage. After all, it’s upside down on the racks coming home, and hung in the garage upside down as well.

I saw the news too late.
A few frantic phone calls cleared up the confusion but not before I had a few heart palpitations of my own. Lest there be any doubt, the REAL Charlie Wilson called me late last night and we had a few chuckles.

Marc Ornstein

I dissent … partially

– Last Updated: Feb-12-10 11:53 AM EST –

First of all, end caps are not a new idea. Mad River had short plastic ones with a picture of their opium den rabbit on them. Still have them on my Millbrook ME. Also, Mohawk or someone had longer, black ABS caps.

I think they are a very good idea for a low cost repair mechanism for damaged ends, compared to full gunwale and deck replacement, as Marc initially has used them. That's the exact reason I put them on my ME after running Victoria Falls at low water. And I would probably fiscally opt for such a repair device when my protuberant Wildfire decks fall apart.

However, I don't and wouldn't like them ... aesthetically ... especially on a NEW high end boat with wood trim. To me, they present a jarring, conflicting and inelegant contrast to the traditional wood aesthetics of the gunwales and decks. I have a similar aesthetic reaction to the non-arboreal and psychedelic decks and thwarts that Placid uses -- a view that I have expressed publicly and privately.

(Unless I'm under the canoe in my magic bus with a '60's bunny.)

Nice end caps. But I’ve never banged
an end cap. I always smash the hull stem into rocks and things. Maybe I need a rubber baby buggy bumper, all the way from stem to stern.

Persomally,I like the classy wood trim Paul put on his 1st Colden Flashfire and also the less garish logo and model labels much better than Placid’s.


Hmmm. I think I see a problem.
I was looking at the pictures, and it appears that the pointy-thingie part where the outwales terminate has a rounded profile. My Magic has a somewhat squared-off profile.

I wonder if there are subtle, or not so subtle variations in every Bell that came off the assembly line. It might be a nightmare to accomodate every shape.