Cedar for gunnels?

I was at the lumber shop today asking about 17’ lengths of ash or even cyprus. No luck. He said he has 18’ straight grained cedar.

I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone using cedar for gunnels. So it must not be very good, or at least that’s what I’m thinking. Too soft?

Anyone have any educated opinions on cedar for gunnels?

Too splitty, if it’s western red cedar.
I don’t know what to suggest, not knowing what they may have lying around.

I may be ordering a set of Ed’s sectional, glue-together ash gunwales. Not what I’d choose, but it’s the most practical way to get wood gunwales that are fairly fault-free.

Another thought. Douglas fir is
stronger, sometimes turns up in soundboards like sitka spruce. I can pick out real long lengths of straight-grained douglas fir “2x2” at local suppliers. Maybe your people can get it and rip it for you. It should surface harden with epoxy or even just quality varnish.

I had sitka spruce gunwales on a 13’ Mad River. Stiffer than ash, light, pretty. They did split some in a really bad sloping ledge incident, but I was able to epoxy them back together. On the other hand, sitka and “doug” are not rot resistant, and take more watchful care than ash. Of course, cedar or cypress resist rot much better. But I’ve not seen clear, straight cypress in such lengths, and it might take some hunting to find it, even around Louisiana.

hemlock camoe uses spruce as a lightweight gunnel option. i have them on my kestrel.not as pretty as ash an softer-they dent easier,but save 2 lbs or so.


Thanks for the suggestions
I’ll see what else might be available and I’ll pass on the cedar.

Rot concern
I recently commissioned a new canoe. I was/am concerned about gunwales rotting because I have to store outside. The builder assured me that the cherry gunwales he normally installs would hold up with a bit of annual care. I researched the matter a bit online and found a chart showing that cherry is, indeed, fairly impervious to rot. More so, according to the chart, than the commonly used ash. Course, I can’t find that chart again.


back on the farm,when we couldn’t find locus for fence posts,we yaed cherry due to it’s pretty good rot resistance.


you can always make a high ratio …
… scarph joint with the type of wood you really prefer .

By high ratio I mean in the order of 1 to 12 or greater . Fast , accurate and easy once you make the simple hand sawing jig up .

For best strength use a slow cure epoxy and do not immediately clamp up after 1st coat , but rather recoat a 2nd time before clamping . This aids greatly in avoiding a glue starved joint due to the end grains soaking in some dry spots (1st coat is allowed to soak in some , but must 2nd recoat before intial set begins .

It is also possible to have the center of the scarph right where you want to have one of fastners go through (just extra security) .

Last but not least allow several days , even 5 or more for the epoxy to fully cure befor unclamping and arching the joint onto the canoe .

Too soft?
My impression of cedar is that it’s too soft for gunwales.

Inside is a link to a USDA pub.
on wood characteristics. On about page 25 you’ll find some comparative data on various mechanical parameters. Western red cedar doesn’t look good compared to several softwood alternatives. Douglas fir still appears to be a feasible softwood.

If you root through the publication, you’ll find info on rot resistance and other characteristics. Note that it is available for about $10 if you prefer not to get your hand mousy.


ps. , it takes all of about 1/2 hr. …
… to make the jig (3 pieces of wood) , make the cuts , do the layup and clamp , clarion .

If you need to know how to whip up the jig , just ask … piece a cake and infoulably accurate .

Woodworkers will probably not like this

– Last Updated: Apr-04-13 11:01 AM EST –

Instead of a jig.

To make those really shallow angle cuts for splicing gunnel stock together ... here's what I'm thinking:

Lower the table saw blade below the table. Clamp the stock onto the table at the desired angle. Mark that angle well on the table. Turn the saw on and slowly raise the blade up through the gunnel stock. Repeat on subesquent pieces lining up the angle using the mark on the table.

Update and heads-up
Someone suggested I call Marc Orenstein about gunnels. I did just that and Marc has full-length ash that he’ll sell at a very fair price. And he’ll even do the profile work for a little extra.

I’ll pick up the boat needing gunnels this weekend. After that I think I’ll be ordering gunnels from Marc Ornstein of Dogpaddle Canoe Works.

Thanks again for everyones suggestions.