Give me an Idea what to use for Canoe Decks

I am restoring my Royalex Mad River Explorer Canoe (Green) I bought in 1981 and my late wife and I drove to Waitsfield NH to pick up. It has wood gunwales, and came with end decks made from flat pieces of Royalex screw down against the wood gunwales, but somehow they got lost.
Royalex is no longer produced and Mad River Canoe (Confluence, Inc) is not very interested in supporting the brand like MRC used to.
Any suggestions what material may serve as did the old flat decks they came with?
I am trying to stay away from wood, as when the canoe is inverted it would scrape up a lot.

The canoe looks like new (New wood gunwales, new seats, original fiberglass contoured yoke), but it would benefit from original looking decks. It followed us from NH to CT, then to WA, to Alaska, NJ, TX, AZ, and now back to Washington, and it’s a member of the family after 40 years of ownership.


Trace out a template for your on-lay deck plates and lay them up with fiberglass and epoxy. Paint to suit.

King Starboard might work well too - it is most commonly seen in white but is also available in black.

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So you’re saying to laminate multiple layers of glass cloth or mat roving with resin to a reasonable thickness (the old ones were about 1/4")?

I guess I could make a rough mold of non-stick plastic to build them on they would release from (They would be about 14" long and triangular 10" wide)

I could smooth the edges with a belt sander.

Resin and glass is pretty strong and abrasion resistant, too.

I hadn’t thought, but ones made from 1/4" plywood encapsulated in resin and cloth (laminate over the wood) for abrasion resistance might work too if I could get the cloth to go around the ends and corners-maybe staple the cloth down on the underside that would be hidden. If they came out “pretty,” maybe they would look good unpainted even.



I would suggest some 1/4 inch UHMW plastic. Places that sell/use it ( usually marine related) might even have what you need in their scrap bin. Put UHMW into a search on Amazon for some sources. I also see kitchen cutting boards made from it, almost always white. It does comes in colors, but usually found in white or black. I doubt that it will hold paint, as it is purposely ‘greasy’ stuff.
This stuff is very easy to work with wood tools, yet is almost bomb proof. Most modern dogsleds are made out of it, and they take a beating at severe cold temps where one would think plastic would fail.

You could use just about anything such as a thin piece of wood or plastic as a form and completely encapsulate it with fiberglass.

I would probably use a thin piece of wood. Cut it and shape it to fit precisely. Make it slightly undersized to accommodate the thickness of the fiberglass. I suspect you would want to apply about three layers of 6 oz/sq yd fiberglass on the top and one on the bottom. Wrap the top layers around the edges of the wood which could be radiused slightly so that the cloth lay down nicely.

You could also use mold release fabric (peel ply) to keep the cloth laid down over the edges. If you use a nice looking piece of wood you could use two layers of cloth on top and when the fiberglass is wet out it would be close to transparent.

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Ah, yes. I lived in Alaska for a decade and I helped friends build their sleds (a couple did the Iditerod, but didn’t win) and the stuff was like a white combination between Plexiglas and Teflon .

That didn’t occur to me.

I’d go for black in a heartbeat.

I check it out-had no idea what it was called. Thanks!

Yep-That’s what I meant up higher. I like the “cutting board stuff” idea because it’s just a band saw and more or less done.

The glass/resin over wood would look nicer, but I am lazy.

I can’t believe I misplaced the original pieces. DOH!! I never dreamed they would discontinue Royalex-it sure served me well for 40 years! Somewhere, someone is trashing an old green Royalex green canoe with a couple of 10X14 pieces easily cut out.

Oh well.

I suddenly got motivated and ordered a couple of new seats and a wood yoke/thwart and am refurbishing my Old Town Hunter Royalex 14’ as well. It uses plastic gunwales, which is fine.

Making new wood inner and outer gunwales for my Mad River Explorer from clear mahogany I’d bought 15 years ago for the purpose and installing them was lots more work! (I bought a 40ft length of 1X6 waaay back, cut it in half to get it home, and just ripped one 20ft length into the necessary dimensions.)

I tried to buy ash as the originals were, but it seemed aged, old-growth clear straight grained ash is quite rare nowadays.


Wood composite…1/8 to 1/4" marine plywood with glass and. “Epoxy” both sides. Use marine varnish or paint for RV protection.

Back in the old days (70’s) we use to use square plastic waste basket with a lip around the edge. Cut to shape and fasten with screws and flat washers.

I like the plastic UMHW idea if I could find gray or black (abrasion resistant) and I like wood if glassed (pretty, reasonable abrasion resistant) though paint would look bad quickly I suspect when the canoe is inverted and scrapes ground or pavement when loading on cartop rack.

1/4" marine plywood $148 per sheet here unless I can buy scraps to cut the decks from. I already have glass cloth and West Marine epoxy (harder then polyester resin).

Might try something like this - Worked in a sign shop for a while and we engraved it. Comes in colors, but I don’t know if there is a supplier who has thinner sizes.

If you have wood gunwales, why not make something cool out of wood for the decks?

Mahogany, white ash, black cherry, black walnut.

The reason for rejecting unreinforced wood is that when the canoe will be set down inverted, or while raising it onto car when one end likely contacts the ground or pavement, it’s likely the wood would be at least cosmetically damaged. Certainly the gunwales are subject to scuffing as well, but the concentration and severity of the scrapes and scratches at the points of the decks would me more noticeable.

Glassing the wood would provide beauty and strength, albeit with lots more work.

Since I kayak in a wood composite and launch off of boat ramps, rock beaches…and I have a solo canoe with wood decks …i find your assment of scratches amusing.

The stains on the canoe deck is from water in the compartment when stored on the canoe racks by river.

Yes it gets scratches, mostly in varnish. Once a year I usually do a hull sand and varnish.

My solo deck touches at bow point when upside down. Not deck. It goes onto car from right side up on ground to upside down on car/trailer

Ps…the canoe is painted hull, outside. Painted in 2018. No need to paint again, yet.

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Glad I could provide comic relief and that I am “amusing.”

My canoe with Royalex decks had wear on the first 1/2" of the pointy end-I was OK with that, because the stuff wears like iron so had plenty of years (had I not misplaced them when I disassembled the canoe 2 moves and 7 years ago).

My experience with wood with a canoe with high ends (bow and stern) is that when the canoe is inverted the deck caps get scraped up, and unlike you, I wa not amused, so in the absence of something expendable (like Rotalex or probably UMHW) that doesn’t show scratches.

I know scratches don’t impare usefulness, but in view of the fact my late wife and I picked up the canoe new at the factory, shared perhaps out happiest times in the canoe tripping in Canada and Alaska, and once almost died together in when we flipped it in 34deg choppy water a mile from shore in 1982 (our fault-it was the first paddle of the season, we were over confident, the canoe was empty without a heavy load to stabilize it). It’s times like that you bond with your partner and your canoe. So cosmetically, yes, I am being a wuz, as somehow the restored canoe represents more than just a transportation device with it’s stained mahogany inner and outer gunwales, new seats. People walking in on it think it’s new, and sacreligious as it is, I’d like it to remain that way, as it was when my soul mate and I excitedly carried it out of the office in Waitsfield so many years ago, and lifted onto our vehicle so many years ago.

Maybe it’s no longer just a canoe, but rather a tribute, emotions and memories, and to me it matters, as incomprehensible as it may seem, and I guess I understand you might find that amusing it it was “just” a canoe.

Actually I call it progress-I have a Klepper Aerius II I bought and put together just once 32 years ago. My late wife and I took it for an initial shakedown paddle, we put it in the bags, and I lost her shortly after, and have not been able to even open the bags and look inside, so I see that I am going to actually USE the Explorer as we did, fishing, tripping, sightseeing, and am only weird about a few scratches is for me indeed progress.

And, for the record, I am leaning toward looking for some kind of hardwood plank for the decks, even if I have to glue some up to get them 10" wide, a width uncommon today I suspect.