I have a Dagger canoe, and its missing the gunnels, which were made out of wood. Dagger no longer makes canoes that whole section was sold to Bell canoes which in turn was sold to another company. Long story short, no body has the repair parts for my boat.

Where can I buy gunnels for it? or even better is there anything I cna buy at Home Depot to fix it?

I’m excited to hear some resposes from the DIY folks out there.

Not sure where to look in TN
but in western NC there is which is a Dagger/Mad River dealer and they will be able to get rails for you. Also here in Virginia can get them.

Probably the only wood you can find at Home Depot would be Spruce 2x stock that you could rip down, but any hardwood is hard to find, even though you live in a hardwood production area you can’t easily find the hardwood boards that long. Even local sawmills are no longer sawing over 16’ in my area, so anything longer either has to come from somewhere else, like Canada, or scarf pieces together.

Which Dagger model do you have?

Gunnels are only long strips of wood with maybe a router with a bull-nose bit run over it. Type of wood is important. Mostly ash is used, but cherry is good and spruce, too.

You could go to Home Depot but you’d be stuck buying oak or aspen. Then you’d have to rip it and probably splice it, etc.

See if you can find a local specialty, hardwood lumber company. That’s where I buy mine. I went in and told them what I wanted. They had a “scrap” of brown ash 10’ long. They then asked, “You want us to rip it and make the scarf cuts for ya? It’ll cost ya another $10.” Of course I said I did. I think it cost me $25 total; I was out of there a half hour after I entered; and I had a set of inwales and outwales. All I had to do was glue the scarfs and attach them.

I was fortunate, but maybe you will be, too.

Do you want wood?
Wenonah wood gunwales would work as would Mad River. But do you want to put wood on the boat this time? Many other companies vinyl or aluminum gunwales will also work. The tricky part is end caps.

Gunwale options
If you want to make your own wood gunwales, you might find instructive this little report on the way I recently made gunwales.

I was able to get 16 foot pieces of ash from a specialty hardwood dealer. It took a few weeks for them to be able to find it. As pointed out by another poster, the supply and demand situation for hardwood lumber is such that 16’ stock is not routinely available. But my supplier has eventually been able to get 16’ pieces the two times I have gone looking for stock.

The boat I am currently working had rotted wood gunwales that were scarfed together from less than 16’ pieces, and it looks like they had worked out okay, so it is not absolutely necessary to get 16’ pieces. However, I think it makes a nicer and easier job if you can get single pieces that are the length you need.

If you go with wood, I think you can use gunwales from any source, so I would not be alarmed about the corporate fate of Dagger. There’s not going to be much difference in gunwales you get from another company.

Making gunwales is not the most desireable thing, but an issue with getting gunwales is shipping. I acquired replacement gunwales from Mad River several years ago. I had to wait for them to make a shipment of canoes to a dealer in my area, and they loaded the gunwales with the canoes. And from the dealer, you need to carry the gunwales to your work site. Transporting 16’ x 3/4" pieces in or on your vehicle is a challenge in itself. So part of the reason I made my own was avoiding the shipping and supply hassles.

If you decide to use aluminum or vinyl gunwales, it is important to obtain deck plates that are compatible with the gunwales. In the case of the Mad River gunwales, the deck plates were no longer produced. I mailed them a tracing of the outline of the bow and asked them to send deck plates that were close and would fit. They did, but the gunwales they sent had an oval cross-section, and the deck plates were made to accept a square shaped gunwale. McCrae and I spent a long day in his shop getting those incompatible pieces to fit and fastened. When we were done, we had a useful canoe, but it was obvious the fit was wrong. I sent some pictures in a complaint to Mad River and received a return letter of apology from the CEO at MR. But that didn’t give us back the hours their mismatched parts cost us in assembling the boat.

So, if you get new gunwales and deck plates, make sure they match before you leave the dealer.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

I only find it easier to do the bullnose for the outer gunnels before I rip the board (the inner gets rounded only a bit with the sander. Of course, you need enough running feet to be able to do that.

Making Your Own Gunwales
I’ve posted this before but here ya go just for the heck of it. It’s my account of making gunwales the first time. Second time aint nearly as bad:

Building Your Own Gunwales



First rule of thumb is:


But if you’re stupid enough, brave enough, and have time to kill here’s how to go about it!!

List of tools you’ll need: Table saw, router with table, sandpaper, belt sander, many, many clamps, drill, screwdriver, jigsaw, a thirty pack of beer to just think it through before you begin.

Ok, so I end up buying this Malecite and the hull is in good shape but the wood on it is so rotten that a ten-year old corpse looks better! I took all the old stuff off and saved every screw and bolt carefully putting them in an old coffee can that I would later misplace. Then I began my search for a plank of rough-cut ash. Not so easy to find and not so cheap! I ended up with a 21’ x 12 3/4" x 1 3/4" hunk o’ ash that set me back $64.24. Ok, I figure, I’m still under what it would cost me to buy and ship from a canoe shop. It’s justifiable!

I set up my table saw and jury-rigged a way to support the length of the wood, I’ll tell ya, milk crates are marvelous things!! So, on my own I began ripping the plank down to the desired width for a gunwale, 1" x 1" as I would taking more off when I routered it. Also the added wood would reinforce the hull better. Now, I’ve used table saws before but never with a 21’ piece of wood and no matter that I had my trusty milk crate guides that hunk o’ wood bounced and danced all over the place. It was a woodworkers nightmare and swears flew through the air. The neighbors pulled the children in their houses and closed the windows. I was amazed that I didn’t get arrested. And this was only into the first cut!!! I finally relented and put all the materials away and called a friend to help. It would wait for a week. But, it was justifiable!

A week and one hour later all four rough gunwales had been cut to size. This turned out to be the easy part, as I would later learn. Now, my hair is thinning but by the end of this project I was just about bald from my own hands. I looked like a resident of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant’s nuclear reactor room. Taking my router in hand I began on a scrap of the ash to test it out. Yes, once in a great while I do have a good idea!! Well, the router bit was one of those cheapy ones and before long I was burning my test piece instead of carving it. Ok, a good excuse to go to the local wood place to buy some new bits! As I drove to the store I thought to myself that maybe this wasn’t such a bad project after all, I got to buy new tools without an argument from my loved one.

Carbide bits was what I needed but being ignorant and cheap I had always bought the least expensive to work on soft woods with. I approached the “good” bits and peered over to look at the price. My eyes focused in and than rolled back till only the whites were showing. My hand grabbed my wallet in a Michael Jackson crotch-grabbing move and I almost passed out. A small kit would cost almost as much as my house payment and I almost began to cry. But in the end I bought them anyway. It was justifiable!

Back At The Workshop:

New blades, milk crates in place and I was ready to go. Taking my nice long stick in hand I began and it went smoothly, so slick in fact that I became a little bit cocky instead of adhering to the rules of power tools. I didn’t check the bit between runs of the wood and it was a mistake, a big mistake. On the last piece the bit had loosened a little and about half way down the gunwale it rose up then dropped down and decided to plow through the wood leaving a gouge that could not be fixed. I was devastated, hurt beyond repair! Words of color flew through the air as tufts of hair drifted to the ground. It was over for me. There was nothing else to do but throw in the towel. To help me feel better I emailed with a few folks, one of which was Hal the Gullboy who I had given a nice long left over hunk of the rough cut ash. Guilt rode him hard for he responded with a, “Come get it!”

At the residence of Halbert we fit the final gunwale in place and my boat was complete! New seat in place and it was off to the Ware River for a test spin! Back home began the arduous task of sanding these things down. A belt sander certainly helped the process but a lot of hand sanding took place as well. Are they as nice looking as store bought gunwales? Well, of course, I made them! When the day comes that they are rotten to the core and need replacing I will make sure I reread this and then promptly go to the local canoe dealer and order some new ones!

Total time for this venture was about three weeks with time spent waiting, traveling, sanding, cutting, and treating with linseed oil, multiple coats!

It doesn’t have to be that hard or expensive.

  1. Consider other woods and sizes. It may be impossible to get full length boards in your area. Get two shorter boards, saw the pieces and scarf 1 to 8 scarf will do. Full length and cheaper boards can be found in dense-grain structural grade southern yellow pine. This is nice straight-grained stuff. Try looking in yellow pages under millwork or lumber/architectural(sp?). I can get 18 -24’ 2x10, clear, fine grained and straight in Atlanta. Most bigger cities will have a millwork place that carries this. It is as strong as ash and usually with better grain.

  2. Don’t try and put a 20’ piece of hardwood through a lightweight home shop table saw. Put the board on saw horses, put a fence on your circular saw(they all come with the attachment, you just have to figure out where you put it when you didn’t use it for years), and walk the length of your board with the saw instead of trying to balance and guide a big heavy piece of lumber through a table saw. Use a high quality carbide blade and cut the dimensions fairly close so you don’t have to do a lot of planing.

  3. I planed the first 4 or 5 sets of gunnels I made to size with a hand plane. Make sure its sharp. A little exercize, but a lot less dangerous than having your high speed router bit come out of the collet and become a projectile.

  4. Seal the side of the gunnel that is going to be against the hull. Use the same finish that you will use later.

  5. Mount your gunnels on the boat while they are square. Easier to clamp, for sure. You will need a lot of clamps to do a good job. Borrow them, don’t buy them. If you borrow 20 clamps from a bunch of different folks put a piece of tape on them with their names.

  6. Shape the gunnels with hand plane, rasp and course sand paper. This real is easy to do when they are on the hull.

  7. Mask off the hull below the gunnels with wide tape and plastic when you apply finish so drips won’t melt the finish of your canoe. This is especially important if you use an oil finish.

Next set of gunwales I need to build I’m calling you! I like your method much better than what I did by a long shot. Thanks for all the pointers for the next rebuild. Oh yeah, I already have all the clamps, more than I can count! :wink: Goood info you posted for the DYI folks.


Replacement gunwales
The easy way to replace your rails is by calling either Ed’s Canoe Parts in Newport Vermont 802-334-5130, ask for Pam or Bob, or Essex Industries in Mineville New York, 518.942.6671, ask for John.

I know Essex made rails for Dagger - I’ve seen the excess in a pile on their floor.

After you acquire the rails, countersink the inwale on 6 or 7 inch centers. Then…

If you’ll email me at I’ll be glad to send you our installation protocol electronically.


Replacement gunwales
The easy way to replace your rails is by calling either Ed’s Canoe Parts in Newport Vermont 802-334-5130, ask for Pam or Bob, or Essex Industries in Mineville New York, 518.942.6671, ask for John.

I know Essex made rails for Dagger - I’ve seen the excess in a pile on their floor.

After you acquire the rails, countersink the inwale on 6 or 7 inch centers. Then…

If you’ll email me at I’ll be glad to send you our installation protocol electronically.


Hey Chip
I used a bottle of Brandy and my most sincere smile to have my gunwales cut and milled . Bought a 10 foot plank of Ash from Charlotte hardwood and the Brandy from the ABC store.

It is truely amazing how many folks have great table saws and heated shops that they love to show off…