Gunwale finish ? & how to post pic

I just picked up my new Wenonah Prospector 16 RX. I need to know how to post a pic because IMHO it is the most beautiful boat I’ve seen yet. Due to a miscommunication between Duane and I at TG Canoe it came with wood gunwales. It’s really what I wanted to start with but he talked me out of it in the interest of maintenance. The brings me to the second question - what to put on these gunwales? I had everything stain the dark walnut stain. The owners materials says it comes from the factory with a couple of coats of marine oil and they recommend a couple of more immediately. It also says that you can varnish the gunwales with two coats of polyurethane varnish immediately and follow it up with an additional coat each year.

This boat is going to be stored in my garage here in South Texas. I’m out of my element taking care of wood that is exposed to the elements so a little advice would be much appreciated!

Let me know how to post a pic so I can share. God Bless. Dwayne

Hey, glad to hear the prospector is in. What fun!

Lowes near me in NW San Antonio has WATCO Teak Oil and that is what I’d recommend comes in a blue and white can, make sure it is the Teak oil and not one of their interior finnishes.

The wood gunnels on one of my canoes came varnished and I much prefer using the oils to messing with varnish. Follow the instructions on the can carefully, but it is really very little trouble and a labor of love to oil up your gunnels occasionally. If the boat is garage stored they’ll hold up nearly forever. Just oil 'em a few time per year as visual inspection dictates.

Have fun…hope to see you on the water around here one of these days. What color is the canoe? Where you heading first?

Gunwale finish
I think there’s a consensus that for general purpose boats, oil is recommended. The argument runs this way: the gunnels usually take a beating, if not from large rocks then from paddles (or poles) or cartop rails.

Varnished finishes tend to be more brittle and they crack, letting in water, which then seeps behind the finish. Next season you have to scrape. If you don’t, then a few more seasons and you’ll have to rerail.

Oil, on the other hand, doesn’t crack and doesn’t trap moisture.

If you reoil often, linseed is fine (be sure to use the boiled stuff - raw linseed won’t dry), mixed with turpentine to speed penetration, then rubbed off after 30 minutes or so. But linseed doesn’t give much protection against UV, so if your boat lives outside on a rack or on top of your car, you should look for a boat oil that has UV protection. I think most builders will supply oil labeled for the purpose. I know MR does, and I assume everyone else does too.

Some people think that contemplative chores like oiling gunnels is part of owning a boat, part of the preparation ritual for the new season. They’re the kind who still have wooden skis and wallow in pinetar smoke every November.

Unfortunately the romance of gunnel oiling fades when you or someone close to you has an experience like finding that your gunnels have rotted to powder from the inside - the edges next to the hull that you never oiled. Did you ever wonder why old people loosen the gunnel screws and oil the back sides?

The straight or polyurethane spar varnishes, I think, would be the choice for a showpiece boat that gets babied anyway. Almost everyone uses spar varnish on the more protected wood - thwarts, seats, decks, etc.

Just my take.

Posting on is never having to say “Correct me if I’m wrong.”



Burgandy NOT Maroon!
I need to know how to post a pic and I’ll put it in subsequent post.

The boat is B U R G A N D Y! Can you tell my wife’s an AG and I’m not! I graduated from SDSU but I’ve adopted burnt orange. My wife likes to tease me about the Maroon truck I used to own, my maroon dress shirt and tie, and anything else that appears in that shade.

It has ash gunwales, seats, thwarts, and deckplates that all have the walnut stain. Will the WATCO help it to remain that color?

I think we probably go to the same Lowe’s as I live in NW San Antonio also. Guilbeau Tezel area.

I think my son and I are going to take her out tomorrow with the Saturday morning paddlers and run from Zoeller Crossing down about 5 miles. You should come?

Zap me an email sometime and we’ll get together since we live so close. Are you a member of any of the local clubs ie. Alamo City Rivermen, Hill Country Paddlers, Saturday Morning Paddlers? I’m not but I’m not opposed.


Watco, etc.
The WATCO has UV absorbers so I think it would help deter the fading of your stain by blocking the UV and sealing out water.

We’re Aggies here, but I’m a Longhorn by birth so to speak. Never got too overzealous with the rivalry.

I’m in the Alamo Rivermen, but always also wanted to hook up with the Saturday paddlers. I’d like to do that Zoeller’s trip, too. I’ll drop you an email if the CEO gives her permission.

Wish I could help on the photos, but I’m a dunce on that sort of thing.

Watco Teak on Walnut stained Ash
Is a perfect combo to keep your boat looking great. Watco Teak is the only marine formulated Watco product and is made for serious upkeep even in harsh salt water invironment. Also it is dark in color and will turn unstained Ash a nice butternut color. It turns Walnut a very rich dark color. On new gunwales that are stained I would apply it using 00 steel wool to gently work the first coat into the wood, let it dry overnight and hand rub it out. Let it dry a few days and reapply using a soft cloth. Let dry again and hand rub it again. It’s easy to touch up and maintain. On older rough wood you can wet sand it in without removing to much wood and it will return your woodwork to like new. It is what the best boat builders use…enough said

Congrats Dwayne
Shoot me a pic of that new MAROON colored boat when you get a chance (lol). Had a friend who moved to TX and he taught his dog a little trick. He would say to the dog, “Would you rather be an Aggie or a dead dog?” The dog would roll over and play dead! Good luck with the Prospector, I’ve heard lots of good things about that hull. WW

gunnel lotion
Hi Scates,

I think the answer is - just give them a light sanding and any sort of treatment occasionally and the rails will be happy.

100 grit, then 150, then 220. Tear into 1/4 sheets and use a couple of 1/4 sheets of each grit. 320 optional. Or - just use 150.

I like oil over varnish because it keeps the wood looking and feeling natural.

I find that Watco is the toughest oil finish; especially if you let it set up for a long time (like weeks). Perfect for Michigan winters…2-3 light coats with a month between each coat and it’s like iron. I finished two Blackhawks that way and the oil finish lasted years.

I prefer “gunnel lotion”…1/3 each of boiled linseed, turpentine, and white distilled vinegar. Rub a little on every month. Wood will be happy and pretty.

If you use Watco you should be wearing rubber gloves, and storing it outside - away from living things.

Nice looking woodwork
I had the fortune of meeting Scates today and got at least a glance or two in at those gunnels. They look great with that stain on them. Our float trip got canceled due to a thunderstorm on the river just as our group was trying to put on. So with the “cat herding” like excersize of a large paddling group changing plans and scattering in the rain going on, I didn’t really get to drool over Scates’ canoe as much as I’d have liked. But the wood is georgeous and the boat color, well, lets call it burgandy :-).

WATCO Walnut?
I took Ospry’s advice and went to Lowe’s to pick up some WATCO teak and they had a walnut stain so I picked it up. What do you think? I could take it back but I figured that a walnut oil on walnut stain would probably be best?

I picked up some #00 steel wool to apply as recomended along with gloves and a filter to wear. Could y’all give me a little more of the specifics as to how to do this? Do I need to protect the RX or just wipe the oil off? I did apply 303 to the boat after I picked it up.

It was great to actually meet someone from this board. Osprey and I hooked up on what was supposed to be a maiden voyage for the new boat. Unfortunately my boat got wet without me in it.

I’ll do a little research on Community Webshots and see if I can get registered and post some pics for y’all.

God Bless. Dwayne

I’ve Never
…seen a Wenonah with wood gunnels and trim I guess. Looks beautiful Dewayne! I like the center seat and the contoured seats. WW

You can use the Walnut but
don’t need it, The teak is all that’s needed, the stain/oil is just a selling point. As I said the Teak is a marine formula, regular Watco is not but it will do the job too but may require more frequent application. You can wipe the oil off while it’s still wet. I would not use the steel wool on the underside of the gunnels unless you…

A. Take them off, not recommended until it’s needed sometime in the very distant future. The back sides should have been coated at least twice before installation.

B. Protect the Royalex with some wide masking tape. Steel wool will tear up the plactic.

90% of the wear will be on the top and outside of the gunwale. Most if not all of the water will drain from the boat on your trips to and from the lake or river.

Wood trimmed boats should be kept inside or under cover where they can drain and stay dry with good air circulation to prevent dry rot. Never store to close to the ground where mold, insects and critters like to nest.

Walnut Finish Interior?
Dwayne, I think the Watco Walnut Finnish that Lowes sells is an interior formulation. That is probably NOT what you want for routine maintenance on your gunnels. The Lowe’s at 1604 and Blanco carries the Watco Teak Oil and that is what I’d use. It has UV absorbers and is made for exterior/marine use. It should last longer and protect better. The Teak Oil I have is essentially clear once applied to the wood, though it may darken the wood a bit. I doubt it will darken yours much, as you say Wenonah said they’ve already applied a marine oil over the walnut stain. I wouldn’t use a stain again unless you wear through the stained surface of your gunnels. The stain Wenonah applied will only have penetrated a certain distance into the wood and if you wear through that surface through normal wear and tear or sanding you might then need some walnut stain to even things up. Using fine steel wool with a light touch as N.T. suggests shouldn’t go through the stained surface wood.

N.T. may jump back on this thread to correct my advice and we’ll all be the better for it.

Mental Leprosy
Looks like N.T. posted while I was typing.

Yes but you type a little faster ":sunglasses:

I had the same question
and I’m now using 1/2 Boiled Linseed oil and 1/2 turpentine mix. There were mixed suggestions regarding Watco, but I’ve never used it so can’t say. Considering Linseed oil is one of the main ingredients of Watco, I wanted to see the results.

I just finished my mix on all my canoe trim (cherry) and it looks great. The mix cost me $7 and I only used around 1 cup. On your clean and sanded trim , wipe on liberally, let it soak in for 5 minutes, then rub it off. Rub it down again 30 minutes later and your done.

This will probably have to be done every year, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m interested to see how well it wears.

No Steel Wool!!!

– Last Updated: Mar-29-05 10:03 AM EST –

I was reading all these great tips and then saw a couple of you referring to steel wool. Sorry to differ with you guys but this is a marine application. Not furniture. Never use steel wool Scates when applying finishes to boat wood unless you are in the building process and the individual pieces of wood will be totally wiped down with tack cloth prior to assembly. Even then I don't use steel wool. Steel wool leaves fine strands of steel embedded in places, trapped in places, collected in small gaps etc. etc. All these little tiny strands simply rust in time and cause moisture to collect, wood stains, trouble in general.
Sand the wood with 200 to 400 grit, contingent on current condition of wood if it needs it. Then rub the oil in with old cotton socks or fancy micro-fiber cloth or foam pads/rollers...

Makes sense
Makes good sense. I was thinking about fine steel wool being less likely to damage his existing stain work than sandpaper, but your concern about steel wool residue getting into in all the little blind spots on gunnels and then rusting when exposed to the wet outdoors sounds right on.

What about the synthetic refinishing pads (3M scothbrite)? Would those be any safer than the fine grit sandpaper?

Ok, No Steel Wool…
Ok, this is a new boat and the gunwales are fairly smooth so I don’t think sanding is necessary? IF that’s the case is te recomendation to go ahead and put a couple more coats of oil on now? Do I need to protect the rx from the oil? Thanks! Dwayne

3M Pads
work too. Like was mentioned, these are new so should be good to go. Apllying the oil makes the wood’s little grains do funny things sometimes (like little hairs standing up that you feel more than see) so vigorous rubbing and/or rough cloth/pads will knock those down if they are present. This whole exercise is more of an act of love than a chore. Wood is a “living thing” in a sense even after cutting it up and laying it out on a gunnel. Taking care of it’s appearance should be easy if not fun!

Have fun!