Just picked up a 15’ green fiberglass hull with recurved stems. No identifying marks on the boat except for an Oregon state vessel id. The wood is basically gone, so I need to replace all the wood. No problem with seats and thwarts - I’ve done plenty of that, but never took on the gunwales. Any books or step by step instructions out there? I just removed my deck and have some 20’ redwood 2x6’s. Any chance redwood could be used?
I think the consensus opinion is that redwood is too soft for canoe gunwales. Whatever you use, you want pieces with few or no knots and straight grain.
Ash is the favorite, but cherry, mahogany, maple, Sitka spruce, maple, white oak, hickory, sassafras, cedar, and walnut have all been used.
I have also heard of folks using white pine but I don't know how well it held up.
Since there is a fair amount of labor involved in rerailing a canoe, I would probably use the best material you could find locally available if you expect to keep this boat for a while.
Here is a pdf file from Mad River Canoe on gunwale replacement that might be of some help:
My opinion about redwood is that it is
usually too brittle for that application. If you want to use a softwood, consider douglas fir instead.
Home Depot used to sell what they call Select pine in twelve foot sections. No knots. Boards have a almost hard wood finish on them. Not looked for it recently. Have used it on two canoes along with Titebond III gule and log scarf joints with very good results. Dents a little easier than ash but a whole lot cheaper. Bends reasonable well. Takes Watco oil well.
When putting gunnels on a canoe get the number of clamps you think you need then get a few more. Love those little bar clamps from Harbor freight.
Using Watco has an advantage over varnish. If you scratch or dent it just wipe down the problem area with oil and its water prof again. What ever you decide to use to protect your wood make sure the side that is against the boat is well covered. It will be a long time before you take off the gunnels just to maintain that side of the wood.
Recurved stems may require steaming the wood to bend it.
In progress right now
I am just about ready to make new gunwales for my 1986 Blue Hole Starburst. I have done three canoes with the best quality pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine 5/4 decking from The Home Depot I can get ahold of. They already have a curved outer edge so i just cut 3/4 inch strips off each edge. Two 16ft sections that cost about $12 each is all it takes. My stems are made from inner decks and outer sections that take up the section that the 16ft gunwales come up short. I did a Mad River Malecite and a Perception HD-1 and an Old Town Penobscot this way.
Thank-you all for the advice. I’ll go the route of getting the best wood possible locally.
Good gunn’l wood
I bought a bare hull from the factory and finished it in ash. I coppied the dimentions of the gunn’ls on a Mad River canoe. There is a reason that ash is the traditional canoe trim wood. It is hard, tough, flexible and readily available with long straight grain. Idealy you will have a saw mill that can cut you some long boards and dry them for you. If not use a long scarf joint to make your own long gunn’l lengths and waterproof glue. It would be great if you could find a quality canoe with ash gunn’ls to copy fastening method and spacing also.