Gunwales Question


I am refurbishing my old canoe and I am going to put some Ash gunwales on it.

Someone told me that I need to make sure it is “bending ash” but when I contacted the nearby lumber yard, they said that they have northern ash.

Does anyone here know if bending ash is real, if northern ash will work, if I will be able to do it without steaming the wood, etc.

Thank you all very much,

Around here Fraxinus species are called white, green, and black. All three have wood that is hard and flexible and will do the job.

Find a piece with grain as parallel to the edges of the board as you can find. You will probably have to rip your own strips. Emerald ash borer may make your search difficult.

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White ash will conform to the sheer curvature of most canoes without any need for steaming or other such measures. As was said, straight grain ash is best, if you can find it.

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Thank you,

This helps greatly.

Some canoes can benefit from using some hot water to help bend your gunwales. You can use a rag or towel on a stick and a pan of hot water.

Yes, one whitewater canoe I rerailed was very full and bulbous in the ends so there was a lot of inward curvature to the sheer line.

In order to get the ash to conform a bit better I supported the ends of the gunwales on sawhorses, hung dumbbells from paracord along its length, and periodically poured scalding hot water on the wood.

It took a little while but it worked reasonably well.

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Thanks, I got them on, and for my first time, I am quite pleased.

I tried the trick of just letting them hang with some light weights on them to get a curve. It worked alright.

Looks great!

Minor bends can be done with a heat gun too. Sometimes up near the bow there is a bend and a twist, compound curve.

Common names with regard to trees are very confusing. The typical ash used to bend on gunwales is northern white ash “Fraxinus americana.”