I have an old Blackhawk fiberglass solo canoe on which much of the wood trim has rotted. I recieved it from someone who had it sitting in their yard for years. I am trying to replace the trim. It is unusable without this trim. Where do I find this stuff. Or, do I forget aesthetics and just buy some molding from Lowes, seal it and start paddling? Plus, I would like to get a seat in this similar to the seat in a Wenonah Prism. Any ideas on that?

oak or ash
Most canoes are trimmed with oak or ash. If you can find straight-grained oak house trim of the proper length and shape it would be the easiest way to go.

But like the above poster says, the likelihood, however, is slim as I think even if you do find an canoe-appropriate shape, it might be hard to find two 20-foot lengths with straight grain. If the grain isn’t straight your new gunwales will in all likelihood snap when you bend them onto your canoe.

If it were me I’d say skip the ready-made trim route; locate your nearest lumberyard that specializes in hardwoods for woodworkers, tell them what you want it for, take it home, fire up the tablesaw and then whip it into shape with your router.

One other thing – you’ll need more clamps than you can imagine. You’ll probably need to borrow as many as you can get from ALL your friends and relatives and you still won’t have nearly enough.

The Blackhawk is a beautiful canoe
I had a thirteen footer.

The gunnels were oak, which you should be able to get at most lumber yards. You will have to size them yourself.

If you are handy you can make the sliding seat yourself, otherwise like someone says above you can get them from Wenonah.

I made one for my Jensen using the solid tractor seat that came with it, and then using aluminum tubing held together with fiberglass and epoxy fabricated it.

Good luck.




– Last Updated: Apr-16-06 11:03 AM EST –

Specialty shops like the Newfound Woodworks sell gunwales

but they are not cheap, and shipping things that long is usually expensive. It's the old question of time & tools vs. money.

We needed trim for a bare hull i found at a garage sale and the local lumberyard didn’t have ash or oak long enough, but had spruce and fir. We made gunwales for a 15’ solo from a 1 x 4 and they have held up fine. The spruce was easy to work and even though we went extra wide on the outwale the trim is lighter than ash.

My partner remembered that Wenonah uses spruce on the racing canoes, and if Howard Hughes trusted spruce for his Spruce Goose, then it was good enough for the Patti-Boat.


PinePaddler, no profile or mention where
you are. This makes it harder for others to help you. We all know of shops that carry the parts you need, but to reship the long stuff again will unnecessarily add a lot to the cost. Tell us where you are and you might get better answers.

I much prefer cherry for wood trim as it looks so much better and requires somewhat less maintenance. That is too beautiful of a boat to downgrade to alum or vinyl gunwales.



location and another question
I actually am currently living in Janesville, WI. The former home to Blackhawk canoes. I just learned that. I am down the road from Madison and the boat shops there (rutabaga and carl and jon’s.) I have continued to search the net and have found a place in St. Paul that sells gunwhales. But, the ash and spruce suggestions intrigue me. I don’t have a router, or router table. Small apartment lacks room for anymore stuff.

Another question. The former gunwhales were attached by screws about every sixteen inches. How else might gunwhales be attached. I will use brass screws, but am wondering if I should also be using some sort of marine glue?

You should be all set!

Should have little trouble getting hardwood in Wisconsin. John and Chris are good sources at Carl and John’s! Say high for me.

I would not glue the gunwales on. I can see a lot of problems that way. Screws are just fine. Remember that the plastics of the hull and the wood will expand and contract at different rates. May want to drill the holes just a little bigger than the screws. Again, check with John and Chris.

The best “Canadian” cherry comes from PA. ;^)



In St Paul MN
The guy in St Paul is Al at Northwest Canoe. He has been building canoes for years.

He stocks ash gunwhales and is a warehouse of knowledge.

Send an email to PJC!
Search these boards for a post by PJC (Pat #1) and use that to send him an e-mail. Also, I will e-mail him directly later tonight and tell him about your question. He just had a local person put new gunwales on his old Blackhawk Starship, and it looks absolutely FAN-TAB-U-LUS! I think the shop that did the work might even have been in Janesville, but he will know better than I do. Give him a shout - he’d be glad to point you in the right direction. Even if you want to do the work yourself, I’m sure the guy who did the work on Pat’s boat can find the right lumber for you.

Blackhawk lover…
I did mine two years ago… and its important. If you have the adjustable seat in yours (I think they called it the “ICS system”)the hull can flex enough to allow the sliding seat to fall out. If that doesn’t cause you to swim, you’re a better man than I. Its the gunwales that keep the flex down so that doesn’t happen.

Anyhow, like you, I didn’t have a place to do it and would have had to make a router table etc. I took it to a guy named Josh Swan who lived in Mt. Horeb WI and was mostly into restoring wood & canvas canoes and building small sail boats. He’s moved - to Ashland WI, Waaaay up nort) if memory serves. Carl & John’s should be able to get you in touch with him. He did a great job on mine.

If I were you I’d think of it as a restoration project. Although the origional gunwales on mine were oak with walnut spliced in fore & aft, I used ash and we duplicated the origional splice. (Many folks are of the opinion that ash stands up a little better in wet situations. I don’t know for certain if that’s true but I went with that opinion. I’ll know if these gunwales last 12 yrs or more.)

For finishing I used tung oil (thinned 1pt turpentine to 4 parts oil for the first four coats) and kept them away from water till I had 10 or twelve coats on. I very lightly sanded with 400 grit every three coats or so and wiped down with a tack rag before the next coat. I think they turned out pretty darned good. Now I just touch them up every once in a while if the wood starts looking “dry” or if I get a scratch or something that I have to sand out.

Those old Blackhawks are classics, in my opinion. I think of them sort of like the Studebaker Avantis (sp?)of canoes. Its a fine creation from

an innovative period of canoeing history. You got a gem there. Treat her well.

PS: The name of the guy who designed and built the Blackhawks in Janesville is Phil Sigglecow (sp?). He’s also the guy behind QCC kayaks. I bet if there are any questions you might have regarding your boat you could reach him through QCC and that he’d be more than willing to help out with info.


Overlapping joints
You can do what Rwen suggested, but if you can’t get a 20’ piece (most likely you won’t) then just make an over lapping joint on two smaller lengths, glue them up with waterproof glue and you will be good to go. I have done it by making a cut that is at the butt end of the gunnel piece so when you are looking at it in profile it should resemble a single stair step. Do the same cut with exactly the same dimensions to the other piece you want to join to the origional cut piece. Make sure the “tread” part of your cut is a couple inches long and the “riser” cut should be exactly half of the width of the butt end of your gunnel piece. Flip one up side down and mate it to the other one with glue and now you will have a piece long enough to do your hull.

Stainless Steel Screws
Some go with stainless steel screws because they are less likely to strip their heads then brass ones if you have to remove them at a later date.

I did three blackhawks last year
Last year I replaced all the wood on a Zephyr, Nighthawk 13, and Combi 14’ 9"

Couple tips:

-Don’t reuse the screw holes in the hull, offset the screws and make new holes

-you can save a ton of money by making gunwales. I made two boats worth from a $46 chunk of ash. If you don’t have shop space, you can order gunwales. I know mad river sells them. I think the price was over $100

-all Blackhawks came with ash or ash/mahogany. Ash is used because its good for outdoor use, light, strong. I would really recommend against oak or spruce. Here in Michigan ash is CHEAP because they are cutting down Ash because of the Emerald Ash Borer.

I have a ton of pictures from the three boats last year. I will try to get them up tonight or tomorrow. If you have any questions feel free to contact me.


Here are pictures of the 3 boats I worked on last year

Which Blackhawk did you get?