Install new handles - How to?


I bought a kevlar canoe with vynil gunwales and ash seats and deep dish yoke.
Was a fantastic factory second as there were some ripples in a 6" section which didn’t impact layup lamination, but the customer who ordered it wouldn’t take it . Being on the keel, I don’t care as it can’t be seen. Otherwise I’m super happy.

But! Because the customer walked, they forgot to put on the finishing touch: carry handles. The manufacturer offered to send a guy down to install them, but it will be a couple of weeks.

Can anyone guide me to a step by step on how to install them myself? Preferably with pics. Is it best to put them through the gunwale (mounted top to bottom), or through the sidewall of the boat?? I’ve seen both mounting styles.


So long as your inwales are wide enough to accept comfortably a #10 machine screw, mount the carry handles beneath your inwales. The weight of the canoe will easily be supported by the inwales when the carry handles are used.

Use stainless steel machine screws of #10 size with either 24 or 32 tpi thread pitch. 10x24 is more common but either will work fine so long as you have nuts of the appropriate thread pitch. I like to use stainless nuts with a nylon insert which serves as a lock washer but you could use regular nuts with separate washers it you wish. I usually use a stainless fender washer on the underside of the thwarts regardless and a stainless finish washer to go on top of the inwale.

Be careful trimming your thwarts to the correct angle to match in inner hull at the location you plan to mount them. You will want to treat the cut ends to seal the wood with either varnish, urethane, or oil depending on how the thwarts themselves are finished. I find it is usually easier to drill the holes through the inwales first, then hold or clamp the thwart in position centered beneath the hole and mark the location for the bolt hole on the wood with a scratch awl. Then take the thwart out and drill a hole a bit larger than needed to accommodate the machine screws. You will want to seal the cut ends of the grain inside those holes with finish as well to seal the end grain. A pipe cleaner works pretty well for that purpose to get the finish in.

When you use the canoe you will almost always have some water in it. When you invert the boat that water will want to flow between the inner hull and the ends of the thwarts and into the holes drilled for the machine screws. That is why it is important to seal the end grain to prevent rot.

I’m assuming your canoe is deemed structurally sound without the carry handles.

I drilled the bow and stern of my canoe for grab loops and haven’t used the carry handles after that. I tied my loops tight enough that a person can’t get their hand thru the loop for safety reasons. I made two more loops that I can loop thru the grab loops for carrying. These loops stay on all the time unless in the water. Very easy to loop hand thru and two people carry the canoe by the ends or when it is on my carry dolly I guide it by the loops. I use the grab loops also for tie down on the car and painter lines.

Just another idea.

On the water trapped in the gunwales and tipping the boat over for storage I drilled a .25” hole thru the deck on each end. All the water drains out great.

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Yes, the builder says the end caps provide that stability, and are strong enough I can lift with those alone for the time being…I wonder why they didn’t use the end caps with integral handles then.
Do you have a pic of your loop installation?

Great info. I especially like your reminder to coat/protect the inside of the bolt hole and ends of the handles once cut! Little details make a difference.
What do you think of a small dab of clear silicone under the washer to prevent water ingress into the gunwale in the first place?
What’s the typical length needed for the #10? 2-2.5" ? I guess I could buy various sizes, loose from my local home depot bulk bin, so my loss is only 40-50 cents for the lengths I didn’t use / need.

Silicone is OK but if you need to refinish the wood you will need to sand it all off first.

You said you had a Kevlar canoe. Most all composite canoes have flotation tanks in both ends. With a Royalex canoe like that shown in bud16415’s photo it is a rather simple matter to just drill holes where you want them and thread the cordage that you want to use as a grab loop through. There is no float tank in the way.

Composite canoes can be a bit trickier because of the tanks. In some cases there is enough room between the top of the float tank and the underside of the deck plates to thread your grab loop through but in other cases there is not. If there is not, or if you want the grab loop situated lower down so as to be able to use it for lining the canoe, you may need to have the loop go trough the float tank.

In that case it is best to first install a piece of PVC pipe with an inner diameter bit enough to accept your loop material through the tank itself. Carefully mark where the holes through the hull should be and drill them big enough to just accept the outer diameter of the PVC pipe. Use a length of PVC an inch or two longer than what you need and trim the ends later to match the angle of the hull. Push the PVC pipe right through a sealed float tank (which has nothing in it but air) and out the hole on the other side.

With an open top float tank there will be some sort of foam material in the tank. You may have to bevel one cut end of the PVC pipe so as to be able to “drill” it through the foam.

Once you have the PVC pipe through the hull push it a bit farther and mark where the hull surface meets the pipe with a pencil. You will want to trim the pipe off at the mark with a hacksaw or some such. Then push the pipe back in place flush with the hull and mark the other side with a pencil. You will probably have to take the pipe piece out to trim the other side.

Once you get the PVC pipe trimmed exactly to match the canoe you will want to epoxy it in place to prevent leakage into the float tank. You can paint the off-white cut ends of the PVC pipe with paint that matches the color of your hull if you wish. Then thread your cord through it.

Although you can certainly use rope grab loops to carry the canoe I usually find wooden carry thwarts easier on the hands and they keep the canoe more stable with less tendency to sway when being carried.

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Right you are. I do have float tanks on both ends, which go all the way up to the end caps.
I guess means I should avoid this approach, or use the “sealed duct” approach using some thin, rigid tubing.

However, that seems so much more complex (and risky) than bolting some ash handles to the gunwales…I think I know which approach I’m going to take!

Yes I forgot about you having float tanks. The handles would be much simpler in that case. As to hauling it by handles or wrist straps I find it has a good deal with the weight and your grip strength. My canoe comes in at about 80# and using the handles is like doing a farmers carry with 40# kettle bell. We would frequently set it down and pump our fists and pick it up again. With the strap around the wrist and just grabbing tight enough to hold it in place we can go much greater distance without our grips giving out. The sway part never seemed a problem. The other thing I found with carry handles was they seem to be 90 degrees from the way my arm is strongest at picking something op and toting it. Think of the way baby seats have a crook in the handhold and how that helps carrying the kid around.

In a canoe like mine the minimum flotation is accomplished with the foam layer between the inner and outer hull skins. In a single layer construction they add the float tanks to achieve minimum floatation just enough to keep the canoe floating in the event of swamping it. I don’t feel comfortable enough in most of the places we go without some additional capsize floatation.

What are rarely seen are internal side flotation tanks. That IMO is the logical place for them and where they could easily be made large enough to do some good on reentry into the canoe from the water. In a solo pack boat design they don’t take up much usable space even.