Opinions on wood vs. aluminum gunnels

I ahve a 16 foot penobscot with the wood rails and brass deck plates. The wood is 2 tone with 6 sculpers carved in on each side. It is so beautiful, and it is robust indeed! Wood pain or not, gives a boat soul! If you are going to be in it all day on on a multi day trip why not have a boat with soul? I love wood gunnels even if it means more work.

Wow, Brammy!
Now that’s another boat for me to be on the lookout for! I hadn’t seen any with wood rails yet - now I know…

I too have a 16 ft Penobscot with wood rails and brass endplates. These boats are about 20 yrs old. Very heavy Rolex,beautiful wood. Me and Molly are in it in the pic of the week that is up this week.

Does wood really equal more work?
I guess that’s relative to your definition of work. I’ve had boats with wood trim and a handful of other boats with aluminum or vinyl.

I will never buy another boat (unless it’s an absolute steal) that doesn’t have wood trim.

The weight difference between the two materials is almost negligible so why argue about it . . . 1-3 pounds maybe. How much needless gear do you pile in the boat anyway. A Nalgene full of water, some sun screen, food, and a first aid kit and you weight savings has been thrown out the window.

Wood = Work … that depends on your definition of work. Every spring I spend about 10 minutes gently gliding a piece sandpaper over my wood rails and another 10 minutes gently gliding a Watco oiled rag over and under the rails, when it dries sometimes I do another quick coat . . . the wood looks beautiful. I might complete process twice or maybe even three time from March until November, and I paddle the hell out of my boats. Can that be classified as work, not in my book, I probably spend an hour throughout the entire season tending to the rails. How much time is wasted sitting on your ass in front of the stupid Television?

Aluminum is cold and not very aesthetically pleasing. I had an aluminum rail break right in half after swamping it in white water, the wood would not have broke.

Moral of the story . . . “Wood is good”!

Another Option
Another, although rare, option is integral, synthetic rails. While difficult to apply as a re-rail, some mention should be made here as we’ve morphed into a general discussion of rail utility in general

In simplest form these can be Hornbeck’s roll-over inverted rain gutter rails. Part of the hull when it is laid up, nothing could be simpler, less expensive or lighter.

In currently most complex form, they can be fabric over shaped foam and infused with the hull as achieved by Placid, Swift and Colden. Weight saving ~20% per hull total, ~50% on rails alone.

If you’ve got inside storage …

… wood is the bomb. If you don’t, then it can be a constant challenge and probably not worth it.

I have to give my vote to wood. Another poster was right, it does have more soul. All my paddles have been wood, I have used other types before and they do not have the same warmth in them. Plus, wood does scar and reminds you of the good times.

One little minor point
is that you can countersink screws into wood so they are flush.

I absolutely hate bashing my knuckles againsy those (even though they are round) bolts that protrude above aluminum gunwales.

On a trip, this point is not so minor!

Round bolts above aluminum gunwales?
Not on my Sawyers or or Mad River Slipper.

Which ones have bolts sticking out on top of the gunwales? Grummans?

Ovals w/ Washers
What Kim is referring to is the use of oval head machine screws in combination with finish washers, the latter being necessary to seat the tapered bolt bottom with the curved upper surface of most alu rails. Bell and Swift use this combination when mounting wood seats and thwarts. Several builders also use oval heads and finish washers on vinyl railed hulls. Tho old, real, Sawyer through bolted when fitting wood trim

No knowledge of others, because aluminum rails compromise hull performance to the point I’m disinterested in products that use them. It’s just something I don’t remember, but a tour of and canoe shop should provide a short list for those interested.

The issue is the proud Stainless combination pulls chunks out of flesh and wooden rails when doing boat over boat rescues. On the other hand, we should be using the faster/safer side-dump rescue anyway.

This family is split !
I like the aluminum since I slide the canoe on the racks, and don’t have to worry about marking up wood.

“the bride” likes the wood because it is pretty. -since she is the one that takes care of the wood gunnels, that is ok with me.

If I had to take care of them I would just have aluminum.

We have two with wood, one with carbon, one with aluminum and two with plastic.

The carbon is the most delicate.