Replacing Aluminium gunnels with wood

I searched the archives on this subject, but came up empty. I do remember somebody posting a nice way of replacing the gunnels with wood. I have a nice Old Town Canadienne 16 with Aluminium gunnels, they are in serviceable shape, but by gosh I just like the look and feel of wood. It does not seem to be too difficult, but I do see where it could be tricky to keep the proper shape of the original hull. Anybody out there that has done this before? I e-mailed a few folks, but got no response. I did e-mail Ralph Friese, the designer and he was nice, but in the end did not have much in the way of help, very nice man though. I have a source of teak that I think would look good against a white hull. Thansk for any help.

At one time, Mad River had
instructions for replacing wooden gunwales on their canoes. This would get you through the worst part, the aligning and clamping. Lots of clamps. Maybe McCrea will weigh in on this.

I sort of understand, but…
I am not clear on the routing of the gunnels. The inner and outer gunnel sandwich the hull, but that would leave the hull exposed in the middle? Or do i route out the outer gunnel so that the hull fits into the gunnel and the inner sandwiches and covers the hull. Any pics by chance? Thanks for the info so far, it is appreciated.

Pre-Made Gunwales
Pre-made gunwales come both ways.

My Mad River boat has gunwales that are shaped like a “D” and the Royalex Material is sandwiched and exposed in the middle.

Other canoes have a modified D that hides the inside of the sandwich. In other words, the flat side of the “D” is notched.

It is a personal preference, I am replacing the gunwales on my canoe and will be copying the original gunwales.

If I was building my own cedar-strip canoe, I would hide/protect the hull material.

Good Luck.

Does “Prettyness” matter?
My old (1981) Royalex Explorer has sandwiched wood gunwales with the Rx foam core exposed. No profiling of the wood either, except where I sanded a bead to remove the almost sharp edge.

But I find the fully-routed/fitted/rabbetted gunwales that completely hide the hull material to be much prettier, more completely finished looking. And the bullnoes profile (areferred to as a “D”) is more forgiving on the fingers.


Many Thanks …
My simple brain seems to understand it now, thanks again. So it does’t seem to terribly difficult to make your own, as long as you have the right tools, router table, table saw, etc. Thanks again.

rabbeted gunnels
The common detail is to rabbet (cut a recess in) the bottom of the outer gunnel to a depth of the hull shell thickness. The inner surface of the rabbet bears on the hull, and the narrow upper lip bears directly on the inner gunnel, hiding the top edge of the hull shell.

I think the ‘standard’ (if there is one) is to use unrabbeted (simple D-section) gunnels on Royalex boats, leaving the top edge of the vinyl/ABS sandwich exposed. On wood, bark, and composite boats (at least the upscale ones) rabbeted gunnels are the norm.

I think.


Bryan, N.T. is another regular here who could help advise you and trouble shoot this job with you. With him and Mike behind them even a ham fisted wood butcher like me could pull it off.

Having seen the before and after condition of the gunnels on your Shearwater, I know you’ve got the skill, will and patience to do this job well. Plus you’ve got a pretty boat that will inspire you.

But fella, for the sake of your future husband passes – which I have more than a strictly altruistic interest in since we are paddling pards – make sure that kitchen remodel is completed to the customer’s satisfaction prior to beginning the Canadianne work :-)!!!

I got the pass for the summer
I finally finished of the plumbing work and wired in a new disposal, the kitchen is in 100% working order and looks darn good if I say so myself. I will post a few pics tonight of my handy work.

Re: NT
I did e-mail NT a while back, it sounded like he was busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. I will send him another e-mail, maybe he’s slowed down a bit.

You tha Man!
Way to go Bryan. Look forward to seeing the results.

My credits from the bathroom redo are about up here. I’ve got to find something doable and get it knocked out, so the possible boundary waters trip has a better chance of being approved. The exterior needs painting, but that sort of practical stuff only pleases me. Got to find something perfectly functional to spend time and money on redoing :-).

I’m here Bryan…and yes I’m pretty busy
but never to busy to answer questions for you. I’m just setteling down form getting ready for a great weekend camping trip with my compodrays, kinda what I live for these days.

My friend Mike is a practical man when it comes to boats, his repairs are always good. He makes things work that didn’t work before and turns useless things into working works of art. The best part is I think he does it just so he can get that knowing grin on his face when he turns another person on to the joys of carousing in a canoe.

Me…I’m kind of a sicko with sandpaper and Watco oil. It really hurt me to throw out a big box of used and used again sandpaper because it was no good anymore (no sand left on it)I can’t even get rid of an empty can of Watco because that really thick dark oil at the bottom is so rich and I might be able to oil just one more stick with it.

But wood gunwales are one of my favorite things and with some nice pieces of wood and a router (router table even better)with a good bit they are not that hard to make.

I’ll be gone for a couple of days but email me through the link And I’ll get with you on that project. Teak! sounds beautiful, rich looking. keeping the shape is not that hard, you just need to take some measurements before tearing the gunwales off so you can make the new thwarts and seat drops (may as well make the whole thing teak if you want) Mike is an expert at drilling out old gunwale rivets and preping the hull for new gunwales with glass tape so he can fill you in on that.

Thanks NT
A weekend of camping sounds great, I wish I could go. Osprey and I are planning another trip here sometime in May. Enjoy the trip and I will e-mail you in a few days. Thanks!

Your Fav Oil Mix? NT, Mike, anyone else
What is your favorite brand, blend or mix of oil for polishing wood gunwales?