Wood for Replacement Inwales

I’m going to replace rotted ash inwales on a canoe I just bought. The cherry outwales and decks look salvagable so far, but I don’t have it diassembled. There is a hardwood place here in town, but its hard to tell what I might find down there to work with.

If there is a nice straight grainded ash board down there I’ll be pleased and shocked. I can’t imagine finding a 16’ piece so I’m guessing I’ll be scarfing two lengths together to get a 16’ length. Any thoughts on woods besides ash and cherry that would work? I’ll be looking for straight grain and clear. I’m going to make a sliding front seat for the boat as well and would like to use the same wood for that.

For an inwale you’d want a tough,
flexible wood approaching ash in characteristics. Cherry can be OK. I would avoid some strong but relatively inflexible woods like oak. Someone on pnet reminded me of the great rot resistance of locust, and it has good flexibility, but you’re not likely to find it in your hardwood shop, even though it may grow wild in your state. Mahogany is strong and rot resistant, but maybe better for outwales.

Spruce is clear, strong, flexible, lightweight, cheap, and easy to find.

Old Town used it and mahogany on most of 250,000 wood and canvas canoes.

yellow pine
dense-grain, structural grade. I find it in specialty lumber yards and places that do custom millwork. Straight grain, clear and find 2x10s up to 24 feet! Made hundreds of gunnels from this type stock. Strong as ash. Cheaper that hardwood, too.

Sitka is the strongest, per weight, but is pricey, grows on the west coast and must be Poly-Urethaned.

Ash and Cherry can be oiled and are traditional for cause - they work pretty well for rails.

Consider preshaped rails from Essex Industries in Mineville NY and Ed’s Canoe Parts in Newport VT.

Ed’s May Be the Smart Option…

– Last Updated: Oct-23-07 4:13 PM EST –

for me. Thanks to all for the suggestions. Very much appreciated.

Just heard back from Ed's via email and that sounds like a simple and easy solution. It robs me of a good excuse to spend a half-day or more checking out the hardwoods store. But since my father-in-law who's got the tablesaw and planer etc. is not well right now, ordering the ready made gunwales looks like a no brainer.

Hmmm...might get that sliding front seat done faster too.

Vermont Canoe has rails, too…
Try Vermont Canoe at 802-496-5889. They sell ash rails also. Question, how do you plan to get the rails to Texas from Vermont? Motor freight will cost a bit. UPS won’t touch them (too long).

Ed’s has 'em cut in two.
Ed’s has theirs set up lapjointed “knockdown” so they can be shipped UPS.



Essex Also Replied
Essex also replied helpfully to my email inquiry and said they could sell their gunwales directly to me. I didn’t ask about shipping detail.

Vermont Canoe Rails
Vermont Canoe buys from Ed’s, so you’re adding one more mark-up.

They buy from Essex

the only thing I could find around here 17’ long was cypress, and it came out real nice. I know it is a little soft but it is certainly rot resistant and I am going to experiment with different products that could increase the woods impact resistance.

Only question I would have about
cypress is, were you able to get gunwale-length pieces with straight grain and free of knots? I’d love to find a supplier who can deliver that.

The high survival rate of Italian harpsichords from the 16th and 17th centuries is due to their cases being made of cypress. Instruments from other countries often perished of woodworms.

Cyprus to weep over
A couple of years ago when a friend was building a deck, his helper got a message that there was some “unknown wood” under a nearby collapsed barn that was free for the taking.

They looked, and under the barn was a stack of rough-sawn cyprus boards ranging up to about 20 ft in length. They jacked the barn up and removed all that was safe to harvest, and much of the wood went into a nice set of Adirondak chairs. Some of the prettiest, clearest wood I have ever seen. They estimate it was over 50 years old.


Will have to get some prime cypress
just to mess with. I have been using western red cedar to replace deck boards, and the darker heartwood tends to be stiff and brittle. It is a mystery to me how they used to find western red cedars from which they cut the huge, long sheets used for our rowing shells.