Besides aesthetics, what are the advantages of wood gunnels?
Really not much. It kind of boils down to personal preferences after that. They are more "comfortable" to the touch. Not ice-box cold like aluminum can be. Not clattering loud like aluminum can get. Not as "bang-proof" as vinyl but better looking (aesthetics again). I don't hesitate to clamp a rod holder onto my Old Town's aluminum gunnels but do it very carefully to my wood boats, or not at all.
Maintenance required but can be a "feel-good" chore.
As a builder, I could start raving about wood's inherent "flexible rigidity" surpassing man-made materials but thwarts and yokes are part of the flex equasion as much as anything else.
Good luck with your choices.
wood is easy to work with if you want to add or change thwarts, seats, yokes, even decks, rowing riggers, etc. its repairable. it has a warm pleasant feel especially when oiled.
Yep, mainly your preference… Some maufacturers wood railed boats are a few pounds lighter… some are a few pounds heavier.
One thing I’ve noticed is that wood railed boats are easier to lift out of the water if dumped… for example in a canoe over canoe rescue, or dumping out a swamped canoe. While these aren’t really reasons to buy wood… I like it… I’m not picky about my wood, if it gets a dent or a scuff, I don’t stress about it… Rails are there for a purpose and even with scuffs they are more enjoyable then vinyl or aluminum.
possible to replace vinyl gunnels with wood ones? If so, how? Where can I find info on that?
have higher impack resistence than metal.
This is true for most aluminum gunwales
but some, like the ones they used to put on Blue Hole OCAs, were stronger and more impact resistant than any reasonable thickness of ash.
Usually builders choose aluminum gunwales both to save weight and to save labor. They go on a new hull faster than wood gunwales, and obtained in large lots, aluminum gunwale stock should be cheaper.
My old Moore had a rather original method of mounting aluminum gunwales. They drilled a series of holes along the rim of the hull and press fit short pegs through the holes. Originally they used wood pegs, which was obviously not smart, but on later models the pegs were nylon.
Then they took lenghts of T-6061 aluminum tubing and split them lengthwise with a saw. The split in each gunwale tube was driven and pulled down each edge of the boat, over the pegs. The pegs held the split tubing on the edge of the hull. The result was as stiff or stiffer than other aluminum gunwale systems then in use, and it was also more impact resistant. If a bad side impact drove a gunwale inward, it would typically bend over a wide region, rather than crimping or breaking locally.