Sorry if this is to long. I have this canoe with wooden gunwhales. I
want to be sure to take care of this wood because of another boat I
had where the gunnels rotted out and I had to suffer a repair with
vinyl!! I have decided to do what is necessary to preserve this wood,
sparing no effort to avoid the discrace of vinyl gunnels on this sweet
My overall strategy is to sand and stain the wood. The gunnel is a
sandwich made of fiberglass cloth and wood. They are assembled with
wood screws and there are bolts which pass throught for thwarts which
My first idea was to sand and stain in place, down and dirty. Now
that I have washed it down I'm thinking take it apart and sand and
stain on sawhorses. I feel this will give the wood the best
opportunity to dry out before sanding. It also seems that I would be
better able to inspect /sand/stain/repair those places on the wood
where they meet the boat and where they meet each other. So long as I
label the parts when I take them apart does anyone see a problem with
The wood is ash I think but the deck plate has a different contrasting
wood, either mahogany or teak I guess. I'm fairly certain that it
will all come apart with the screws and bolts. One problem I'm
anticipating is rotten screw holes. If this occurs I plan to dig it
out an maybe use toothpicks and glue to fix, maybe bondo if
necessary. Another potential problem is that the surfaces where the
sun don't shine are too rotten to use or fix. This is a long shot
since I don't find any rot with my exterior inspection. The wood is
dark in those places though and needs a chance to dry out, my take.
Does anyone out there have an opinion on this or anticipate any other
The surface of the gunnel could be more smooth. The wood and fabric
don't match up exactly. I'm thinking I should be able to gently use a
belt sander after reassembly to bring wood and cloth flush. Does this
sound OK? Then re-apply stain to those areas? Or should I sand flush
before disassembly? I have been told that Watco is the brand of stain
to use. Any advice or opinions are welcome. Sorry if this is too
I have read your procedures.
My comments are: All is right at the exception that I would avoid using
stain and toothpicks.
Instead of toothpicks I would drill out the rotten wood and use taper plugs
made of the same wood with two part epoxy. Then I would drill pilot holes to
received the (fasteners) SS screws.
Gotcha, better idea than toothpicks with stain. Hopefully I will not
need plugs but can do if necessary. I haven't use those before but it
looks like I need a bit to cut the plugs and a bit to cut the holes.
Who's a good supplier for those type of cutters?
You are very kind. Rainy weather has prevented my from working on
it. The sun will come out eventually and when it does this canoe is
my #1 priority. I will post the pic since you asked even though I
don't think this Watco Marine Finish will come across in a pic. It's
a very understated finish, to say the least. But super durable and
easy to maintain from what I am told. I love this solo canoe and
can't wait to get it on the water.
I managed to get the trim into a dry place thinking that getting
rained on might not be the best. I ordered new screws from Mcfeely's
and feel good about it. Silicon bronze is probably what was
originally used since it is almost exclusively used on boats. Price
was less than the bronze at Ace even with shipping. So, the new
fasteners will be square drive silicon bronze. I got my money back at
Ace. Thanks again for the suggestion.
Oddly, one screw on each of the interior gunnels was bunged up. At
first I though it was damaged accidentally during the install. But
then when I found the other one in the exact same place on the other
gunnel it makes it look like the installer did it on purpose.
I imagine some disgruntled canoe assembler, bunging up those two brass
screws. They would know that it would never be noticed until 10 years
later when some shmuck like me tries to take it apart. Lucky I'm
handy cause I had my handy dremel tool handy and cut slots in the
damaged srews to remove with a flat blade. Otherwise that disgrutled
worker would have gotten me good, hehe.
The screw holes are in good shape but after I soak this wood with oil
and resin I'm guessin that the screws should fit nice and snug. My
ultimate goal fo this canoe is to have fabric cover constructed,
essentially making it a covered boat capable of taking on big water.
Here is an obscure link for those who might have interest in canoe
covers and custom camping/canoeing gear:
Your picture reveals water damage, that requires replacement, not sanding.
Stain belongs in a furniture shop, not a boat exposed to the elements.
Don't be surprised if you damage some pieces beyond repair trying to
Toothpicks work on screw holes in furniture, Bondo does a half assed job
on autos, neither is worth a hoot on boats.
Yep, see above.
Belt sanders work on flat, not curved surfaces. Great sanders to destroy
You need a right angle sander for a boat.
Why was the wood glassed over in the first place?
Based on the answer, you may need to reglass the boat.
It looks wet in the pic because I just finished washing it in
preperation for restoration. Yes, there is damage but it is minimal
by my assessment. The wood is still solid from what I can see and I
am certain it can be preserved. I am prepared for a project but not a
It can be hard to find straight grained ash in such a long length
anyway. That's why vinyl is the ususal replacement option, fast and
cheap. I don't expect replacement but where replacement is concerned,
vinyl is what it has to be. My local outfitter will put vinyl on the
boat for short money if that's what I need.
The Watco stain is reccomended by the boat manufacturer but if you
have a suggestion, I am listening. I don't expect any problem
seperating the pieces. The only thing holding them together is wood
screws. When those screws are removed the trim assembly pops right
apart. I know this from experience with the other boat. The trim can
be held together with spring clamps for re-assembly.
The top of the gunnel is curved in one plane but is essentially flat
in the other plane exept for the slight irregularity of the wood and
the edge of the fabric. I am not suggesting using a belt sander on
the surface of the boat, only on the trim (gunnels) and the fabric
edge (not surface). I only hope to make the fabric flush with the
trim, not remove a lot of material and plan to be quite careful. The
trim would just be so much nicer if it were smooth.
The wood is not glassed over not sure where you got that idea. In the
case of this canoe, the glass is the boat. There is no interior
framing. Only the gunnels and the thwarts are there for bracing.
There is nothing wrong with the glass except for a few scratches.
There would be no reason to re-glass the boat unless there is a hole
It is the wood I am concerned with. The glass is sandwiched between
interior and exterior gunnels. There are holes in the boat (glass)
for the wood screws which attach these gunnels to each other, to the
deck plate, and ultimatly to the boat (glass). I hope that
description helps. Thanks for the reply Lew.
> It can be hard to find straight grained ash in such a long length
Assuming you have the basic wood working tools, you could easily
laminate new gunnels from a piece of 8/4 straight grained ash.
Less work than fabricating rub rails on a sail boat.
A table saw and a planer along with a router for making scarfs if req'd
and you are in business.
(I'd probably look for an 8/4 piece, say 7 ft max, then scarf whatever
length required for the job.
Assuming 3/4 thick gunnels, you only need 12, 1/4" thick pieces.
Should be able to get that from an 8" wide board.
Talk about ugly on an ape.
Sounds like they should be in the furniture business.
I don't use stain on a boat.
> I don't expect any problem
My misunderstanding of your description.
Sounds like you could remove one gunnel at a time, then use the glass
surface as the form for a new gunnel lamination.
Some epoxy, 1/4" thick ash pieces and some clamps. That's it except for
the beer while you admire your work.<G>
You'll never get it to look right.
You need a small (4") right angle sander for that job.
Been to the movie.
See misunderstanding above.
Forget the wood screws with glass. Use coarse thread S/S self tapping
sheet metal screws.
A pilot drill that is 75% of the thread OD works well in glass laminate.
Oval heads look nice, if you can find them.
I hope that
I appreciate your confidence. Yes, I could do that but I won't. I
haven't taken it apart yet but I expect the wood to be sound. Lew, I
can buy the mouldings that create the gunnels from the company.
Problem: they are 19 feet long and have to come by truck freight.
The cost for the freight alone is more than a vinyl replacement.
That's fine but you don't suggest any alternative. The Watco, from
what I understand, is made and designed for outdoor use. Not only
does the company reccomend it but my neighbor, who is a canoe and
woodworking expert, also suggested the same product. I am not hung up
on the Watco but I would like to hear the alteratives.
That's harsh Lew and I hope your are wrong. I doesn't look right now,
IMO. The only sanding I plan to do will be with the grain and is only
intended to bring the surfaces flush, which they are not now.
Can you post a link to such a sander?
The screws are not attached to the glass. They merely pass through
the glass so that they can screw into the interior gunnel. The
gunnels are screwed to each other, not to the glass. The glass is
merely trapped between the gunnels.
There will be no drilling of the glass necessary since the through-
holes are already in place.
I am planning to use the existing SS wood screw unless they are
Watco is meant for finishing furniture. It says right on the can, not
recommended for exterior use. Now, this does not mean that it would not work
in this application. Their are many products on the market that people are
using for other than the manufacturers intended use.
There are many people who believe that belt sanders are made and sold for
the express intent of distroying things. On the contrary, there many
woodworkers, boat builders and carpenters (both professional and amateur)
that use them to very good effect. I am one. If you know how to handle it,
it will smooth and blend surfaces at least as well, if not better than, any
in this application. Their are many products on the market that people are>
using for other than the manufacturers intended use.
OK then. I am going to look into it carefully before I decide. I
will point out that many stains are used on exterior wood including
decks and siding. Watco probably has one too. My local Ace stocks
Watco and I intent to look into it but plan to use an exterior product
in any case.
Thanks for that comment, CW. I like to believe I am in the latter
category. For sure I plant to carefully try the belt sander to bring
the top surface of the trim smooth and flush like you say. My plan is
to remove very little material, just enough to bring it flush, which
it should be in my mind.
Trust me, it's not a big deal.
Yes, I could do that but I won't. I
LTL freight charges for long skinny stuff is a bitch.
Since I don't use stain on a boat, have no alternate.
> The Watco, from
Any decent right angle grinder equipped with a sanding pad.
Personally, I like Milwaukee right angle tools.
As an alternate, a corded 1,100 RPM drill and some 40 grit flap wheels
would also do a pretty good job.
Have found that sheet metal screws seem to do a better job than wood
screws for boats which is why I use them and suggested them to you.
I'd at least replace then fasteners, they are low cost especially for a
job like this.
Thanks for the replies. Here's an update. I sanded by hand the part
of the gunnels that I wanted to bring flush. Thanks to those who
discouraged me from the belt sander.
I have disassembled the gunnels. They have rabbets which covers the
fabric, a suprise. They are assembled with 66 brass screws. I was
able to buy a box of 100 exact replacments, $20. Thanks to CW for the
suggestion. There is dirt inside the rabbets so more cleaning of the
wood will be necessary. The wood is sound everywhere and the screw
holes look perfect, very relieved.
Regarding Watco oil. Those who said Watco Stain is for furniture were
right up to a point. The Watco in the stores is all indeed interior
stain. I called my neighbor and asked about it.
He has a gallon of the Watco Marine Wood Finish which he had to
special order. He says I can use it since I need so little. The
Watco Marine is a penetrating oil and resin mixture which soaks into
the wood rather than lay on top. So it is quite a lot different from
the Watco in the stores.
I considered using a marine varnish as well but after looking a his
paddles that received the Watco Marine, I feel that it is sufficient.
I have been told that varnish will wear and flake, requiring more
sanding and finishing. With the Watco Marine the finish will just dry
out eventually. It can then be re-applied without any sanding. It is
specifically recommended for exterior woodwork above the waterline on
boats. It says to avoid spills on fiberglass in the directions so I'm
glad I dissasembled. Here are links for the Watco information:
Brass and marine is a BAD combination, even in fresh water, IMHO.
The zinc leaches out, then the copper crushes.
I'd use silicon bronze, available at any good chandlery or even a
hardware store, if in a coastal area.
Hmm, I will look into that. I can an still get my money back on the
brass if needed since I bought a box of 100. The brass screws that I
removed have been there for 10 years. They are still in good shape
except for some heads that were damaged by whoever put it together. I
had to cut a slot in one to get it out, dremel tool. The screws are
countersunk so I also made a bit of a slot in the wood, no big deal.
The boating season is not so long in Minnesota. Most of the year we
are frozen solid. The canoe is in storage 99% of the time, to be
honest. We don't have anything but fresh water in Minnesota but we
have a fantastic resource here.
You woudln't call anyplace in MN a coastal area but they say say we
have more coastline than California and Alaska combined. I guess they
say that for the tourists and must be adding up every lake,
impoundment, river, stream, creek, and ditch to come up with that
Anyhow, it's a large state and it is littered with lakes and
crisscrossed with waterways. We even have a river that flows north!
The Minnesota River flows to Hudson Bay. Minnesota is sort of the
world capital of canoeing since you don't ever have to go far to
enjoy. Now to put that canoe back together.....
Maybe they are brass and maybe not.
Since you are in MN, check McFeeleys or Jamestown Distributors, they
both have them.
It's not called "The land of 10,000 Lakes" for nothing.
Also the furtherest North point of land in the lower 48.
An Indian reservation.
> Anyhow, it's a large state and it is littered with lakes and
When I covered MN, made a deal with my customers.
If they sent enough orders, I would not come to MN from Oct to May and
if they didn't make the mosquitoes file flight plans, I definitely
wouldn't come between May and OCT.
Worked out for everybody<G>
At one time they was a Marriott in Bloomington that had a brick wall
behind the bar.
I paid for at least two (2) of those bricks, but they would not let me
Yea, they look like brass and are very soft like brass. They look
just like the brass ones I bought to me and the guy at Ace. It would
be nice to upgrade the fasteners on this canoe since I am going to so
much freaking trouble to preserve the wood. Good suggestion.
Even though the wood is solid on the gunnels there are obvious black
streaks where the mold has started. I'm planning to get after it with
some bleach and try to kill the mold that's there. Then it will put
it out a day or so in the sun before I soak it with the Watco Marine
Finish. If I skip the varnish then upkeep will supposedly be easier
in the future. I know I don't wan't to remove these gunnels ever
It turns out the deck plates have some sort of rivit that holds them
in place, not removable without grinding it seems. It is the
contrasting wood so likely some rot resistant species. I guess I'll
mask off the boat and finish them in place.
> It's not called "The land of 10,000 Lakes" for nothing.>
Ha ha, it sound like you have heard of it. I love it in Minnesota and
never want to leave. The negatives like cold weather and mosquitos in
summer are true. So long as it keeps most people away it's OK by
me, :). If MN were more populated I wouldn't like it so much, hehe.
Where I live up north there is a lot of open country, no fences.
There's a bit of agriculture and logging, but not much. On my 20
acres of heaven it seems I have almost unlimited freedom to do
whatever I want with few restrictions save the law. There are fewer
and fewer places like that left.
We have a few tourists for fishing, hunting, and canoeing. The city
of Ely now has become an international tourist destination thanks to
it's proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness. It's a huge
patch of land taken over by the feds and no motors are allowed. Only
canoes and hikers. Dog teams are allowed. The exclusion of motors
is what continues to make it pristine if you don't mind a bit of
mercury in your fish or maybe a lot, ouch.
I just inherited a Canoe in need of some work. The main issue is that
the interior and exterior wood gunnels are missing on one side and
badly damaged on the other. The canoe is fiber glass but the orginal
gunnels are wood. Is there a cheap easy way to replace the gunnels?
I'm not a carpenter or craftsman so I would need to be a simple fix.
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