Wood Gunwales/{n. Gunnels} - yes or no?

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msims
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Wood Gunwales/{n. Gunnels} - yes or no?

Post by msims » Tue Jun 15, 2004 7:43 pm

I'm considering to install wood gunwales. I don't like the vinyl/steel gunwales on my boat, they're big (1" X 2 1/4") and hold water. (I have an old Nitro)

Any recommendations/tips on installing them? I heard Rapid Mag has an article on installing them in this month's issue. If any of you have any strong advice or opinions on installing I'd appreciate the feedback.

Thanks in Advance!

Mike.

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Wood vs. Vinyl Gunwales

Post by dixie_boater » Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:07 pm

The vinyl/aluminum gunwales on your Nitro can expand and contract with temperature change. Wooden gunwales cannot expand and contract with the hull. This is a problem for boaters in the coldest climates. Especially so if the boat is stored outdoors or exposed to the coldest temperatures. I know some people who actually unscrew wooden gunwales from the hull during the winter to prevent them from being damaged while it is stored in a outbuilding that is unheated. Here in the southeastern US the temperature is not a problem for wooden gunwales. The upkeep of wood is something else to consider. Wood needs to be treated to prevent rotting. Vinyl doesn't rot.


Since you live in Canada I recommend keeping the stock gunwales on your boat. If you change to wooden gunwales be aware of the expansion/contraction issues with cold winter weather.

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Post by Martyn » Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:50 pm

Hey Mike,

I would definitely switch to wooden gunnels. They are lighter and let the boat hold its true shape a lot better. Yes, they are a bit higher maintenance but I think they are worth it as your boat will perform better. I'm not sure if you have the material already. If you don't, you may want to take your boat to Brian Shields - he does fantastic work.

Martyn

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Post by yarnellboat » Tue Jun 15, 2004 9:23 pm

I thought wooden gunwales were a little heavier? Anyway, there is all kinds of info about the pros and cons and care of wooden gunwales on the forums of "Canadian Canoe Routes" at http://www.myccr.com/SectionForums/index.php

Personally, I like the low maintenance of vinyl gunwales on my ww boats, and they seem to be on 95% of the OC-1s I see. The Outrage is the only newish boat I've seen with wooden gunwales (in addition to older Impulses and Genesis). I wouldn't consider replacing it unless the existing ones were wrecked and needed replacing anyway. I like wooden gunwales, but unnecessary replacement sounds like a pain.

P.

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wood advantage

Post by sbroam » Tue Jun 15, 2004 9:32 pm

Another thing to consider about wood is it's resiliency - I've had a boat start to wrap around a rock (twice in the space of 10 minutes...) to a degree where vinyl/aluminum gunwales would have been quite bent, but the wood just snapped back. There is maintenance, but it is not bad - periodic application of some steel wool and Watco's oil (or generic teak oil) are all mine have needed.

That said, I do have two boats with vinyl gunwales and it is nice not to have to worry about gouging them on roof racks and such!

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Post by Martyn » Wed Jun 16, 2004 2:15 pm

My sense is that wood is quite a bit lighter than vinyl, at least the wood gunwales I have seen.

As far as resiliency, I have broken wood gunnels on a Phantom by running into a raft (for big bags full of air, they are surprisingly solid when you hit them really hard ... ;-) and I will probably keep the heavier vinyl gunnels on my Prelude as they are more abrasion resistant than wood.

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Post by mrussell » Thu Jun 17, 2004 4:17 pm

Mad River's web site has instructions for replacing gunwales:
http://www.madrivercanoe.com/care_gunwa ... wood.shtml

They also have a gunwale Q&A section with pros and cons:
http://www.madrivercanoe.com/care_gunwale.shtml

I only have experiance with wood on kevlar and have no complaints. The only things I can add to what's been said and is on Mad River's site is that once there's wood on it don't store it out in the weather or on the ground. If holding water is the issue, is there a way you could drill holes in the inwale next to the hull to provide drainage? (I'm not familiar with the boat.)

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Post by msims » Thu Jun 17, 2004 8:17 pm

Thanks for the posts.

I haven't checked out http://myccr.com yet, but I did speak w/ Ron at http://www.canadiancanoes.com out of Brampton. Some additional questions have come up.

1. What size are peoples inwales/outwales? he was reccommending 7/8H * 3/4W for the inwales and 7/8H * 3/4W for the outwales. That seems a little large... but im not sure.

2. He suggested epoxying the boat-facing face of both the inwales/outwales. adds a little more protection. Any opinions? Overkill? He also suggested marine varnish, which I'm guessing is because he's used to gunnels for tripping boats.

3. He also suggested to attach the peices first, then use a spokeshave or block planer to round the gunnels. Interesting, I would have thought that you would have shaped the gunnels first before attaching.


Oh yes, and finally, would you recommend wood gunnels or vinyl gunnels for doing a mandatory offside ferry above a Class 5 hole? ;-) ...well, someday I might try the scary ferry above Phil's on the Ottawa, so that classifies as a (non-mandatory) offside ferry above a Class 3/4 Hole ;-) JUST KIDDING! you don't really have to answer that :roll:
-- Cya

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dimensions

Post by sbroam » Fri Jun 18, 2004 11:16 am

I'm no expert but have muddled through re-gunwaling one ME twice and am about to do it again (10 years later, different ME). We went with wood for practical and financial reasons -
1. vinyl gunwales would be well over $100 plus hefty freight charges - that's approaching the price of the boat...
2. we (thought we) could make our own wood gunwales from locally available materials
3. our labor is "cheap"
4. that is what was on there already...

I recently purchased an Ash board for the raw materials and am about to start cutting it down to replace the rotten rails on this second ME. I measured the existing rails, understanding that these may have shrunk due to their years of exposure to the elements :

inwales : 13/16" thick (top to bottom) x 3/4" wide (in to out)
outwales : 5/8" thick x 3/4" wide

Before, without benefit of factory gunwales to measure (they'd been replaced once already), we just guessed - can't remember the first dimensions, the second were 1" square. !" square was probably overkill, but I had just busted the previous set in rather dramatic fashion in an embarassing incident on the Chattooga. These 1" rails were later the gunwales that demonstrated such resiliency in another less dramatic incident on the Ocoee... In both cases, we rounded the corners off while on the boat. The first time with a router and the second with just sand paper (which left them bigger).

This time we're going to make them about 3/4" square because simplicity's sake (it's the thickness of our board and close to existing dimension). We're currently debating whether to round off the corners while on the boat or before, running them through a router table first seems to make sense (probably easier with professional tools, though!). However, having them square would make it easier to clamp to the hull...

As for finishing - I'd heard somewhere that you really don't want to *seal* the wood, because moisture can and will find it's way behind that top layer and rot the wood from inside. Specifically, we were cautioned about polyurethane; I don't know enough about varnish to know if it is permeable or not (not?). What was instead recommended was Watco oil (teak oil is very similar and cheaper), which would allow the moisture to escape, but requires periodic reapplication. That worked fine and may have contributed to the resilience... The idea about epoxying the boat-facing surfaces is interesting, that would durably protect the one side you can't easily maintain later.

And yes, I'd recommend the wood gunwales when making a must make ferry above a class V hole if only because they look nice. If you are going to get trashed, do it in style.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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Varnish vs Oil

Post by Sir Adam » Fri Jun 18, 2004 12:17 pm

I'll second the "use oil" (watco, etc...) instead of varnish. The local boat builder around here uses oil, and when we did the wood on an old prototype AC / DC it was because the varnish had flaked off a bit on the underside allowing water in. The oil permeates the wood instead of sealing it, and repels water that way.

I too like wood, mostly for aesthetic reasons.
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Adam

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Post by Craig Smerda » Fri Jun 18, 2004 12:19 pm

If you want to see a huge difference between strength and flex in the vinyl vs wood rail war... find two Captions (one wood, one vinyl) and grab the outwales in the middle of the boat and pull... it's dramatic. Many Caption owners with vinyl rails must add a center thwart to prevent "over" flex and twist.... now if you are talking about a solo boat consider this... you sit where the center thwart would go with vinyl rails. Wood looks classier IMO anyway.

my 2 sense

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Post by mrussell » Tue Jun 22, 2004 9:07 pm

1. Both the inwales and outwales of my Royalex Caption are 3/4" X 3/4" with top and bottom of both rounded.
My Kevlar Curtis Dragonfly has the following:
Inwales: 11/16" thick X 1/2" wide, no rounding
Outwales: 3/4" thick X 7/8" wide, top outer edge rounded

2. I wouldn't use epoxy, I'd stick with Exterior Watco or some other oil. I have heard of using a mixture of polyurathane and linseed oil, but why reinvent the wheel. See Mad River's web site for an explaination of why oil is preferred. I would treat them before attaching so the sides facing the hull are well saturated.

3. Depends on what tools you have available. I'd use a shaper or router to do the rounding before they were attached.

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Curtis Dragonfly?!

Post by sbroam » Wed Jun 23, 2004 1:22 am

mrussell -

Maybe this should be a new thread, but I'm interested in something you said - you have a Curtis Dragonfly. There is a pristine-never-been-in-the-water-has-to-be-20-year-old Curtis Dragonfly upstairs at a local paddle shop. It has been a glorifed PFD display rack for as long as I can remember. And it still has a price tag of $1995.... And even though I am very intrigued by it, it will be up there a while longer if the price does not come down... A lot...

So what is the boat like?

Scott

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