• Happy Nature Photography Day! 📷🦌🦅🐟🌄

Gunnels and Screws

Joined
Feb 14, 2015
Messages
4,274
Reaction score
1,147
Location
Iowa
Recently there has been some discussion on how to attach gunnels to a canoe. Screws ? or Glue !

Gluing provides Strength the Full length of the gunnel. Screws hold the gunnels on the hull, at the expense of weakening the gunnel by drilling a hole for a screw screw.

Up until now, virtually every set of wooden gunnels, put on a canoe, by the Manufacturers, were held in place by screws.

Why not ? They could be installed in short order, and the screws, gave them that Old Time look ! Just like Old Town did, on their Wood Canvas canoes !

In my shop right now, is a Mad River Kevlar Explorer. It's a typical "Factory" canoe.

The gunnels from a distance didn't look to bad, until I started pulling screws.

I took some pics and thought I'd show the flaws I see in using screws, as opposed to gluing ( Epoxy+fillers).

My guess is if these gunnels were Glued ? They would still be in usable condition, after having been put through the same conditions.

Almost every screw in the Outwhale, (and the screw holes were drilled from the inside out), split the Outwhale. Allowing another point of entrance for moisture. The screws hold the gunnels tight at the screw, but between the screws ? Not so much. Mad River machines a Lip in the Outwhale to cover the hull.

IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg Views:	0 Size:	289.2 KB ID:	110395

IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg Views:	0 Size:	289.2 KB ID:	110395



The Inwhale broke at a screw hole. Had it been glued ? Hard to to tell if the Inwhale would have failed. One thing for sure is water found it's way into the wood, and did it's thing.

IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg Views:	0 Size:	289.2 KB ID:	110395

IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_3313_zpsogzo528b.jpg Views:	0 Size:	289.2 KB ID:	110395
 
Jim, I would hazard the opinion that those gunwales weren't killed by screws, but by abuse and lack of attention. If they had been glued on and the canoe left outside laying on the ground, they would look very similar, but be much more difficult to take off. I have screwed-on gunwales from canoes from the 1970's that still look pristine, because the canoe has been stored properly. I have also replaced gunwales on canoes that have been involved in complete wraps in white water and also automobile accidents, and I'm glad they weren't glued on.

Of course, the right answer is do whatever makes you happy; being a screwer makes me happy, lol.
 
I think part of the previous thread suggested that fully sealing the gunnels was job #1 .... it doesn't seem like much attention was paid to sealing the inside and the screw holes don't appear to have been sealed.

I would posit that if the wood had been better sealed, the gunnels would have resisted the damage for longer. How much better is just a guessing game, but it does appear that the failure points are mostly inside and screw hole penetrations.

When I prep things like thwarts and yokes and they have bolt holes, those get saturated with varnish ... I plug one side and literally fill the holes and then let the excess out. Sealing the inside and holes is usually a one time operation, they don't see the light of day again until they get removed, so doing it "right" the first time is important.

I don't think there is a right or wrong with the type of gunnels that get installed, there are reasons a builder chooses what they choose, but in all cases, you want it well sealed IMO.


Brian
 
I agree to each his own !

But after closely looking at these screwed on gunnels ? It's apparent to me they are inferior to those that are glued on.

Screwed on gunnels, by Manufacturers, are like GM's" Planned Obsolescence." Just plan on replacing them.

Even if you coat the inside of the gunnels with epoxy ? The splits in the Outwhales, and weakened by the holes drilled, tell me this is not the "Best" way to go !

Again ? Each to his own !

Jim
 
I screw my outside gunwales on from the inside, so there are only a couple of screws showing around the decks on the outer gunwale. Again, if someone treats their canoes correctly, stores it out of the elements and keeps up with oiling or varnishing, gunwales should last just as long as anything else. The beaters that people have brought me for reconditioning usually need almost all the trim replaced, not just gunwales, because they've been left sitting in a backyard forever. In cases of neglect like this, I'm fairly sure glued on gunwales would suffer too.
 
The Mad River wood gunnels are screwed on the same way, as you do yours Mem.

. Screws go from the inside out. except at the decks.

Yes, as a builder, I hate to see hulls abused ! I have several that could use another Watco treatment. None of them rotted as these or the other screwed on ones I've replaced !


Jim
 
I just removed the bronze screws holding the outwales on my 1953 Old Town. After clearing the paint out of the slots they are in perfect condition after 67 years. They will go back on the boat once the ribs and canvas are done.
 
I just removed the bronze screws holding the outwales on my 1953 Old Town. After clearing the paint out of the slots they are in perfect condition after 67 years. They will go back on the boat once the ribs and canvas are done.

A Perfect example of a Properly cared for canoe ! I think Minden Nevada is a better climate for storing canoes than Iowa.

What did you have to do to the ribs and canvas ?
 
Last edited:
I think part of the previous thread suggested that fully sealing the gunnels was job #1 .... it doesn't seem like much attention was paid to sealing the inside and the screw holes don't appear to have been sealed.

I would posit that if the wood had been better sealed, the gunnels would have resisted the damage for longer. How much better is just a guessing game, but it does appear that the failure points are mostly inside and screw hole penetrations.

We are down to a single wood gunwaled canoe, a Mad River Independence the original owner left laying upside down in the dirt, rotting the gunwales. Bless their abuse, it was a freebie.

I re-railed the Indy with screwed on ash, and like Brian thoroughly treated the gunwales, including the screw holes. That rebuild is close to 30 years old, always stored inside, and the gunwales look like I put them on yesterday. So, in that proper storage guise, I could have glued them on.

Except, replacing glued on gunwales after a wrap or pin. . . .I dunno what all is involved with removing glued on gunwales? With screwed on wales a Phillips bit in a driver and a few minutes of bzzz-bzzz-bzzz the old gunwales are off and the top of the sheerline is ready to go again. After I fill the old holes.

Filling the old sheerline holes, especially that on an older canoe, often seems a good idea. Hey lookee there, this canoes has been regunwaled once before. Think 60 or 70 old holes spaced across 16 feet of sheerline on each side. I just tape over the 70 old Swiss cheese holes on the outside, lay the canoe on its side and run a full length strip of 2” glass tape and epoxy (wish I could find 1” glass tape) along the sheerline on the inside, and try to space my new gunwale screws in betwixt the old holes.

When I prep things like thwarts and yokes and they have bolt holes, those get saturated with varnish ... I plug one side and literally fill the holes and then let the excess out. Sealing the inside and holes is usually a one time operation, they don't see the light of day again until they get removed, so doing it "right" the first time is important.

I think that is as important as thoroughly sealing the gunwales. Not just sealing inside the drilled machine screw or bolt holes but, perhaps more critically, sealing the living heck out of the butt ends of thwarts and yokes.
Even on canoes stored indoors that gap between thwart and yoke butt ends and hull can be a perti-dish of trapped dirt, moisture and bacteria. I’ve worked on a bunch of canoes where the gunwales were still relatively sound, and the thwarts and yoke were visibly blackened inches out from the inwale. That is not a good sign.

I have never removed wood gunwales on a brand new canoe, but wouldn’t be surprised if manufacturers (barely) treat the underside of their wood gunwales the way they (barely) treat the ends of their wood yokes and thwarts.

I have removed the thwarts and yoke on some new or newish canoes and been less than impressed with the quality or quantity of sealant coats on those thirsty butt ends. No doubt the time and delays spent properly sealing brightwork ends, using multiple, soaked in coats is cost prohibitive for mass manufacturers.

The last new canoe we bought was a vinyl gunwaled RX Wenonah Wilderness. I removed the front thwart and replaced it with a utility thwart, and moved the stern thwart a bit further behind the seat. Wenonah’s construction is usually top notch, but the butt ends of that brightwork was dang skimpy on sealant. I have worked on some “Friday afternoon” canoes from other manufacturers that maybe had one coat of varnish slapped on those ends, and I’d swear some were just raw cut wood.

In that regard the smaller, pricier, niche-builders who pride themselves in high end quality may do a better job.

If I bought a modern (need financing) composite canoe with wood thwarts the first thing I would do is take them out and seal the heck out of the butt ends and machine screw holes. Easy peazy task that can’t hurt.
 
I just removed the bronze screws holding the outwales on my 1953 Old Town. After clearing the paint out of the slots they are in perfect condition after 67 years. They will go back on the boat once the ribs and canvas are done.

A Perfect example of a Properly cared for canoe !

What did you have to do to the ribs and canvas ?

Living in Minden NV. Has to be a better place than storing a canoe, in Iowa ! :rolleyes:
 
Last edited:
Are replacing glued on gunnels a pain ? I'm sure they are ! Todate I haven't replaced one !

I expect my gunnels will last as long as my canoe ! They are built the same way ! Epoxied on just like the Fiberglass ! If moisture rots my gunnels ? I'm sure my hull will be rotted also !

I'd much rather paddle than repair !

Jim
 
Are replacing glued on gunnels a pain ? I'm sure they are ! Todate I haven't replaced one !

I expect my gunnels will last as long as my canoe ! They are built the same way ! Epoxied on just like the Fiberglass ! If moisture rots my gunnels ? I'm sure my hull will be rotted also !

I was thinking about repairing or replacing gunwales damaged in a pin. A couple of the canoes that have come through the shop had broken gunwales from river mishaps. One actually had broken vinyl gunwales; drilling out pop rivets was only a little harder than removing screws

Or even undamaged gunwales; a friend right now has removed sound but inelegant gunwales from a used canoe that had been re-railed once before. Luckily that second set of gunwales, like the OEM set, had been screwed in place.

Asking again, how (if feasible) are damaged epoxied-on gunwales replaced?
 
The nice thing about wood canvas canoes is they are held together with screws, tacks and a replaceable canvas. A wood canvas canoe can be restored to like new condition or even better after being damaged by rot or heavy use, lots of them are still around after 100 years.

Modern builders of fiberglass, Royalex, Kevlar and other materials always screw their gunnels on for a good reason, to make them easily replaceable. Many modern canoes I have restored have thin sides to save on the weight, had these canoes had glues on gunnels they probably would have suffered serious damage trying to remove said gunnels. I would never get involved in restoring these canoes, just not worth the extra work for the amount these canoes garner on the resale market.

I consider the "glued on gunnels" idea akin to using fiberglass rather than canvas on the outside of the hull on an original wood canvas canoe. Pretty much a kiss of death unless the canoe ends up in the hands of someone willing to do a lot of extra work when it comes time to repairs.

I also don't do a lot of things I have read in this thread others do, like fill in the old screw holes on the hull, varnish the inside of bolt and screw holes on wood work (how do you get varnish into a 16th inch pre drilled hole on a new ash gunnel?). The first canoe I re railed is at my sons house, still going strong after 25 years with proper storage but non of these precautions. When I sell a canoe with wood gunnels I tell the buyer proper storage is important, it's up to them to follow thru.
 
Hi Jim,
We have problems with sun damage. Everything needs to be covered up.
Winter and early spring can be pretty wet. The rest of the time it is really dry. We have rel humidity in the single digits pretty often in summer. Wood dries out and needs some linseed oil or equivalent.
It is possible that my canvas was original. I use this canoe on rivers mostly and over the years she has taken some rock hits. Many before I got her. I am replacing about 8 ribs. I could replace many more with small slight cracks in them.
The canvas will be replaced. I am also putting a new floor in the boat.
Back East it is possible to find many good examples of w/c canoes in better shape than mine. But I am emotionally attached to this boat. She has life and is tough as nails. "Emma Dean" has a piece of my heart.
 
I glue to inners on but screw on the outers as they get damaged more than inners. Nasty hiding granite up here is why we use outside stems and screws.
 
I glue to inners on but screw on the outers as they get damaged more than inners. Nasty hiding granite up here is why we use outside stems and screws.

We live in the Limestone Capital of Iowa ! It mostly attacks the bottom of my canoes. :(
 
To each his/her own I say. Either way it is all about how you care for your canoe, a glued on or screwed in set of gunnels left out on the ground will need to be replaced sooner than later. Can't tell you how expensive canoes I've seen that need repair because of this.
 
Well like Mem, I have boats with wooden gunnels screwed on and my boats are being abuse, but cared for between abuse sessions!! Actually most of my boats are with wooden gunnels and all of them the gunnels are in great shape, not pristine of course but solid and some on ww canoës that are well over 20 years old!! Also my boats sleep outside all year around!! Wood is wood and no Mather how well you seal the material it will always move and be alive so for me from now on the only thing that will go on my wood is genuine light pine tar and linseed oil mix!
 
Yeah ! Good to know others Care for their canoes !

I used to watch Kevin Calin's Youtube videos ! I couldn't stand seeing his Fleet of Beautiful canoes stored outside on a rack, in the elements.
He Trashed those canoes in my view. I quit his channel !

Those that don't care for their canoes ? Should be Flogged ! Ha ! I guess that's what makes the world go around !

Jim
 
Last edited:
Back
Top