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Ripping Stock for Gunwales

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by greatlakes, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. greatlakes

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I have a couple of 20' long, rough-sawn ash boards that I'm getting ready to rip for making gunwales for a 16' Chestnut Pal model I'm building.

    One basic woodworking question, please...

    What would be the recommended way to true up one edge of such long board in order to rip it on the table saw? These are too long and heavy for my joiner to be of any value.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestion.

  2. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I assume that your edges are rough also. Draw or snap with a chalk line, as straight a line as possible. Cut within 1/16" of this line with whatever tool (rip saw, circular saw, jig saw, etc.) as you have available. Clamp board on edge to your bench edge, work table or saw horses as securely as possible. Plane edge with a good, sharp handplane with attention to grain direction. Pick the longest plane you can get your hands on. A bit of careful attention and practice will result in a more accurate edge than you can get from even the longest jointer. It will be easier to keep your plane square to the face if you clamp both boards together after sawn and plane both edges at the same time. This will give you a wider surface to work on.

    Is your "Pal" model in wood and canvas or a strip-built design? Did you do the design or procure it from a commercial company? I'm presently considering designs for my next canoe. The "Pal" is a nice design.

  3. martin ferwerda

    martin ferwerda LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Depending on how out of true the board is, you could spring a chalk line and use a hand saw, circular saw or jigsaw, to get the intial material off and then go over the cut with a bench plane. Anyhow, for gunwale stock, the final piece does not have to be straight, it just has to be uniform thickness, so as long as it can be kept tight against the saw fence (use a feather board) on the tablesaw, you should be alright.
  4. OP

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you for your suggestions.

    The Chestnut Pal model I'm working on is of W&C construction. I purchased some cross sections from Stewart River Boat Works in MN.

    I finished the solid form last fall and have all the ribs milled and the stems installed. Next comes milling the gunwales and start assembling. I work on it only summers and falls when I'm up in Michigan. This picture will give you an idea.


  5. Max Peterson

    Max Peterson LOVES Wooden Canoes


    Very nice neat work! I'm sure the resulting canoe will be spectacular. Any projected completion date? When you get it done, share a photo with us if you can.

  6. Charlie Franks

    Charlie Franks Curious about Wooden Canoes

    Hi Frank,

    Nice looking form. But what I'm really envious of is that building you have to work in. I'm at about the same stage you are in building my first w/c canoe, but mine is going together in my basement. Best of luck with your project.

  7. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder


    You might want to reconsider using ash for the rails, it adds a lot of weight.

    Spruce is the traditional preferred wood, with mahogany an upgrade, (for U.S. builders. Cherry is another common wood, though I don't off hand know how it compares to ash for weight.

    And, what are you going to do with your form when you are done? I've also considered building Alex's version of the Pal.

  8. Tom Heys

    Tom Heys Paddler/Downwind Sailer

    Wood Weights

    A modicum of research found the following data taken from the book, Boatbuilding With Plywood, by Glen L. Witt, regarding weights of various woods (all represented in pounds per cubic foot): Black Cherry: 35, White Ash: 42, Honduras mahogany: 34, Eastern or Sitka Spruce: 28.
  9. Scot T

    Scot T LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Hello Frank,
    Very nice looking form you built there. I am in the early stages of building one on the same Chestnut Pal plan from Stewart River. I have been trying to decide if I should use the strongback from my cedar strip/glass endeavors or build one from scratch along the lines of the forms in the books by Rollin Thurlow and Jerry Stelmok. After seeing your photo I'm pretty sure I will go ahead and use what I already have.

    Thanks for posting the photo and I, for one, would like to see a couple more if you have them.

  10. dugkim

    dugkim LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Very Interesting...

    However, I wonder if the difference is even noticable for gunwales? I mean, are we anywhere close to a cubic foot of wood?
  11. dugkim

    dugkim LOVES Wooden Canoes


    Also, what about durability of the wood choices? I would imagine the gunwales take the majority of the abuse on any canoe and the addition of a little weight, if traded for a more durable wood, would be a good trade off?
  12. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    Some back-of-the-envelope calculations shows that, assuming a 16' long gunwale, 7/8" square, you get 2.4 pounds/gunwale in spruce, 2.9 pounds/gunwale in cherry, and 3.6 pounds/gunwale in ash. So, by going with spruce over ash you can save almost 5 pounds in a 16' canoe, or about7% of a 70 pound canoe. That's not insignificant in my opinion. The canoe that weighs the least gets used the most...

  13. dugkim

    dugkim LOVES Wooden Canoes


    When speaking with old town, it appears my choices are Ash or Mahagoney. Spruce would be available to me locally, but in maximum 16' lengths. I have an 18' guide model. Suggestions?
  14. Dave Wermuth

    Dave Wermuth Who hid my paddle?

    HI dug

    It is available here, spruce that is. 20'. Shoot me an email.
  15. OP

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Thank you all for your kind comments. This is one of many projects I have going in the north woods of Michigan just to keep my sanity during early retirement!! I just work on this from July through November and then head south to Florida. So, completion timing is…whenever.

    Building the form from a set of blueline sections took a bit of time and actually building the canoe should take less. I hope to get a few canoes from it to give one each to my adult son and daughter and hopefully keep one for myself. If they don’t turn out well, there will be a few more trout structures in the lake!

    All four gunwales for a 16’ canoe have an approximate volume of 0.3 cubic feet. Being that the density of Eastern White Cedar is about half of that of White Ash, the additional total weight to the canoe due to using white ash vs. white cedar is “only” 5.5#. This canoe will be used mainly at our lake and portaging is not an issue. As much as I like white cedar, I like the durability of ash and how it looks/feels for gunwales.

    I am attaching a few more pictures per some of your requests

  16. bredlo

    bredlo LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I'm not sure how I could ever leave that shop, (not to mention the view from your property ~ I saw it in a photo you posted elsewhere) and head for Florida. They might have the warm weather, but you're giving up 8 whole months of boatbuilding time!! ;)
  17. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    The Form looks good GL,

    I'm "sure" your canoes will look very nice also.

    As for the ash, just wanted you to be aware of the trade-offs.

    I used it on a canoe I restored and along with some other things, like a lot of oil and filler, the canoe now weights 92 lbs dry, it should be closer to 80-85 lbs. Next time it gets worked on, I'm going to try to remove some weight, unforcanately, new inner rails isn't planned.

    As for the overall weight of a given canoe, you have to watch every piece, as they add up in a hurry. I built a stripper a few years ago, with a finished weight of 50 lbs as the goal. The hull is about 40 but the trim is 18, even when trying to make the pieces light.

  18. dboles

    dboles LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Suggestions =If you can get 16' spruce.A splice made with a taper cut and glued together to make the wood long enough for your inners.
  19. dugkim

    dugkim LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I sent you a PM

    I couldn't locate your email, so I sent you a PM.
  20. OP

    greatlakes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I know what you mean about staying away from the shop, but five months down here of sun and fishing sort of makes up for the longing :). I keep a flats skiff down here that kind of makes up for it and gets me around to where the fish are. Life is good. Thanks for the comment.


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