Chestnut stem and inwale connection...?


Chest Nut
Chestnut stem and gunwale connection...?

Can anyone describe the joint on a typical Chestnut between the gunwale and the stem?

My current project has the typical rotten bow and stern and I have no indication as to how the stem meets the inwale or if the stem comes out flush with the deck.

Also... I don't think serial numbers mean much on a Chestnut, but here's mine: 15 80548
I'm pretty sure it a Chestnut Chum and it might be from 1964.



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I wish I had a quick easy answer. I’ve restored two Chestnuts with ends that looked just like yours. For one I bent new stems, for the other spliced in new stem ends. Then I had to splice in new inwale ends. I made the new stems and new stem splices a bit long, so I could cut them back, when I fit the inwale splices. A lot of cutting and nibbling away to get the three pieces to meet.

I’ve read that the stem is fitted into a mortise on the underside of the inwales. This also requires a lot of cutting and nibbling away and trial and error fitting. So I dumped that route. Instead, once all three pieces met and fit properly, I made a two piece brace for the joint, consisting of a small triangular piece, cut to fit underneath the deck and span both inwales, into which was mortised a five-six inch long backer dimensioned the same as the stem for the back side of the top of stem to fit to. Think of it as a wooden angle iron.
Below is a sketch of a typical stem-gunwale joint used by the Chestnut, Peterborough and Canadian canoe companies. However, sometimes the stem was just cut off level with the underside of the gunwale and not fastened to the gunwale or deck assembly at all.

Larry's suggestion is a simple solution to a difficult and weak joint.

Dick Persson
Headwater Canoe Company


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Each side of the stem is shaved away where it passes through the inwales.This leaves a narrow stem,maybe 3/8 wide and perfectly rectalinear for the top inch. The inwales remain square though trimmed to fit.
I imagine this was for conveniance in assembly as it would assure that the inwales met at the same point and not in a haphazard fashion.
If the stem requires splicing then the inwales and deck tips are likely rotten as well. It would not seem stictly necessary to replicate the system for seaworthyness but can be replicated for appearance by glueing a spline between the inwale tips.
When you’re building on a form, it’s much easier to fit these four pieces—deck, stem, and inwales—together. The form is your clamp, your workbench. When this area is just a big hole, it really is, as Dick says, a difficult and weak joint. There’s not enough wood there to work with. Everything is coming to an end. So my thinking was that, with my limited woodworking skills, the best approach was to add some wood to the area to work with. And adding the wood makes a super tough joint.