Closed Gunwale advice


Hi all-

So my father-in-law and I finished the recanvassing of my 1916 OT Charles River (for ID see my one and only other post at Our next step is to work on fitting the trim while we wait for the filler to completely dry and paint to arrive.

Does anyone have a good photo that shows how the top and side trim should fit together without the stem band in place? Any suggestions on what's the easier sequence,top then sides or sides then top? Also, what's the better approach, bend the side pieces a little more and shape the upper edge or bend less, and shape the lower edge (am I making any sense)? (I went to my reference of Stelmok & Thurlow, but of course that's all open gunwale construction)

We're hoping to get a good bit of this done over the holiday weekend, so speedy replies are much appreciated.

Limited set of photos (mostly "before" pictures) at

Also, for anyone else in the area (Champlain Valley VT/NY), I can't say enough about the help we've had from Scott Barkdoll at Skywoods Canoe ( in Shoreham, VT. Scott has an interesting alternative on bending ribs "in-situ" using a reinforcing "girdle." Worked great for us and avoids having to guess at the best fit location on the outside of the canoe. (Thanks again for the loaner, Scott.)
closed gunnel


My first "restoration" a few years ago was a 1919 OT Charles River with closed gunwales, and I had much the same sort of dilemma. Stelmok and Thurlow does contain a cross-section of some closed gunwales on pg 35 and a bit of info on pg 34. It was enough to go from. Where they meet at the ends and how it interacts with the stem band was also a bit of a problem. I essentially tried to piece back together the stuff I removed, with the stem ends rotted (of course) and winged it. The canoe had already been extensively restored once in the 1950's so I was not working from the original. Works fine but may not be totally correct historically. Perhaps others with more experience can add more advice. I will try to attach some photos.

With regard to fitting -- I think the sidewales being placed on first and a bit higher than the inwale gives you some room to "come and go" on with the bending and steaming. Then a bit of planing and/or sanding to bring it parallel prior to placing the topwale would work best. I got in a hurry when trimming the side wales and made a bit of a "wavy" job of it -- which drives me nuts every time I look at it to the point where I am seriously thinking about taking them off and doing it over again -- right this time! Perhaps a winter job when the paddling season is over. Good luck -- they are a lovely canoe to paddle on quiet waters, hope it goes well for you.


Morley Pinsent, Prince Edward Island Canada


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I restored a 1907 Charles River that as near as I can tell had the closed gunnels in original condition. I'll try to attach some pictures. Feel free to contact me for additional pictures.


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Morley's project sounds a lot like ours (prior "restoration," rotten tips). I noticed in his photo there is a circular tag on the deck. I was curious what that was. (I couldn't zoom in enough to really tell). On the decks we replaced on our canoe, there was a drilled hole at that location on both decks. Don't know if that might have been my grandfather's solution to an area that was starting to rot for some other reason.

I also noticed both set of tip photos that the top wale was ended short of the end of the canoe. Before seeing these photos I was planning to shape the top wale to a finer "point" to get out much closer to the end of the canoe. Other than ease of manufacture, is there a good reason to end back from the tip? Does anyone have a recommendation on how far back was either a) "original" or b) "practical" for other reasons?
Hi AV,

The circular brass tag on the fore deck was on the canoe when I got it. Some research on it turned out that it is a "berthing tag" #110 from the Banook Canoe Club in Dartmouth Nova Scotia (next door to Halifax). The canoe spent time there in the space between 1920 and 1930 - but the original berthing records for the club no longer exist -- so, who owned it then is a bit of a mystery -- I have found out the rest of her history in detail from 1930 to present -- a fun part of the project. Decided that the tag should remain on her so replaced it after the restoration.

The hole you mention in your decks may well have been a place to tie in the painters. I have another cedar canvas which was locally made in Nova Scotia with similar holes.

The only reason I finished the topwales back from the tip was because that was the way they were when a previous owner redid them. I like the look of the ones right out to the tip as Joe illustrates -- think I would do it that way if I was to do it again. Still don't know what the "original" treatment was.


Morley Pinsent