Deck/Outwale detail

Lew's Canoes

Canoe Builder
I am in the process of building a long-decked "courting"style canoe and would appreciate some help in the detail where the deck meets the outwale. The decks are 1/4 inch thick cherry, supported in the traditional manner, and resting on top of the inwale. The outwale is a 1/4 inch thick cherry, 3/4 inch wide, that will cover the top of the canvas and act as a trim strip more than a traditional outwale. The question is how the deck and the outwale will meet. I have seen a detail on several old canoes where each piece is rounded over and the two rounded edges just touch, without either one actually overlapping the other. This makes a smooth, if not easily sealed joint, it seems to me. I was also considering rounding over the deck edge and having it overhang the outwale slightly, and putting a square edge on the top of the outwale and bringing it tight up against the bottom of the deck with a ribbon of bedding compound to seal up the joint. Any thoughts on the pros or cons of either method would be appreciated, as would any other suggestions. The detail will continue down the lenght of the canoe as the deck transforms into a rail cap, then back into a deck at the other end. The entire cockpit will be surrounded by a vertical cowling. Thanks, LEW
The Charles River-area builders used multiple methods for decking their canoes. For example, some used a full-length narrow top cap and others didn't use a full-length gunwale cap but rather a cap only between the decks; some raised the inwale to an angle with a filler block so that the angle of a wide top cap matched the angle of the deck; other canoes were left without this filler block to produce a flat cap.

Is this a new canoe ("I am in the process of building..."), or is this a restoration of an old canoe? If old, was your canoe left with details that can give a clue about which style of decking was used?

The photos below show what I think you are describing. The first two are of a canoe with typical rounded deck profile, showing no top cap running the length of the canoe. The last proto is of a canoe with "peaked" decks- deck panels are flat and come to a sharp peak at the kingplank. The cap covering the inwale between decks is raised on a filler block, and sits at the same angle as the decking. In this canoe, the coaming at the decks meets the rail at a sharp angle betwen the decking and the gunwale top cap.

Later I can post pics of the style with full-length gunwale caps similar to those on other closed gunwale (short-decked) canoes. Or see:

for photos of "atwood's" canoe that has the other style of treatment- full-length rail caps covering the edge of the decks.



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Michael - Thank you for your input and photos. This is a new canoe, so I do not have a prototype to work from. What I have in mind is the detail in your first two pictures, with no continuous rail cap running the length of the canoe. So my question is - how are the edges of the deck and outwale shaped, and how do they align with each other? The photos seem to show rounded edges on both pieces, with the respective rounded edges just 'kissing' each other - am I seeing this correctly? Any thoughts on letting the deck run over the top edge of the outwale just a hair and then bringing the outwale up tight under it? Thanks again, LEW
Your observations are correct. You could do well to let the decks run over the cap, then use planes/spokeshaves to bring both pieces to the edge you want simultaneously. I'm not sure how stable those wide expanses of cherry will be over the years (I've not tried anything like this), but it sure sounds like a beautiful canoe.