Making new gunwales

patrick corry

LOVES Wooden Canoes
I just acquired this 16' x 18" x 2" slab of Ash. I need to rip this into roughly 1" x1" pieces, from which I will mill inwales and outwales for my current 15' Chestnut Ranger restoration. You can just see that canoe lurking in the left background.

Here's my question for those of you who may be more experienced with the end result:

Should I rip with the grain, following the gentle sweep of the grain from end to end? This will ultimately mimic the curvature of the gunwales and require less bending in the horizontal plane. The problem as I see it is the resulting difficulties in the following milling to create the final shapes; trapezoid for the inwale and rabbeted & shaped outwale. If I follow the sweep I will have to do the final milling pushing curved shapes through my table saw (which prefers straight stock!). Incidentally, this slab is primarily quarter sawn grain- having been sawn from nearly the center of the tree.

Is it important to make my stock prior to milling all have parallel grain or should I not be concerned with ripping straight stock and having the resulting grain runout to worry about? Is runout grain likely to become a finishing problem? I have no experience with the behavior of Ash.


Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
I suspect that once you bust it down into 1x1 pieces, they will be bendy enough to run through the tablesaw. Just use good fingerboards.

Dave Osborn

I rip mine using a circular saw with a fence on it. Should follow the curve ok. Then I plane it to final dimension, and finally cut the rabbet. To cut the rabbet, I stack three saw bladed on the table saw and push it through.
You will need feather board and a topper board to hold tight to the fence and table when cutting the rabbet.
Dan is correct, that it should be bendy enough to go through fine.
patrick corry

patrick corry

LOVES Wooden Canoes
Just a couple of images along the way to restoring my old Chestnut

Ripping blanks from the Ash slab, I straightened one side of the slab and ripped two oversized blanks. These were then re-sized to about 1" x 1.125". Later these will be table sawn with a roughly 8 degree bevel on one side (against the planking) as inwales. I also ripped the slab down the center, joining the significant end checks which released significant tension in the slab. I find it interesting that one side stayed roughly straight while the other side increased it's curve. I may also experiment with ripping similar pieces from the curved side, using a circular saw ripping guide to follow the curved edge.

And, I spent a bit of time removing residual resin from the previous fiberglass covering. It's not a job you want to do in one session. I prefer to spend a hour or so only to avoid it's becoming a nasty chore! There's lots of planking to replace on this canoe but I do want to have all the resin gone first so that when I steam bend replacement ribs (around 10 of them) over the existing planking the planking will be relatively clean where rib stock makes contact. The worst job may be removing the resin from between planks over the ribs. I already poked out most of the resin between ribs using a hacksaw blade push out from the inside of the canoe. I may have to fabricate a "reefing iron" from an old hacksaw with which to rake out the softened resin between plank spaces on ribs.