Morris Canoe Pocketed Ribs

Greg Nolan

From another forum, mentioning Morris canoes: "Pocketed ribs indicate that the inwale has small almost semicircular cuts into which the rib fits. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I don't have a picture."

I do have some pictures :D , of my (someday-when-I-retire-to-be-restored) 18' Morris, serial number 6466, and I thought the pictures were worth their own thread here.

I have a piece of the original inwale showing the nearly semi-circular pockets into which the ends of the ribs fit. The pockets are 1" long and about 9/16" deep, with a "radius" (for lack of a better term) of 7/16".

The ribs, which vary between 2 1/4" and 2 3/8" in width at the center on my canoe, taper sharply to only 1" wide at the end, for a snug fit into the length of the pocket. The ribs are are 5/16" thick over their entire length, and so fit easily within the 7/16" radius of the pocket.

I would guess that the inwales may have been made by drilling a 1" hole in a wide blank that was then ripped in half with a saw with a 1/8" kerf, leaving the pockets 1/16" shy of being a full semi-circle.

There is no pocket for the first and last cant ribs. The inwale seems to curve above the sheer plank at the very ends as it joins the stems.

The pictures show how the inwale section fits over the ribs. To complete the gunwale, an unpocketed outwale is fastened and a cap rail finishes the job.

I expect that making new inwales will be the most challenging part of the restoration -- I have only two fragments of the originals. The spacing of the ribs is not perfectly uniform, and the angle of the pockets at the inwale ends seems to change when the inwale sweeps up near the stem and stern. (The hardest part will be removing a terrible :mad: fiberglass job.)

Has anyone done this? Any ideas, suggestion, thoughts?
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Cajole your canoe back into the best shape you can, then clamp a flexible batten to the tips of the ribs. Transfer the locations of the ribs to the batten, then use the batten to transfer the rib locations to your new gunwale stock. As I recall, we bent the gunwale first. Clamp the two rails together, with an appropriate spacer between, at each rib location. They may not line up side to side, so just clamp one rib location, drill, then shift as necessary. Use a forstner bit with the proper diameter, a drill press with the depth stop adjusted, and some creative gunwale supports. An extra pair of hands can be real handy especially when boring into the bent tips.

Hope this makes sense, it was a long time ago that I helped a fellow do this in my shop...
Morris Canoe Pocketed Ribs.

Dan, thanks for your ideas -- they make a lot of sense to me.

What would you think making the new inwales and shaping the new outwales before I take the fiberglass off. While ugly and in poor shape, the fiberglass does seem to be holding the shape of the boat firmly, and could give considerable protection to the hull during initial work.

Some of the rib ends need repair/replacement, but I should be able to mark the location of the pockets for such ribs by just extrapolating from the center-line of such ribs.

In fact, what would you think of stripping the interior varnish and repairing the rib ends before removing all of the fiberglass? I would think that the fiberglass could continue to give support to the canoe's shape, and also to the sheer plank which has been beveled to a wedge shape with a very thin edge along the sheer. I might have to remove the fiberglass immediately behind a rib end being repaired, but the support gained it might be worth the trouble, if leaving it in place wouldn't cause other problems I'm not now imagining.
Yea, Morris rails make a builder earn their canoe building badge!
You can strip the interior with the fiberglass on. Either way would not be bad but I find it easier to completly clean the boat includeing the outside of the hull with out the glass in place.
But to repair the rails and install the new ones get the fiberglass out of the way and off the hull.
1)Remove the top row of planking to expose the top 4" of the ribs so you can repair the tops as needed and it allows access for nailing on the new rails.
2)Install a temp. rail (3/4"x 3/4" X14') on the outside, about 4" below the tops of the ribs. Pull the rails together so the boat has the proper width and shape. Hold the rails with sheetrock screws into about every sixth rib and use temp thwarts or clamps to hold the proper width of the boat.
3)Prebend the inside rail on a jig, let dry and finish shaping except for the pockets.
4)Clamp the rail to the ribs and mark the rib locations directly onto the rail.
5)Drill the pockets and then install the rail.
6)Install temp. thwarts to the real rails.
7)Remove the lower temp rails and thwarts.
8) Drink beer(s)!;)
Thanks for the suggestions, Rollin -- except that I don't think I will be waiting until 8) to have a beer whe I get going on this job.