Tapering Inwales

Ed Moses

LOVES Wooden Canoes
I did a search on the subject and could find nothing that came close.

I Am about to steam bend inwales (spruce) for a 17" OT Otca (1917) I'm refurbishing for a friend . Old ones are in horrible, beat up shape, rotted, broken off 12" back from the tips at both ends and one broken at mid ship so scarfing pieces to repair was not feasible . I am wondering if most taper cut the wale ends before or after bending. This year Otca has a very heavily bent inwale judging from the upsweep of the only remaining long deck. I shudder at thought of trying to get a nice straight taper cut on my band saw after bending on such a steeply bent inwale . Cutting the taper in before bending would be working with straight stock and an easily accomplished process but I was concerned about crushing the slender, tapered ends on the bending form with the steep upsweep. Bending full thickness inwales might minimize this . Also do most saw cut or hand plane the taper in? I suspect it is best to cut or plane tapers before steam bending but thought I'd query the forum before I started and avoid unnecessary complications with the process .
I'm sure you will get different answers, but....

I have done it both ways.

I vote bend first taper later. It is much easier to bend them at full size. The taper cut first will make it very difficult to keep the stock from wanting to roll over on the to wide side.

You can cut the taper in a band saw, just draw the line before you bend. Cut close to the line and plane to it. I even cut the dado into the outwales after I bend them.

Good luck,


I taper first on the table saw with a jig. then boil and bend. I have not done sharp curved shear lines. As an amature, I'd suggest you do what you are most confident and skilled at.. If you are good with a plane--- Or if you got the touch at the band saw--- One thing's for sure, the more mistakes you make and the more sticks you break, the more you have learned. Success doesn't teach nearly so well as failure. And yet we strive to not fail.
For any serious bending , if the stock is taller than it is wide, it can make the bending extreamly difficult. Try dry bending a peice of scrape stock that is deeper than it is wide and you will see how it rolls to the side as it bends. this same effect will happen when it is steam bent. Taper only the depth of the stock before bending but not in the width. Its easier to draw the taper on the stock before it is bent and then just hand plane the stock to width after its bent. Bandsawing the bent stock is extreamly inaccurate without a lot of jigs and the hand planning only takes a couple of minutes and its a niece quiet excercise.
Thanks for the input of this "athletic endeavor" on forming and shaping a stem!...I was just reading your book again and appreciate the input Rollin, As I am about to make 2 sample stems for the eventual WC "Stowe" canoe.
Paul, Dave and Rollin,

Thank you all for your advice and philosophical commentary. I'll do the bends full width and plane afterwards by clamping on the workbench

Rain forecast here today so its fire up the white cedar steam box and have at it. I'll post on how the first two bends turned out. Dave , sure hope I don't break the "sticks" as I can only cut four more out of the 20' piece of spruce I have.

I hope you have beens soaking those "sticks".

BTW have you looked at the notes from the Great Rivers Chapter workshop about bending gunnels? You might want to.

May the bending force be with you,


Yes , 4' of the inwale ends have been in my 4" X 5" schedule 40 PVC soaking tube I use for soaking ribs for 5 days now. I think that they may be OK to go into the steamer.

Thanx for the reminder.