Touching up the Gunwales


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I have no experience in refinishing wood/canvas/dacron canoes, but really want to learn the basics. I recently acquired a gorgeous Loon Works Mistral, and would like to sand and touch up the gunwales with new varnish, ending with an Epifanes matte finish. Before I do that, I have a few questions:
  • There is a spot in the wood that is like a small black hole (see photo). Should that be filled with something, and then sanded over and varnished? Or is this nothing to worry about?
  • It seems as though the seat was made too tight at some point and the screws have dug into the wood. This seems like merely a cosmetic issue (or possibly structural in the future), but I'm wondering if there is a way to make this flush again and ensure the integrity of the wood. Should I take the screws out, and apply something over the wood (I know not what)? Or should I just let it be? See photo.
Many thanks for any help and insight.

Greatly appreciative,


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That's a nice boat. Congratulations.
Your decision to protect it with fresh varnish is a good one.
From your images it is hard for to tell if the boat is finished with matte varnish. I personally prefer it for older hulls. Just be aware that you need to be really precise when you apply it over gloss finish to avoid holidays.
The black spot looks like an imperfection in the wood. You could simply fill it with some varnish and call it a day.
The bolt issue is a bit more challenging. It looks like there are the beginnings of some wood discoloration around the head. Pulling the bolt is probably going to cause some additional damage. It's worth a try but be careful. You may need to figaze some sort of puller with a clamp.
Once it's out you can decide if you want to insert a small bung and re-set the bolt or if you will simply try to clean things up for fresh varnish. Check the bolt for sharp edges.