It’s Worse Than It Looks!

Part ll – Assessment

Yikes, while pulling the canoe along on top of the lawn, I began to see the damage in the bright sunlight.  The gunwales were both pretty well gone. Initially, I thought that at least one side could be repaired while the other side would have to be completely replaced. The dry rot was extensive, but fortunately it did not extend to the planking or ribs of the canoe, the rot was limited to the oak gunwales that I had put on some 3 decades ago.  In some sections, those nasty carpenter ants had taken up residence – ha but not for much longer.

What Wood To Use?
At first I thought that I could find some long lengths of wood in my garage, enough to get the job done.  That was before I had made an accurate assessment of the rot in existing gunwales.  I realized that I was going to have to spend some money.  I thought about using oak again, and then I decided to go to the local lumber store and just see what was available.  In the end I settled on pine strips that were ten feet long, 3/8 inch thick, and 1 and 1/4″ wide.  The ten foot length would mean only 1 scarf joint for each required length.  Each piece was about $9, and a total of 12 pieces were needed.  The wood was nice and clear without any knots.  I felt comfortable in thinking that I would be able to bend the wood, and enforce my “will” over it when making the compound curves.  I also decided that the wood be epoxied in place, and that there would not be any mechanical fasteners used.  I already had an “extra” gallon of epoxy and several quarts of hardener, both the fast setting for colder temperatures, and the slower setting hardener for warmer temperatures.   Below is a photo that shows the preliminary set up – I needed to see what I was up against in terms of  reconstructing the graceful sheer line that once existed.

Clamping the wood into place to get a first look at the repair.
Clamping the wood into place to get a first look at the repair. Here I placed two strips of pine over each other, to let them get “acclimated” to the bend that would take place the following day.

After positioning the canoe on top of the three benches, and bracing it amidships to keep the canoe steady, I began the process or removing the old gunwales, at least what was left of it. Using a cordless screw driver and a pair of vice grips, I held the brass nut firmly while backing out the screw that went from the outside through the ribs and to the other side of the interior gunwale oak strip. In many cases, the entire piece simply fell apart, the brass screws that held the top of the gunwale fell away as the I pulled apart the gunwale.

 

The seat itself was intact, but the fasteners no longer held the seat to the hull.
The seat itself was intact, but the fasteners no longer held the seat to the hull. This was allowing the hull to “spring”, definitely not a good thing! Part of the old gunwale is still in place on the top and inside.

I noticed that one of the seats and the oak athwartship brace had separated from their supports and the canoe was beginning to spring. Oh, boy, this canoe was in serious condition.  If I had waited another year, I think the hull would have just broke apart. That would have made me quite sad. In any case, the seats themselves were in excellent condition, and so too was the athwartship brace. I decided to keep these in place and use them as a guide to return the hull back to its original shape.

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