I put gunwales (and everything else) on a Canadieene back in 1983. I used Ash and did not have to steam them. As Kayamedic reported, I just started in the midle and worked both ways. It does take some pretty strong force as you get close to the ends. Ash too is pretty heavy but durable. Although I've sold the Canadieene (to a neighbor)the gunwales are still in good shape.
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