-- Last Updated: Jun-14-13 6:56 AM EST --
I first got into canoeing when somebody put a Mansfield canoe by the side of the road with a for sale sign on it - it was cheap. The fiberglass boat was in need of new gunwales. I had never taken on such a job, but thought I could figure it out. P-net wasn't yet giving repair advice.
I removed the old gunwales and bought an 8 ft length of 1 x 8" ash from a local yard. I ripped it into 1/4" strips. Using a lot of clamps I first stuck one layer (1/4") to the outside of the hull, port and startboard, using thickened epoxy. The 1/4" thick pieces easily conformed to the hull - no steaming required. After that cured for a day I added another layer overlapping the joints and the final outer layer went on a day later. Next I put two layers on the inside for an inwale also a day apart. Finally, I screwed the whole assembly together from the inside at about 12" intervals. I now had laminated outwales and inwales totaling 1 1/4" thickness. For good measure, I added an additional 1/4" strip on the inside where the seats and thwarts would be mounted. Finishing consisted of some fairly heavy sanding to level out the top of the laminations followed by five coats of varnish.
I owned the canoe for about 8 years during which time the gunwales held up fine. It was sold a couple of years ago and I have not heard a complaint from the new owner.
People have suggested that gluing gunwales to the boat is not a good idea as they have to be able "work" as the boat expands and contracts. That may be, and I may have avoided trouble by storing the boat inside where it did not see large temperature swings. But, it worked for me and it did not look bad. It was strong as lamintions always are. And, the material was available locally and easy to work with in short lengths.
The good people at Chesapeake Light Craft gave me the idea for cheap clamps. Just take about a 2" piece of PVC pipe, cut slices off of it (these will be rings) between 1 and 2" long and then take a hacksaw to the slice and cut it through in one spot. You can now spread it where it was cut and place it over the material to be clamped. When you let go it will hold tight. The wider the "slice" the greater the holding power. You can make a box full of these for a couple of bucks and they'll do most of the above job for you. You'll need a handfull of store bought clamps to get started and then use the PVC clamps in the middle of the run.
The method is not for everyone and certainly not for use on a classic hull that is being restored. I do think it makes sense on a boat that was cheap but is worth saving.
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