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Old 02-18-2019, 05:29 PM   #1
richard p
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Gunwale Maintenence

I figure it is a good time to take care of my pack boat since it got a lot of use last year. The plan is to remove the gunwales, sand and oil both sides and replace. Couple of questions: 1- Is in worth (or recommend) to varnish the inner sides of the gunwales that touch the hull? 2- I need to replace several screws with stripped philips heads (don't ask why!). I was considering using slicon bronze marine wood screws with a square head. I read they were less likely to strip. True? Is there an advantage over s.s? As always, thanks.
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Old 05-05-2019, 11:52 PM   #2
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Gunwale maintenance - avoid varnish

Never, never use varnish or poly of any kind on your gunwales. It will look nice in the beginning, but moisture that will inevitably get in can't get out and you will end up with black fungus and rot. I would strongly recommend that you contact the manufacturer of your canoe and follow their instructions on what to use, how to apply it, and how often. I have used Watco Teak Oil on my wood gunwales for many years and it not only protects the wood but lets it breathe and also looks nice too. Be sure to do it as part of your spring and fall canoe maintenance.

Also, unless your gunwales are in bad shape, very discolored, or already have varnish that you want to remove and start fresh, I don't see any reason to remove them from the canoe. If they are already oiled, simply give them a light sanding and apply a fresh coat of Watco, letting it sit for 10-15 minutes and wiping the excess off.
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Old 05-06-2019, 04:59 AM   #3
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28 year old Mad River with ash gunwales:
I just check the gunwale screws for tightness, a Very light sanding and Watco oil about every 6 years, they look like new with a nice patina. I use 303 on the out side only of the Royalex hull, it looks nice with Zillions of small scratches, Plus a couple of short deeper ones. I/we do lots of back paddle ferries to avoid rocks. Canoe is hung in my garage out of the sun, (zip code 06333, not too cold or to hot climate).
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Old 05-06-2019, 09:05 AM   #4
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My strip canoe is 4 years old now, and I have been recoating the whole surface, inside and out, with Epifanes spar varnish once a year since I built it. I don't understand the theory about not using varnish, I would think the water would go out again by the same route in came in, unless I'm missing something. My gunwales are cherry and get a bit scuffed each year, and so far the varnish has made them look good again. I do store my canoe indoors, off the ground.
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Old 05-08-2019, 07:40 AM   #5
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The water can go in fast thru a very small crack and spread out soaking the wood. It will take a very long time, if ever, for the water to get back out that small crack. Over time the wood will swell and shrink damaging the wood fibers, weakening the wood. Periodic easy oiling of the wood water proofs the interior and surface of the wood.
Now the question is, why not just Watco oil our wooden paddles? I will start just using oil on my paddles, heck the varnish does not even seem to last more than a few trips. (I’ve got 2 really nice wood bent shaft paddles well less than a pound each.) 1 or 2 oz of oil should last a trip using it often. Anyone do this?
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Old 05-08-2019, 09:58 PM   #6
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I use a mixture of turpentine and linseed oil to treat the cherry gunwales and cedar paddles a couple of times a season after a very light sanding to remove any dirt and film. If you had a supply of pure tung oil that would be better to use than linseed but very expensive.

I have used watco oil on a couple of canoes years ago. It does the job but I found it messy, sticky and it took forever to be absorbed.
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Old 05-08-2019, 10:45 PM   #7
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Watco, like most oils, needs to be wiped off after a few minutes or it will get sticky. Also they have a few different products. Watco Teak is great for gunwales, not sure about paddles.
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Old 05-08-2019, 11:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richard1726 View Post
Now the question is, why not just Watco oil our wooden paddles?
...
Anyone do this?
Not exactly, but when I build my own paddles or oars they first get a good soaking of tung oil followed by 2 coats of polyurethane.

The problem with just using oil on "contact" surfaces is down to mechanical wear. The oil does not toughen the surface of the wood and it will wear faster...
(varnish, spar, or poly adds a wear layer that is denser and harder vs. underlying softwood).

On the other hand, if you never push off or scrape anything with the paddle the oil will work just fine for keeping water out. Using wax on top of oil will permit you to 'touch up' any issues "in the field".
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Old 05-09-2019, 06:44 AM   #9
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Good ideas, thanks
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Old 05-09-2019, 07:20 AM   #10
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IFIRC, long time paddle maker Caleb Davis uses a mixture of 90% varnish/10% oil on paddle blades, reverse that % on shaft and grip.
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Old 05-09-2019, 10:46 AM   #11
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Having been a professional woodworker for 35ish years, I've used practically everything out on the market for a finish at one time or another. These days virtually the only thing I use to finish wood is 100% pure Tung Oil, or when I want additional waterproofing/rot protection (paddles) I mix anywhere from 10-50% Pine Tar & Tung Oil. The Pine Tar being best set in by heat. It has some natural waxes that won't infuse into the wood fibers unless melted by heat. Depending on how much you mix, it will darken the wood a bit & open grained woods like ash may take on a more course appearance.

When I say 100% pure Tung Oil, that pretty much excludes all of the hardware store stuff, including Watco. The factory versions pretty much all use metallic salt dryers instead of the higher grade refining. One of the reasons they turn to a goopy mess if you don't wipe off all the excess. I must admit I've never tried Watco's Teak Oil. After using their "tung oil" which has very little tung oil in it, kinda like "Orange Drink" with no orange juice... I swore I'd never touch the stuff again.

One of the best & more economical Tung Oil's is available here. https://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/...tem/MP-TUNG.XX
Master's Blend is another I've used in the past but is a lot more expensive and more difficult to get. I still have a bit left & reserve it for my best woodcarving but honestly not sure I can tell any difference between it and the Milk Paint brand.

If you really want a varnish type product, try this instead of the polyurethane synthetic stuff. https://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/...tem/MS-TTVO.XX It's pricey but goes a long, long way.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:43 PM   #12
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Thanks for the great information on pure tung oil and the website links. I wonder if Watco Teak Oil has some of those additives too.
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Old 05-09-2019, 02:11 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Canoe View Post
Thanks for the great information on pure tung oil and the website links. I wonder if Watco Teak Oil has some of those additives too.
One of the best things with many of these products is to go to the manufactuer's website and download the MSDS sheet on it to see exactly what is in it.

I've been shocked to see that some of these formulations are 70%+ Stoddard Solvent. Essentially Naptha or White Gas, give or take a few carbon molecules. You'll notice most of them are thin as water or worse where true 100% tung oil and even Linseed oil is thick as syrup.
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