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  • Alick Burt

Felix's Canoe Steaming and fitting Gunwale repairs.

A closer examination of the most damaged gunwales revealed that ontop of the fact that their ends are rotten and missing the rot extends quite a way along them. I had treated the rot a few days ago with preservative and hardener but it was clear I would still have to remove some of the material and splice on repairs.I began by cutting a splice and removing the rotten section.

When I had removed one bit I found a split in the planking which I glued up first with a bit of 5 minute PU.

These repairs require steaming so I set up my steaming equipment which consists of an old pressure cooker (which I put on my wood burner) with a washing machine hose fitted to the top.The hose is then placed inside a length of metal pipe that is closed off at the top end and held in a workmate so the excess water can drip out of the end into a plastic bucket.

Steaming is not a reliable process and can be a bit hit and miss.The timber has to be knot free and is best air dried or soaked overnight if it has been kiln dried. Bending is done on a jig that is improved by the addition of a metal strap to help prevent break out on the outside of the bend. It is also best to have the jig made to a slightly tighter curve than you want the piece to finish as there will be a bit of spring back after it has set.

I made a jig from a piece of ply and prepared the piece of Oak for the gunwale. I planed it to a taper and cut a splice to fit on the end but it was left a mm or two over size so the final trimming can be done once it is fitted.

I steamed it for a couple of hours to make sure it would be nice and flexible. Then I quickly clamped it to my jig and left it to set overnight.

Once set the repair is glued on at the splice joint to the rest of the gunwale and I replaced the tacks that were used originally with brass screws. Purists may wince but they will be covered by the decks and this will make later repairs easier.

Once the glue has set the repair is spoke shaved ,planed and sanded to its final shape. I begin with the top edge then do the underside checking the thickness at various points with calipers as I work.

Finally the edge is planed to width and then rounded to blend in with the existing section of gunwale.

You may also notice I have drilled the holes for the screws that will hold the deck in place.This was done before I fitted it by marking from the inside with a pencil and then drilling them with the piece removed, working from the inside.If you do this afterwards from the outside, the holes may not line up with the originals in the deck which I want to reuse.

I have left rounding of the tip until I have done the other one at this end and I may have to repair the tip of the stem in order to get the pins that will hold them to fit.

Thanks for reading.


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