How to replace canoe gunwales

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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How to replace canoe gunwales
Canoeing is an excellent way to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

A canoe's gunwales, otherwise referred to as gunnels, are the upper edges of the canoe. Generally, these are wooden or metal pieces that are attached to the canoe's upper sides by screws or rivets. Over time, canoe gunwales can become loose or worn due to normal wear and tear. When any damage occurs on gunwales, replacement is typically the best option. Using the right tools, replacing canoe gunwales can be accomplished with little difficulty.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Block of wood
  • Hammer
  • Rubber mallet
  • Rivet gun

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  1. 1

    Drill out the rivets or unscrew the screws from the gunwale. On aluminium or fibreglass canoes with gunwale rivets, place the drill bit in the centre of the rivet and apply firm pressure while you drill. For gunwales with Phillips-head screws, simply use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the screws.

  2. 2

    Place a wood block under the gunwale. Start at the bow and hit the wood block upward with the hammer to pop the gunwale up and off of the canoe. Continue this process working your way down to the end of the gunwale until it comes completely off of the canoe.

  3. 3

    Place a mark 1.5 inches down from the upper edge of the canoe under each rivet or screw-hole. This is done to mark the old hole location because new holes must be drilled for the new gunwale.

  4. 4

    Place the new gunwale onto the canoe. Starting at one end and working down to the other, tap the gunwale down onto the canoe as far as it will go using a rubber mallet.

  5. 5

    Drill new holes for rivets or screws into the new gunwale. Space the holes evenly apart. Ensure that you place the new holes at least 2 inches away from the old holes. Screw in the new screws or install new rivets using the rivet gun and tighten them securely.

Tips and warnings

  • Use caution when drilling out the rivets.

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