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Wood Gunwale Repair: Installing a Splicing Section

A splicing section is a 4’ long piece of gunwale that can provide a speedy and cost-effective repair of a damaged wooden gunwale. Splicing sections can repair localized damage on an inwale (inside gunwale), outwale (outside gunwale) or both. 

One of the challenges of complete gunwale replacement beyond the cost and the time needed is the fact that full length gunwales can only ship via motor freight. This can create a significant delay in getting your canoe back on the water. 

A splicing section is inexpensive and ships via USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc., basically, any express carrier for a very low rate. It can be in your hands within 24 to 48 hours of ordering. 

Splicing sections can be ordered kerfed or non-kerfed depending on where used. The kerfed section is intended for use when repairing a damaged outwale on a composite Mad River Canoe. 

Splicing sections are best used when there is one break or fracture in a gunwale. If your canoe has suffered multiple breaks over a wider expanse than 4’ it is better to replace the complete gunwale rather than try to splice in multiple splicing sections. You will likely encounter issues in the gunwales’ ability to follow the true curve of the hull if multiple splicing sections are installed. 

MATERIALS REQUIRED: 

1 or 2 (if repairing both inwale and outwale) splicing section, kerfed or unkerfed. 
12 #8 x 1 ¼” screws (for composite canoes) or 12 #8 x 1 ½” screws (for royalex canoes) 
(you may be able to re-use existing hardware but given minimal cost, it’s wise to have spares on hand) 
Gunwale Guard and/or stain 

All above materials are available via your local authorized Mad River Canoe Dealer. 

TOOLS REQUIRED: 

Saw                     
4 C-clamps (2 spring or bar clamps are helpful) 
Phillips Screwdriver             
Masking tape 
Waterproof Glue             
Protractor with straight edge 
Non-permanent Marker           
Drill & 1/8" bit 
File                     
#8 Countersink bit 
100, 120, 180 grit sandpaper       
Pencil 

SUMMARY PROCEDURE 

Splicing the gunwale consists of replacing a section of broken gunwale while leaving the majority of the gunwale system on the canoe intact. The process begins with clamping the new section underneath the damaged section and marking angled cut locations on old gunwale. Both gunwale sections are cut at same time to ensure proper fit. 

After cutting, the screws securing the original gunwale are removed, allowing the section to be removed. The replacement section is screwed into place and ends are glued to ends of remaining original gunwale. Final step is treating the entire gunwale with oil for water protection. 

STEP BY STEP PROCEDURE 
REPLACEMENT OF INDIVIDUAL INWALE OR OUTWALE SECTION 

1. Splicing sections are 4' long. Isolate the damaged rail section and mark at points on either side 
where gunwale is intact and sound. On straight sections of gunwale, the marked section can be quite short; on curved sections best results are obtained if the section to be removed is longer. Distance between sound sections of gunwale should not exceed 42"/107 cm. 

2. Cut splicing section approximately 6"/15 cm longer than section of gunwale to be replaced. Run several lengths of masking tape along side of hull under existing gunwale the full length of anticipated repair, overlapping layers of tape to protect hull from teeth of saw blade. 

3. Center and clamp splicing section to underside of existing gunwale to be replaced. Position 
clamps to inside of marks on gunwale and at ends of splicing section. 

4. At front or bow mark, use protractor to draw a straight line with pencil across top of gunwale at a 30° angle with leading edge at hull towards bow. This will allow the original gunwale to pin the splicing section against hull. 

5. At back or stern mark duplicate the same angle and orientation. Positioning cut at this angle provides smoother transition from splice to original and poses less danger of catching hands during paddle strokes. 

6. Remove any gunwale screw that bisects your angled line. Carefully cut both original gunwale and splice along line, holding saw vertically. If you are working with a kerfed gunwale, you'll need to careful cut the kerf as well. As you get closer to the hull use a careful and light saw stroke to avoid scratching the hull surface. Cut at other mark as well. 

7. Remove clamps holding splice in position. Mark locations of existing screws on hull below gunwale and back out any gunwale screws between cuts. Damaged original gunwale should be easily dislodged. 

8. Test fit splice into original gunwale. It may be necessary to lightly file ends of splice to get best fit. 

9. Once fit is fine-tuned, apply Gunwale Guard to all surfaces of the splicing section except the ends that have been angle cut. Apply glue to angled ends of both original gunwale and splice and put splice in place. Clamp splice to hold position. Wipe up any glue oozing from joints and/or tape newspaper under splice joint to catch drips. 

10. Using 1/8" bit, drill lead hole for #8 screw through each joint, positioned so that it bisects 
angled cut and engages both sections of gunwale. Insert screw and snug tight. If concealment of screw head is desired, make angle of screw shallower to prevent screw from protruding from opposite side of gunwale and countersink head of screw. 

11. Once glue has set remove tape from hull. 

12. Using marks as guides or if inwale is intact, use existing holes as guide and with 1/8” bit drill partially into splicing section to prevent splitting of section when screws are inserted. If you are repairing a fractured inwale, you will want to drill holes with countersink bit to allow screw heads to be hidden. Be careful not to drill all the way through the new gunwale. 

13. Re-insert gunwale screws and tighten to secure new splice in place. 

14. Scrape away any glue that stands out along the splicing seam and then sand spliced section and original rail to consistent finish. Apply Gunwale Guard and/or stain as needed to protect against moisture. 

REPLACEMENT OF BOTH INWALE AND OUTWALE SECTION 

1. If your canoe hull was damaged when the gunwale was broken the hull should be repaired before proceeding to repair the gunwale. If this is the situation you face, you should gather the hull repair materials prior to commencing any repair. 

2. For best results, stagger or overlap the splicing sections rather than have them aligned so that the ends are equal to one another. Position one 12” or more in front of the other. If the damage is localized to one location this should be easily accomplished. If the damage occurs at more than one place, it might be best to consider a full rail replacement. 

3. The maximum “spread” of a splicing section is 42"/107cm. Mark desired splice locations where the original gunwale is sound and intact and make sure they are not more than 42” apart on each gunwale. 

4. Cut splicing section approximately 6" longer than section of gunwale to be replaced. Run several lengths of masking tape along side of hull under existing gunwale the full length of anticipated repair, overlapping layers of tape to protect hull from teeth of saw blade. 

5. Center and clamp splicing sections to underside of existing gunwales to be replaced. Position clamps to inside of marks on gunwale and at ends of splicing section. 

6. At marks, use protractor to draw a straight line across top of gunwale at a 30o angle with leading edge towards bow (see diagram below). This will keep your paddle from catching along rail at junction of splicing section and original rail. 

7. Remove any gunwale screw that bisects your angled lines. Carefully cut both original gunwale 
and splice along line. If you are working with a kerfed gunwale, you'll need to carefully cut the kerf 
as well. As you get closer to the hull use a careful and light saw stroke to avoid scratching the hull 
surface. Cut at other marks as well. Apply Gunwale Guard to all surfaces of the splicing sections except the angled cuts. 

8. Remove clamps holding splices in position and back out any gunwale screws between cuts. 
Damaged original gunwales should be easily dislodged. Remove one section at a time. 

9. Test fit splice into original gunwale. It may be necessary to lightly file ends of splice to get proper fit. 

10. Once fit is fine-tuned, apply glue to angled ends of both original gunwale and splice and put 
splice in place. Clamp splice to hold position. Wipe up any glue oozing from joints. Once one joint  on one gunwale is clamped, proceed to repeat process with other joint. 

11.  Repeat process for gunwale on other side of hull. Make sure both splices are firmly clamped in position. 

12. Using 1/8" bit, drill lead hole for #8 screw through each joint, positioned so that it bisects 
angled cut. Insert screw and snug tight. If concealment of screw head is desired, make angle of drilled hole shallow to prevent screw from protruding from opposite side of gunwale and countersink head of screw. 

13. Once glue at joints has set and bisecting screws installed at each joint, refer to marks made on hull indicating screw locations. Transfer marks from hull to gunwales in pencil. Using 1/8” bit with countersink, drill holes through spliced sections at marks. If repair is positioned towards center of canoe, you will be drilling from inside of canoe towards outside. If close to ends and without sufficient room to deploy drill on inside of hull, you’ll be drilling from outside. Be careful not to drill completely through the gunwale. 

14. Re-insert gunwale screws and tighten to secure new splices in place. 

15. Scrape away any glue that stands up above surface at joints and then sand splices and adjoining gunwale sections to achieve consistent finish. Apply coat of Gunwale Guard and/or stain as needed to make appearance match existing gunwale. 

If additional information is required or you need a question answered, contact your Authorized Mad River Canoe Dealer or call Mad River Customer Service @ 888/ 525-2925.