How Do You Make a Gunwale for a Canoe?

If you’re an avid canoe enthusiast, you know that a gunwale is an essential component of your canoe. It not only adds structural support to the boat but also serves as a mounting point for various accessories. In this tutorial, we’ll explore how to make a gunwale for your canoe.

What is a Gunwale?

A gunwale is the top edge of the sides of a canoe. It’s typically made from wood, aluminum, or composite materials like fiberglass or carbon fiber. The gunwales run along both sides of the canoe and provide stability and rigidity to the structure.

Materials Required

To make a gunwale for your canoe, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Wood planks (cedar, spruce or pine)
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Varnish or paint (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Gunwale for Your Canoe

Follow these simple steps to make your own gunwale for your canoe:

Step 1: Take Measurements

The first step is to measure the length and width of your canoe. You’ll need these measurements to determine how long and wide your gunwales should be.

Step 2: Cut Wood Planks

Using a saw, cut two wood planks according to the measurements you took in step one. The wood planks should be long enough to cover both sides of your canoe.

Step 3: Sand Planks

Once you have cut the planks, use sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges. This will ensure that the gunwales fit snugly against the canoe and prevent any scratches or damage to the boat.

Step 4: Drill Holes

Using a drill, make holes in the gunwales where you’ll be attaching them to the canoe. Make sure to measure and mark the spots for drilling beforehand to ensure accuracy.

Step 5: Attach Gunwales

With the holes drilled, you can now attach the gunwales to your canoe using screws. Make sure that they are aligned properly and secure them tightly.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

If desired, you can finish your gunwale with varnish or paint. This will not only add a layer of protection but also give it a polished look.


Now that you know how to make a gunwale for your canoe, you can enjoy all the benefits it provides. Remember to take accurate measurements, use appropriate materials, and follow these simple steps for a successful project. Happy canoeing!

Photo of author

Daniel Bennet