Wood Or Aluminum Gunwales?

Nothing beats the look of wood gunwales


There is no doubt that wood just looks better. Wood gunwales and deck-plates  provide the perfect accent to carbon or Kevlar canoes.  

Aluminum is the low maintenance option

Aluminum thwarts and gunwales on a canoe.

While wood gunwales require regular maintenance, aluminum gunwales will give you many years of thought free use. 

Stiff but flexible


Wood gunwales provide a good balance between stiffness and flexibility. Keeping the true shape of the canoe while flexing on impact to prevent damage to the gunwales and canoe. 

Aluminum is also cost effective


Whether doing it yourself or letting our professionals do the work, replacing wood gunwales with aluminum can save you money. 

Repalcement Gunwale Options



If shipping is required, our ash gunwale knockdown kit may be the right option.



Our full length gunwales. Available in Ash or Cherry.  The same original gunwale profile used on Mad River Canoes.


Aluminum canoe gunwale

Replace the kinked or scratched aluminum gunwales on your Kevlar/composite canoe with new, slip-on single piece rails. 

Gunwale Installation


Start your gunwale replacement project by visiting or calling North West Canoe. We stock full-length wood and aluminum canoe gunwales from Bell, Mad River and Old Town, plus hard to find stainless hardware. If you're not within driving distance, consider the ash Knockdown Gunwale kit.

Mark the placement of seats, thwarts, portage yokes... any components attached to your gunwales. Measure and diagram; place your tape on the stem and swing left then right, drawing an imaginary isosceles triangle. Measure from the bow stem to the bow carry handle, front edge of the bow seat, bow thwart, and yoke; then measure from the stern to the front edge of the stern seat...

Remove the gunwales. You can toss the gunwales but hang on to the components, even if you intend to replace blown-out cane seats and dry rotted thwarts. You’ll want these parts for cutting and drilling new canoe parts later.

Clean-off any accumulation of dirt, or gummy-goo (detergent and fine pot scrubby works as well as anything). Cut off stray fiberglass or Kevlar threads. File the top edge of any rough spots. Every canoe repair will go more smoothly on a clean boat.

Get a complete instruction sheet below. 

Finally, give your new gunwales a finish sand and a couple of coats WATCO.


Complete canoe gunwales Instructions - View / Download