Gunwales: one-piece or scarfed; painted or varnished?

I have an 18 foot Dan Kidney rowboat with a 5 foot beam and a wine-glass stern, with two sets of oars approximately 10 feet long.

I believe it was made before 1920.

It has obviously been repaired/rebuilt.

The gunwale of the current version is in four sections with scarfed joints and painted a crimson/mahogany color.

My gut tells me that the gunwale was originally in one piece (steamed, bent, or perhaps cut out of a largter piece) and that the original (oak?) was varnished.



Dan Kidney Gunwales
by: Mike


Am I right in assuming that the gunwale is damaged and you need to replace it?

Or is it just that “crimson/mahogany color” you want to replace?

The Dan Kidney ‘Duck Boats’ were originally painted but I’m sure the rowboats gunwales were varnished.

If you want to add some photos of her they would be helpful in answering your query and besides I’d love to see her, you can email them to me at and I can resize them etc. and add them here.


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Sep 26, 2011
by: Dan Kidney

I love seeing the boats my great grandfather built being restored.

We still have some of the catalogs in the family. I will look through mine and see if I can get an answer for you.

If mine doesn't have it I will give my uncle a call.

He has the restored boat and the papers/catalog.

If you need to contact me my email is dan.kidney at gmail dot com.

Sep 21, 2011
Dan Kidney Row Boat Gunwales
by: Anonymous

I'm not familiar with the how the original would have been built but from what I know of the Dan Kidney and Sons operation, I would imagine that much of the work was done with the lumber available locally at the time.

So, an 18 foot gunwale may have been one piece but could quite probably have had one scarf joint, four does seem excessive.

Their famous duck boats would all have been painted (drab green) but I suspect that the row boat gunwales would have been varnished, rather like their launches.

And they did use white oak for frames etc, so could very well have used it for gunwales as it bends quite well.

They also used cedar for planking that bends quite well too.

At 18 foot with a 5 foot beam I would imagine that the curve towards the bow is fairly gentle, so it should be possible to just bend the wood around it providing the thickness (cross section) isn?t too great.

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