Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment. - Unknown
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Assuming you can locate straight-grained pieces. Some have run-out that might weaken them, but ash is popular for canoe gunwales due to it's resistance to splitting.
But aluminum and CF do not have run-out problems as others have pointed out.
I used a piece of 1 inch for a test....needs a bit of tweaking, but it is well on its way....and yes, that is an axe handle at the foot end
"Go sell crazy somewhere else, we're all stocked up here"~Jack Nicholson/As Good As It Gets
1" wood dowel rods are alot thicker and stronger than 5/8".