Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees (or in other words non-monocot angiosperm trees). It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.
Surprisingly enough there are about a hundred times as many hardwoods as there are softwoods. Hardwood contrasts with softwood. Hardwoods are not necessarily harder than softwoods.
Below you will find a shore description of the most used hardwoods in boat building. These woods are teak, mahogany, oak, ash, beech larch and birch.
Teak is hard and moisture resistant. It resists warping, cracking and decay and is the number one boat building wood for outside use. It’s used for boat building, hull construction, shipbuilding, flooring and decks.
Mahogany is a fine-grained wood with reddish brown color. It is highly durable and can resist swelling, shrinking and warping. Mahogany is widely used in boat building but is not as durable as teak. It’s used for boat building, hull construction, interior and decks.
Oak has good bending qualities apart from being durable due to the high natural content of tannic acid. It finishes well and resists moisture absorption. Oak is good for ship building, planking, frames, keels and general where strong wood is necessary.
Ash has superior bending qualities due to the long strait wood veins. It doesn’t finish very well and is not really durable. It is the number one choices in boat building for bend frames.
Beech is normally not good for boat building since it has terrible bad durable properties. However it has been used in shipbuilding for keels and underwater hull planks since it’s just as durable as oak if kept wet all the time. Else beech doesn’t have much interest for boat building.
Larch has fine durable properties. Normally considered to be somewhere between pine and oak in durability. Larch is great for hull planking due to the long strait wood veins and it’s possible to get even really long lengths without any knots. It finishes well and resists moisture absorption.
Birch is the number one plywood veneer. This is due to birch’s extremely fine properties for cutting in thin veneers or peeling. If you use it for stitch and glue boat building make sure it’s sufficient protected from moister.
Happy boat building,
Morten Olesen, Naval Architect