Hardwood for boat building

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

Picture of teak wood

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

Picture of mahogany wood

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

Picture of oak wood

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

Picture of ash wood

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

Picture of beech wood

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

Picture of larch wood

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

Picture of birch wood

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
http://www.boatplans.dk/

Softwood for boat building

The term softwood is used for wood coming from conifers trees that stay green all year round. Therefore it has nothing to do with the wood being soft or not. In fact you can find some softwoods that are harder than hardwood 🙂

More than 80% of the world’s timber production is softwood. This timber is mainly produced in Scandinavia, Baltic, Russia and North America.

Below you will find a shore description of the most used softwoods in boat building. These woods are pine, fir, spruce and cedar.

Pine

Picture of pine wood

Pine has a uniform texture and is very easy to work with. It finishes well and resists shrinkage, swelling and warping. It is widely used in paneling, decks, bulwark and for spares. Pine has a strong core and is therefore really good to laminated spares.

Fir

Picture of fir wood

Fir is uniformly textured and has low resistance to decay. It is nonresinous, works easy and finishes well. Fir is used for making plywood, veneer, paneling, interior trim and spares. Fir has a relatively weak core and is strongest at the rim. This means that if it is used for spares the bark should just be removed from the trunk and as little as possible machining of the wood.

Spruce

Picture of spruce wood

Spruce is a strong wood that finishes well and has low resistance to decay. It possesses moderate shrinkage and is light. It is also fine for spars, crates, boxes, general millwork and ladders.

Cedar

Picture of cedar wood

Cedar is a reddish wood with sweet odor. It is very easy to work with, uniform in texture and is resistant to decay. Cedar is extensively used for interior decorating, closet lining, deck planks and strip plank boat hulls.

For the pine, fir and spruce it is normal to see some local quality variations where the wood from trees growing slow in cold places get a special nickname. This give the signal that this is a special superb variant where there is close between the rings. Some of the special designations are Oregon pine and Kalmar pine.

Happy boat building,

Morten Olesen, Naval Architect
http://www.boatplans.dk/