View Full Version : Thoughts on plywood
09-14-2010, 05:06 PM
I built my first two boats in Austin in the mid 80s, one of redwood and the other mahogany. 28 years later the mahogany boat shows its age but does not leak and looks really cool. It has worn beautifully and it carries a certian romance. Ten years ago I built a small sapele ply sail boat. Easier to layout and assemble, less framing required but it will never have the feel of a timber craft. I am a big fan of Jim Michalak and admire the brut pragmatism of his techniqes. I have used many of his ideas in the design of my latest effort. As a carpenter of nearly 30 years I'm all about what gets it done. But. Messing around in small boats is not about that in my mind. A seasoned solid wood boat can take you further on the same trip than any stitch and glue craft. To a certian point solid wood boats thrive on abuse and neglect, I slap some more Deks Olje (or now, substitute) and it looks better than ever. Gouges, dings stains and all.
09-14-2010, 05:17 PM
Did you read my rant on plywood on Reo's thread?
I have been restoring a 1929 Stephens, and have just about given up on ply for all but specific panels. Solid wood is so much easier to work with, and simply shows its history without getting shabby. I have sanded a few old boards clean and they are as good as new (save for a few fastener stains, which, to me, retain a little of the history.
The few things I did early on with ply now look cheap and frail by comparison to the more recent solid timber work...
So, other than spending a small fortune on teak lumber (and a lesser one on Mahogany, which, at 1/6 the price, is cheap in comparison), my boat is good for another 80+ years.
09-14-2010, 05:46 PM
I'm new today and have not seen your rant but will. I love the seeming resurgence of small boat building, much of it due to plywood and epoxy. Solid wood is not so difficult as many think if one possesses basic woodworking skills. Thanks for the words, not often do I find agreement on this point. Well put too.
09-14-2010, 05:51 PM
I have plans for an Oughtred Puffin (aka Acorn 10'6") that is meant to be a glued lapstrake play boat. However, he includes directions for doing it with traditional lumber, which I plan to do. As a tender for my all solid wood big boat, I figured it would be be appropriate. I'll start a thread once I start building
Thanks for starting the thread. Let's see where it goes..
09-15-2010, 12:42 AM
Not to hijack the thread, but in noticing where you are, I can't help but invite you to visit The Alexandria Seaport Foundation and our open shop night on Tuesdays from 7 to 9. We are currently working on a Haven 12 1/2. The shop is a floating building in Old Town Alexandria behind the Chart House rest.
09-15-2010, 08:23 AM
Damn; I know your post was aimed at PB, but I have been in DC for 5 days working on a trial.. and I head home tonight. Next time I am in town I'll definitely stop by.
09-15-2010, 02:49 PM
I am such a hater of plywood, having had to repair or restore many rotten boats that used it in their construction that I will not allow it to be used in my shop except for patterns and the lofting floor.
09-16-2010, 05:49 PM
Cogeniac talked about building an Oughtred design in traditional lumber rather than plywood. I am a novice builder that just completed a traditional cedar/white oak skiff (copper nails and the works) and really enjoyed the experience. I have understood that one of the advantages of glued lapstrake plywood boats is the cross-grain strength imparted by the plywood can reduce or eliminate the frame requirements thus making the boat lighter and more roomy. I have also read that it is important to use good quality plywood of 7(?) veneers and that proper care and maintenance will enable these boats to have a long life. If you were to build the Acorn in traditional wood would you have to have additional/larger frames? Very interesting discussion.
09-17-2010, 08:07 AM
On the plus side: All of the decks, soles, bulkheads, counters, lockers, cabinets etc. in my ketch are ply. The stbd cockpit locker top appears to be the only part replaced in 42 years. This week I cut two holes, one each in deck and sole. Both pieces are sound, edges like new. This is much heavier ply than you would use on a small boat, 3/4". And of course, the hull is not made of it.
09-17-2010, 11:29 AM
I'm near completion of a 12-foot sharpie skiff in ply and it was my first boat build. For my second build, I'm looking to traditional lumber and methods. For one thing, I can work in my unheated shop more effectively over the winter. For another, there not as much stop and go waiting for glue to dry--or at least that's my impression.
Still, the ply boat looks good and the sheet material gave this novice woodworker a "can do" attitude from the start.
09-17-2010, 12:21 PM
I have no animosity for ply. By Jays' standard, it would be oak that I hate. It is oak, that I have ripped out of boats ,more than any other wood.
Now, if a vessel is built of bad ply, when the time comes, pitch it, don't fix it.
Lotta small craft, y'wanna build it light and tough and practical (to be used), turn to ply. Wanna build an heirloom, go timber.
. No doubt, Coffee tastes better on a timber boat than a ply boat.
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