View Full Version : steambending and my new love affair with cypress and spanish cedar

09-22-2012, 02:52 AM
New (old) guy here with a lot of mileage; bondo'ed in a few places, but still a good daily driver.

I've been lurking here and at Microskiff. Love the forums. Have learned more in the last year about boatbuilding than in all prior adventures. Wooden boatbuilding--the new Holy Grail!

Built my own steam bender out of a Wagner Wall Paper Steamer. (ha). My employees laughed at me when I put two peices of white oak into a 4" schedule 40 pvc pipe and fired it up. (Saw it done on Youtube). I then bent the 3/4 by 1" by 10' long stock around a fairly tight radius by myself in front of their dissing eyes. Clamped it off by myself and left them all wondering how I figured that out...(ha). (yo, u admirin' bro? ) (yo, that's right, your iphone can't bend wood)


You must support the pvc pipe in a cradle over it's length or it will turn into pasta and seriously deform.

Aww, bald cypress http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_cypress the most underrated wood product out there. IMHO.

I am a commercial general contractor and our crews have installed about 12,000 bft of it in the last year in various high end commercial projects (feature walls and rain screens). Looks great clear-sealed. Stains well, stays in place.

Cuts and works like pine without break out, warping and splitting. The select and better is virtually knot free. I buy it at Frank Paxton Lumber, they have it in 5/4 and 4/4 in lengths to 16'. And it's cheap, I mean really cheap. Try less than 2.00 per bft raw.

http://paxtonwood.com/ if you live in the midwest like I do, finding economical import woods and suitable wood materials is tough. Paxton will mill it, make siding, or t & g it, or SFS it. Costs a little more, but hey.

For brightwork on my boat retro project I am using Spanish Cedar (of cigar humidor fame). Sometimes I run a small piece or two through our planer just to perfume the shop. Poor man's mahogany? Maybe. It's not nearly as tough as mahogany, but it does look good clear sealed. (Sand like crazy because it does fuzz up). I bought it in 8/4. Lengths to 16'!

When you rip it be sure you are going to fab it up right away...it wants to be spaghetti. It's a little oily. The sawdust from this stuff can be annoying to the lungs.

09-22-2012, 05:55 AM
I bottom planked my boat with cypress and liked working with it. Lightweight, easy to plane, and I finished a couple of samples with varnish and linseed oil, which looked very nice. I would definitely use it again as I am in an area of the country where the various cedars (except eastern red) are hard to find, but the local stores can get cypress fairly easily.

12-23-2015, 02:06 PM
Have you tried bending spanish cedar, with or without steam?

12-26-2015, 11:17 AM
Have you tried bending spanish cedar, with or without steam?

Down here cypress is available at the local lumber yards. My sharpie under construction is framed with cypress. After pricing mahogany I have decided to use cypress for the wales and comings.

12-26-2015, 12:08 PM
Port Orford Cedar, the king of boat building wood, is a Cypress.

Paul Pless
12-26-2015, 02:07 PM
Old growth bald cypress with heartwood in any decent size is virtually unobtainable except in severe drought years when the deepest of swamps dry enough to allow access. Its is orders of magnitude more rot resistant than the lumberyard cypress referred to in the op. It has other qualities which lend itself favourable to boat building in that it is strong, available in very long and very wide boards that are clear (knot free) with very straight grain. Its typically worked green in larger boats and doesn't swell much from its green state even though it takes up enormous amounts of water.

The closest equivalent to old growth is sinker cypress, trees recovered from river and canal bottoms. My neighbor in Alabama deals in it at $15 to $25 per bd ft.

Jay Greer
12-26-2015, 02:29 PM
Alaskan Yellow Cedar is also a Cypress family member.

12-26-2015, 06:17 PM
Please speak in latin, or just continue this confusion. It doesn't travel.

Hugh Conway
12-27-2015, 07:36 PM
Please speak in latin, or just continue this confusion. It doesn't travel.

Alaskan Yellow Cedar = Cupressus nottkatensis
Port Orford Cedar = Chamaecyparis lawsonia. aka Lawson's Cypress
Bald Cypress = Taxodium distichum
Spanish Cedar = Cedrela Odorata. Often available as plantation grown stock in the US in my experience.

the trouble with latin names is so few in woodworking use them

12-27-2015, 08:05 PM
That's very kind or you to shed that light Hugh, I apologise for my laziness at not looking them up myself.

Cedrella according to Wiki, is a diminuitive form of Cedar, odorata meaning fragrant obviously.

I do get frustrated at the fact that people say cedar when they mean cypress etc. Poplar/tulip is another trans Atlantic problem.

I'm a tree surgeon turned hack boat builder, so coming from a horticultural background....

I had a eureka moment many years ago, when trying to talk shop with a Portugese tree surgeon, who spoke no English, and I no Portugese. As soon as we discovered that the Latin we knew meant the same thing exactly, we could all of a sudden communicate.

So much for Esperanto.