View Full Version : Effects of Time

Paul Pless
08-08-2004, 05:03 PM
This is a purely hypothetical question on my part, seeing as how I am not in a position to begin a large multiyear boatbuilding project.

What are the effects of taking a long time, say two or more years, to build a boat using traditional construction techniques? Let's assume a medium sized cruising sailboat of carvel construction. What happens to the wood in the keel and frames as they sit there waiting to get put in the water? They were green when construction began but have long since dried out. How does this effect construction? How are the fastenings affected? What happens when the boat is finally launched?

If someone were planning on building a boat and was planning on taking more than two years to get it done, are there any considerations to make in the design, materials, and construction?



Ian McColgin
08-08-2004, 06:14 PM
There are many texts you may consult for properly curing and drying wood but you'll not find many well made boats made of green wood. It's not uncommon for forum members to remark that they've had the wood for a project stacked and drying for two and more years.

Given that you'll use properly dryed wood, it matters little how long you take so long as no land based sourses of rot or bug infestation get at it. One guy in the Commonwealth finished a schooner after something like thirty years and she's said to be a good boat.


Paul Pless
08-08-2004, 06:33 PM

My question stems from the fact that much of the wood that is steam bent in boats is green (no?). Also large timbers, such as make up keels, stems, deadwood and such take many years to dry.


Bruce Hooke
08-08-2004, 08:23 PM
The key pieces of wood that tend to be steam bent green are the frames. For frames of a size that can reasonably be steam bent (really big boats usually seem to use sawn frames) I think all but the fastest building schedule would lead to the frames drying out while the rest of the boat is being built anyway. A small amount of shrinkage in the frames should not be a big deal anyway. Furthermore, even when the boat is in the water the frames are inside the boat and so should be in a relatively dry environment...

What I would be thinking about are the big pieces of wood that make up the keel and deadwood. These pieces are almost always going to be somewhat green because to truly dry a big timber all the way through takes many, many years. So, these pieces of wood will always be trying to dry out during the building process. This is where what Mlke said about priming the wood as you go comes into play. The good news is that I think that big pieces of wood drying out during the building process is probably an issue for most boatbuilders because there is always going to be some of it going on, so a good general book on traditional boatbuilding should cover this topic...

Jack Heinlen
08-08-2004, 09:21 PM
Lot's of boats have gone together over a number of years and turned out fine. What others have said, slathering, ends and all of the deadwood with linseed regularly, red lead paint also on other pieces, to slow the process down.

My only addition would be that with a carvel planked boat built over years the seams do open, so take care caulking when the time comes. Unless you know what you're doing hire someone who has good experience to teach and supervise and help. It might not be as much an issue in the humid southlands, but something to watch out for. It depends, somewhat, on what wood is used. Caulking a seam that's three years old and open is a bit of an art. I don't know the art, but I've watched. The caulker has to anticipate what the planking is going to do, and that only comes with considerable experience.

As Ian would say G'luck.