View Full Version : Sassafrass as a boat building wood

Garrett Lowell
05-02-2002, 09:00 AM
Is Sassafrass (sp?) a viable boatbuilding wood? If not, ok. If so, what are it's properties and qualities, and is there anything an unseasoned builder needs to know about this particular wood? Any help or information will be greatly appreciated.

Thaddeus J. Van Gilder
05-02-2002, 09:03 AM
It steams well.

It is used around here as bent frames on occassion.

Wayne Jeffers
05-02-2002, 09:11 AM
Heartwood has excellent rot resistance.

Relatively light in weight.

It's been used for boatbuilding, but it is not often found commercially. Harvest your own!


ken mcclure
05-02-2002, 09:20 AM
Smells pretty darn good too!

05-02-2002, 09:23 AM
And is used in the Ozarks for making paddles, light and strong.


Wayne Jeffers
05-02-2002, 09:29 AM
You can also chew on the young, green twigs. Tasty!

And the roots can be used to make an excellent tea.


05-02-2002, 12:36 PM
Consult Mike Kiefer of Great Lakes Boatbuilding in South Haven, Michigan. He uses sassafrass very successfully for thwarts, rails, inwales, etc. www.greatwoodboats.com. (http://www.greatwoodboats.com.)

Garrett Lowell
05-02-2002, 01:03 PM
Has it been used as planking material? Or mainly for structural purposes?

Wayne Jeffers
05-02-2002, 01:29 PM
It would make good plank material, if you can find wide enough boards. Or if you can make do with narrow boards, depending upon how your planks are spiled.

I've heard that they grow to a good size, but I don't think I've ever seen one with a trunk much more than 8 or 10 inches in diameter, and you can't use the sapwood. (Don't use the sapwood! It has almost no rot resistance. It's easy to tell the difference because of the color.)


05-02-2002, 02:43 PM
Pete Culler loved it for oars.

05-02-2002, 06:21 PM
I've used sassafrass for laminated frames and shearclamps on my Grey Seal. Used 3/8" x 2" and five plys to make the frames. It is light weight. The wood took the curves well if you minded the runout on the grain. It shaped well with the hand plane where the plank lands were on the frames. It also took up West epoxy quite well. The wood surface is soft, like pine, it can be dented easily. The sassafrass was one of the woods recommended to me by Roger Allen, formerly at the NC Maritime Museum.


Bill Perkins
05-07-2002, 03:08 PM
" Not often found commercially " is a fair statement but , Seek and you will Find . http://www.woodfinder.com/home.html

Garrett Lowell
05-07-2002, 08:17 PM
Thanks everyone! As usual, a wealth of information!

Garrett Lowell
05-07-2002, 08:25 PM
Bill, turns out there are several suppliers here in my backyard! Tomorrow I'll check and see what the availability and pricing is. I have bookmarked that link, thanks again! smile.gif

ken mcclure
05-07-2002, 10:30 PM
Originally posted by Wayne Jeffers:

I've heard that they grow to a good size, but I don't think I've ever seen one with a trunk much more than 8 or 10 inches in diameter....WayneThis is sad. The people from whom we bought our house had a sassafrass in the front yard cut down. The top of the stump, which was about 6 inches above ground level, measured about 28 inches. It was a BIG old tree. When we moved in, there was about a half cord of it left in the woodpile. :(

Garrett Lowell
05-08-2002, 10:15 AM

That is sad. Some people don't know, and don't care. On a brighter note, I have acquired 2 pounds of Sequoia seeds. I am trying to germinate 50. According to the guy I buy my seeds from, he states, correctly because I checked, that if I'm lucky only about 20% will start. Also, here in Northern Virginia, they will only grow to between 65-80 feet tall. But I can't help it, I love these trees, and hopefully they will be around for hundreds of years, if my descendants don't cut them down.