View Full Version : Old growth lumber Vs what's available now...

Jim H
11-08-2003, 04:29 PM
for traditionally designed & built boats. It seems to me that precious little is left in "real" old growth lumber. people now make good money raising sunken logs and reclaiming wood from a century ago. Heck, the bay house we have was built in '73 and the SYP used in it puts the current SYP to shame. It's denser and sappier than anything I've seen in recent memory.

The problem as I see it, is that the older designs were based on lumber that's not really commercially available now (within reach of the modest boatbuilder). I can get cypress for planking, but it doesn't have the same rot resistence as the cypress many boats were designed around (around here). Does this mean an end to traditionally built designs for us poor folks, or does it mean that many boats will be designed for marine grade ply to "look" traditional?

George Roberts
11-08-2003, 04:56 PM
If you do the engineering, you can adjust the scantlings for old lumber to new lumber.

but ...

In all probability the difference in skills between old timers and new timers and the their tools may have a bigger effect on the quality than the raw materials.

And in most cases the materials are present. Most people simply cannot afford them or do not know where to look.

[ 11-08-2003, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: George Roberts ]

Jack Heinlen
11-08-2003, 04:58 PM
It don't take 'old growth'.

Someone could make a good living being a clearinghouse for cedar and white oak and white spruce from NE. With those three timbers, a good boat will forth.

On Vacation
11-08-2003, 05:17 PM
Even if the lumber of old was avaliable, sitting on a stack, whether it be in your yard, or in a yard that will build the boat, costs of labor, and the amount of labor is not what it was in times of old. This is becoming a precious commodity. When the demand goes down, so does the folks providing it, goes away.

I feel one of the many reasons old growth of many hardwoods, is not being retrieved, is the decline of bulk sales, and the call for large amounts of timber for special sales, is gone. A person, in the wood business needs to be able to retrieve in bulk, to make it profitable to put the equipment into place to log, along with regulations in place, prohibiting the logging, period. My take. Next.

[ 11-08-2003, 05:18 PM: Message edited by: Oyster ]

Peter Malcolm Jardine
11-08-2003, 05:53 PM
Most folks could not even begin to pay for a 30 foot wooden boat built properly, with well chosed materials of the right kind. period. That's why they buy plastic.

John E Hardiman
11-08-2003, 06:59 PM
I live in the PacNW on a 2.5 acre lot last logged in the nineteen'teens, not clearcut. I have had a few "old" (100+ rings) fir trees fall over the decade I've been here and many "young" (50+ rings) due to clearing around my property (which I'm keeping wooded). And you know what? Only about 10% of the timber would I consider "structural" material. Another 40-50% I'd make 2x4's or molding out of. The rest was fire wood. And it did not appear to depend on the age of the tree. Some of the old trees had widely spaced rings, and some of the "new" growth was tightly spaced. And it varied up the length of the trunk and side to side. Some sections of the bole good; some sections not.

I wonder if in the "old" growth myth springs up because the old sawyers pulled the prime boards off at the mill and set it aside. Nowadays it all gets gang cut, bundled, and shipped. I know I can still go down to the local lumber yard and they let me pick through the piles and I can pull out the tight ringed quartersawn after going through a 100 2x12's.

Frank E. Price
11-08-2003, 07:12 PM
I don't think 100 years old quite qualifies as old growth. Far as I know old growth is at least 250 years old, some say 400 years or older. Last summer I saw a spruce at Lake Quinnalt that qualifies: it's about 18 1/2 feet in diameter at the butt and I forget how many centuries old.

Not that second growth (or third or fourth) can't be good wood. It just grows too fast with too much light (from lack of overstory), hence is coarse grained and knotty. Generally. Another use for poor wood besides firewood is log cabins (I don't mean the fancy kind advertised all over).

The quality of old growth ain't a myth. You can find some poor quality wood in old growth, and good quality wood in second growth, but generally old growth is finer grained, straighter, and fewer knots. Check out the Doug fir timbers in old cannery buildings if you get a chance. You won't find a timber from second growth that is as straight, fine or clear for the size. Some of those timbers are monstrous, and clear as a bell.


[ 11-08-2003, 07:18 PM: Message edited by: Frank E. Price ]

John E Hardiman
11-08-2003, 08:24 PM
Originally posted by Frank E. Price:
I don't think 100 years old quite qualifies as old growth. Far as I know old growth is at least 250 years old, some say 400 years or older. Having spent a fair amount of time in unlogged forest up here and down in the Sierras, those types of trees ( say greater than 6' dia) I would say represent less the 10% of all the trees. Even in virgin unlogged forest most of the trees are less than 3' dia (~ 100 yrs for fir up here). Muir Wood is a prime example; 1000 yr old redwood surrounded by "young" fir, cedar, and scrub oak, never logged. And in many of the older trees, the heart has gone punky. To say that only "old growth" is good when it represents only the outer 50% of 10% of the trees just shows that the lumber was rare even in the old days. They culled the choice trees, not that all the timber was superior.

Most trees, like humans without medical care, die young; from blight, insects, drought, older trees falling on them, windstorm, etc. I think that the feeling that "virgin" forests are filled with perfect ancient trees is a disservice. In the old days you wouldn't waste time cutting down and sawing up a less than perfect tree. Therefor IMHO the expectation of what is/was out there in the forests is flawed.

Bob Smalser
11-08-2003, 08:49 PM
The old-growth Hemlock-DF forests in my locale weren't logged until 1920-1936...all the stumps are still there under the Huck to study. Those trees the McCormick Logging Company based at nearby Camp Union harvested then were 2-400 years old and 48-72" diameter at breast height (DBH) DF and 12' diameter WRC were the largest trees...based on our piddlin 60" annual rainfall as opposed to coastal forests with 200" of rain and bigger trees.

And there's no shortage of old-timers around who spent their youth at Camp Union logging those trees...so the data is fresh....and rehashed over country-store coffee every day.

Only the choice trees were taken and those were bucked at the first limb...sometimes as few as two trees per acre...only the clear bole taken and the rest of the tree and adjacent trees left in the woods...to result in a massive forest fire in 1940 that's quite visible in the growth rings of recently-cut trees today...in the form of pitch pockets.

So by that standard...I have plenty of "old-growth" DF trees left from 100-200 years old....and some W. Hemlock and WRC, which weren't generally taken by McCormick, older than that.

As an aside, it's hard to believe that with all that lovely old-growth WRC here, most of the original homes here (and in Port Townsend) from the late 1800's-early 1900's have Redwood drop siding from California.

Old-growth was a mixed bag just like 2d-growth is a mixed bag. Those trees shaded have tight rings...those trees opened to sunlight by fire have wide rings...most old-growth trees have a mixture of both wide and narrow rings. Those uneven-age trees partially shaded reach for the sun and are crooked. Old-growth also has a lot of rot, pitch and other degrade...2d-growth is superior in that regard, and a shaded 2d-growth log can be the equal of the best old-growth logs, only smaller.

Tight-ringed heartwood provides better durability...but is still subject to reaction wood and other degrades. Plantation-grown DF that's fertilized and pruned can have straight, knot-free and degrade-free boles...but with wider growth rings and lesser durability and strength. The durability and strength issues can be overcome with modern chemistry and slightly larger scantlings.

If you've only bought lumber off of stacks and never had the opportunity to harvest the tree and mill the logs, you may be misled by never seeing the amount of inferior utility-grade and fire wood that comes out of even the best trees.

And I'm pretty certain these dynamics also apply to eastern hardwood forests.

[ 11-08-2003, 09:10 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

11-08-2003, 09:15 PM
Yes, for you po folks quality wood is far too expensive and hard to find.You need trees that are greater than 12 feet in diameter-- seen any of those in your neighborhood lately? Trees for example that live in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Your quality building material for traditional boats is something called mild steel. Cheap, bulletproof and combined with today's modern material coatings is equal to 1000 year old SYP. Stick weld with a Miller Thunderbolt buzz box that you can get on EBAY for several 100 dollars and call it a day. Get over the fact that you were born 200 years too late.

Bob Smalser
11-08-2003, 09:36 PM
Steel is over a dollar a pound in my neck of the woods.

Frank E. Price
11-08-2003, 10:06 PM
John and Bob, I don't disagree with what you guys are saying, except that the big clear Doug fir timbers that were used in places like cannery buildings did not come from second growth forests. I have seen many old second growth forests including 100 years old and more. I have seen none that could produce anything like those old timbers. Hence, the storied old growth wood is not a myth, regardless of what else was growing in the forest that produced the tree.

I did qualify my earlier statement. Generalizations are by definition imperfect. I was raised in or near logging communities in the Northwest and SE Alaska and you should not get the idea that I support the national movement to stop logging. The notion some have (not on this thread) that clearcutting results in permanent moonscapes is borne of a gullible mind. Another generality.

About twelve years ago I read a newspaper article that stuck with me. A small town (in Idaho I think) was in an uproar because part of the local forest was going to be harvested. Logging would ruin their local pristine forest. Turns out it was a second growth forest. Even clear cuts grow up into forests of great esthetic value, as well as environmental value. Yet another generalization.

Old growth timbers of large scantling and long length are still available in the Northwest, but not from our National Forests, with the possible exception of some salvage operation somewhere. Timber harvest in the remaining old growth forests has been shut down, including here on Prince of Wales Island, used-to-be home of the world's largest logging camp, Thorne Bay.

Steel could be cheaper than wood, depending on how available and expensive wood was locally. Here, wood construction is cheaper. But why would you go to the WoodenBoat site to talk about steel boats?


P.S. Old growth wood is not required to build to a traditional design, but it helps.

[ 11-08-2003, 10:10 PM: Message edited by: Frank E. Price ]

11-08-2003, 10:27 PM
It's a similar story here for the good boatbuilding softwoods. All of our good softwoods are rainforest timbers, and over 90% of our rainforest is not just logged, it's gone - it's farmland now. Huon pine, queensland kauri and white beech are all pretty much finished. Australian red cedar is a beautiful light timber for fitouts, and the big old growth trees are so rare now that walking tracks detour for miles just so people can see one.

There's still a bit of the second string boatbuilding softwoods around, like king billy pine and celery top pine, and there's an industry waiting to take off in recycled old growth timber - there are tens of thousands of old houses floored in NZ kauri, and a lot of buildings framed in old growth oregon.

Good hardwoods are still around, and spotted gum is about as good as it gets for steamed frames. Generally our hardwoods are too heavy, hard to work and have too much movement for planking though - I've seen lots of boats over a century old, and those planked with huon pine or kauri were as smooth as a baby's bum. In contrast, those planked in hardwood were twisted old relics.

Imo individuals will always be able to find enough high grade old growth timber for a smallish boat if they're willing to pay for it, or at least find the trees on private land and get them out themselves.

Most of us will just have to settle for imports (politically questionable on several levels) or use plantation or recycled timber.

[ 11-08-2003, 10:40 PM: Message edited by: Aramas ]

11-08-2003, 10:44 PM
Bob, Perhaps your neck of the woods ain't Canada or Asia. Steel bought in the USA is expensive just like college textbooks and your pharmaceuticals. America ain't ready for the global economy but they sure can talk the talk. Things are expensive in the USA because of all these tariffs. If America didn't have tariffs in place America would see economic pain like they have never seen before- job losses big time. You pay your dollar and I'll pay my 25 cents-- you get the picture.

Bob Smalser
11-08-2003, 10:53 PM
You pay your dollar and I'll pay my 25 cents-- you get the picture. Yawn. No heartburn here, friend....I got plenty of good wood in the 25-42" DBH range growing for the milling...and free logs for the taking from arborists whenever I want them. Gonna look at a half dozen 2d-growth 25" DF and a Madrone of sawlog quality tomorrow, in fact...and I may even pay some money for the Madrone.

My big Hobart only gets used occasionally for gear that supports construction with wood.

But your post's tone brings up an interesting thought, BK...ya don't have to get very deep into Passagemaker or one of the other rags to find an ad for kit boats of steel that talk to learning to stick-weld in "a few days". Having welded once or twice and having a neighbor I trade work with who did it every day for 40 years...always wondered how those folks' welds looked and x-rayed in those difficult past-vertical and overhead welds in vessels (obviously) too heavy to turn over.

When I ride the ferry, I always go look at the builder's origin plate and gander at the quality of the visible welds...and then often go check out the location of the lifeboat station...hope those deck welds of lesser importance were reserved for the apprentices.

And Frank,

Those lovely old timbers are wonderful because they are tight, FOHC sticks like the one below....with a 72" tree, I can cut two FOHC cants of 60" X 30"...but with a 25" 2d-growth tree, I can only get a couple FOHC 12" X 10" out of it...with some small stuff. Eats the whole tree and glulams are cheaper overall.


[ 11-09-2003, 08:01 AM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

L.W. Baxter
11-09-2003, 12:13 PM
Gawd, Bob. The homes you build must be incredible. Been featured in any of those glossy timber-frame rags lately? Not to be too fawning, but geezaloo.

You've proven to me, in this and other postings, that the wood is out there , but you have to know how to get it. I think that has always been true.

My suspicion is that good boatbuilding lumber, in relation to the average man's working wage, is no more expensive, and possibly a good deal cheaper, than it was a century ago. I mean, I'm a tradesman, and I can imagine paying the money for good wood to build a traditional design in the five or six ton range, strictly for recreation. A hundred years ago a man of my socio-economic position would not have managed such a thing unless it were a paying proposition, i.e. commercial fishing. Am I wrong?

Like George Roberts mentions, the thing most out of reach are the skills to build that way. Paying somebody else to do it, labor costs being what they are, is out of the question, and doing it myself would require a huge commitment of my time and energy, which also makes the ultimate "price" of a boat like that out of my reach. At least for now. But a man can dream...

I should add that my local specialty woods store has lumber in stock that would serve, with a few alterations (like laminated frames and keel) to build a good little ship, I'm certain. Spending all my working capital, I could have all the neccessary lumber stacked in my shop tommorrow afternoon. Obviously, the really important obstacles lie elsewhere...

[ 11-09-2003, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: L.W. Baxter ]

Bob Smalser
11-09-2003, 12:48 PM
Just looked at a nice one after breakfast with my neighbors at the Camp Union Cookhouse....my arborist's elderly Norwegian client has two 25-inchers and a lovely old 48-incher with porrea (sp?) root rot threatening his house....shoulda took the camera.

Hardware trees for sure....but around 6000BF of tight DF....and over half of that clear "boat wood". Worth retipping a few blades over.

The old gent wants some firewood and enuf lumber to redo his dock on Hood Canal...I told him I wanted half of the clear lower logs and to think ahead of all the projects he'll do for the rest of his life and make me a cut list...cause there's enuf wood, for sure.

I'll spend three days there the week after next....and I'll look at another neighbor's Madrone later today.

But that timber-frame ain't mine, LW....belongs to a neighbor I trade work with and erected by an outfit from Montana. Hell, I was happy just to hand them their tools and gofer. They got that wood outta B.C. at $27k for 16k BF or so...that's less than a buck ninety a board foot....their suppliers' name might be a sensitive topic, but I'm working on it so I can share. Definitely "boat wood".

[ 11-09-2003, 01:06 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

George Roberts
11-09-2003, 12:51 PM
Old growth, antique, rare, exotic.

Some words let you part with your money easier.

At one time some economics were applied to the commercial sawing of redwoods. It was found that the really large trees cost more to harvest and mill (per bdft) than reasonble sized trees. Since the final products were sold for the same amount, one would expect that the smaller trees were harvested. No, the big ones were taken.

At one time boats sailing back to England from the New World used wood as ballast. It was given away in England until Mahogany furniture became popular.

If Bob can get good wood for "free," there must be good wood all over the place.

Bob Smalser
11-09-2003, 12:59 PM
If Bob can get good wood for "free," there must be good wood all over the place. Dunno about that, George...call your local arborist and see if 10 grand in a good mill and old tractor will pay off.

But while I get all the "studwood" quality logs dumped at my lot for zilch, "free" to me for this quality of wood equals around 1 hour of serious hard labor per 100BF with half going to the tree's owner....but look what I save on a gym membership, eh?

Lotsa good stuff changes hands out here between friends and neighbors...but rarely for cash.

[ 11-09-2003, 01:59 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

Jim H
11-09-2003, 02:02 PM
Originally posted by George Roberts:
If you do the engineering, you can adjust the scantlings for old lumber to new lumber.
I don't see how adjusting the scantlings would make available cypress or SYP any more rot and insect resistent.

Jim H
11-09-2003, 02:17 PM
Originally posted by Bob Smalser:

If you've only bought lumber off of stacks and never had the opportunity to harvest the tree and mill the logs, you may be misled by never seeing the amount of inferior utility-grade and fire wood that comes out of even the best trees.

And I'm pretty certain these dynamics also apply to eastern hardwood forests.Bob, I guess what I meant by "old growth" is that it was harvested about 100 years ago. Thanks for the explanation, it makes a lot of sense. You're right, I've never had the chance to harvest lumber. I guess, when the time comes, I'll be looking in Louisiana for a mill or a sawyer.

11-09-2003, 07:30 PM
I was just browsing around, and ran into your conversation. I am in the process of having some prime #1 douglas fir quartersawn with a woodmizer now that the sap has dropped. I was told this is tight grain "special projects" wood by the sawyer, and I will have a couple thousand board feet more than I want to keep. We are cutting only the vertical rain, the rest is firewood.

If you know anybody who wants to specify what sizes they need, I would sell a couple thousand to a private boat builder. Whoever is interested can get me at "cal-zone@juno.com" directly.

Now I can go back to my "lookin at stuff" mode.

Bruce Hooke
11-09-2003, 07:45 PM
In talking with a forester I came across what may be another important reason why a lot of the lumber you find at the typical lumber yard (hardwood or softwood) is not as good as we would like it to be. Basically, the economics of growing wood for lumber are such that it does not pay to grow trees that are bigger than the minumum size necessary for whatever type of wood product you are aiming to produce. So, for example, if 10" diameter is the minimum size for saw logs then it doesn't pay to let the trees get much bigger than that before you cut them. So, if you want the kind of wood that comes out of 20" diamter tress you have to hunt for it...

Oyvind Snibsoer
11-09-2003, 07:54 PM
In the old days, the shipwrights weren't really too carzy about using the largest trees for shipbuilding. Since e.g. the futtocks had to be sided and formed with a broad axe, picking an oversize piece of wood meant a lot of unnecessary work, and waste, chopping away the unnecessary wood. They'd rather spend a little more time looking around for a naturally formed piece that could be formed with minimum labor. And they really didn't care if the edges were a little rounded because the piece wasn't quite big enough. In fact, using a piece so thick that all edges were cut to an angle was an deemed an excessive waste of good wood and labor.

Also, at least in these parts, pine trees for boatbuilding would be picked out in the forest. Then the bark was supposedly cut of in a ring around the trunk, so that the sap would rise in the wood. The tree was then left for a few more years before being cut down.

Roger Stouff
11-09-2003, 08:12 PM
I've torn down a few old barns and sheds for the cypress lumber. Most of it is 100+ years old, and it's incredible stuff. While the new cypress I've bought looks very similar to pine, the old stuff is so tight grained and red it's almost oily. I use it a lot in the house renovations and on boats.

Wasn't there a discussion some time back on this forum that Japan pays any price for our finest grade lumbers in the U.S., and we get the rest domestic? I might have read that somewhere else...don't know if it's true or not.

John E Hardiman
11-09-2003, 08:56 PM
Looking over some old photos of redwood logging and something struck me so I did some digging.

In 1940 there was 406,000 miles of railroad track in the US.

Maximum tie spacing is 24"

A tie is 8x10x8'6

So in 1940 there was at least 60,737,600,000 (yes 60 BILLION) BF of timber in railroad ties alone.

And that doesnt include the "trash" that was used to ballast the logging rails that was just abandoned in place.


Bob Smalser
11-09-2003, 09:31 PM
So, for example, if 10" diameter is the minimum size for saw logs then it doesn't pay to let the trees get much bigger than that before you cut them. So, if you want the kind of wood that comes out of 20" diamter tress you have to hunt for it... Yup.....around here Manke Lumber in Tacoma specializes in "studwood" ...piddlin 10" boles they pay $400 a ton for ala cordwood or pulpwood instead of by the BF like "export" wood sold to Weyerhauser and Simpson.

And most modern mills don't accept anything bigger than 28" these days....boles larger than that are only taken by Crow Mill in Shelton, and they hardly pay a premium for them. Such modernization merely creates a niche for the little guys like me and some of the specialty sawyers who provide ship's masts/spars and the like.

Black Sawdust

One of my finest logs of WRC was 20+ rings to the inch, 72" DBH and 30' long...not a hole or degrade visible on either end...couldn't wait to get into it...prime boat planking.

Bucked the lower log at 12' and set the Lucas up atop it, as it was too big to move safely with the old farm tractor I was skidding with at the time. Didn't test it with plunge cuts with the big Stihl...wastes prime wood and I'm a cheapskate.

Get half way thru the opening vertical cut, and the forces on the saw lighten up...I continue cutting...probably a pitch pocket. Then the saw on the return horizontal cut begins to spit out black sawdust, getting down my shirt and trousers as usual. No big deal...that's why God gave us that after-work shower bath.

At the end of the cut I pull away the slab, and a gazillion carpenter ants swarm out all over me.

Musta looked pretty silly...or downright wierd...stripping down to full nakedness in that open wood lot next to the road.

[ 11-09-2003, 09:50 PM: Message edited by: Bob Smalser ]

George Roberts
11-09-2003, 09:42 PM
Jim Hillman ---

You wrote:

"I don't see how adjusting the scantlings would make available cypress or SYP any more rot and insect resistent."

While I read statements that prior cuttings or wood from older trees is more rot or insect resistant, I don't believe it is true.

I am sure if you take a piece of wood that was cut 100 years ago and compare it to a piece of wood cut last year you will find differences in properties. But the proper comparision would be between a piece of wood cut 100 years ago and tested 99 years ago to a piece of wood cut last year and tested this year.

Over 100 years I would expect that the genetics of trees would not change, but the genetics of things that eat wood would.

All in all everyone has their belief in the matter. And proof is very hard.

Along those lines ...

A few years ago allowable wood properties for construction grade lumber were changed. Not because the wood changed, but because the new model was more accurate.

11-10-2003, 04:57 AM
Well the subject about old growth v regrowth, as far as I'm concerned old growth just isn't available but it also isn't necessary.I've bought the planking for my boat,a good pile of 28 to 32'lengths of 5x1 1/4"spotted gum ,( good planking stock here in Australia )from 2nd growth cuts , the place was cleared for dairy farming in the early years of 20th century .The bends for my sawn frames( yeah I know....I must be crazy)are from 12" branches out of 24 to 30" trees and they are just fine. I like to know where my timber comes from ....I like to see how the bloke does the job or do it myself and as I said I really can't see the need for old growth except maybe when looking for a log to cut a keel clear of heart .About costs ,I should say that ALL timber for my boat ,a heavy displacement 35' cutter will run around $6000 Australian ,it would be double that in the city through a merchant.

11-10-2003, 05:21 AM
Moderately off topic, but in the same vein, I saw the demolition of the old San Francisco railroad hotels built at the turn of, or early in, the 20th century. This was about 1974-5, when old wood wasn't as valued as it is now. These rundown buildings where mostly constructed out of redwood and it was the richest, deepest ruby red you can imagine. Huge, wide boards and massive timbers too. I saw a wrecking ball bounce off this stuff! Took a few wacks to get it to notice!

It was all chewed up and carted off to the dump.

11-10-2003, 03:47 PM
And again off topic.We here in Australia have got a very large old growth related problem....not one that the average city dweller would be aware of though. There must be 10s of thousands of small timber rural bridges though out the country, you know the really small ones on some dusty country road ,all the responsibility of the local shire, not the State or Federal admins ( the ones with the money) And they are all finally falling apart, all about 100 years old asnd built from absolutely beautiful and unobtainable old growth.And they are all failing together.In many cases it would be just too expensive to build concrete replacements... too far out from town and the nearest Readimix, maybe 200 mile return trips in some cases, there are lots of very lightly settled areas in Australia. Maybe someone will develop are prefabricated / preassembled unit and the gear to easily install it. A goood business proposition for someone, the market is certainly there !

Bob Smalser
11-10-2003, 03:56 PM
Most of our local counties under similar circumstances keep a couple railway flatcar decks around....makes a pretty good bridge....one went in on the Tahuya River in 48 hours recently after 200 families were stranded when their old bridge washed out in last month's floods.

It's an oversize max load...but a semi can haul it OK. Takes a good sized crane, tho.

11-10-2003, 04:21 PM
The next question is whether or not we can create old growth forest for future generations.


George Roberts
11-10-2003, 06:25 PM
cs ---

Some people plan that far ahead.

I believe the dining hall at Cambridge was built in 1500? (or 1600?). A long time ago anyway.

Around 1940 it was noticed that the beams in the ceiling were rotting and needed repair.

A world wide search for suitable timbers turned up ziltch.

One day the College forester overheard the bemoaning on the topic and asked those in charge to take a trip with him.

A long trip over the hills and through the woods and we come upon some stately trees. Trees selected when the building was built to be replacements. There were other trees that would be the next set of replacements and some would be planted for the future.

I bought some 20-30" white pine 30 years ago. They seem to be doing well. I have some 20 year old oaks.

I expect most people who have property are growing trees for the future.

L.W. Baxter
11-10-2003, 07:25 PM
I have a Sequoia in my backyard that appears to have been planted by the original homesteader on the property, well over a hundred years ago. Several of the neighbors have them, too. I really appreciate that guy, long gone...

Bob Cleek
11-10-2003, 09:42 PM
Not much to add to the previous 35 posts or so. Still, it bears noting that as far back as history takes us, certainly to the late eighteenth century in New England, and long before that in Britain, boatbuilders and shipwrights have been bitching about the declining quality of boatbuilding wood! It seems to be endemic to the enterprise. Wood really hasn't changed any in the last few millenia. Same trees, same wood. The only thing that has changed, as we hear most clearly from the East Coast builders way back when, is how easily it is obtained. Each boat you build has to come from farther away, as the good stuff in the forest close to the boatyard is progressively harvested. The farther you have to haul it, the better the "old growth" starts to look! LOL There's still plenty of wood for boatbuilding just as good or even better than what was available a 100 or even 200 years ago... you just have to haul it farther. Fortunately, powered saws and trucks make that a lot easier. If you had all that "old growth" back when, you would have had to chop it and saw it by hand! Do you really want to go back that far to the "good old days?" Besides, I've poked around in a whole lot of old boats, some made by the likes of Lawley, Nevins and the Herreshoff Mfg. Co. and, while the construction was top notch, they often cut corners on wood, even them, even back then. Bottom line, you build with the best wood you can find. The difference is in how hard you look for it.

L.W. Baxter
11-10-2003, 10:08 PM
From Chapelle's Boatbuilding, first published in 1941:

Clear Stock

"In choosing stock for the keel and heavy timbering do not expect to get all clear stock. This is a favorite specification with some designers... Perfection is easy to demand but very, very difficult to obtain. Long timber, clear of knots and perfectly sound, is something that exists largely in imagination, not in boatshops or yards."

Frank E. Price
11-13-2003, 03:43 PM
If you can't find or afford that perfect old wood, it's far better to build and sail an imperfect boat than to go boatless. Preferable to have a boat that will rot out in 15 years than to spend the 15 years in the moaning chair. I think that's the gist of George Buehler's position on amateur boat building.