View Full Version : Oak (Green, White & Red)

11-16-2001, 02:52 AM
Went out in search of wood for my future boat (a dory with sawn frames). The first mill I went to happened to be milling some very nice white oak while I was there. I was surprised to find white oak since it's much less common in central New York State than red oak. So I bought some 1"x8"'s and a 2"x8". Of course the stuff is green and I now have the wood for my "second boat" air drying in my friend's shed. I figure I'll have to wait at least a year, any advice on this? When I looked for dry wood all I could find was the dreaded quercus rubra. But I went for it. I read the White v. Red posts in the archives and I'm well aware of the open cell structure of red oak. Tipping the scales the other way are the opinions of John Gardner and Greg Rossel (I have some informative quotes if anyone is interested). Will use some kind of preservative on this stuff -- anyone know anything about borate or other preservatives?
Then when that white oak is seasoned I'll build another boat and we'll see how the two fare.

11-16-2001, 05:27 AM
One year per inch thickness is about right. I hope you bought enough too account for boards that are going to warp crack and check.

11-16-2001, 08:01 AM
Hey doug,
Make sure you seal up the end grain very well. With it's high shrinkage rate oak is particualrly prone to checking. I think for the 1" boards a year will do(depends on your local conditions, don't let them dry too fast at first or they will crack up like crazy) The 2" stuff may take a little longer, with the closed cell structure you mentioned water escapes rather slowly.

11-16-2001, 08:50 AM
For what its worth and risking contrary opinions, I treated some 8x8 post oak with a diluted solution of antifreeze (after painting the ends). After 4 years it has considerably less checking and no molds compared to another pile left untreated.

Thaddeus J. Van Gilder
11-16-2001, 11:04 AM
I have used red oak for thwarts, transoms and centerboards, and found that it warps much less than white oak, and doesn't rot as quickly as one might expect if it is out in open air, iacta est, well venilated, or completely submerged permenently. I wouldn't use it for chine logs, or anywhere that is normally rot prone, however.

I have also "quick-seasoned" wood by steaming it. After steaming the wood, It only takes a couple of weeks to get the moisture out. It cooks out the sap.

11-17-2001, 01:49 AM
The legendary rot resistance of White Oak is actually very very dependent upon a combination of growing conditions and local. There are actually a number of trees whose wood is classified as 'White Oak'. During World War II, the U.S. Navy contracted to have built a number of vessels ranging in size from wherries and basic row boats (shipyard work ect.) to tugs and minesweepers. The specs invariably called for using White Oak but in the rush of war time production the quality assurance of craft intended for home waters (shipyards) left something to be desired. This was confirmed in a 1953 study done by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Div. of Forest Pathology) in which some 500 vessels built during WWII were examined for decay. Turns out that alot of Red Oak was used instead of White Oak. Results of the study were very informative..... Turns out that the smaller open craft (Wherries, dingies, punts) did very very well in resisting decay. Only 8% of the small open craft (located in 7 navy activities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and 5 on the Pacific Coast as well as numerous contractors) suffered any detectable decay. It was noted that these boats were usually left out in the open, uncovered, and universally recieved only minimal -if any- upkeep!!!! The type of wood actually used in construction was confirmed thru chemical test and it was found that Red Oak was the predominant wood used for framing in these boats.

I would say that you would do OK to use Red Oak in some of your construction. The primary factors which the Navy study cited as contributing the most to avoiding decay (especially Dry Rot)were ventilation and avoiding fresh water (rain).

Lazy Jack
11-17-2001, 03:18 AM
Why wait for the red oak frame stock to season? If the grain is reasonably straight, there is no dimention in which it would move by drying that would effect in any way the structure shape or assembly of the boat. For obvious reasons, this does not work with planking. We used to build dories with green frame and stem stock and had no trouble during construction with checking or changing shape. The pieces involved can all move freely while changing moisture content given that the planking is only fastened along one edge.

[This message has been edited by Lazy Jack (edited 11-17-2001).]

[This message has been edited by Lazy Jack (edited 11-17-2001).]

11-17-2001, 09:15 AM
Whenever I buy a load of white oak, not from a sawmill but in finished form like flooring, cabinet stock etc, I always go through and cull lots of red oak pieces mixed in. It's too easy to grade it looking at the face and think you've done it, but you've got to look at fresh end cuts to be sure.
The funny thing is that while there is much less white out there to be found, once you do find it, it often is cheaper than red because it is less in demand by the general public.
I think it bends much better than red. That's why it was the wood of choice among mountain basket makers.

Ed Neal
11-17-2001, 05:08 PM
I visited the Dory Museum in Shelbourne, Nova Scotia this summer. It is located in the boatshop of a dory builder who make over 10,000 boats. They still build a boat a month for the tourists.

I was surprised to see them using red oak in the frames. I thought white oak was much more durable. I asked the builder, "won't the red oak rot out a lot faster than white oak?" He said, "Oh sure it will in about fifty years."