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Thread: Redwood for boats?

  1. #1
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    Default Redwood for boats?

    In my community during the 1940s and '50s (before plywood was readily accessible) redwood was the choice of wood to build skiffs up to ~20ft. I am able to get some nice finish 1 x 8 x 96 redwood planks. Any comments on using it to build a 15ft flat bottom boat? Thanks.

    Kalawaia

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Second-growth Redwood has similar properties to Western Red Cedar, and will make a fine skiff. The only concern is that the acids in the redwood are hard on fasteners. Use appropriate marine-grade fasteners and bed the pilot holes thoroughly before driving screws.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Grace Kwan, a replica Chinese San Fransico Bay shrimp fishing junk is all Redwood.
    (I would try to find vertical or quarter sawn planks, there is a significant difference in dimensional stabilty. It is not usually a problem to find clear redwood planks that will build your boat in one length 16-18 feet).


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    I think it would be good if our grandchildren and their children and grandchildren had the opportunity to see a redwood tree growing in the forest or better, a grove of redwood trees. I've seen them, and think that we should declare the redwood off limits for logging. There is no reason boatbuilders should object, as cedar is better for their needs. Cutting down redwoods to make fence posts seems wasteful. Let's keep the remaining redwood trees as they are, growing in the forest. Continuing to log redwoods benefits only the loggers. When they are gone it will be too late do anything about them.

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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Roger - wood grows - it's a renewable resource. Maybe wood doesn't grow in New York City, because you have too damn many people with too damn many ideas about what other people should be doing...

    But there's a redwood growing in my backyard right now, and you and yours are welcome to come see it. Way the hell out west of NYC we have sustainable logging, we've learned alot over the past few decades. Very sadly, city dwellers perish every year in the western states when they get lost in the woods, and die tragically surrounded by millions of trees. I'm not trying to be unkind, I just have to point out that the trees out here are doing very well, managed by professional loggers and forestry managers who will bet thier life that your grandkids and thiers will have redwoods and all the rest when we are long gone...

    On the other hand, if you have something to contribute about redwood as a boatbuilding material, please ignore my reply - I myself have a boat that is all old growth doug fir over oak ribs, so I don't have much to add...

    -Chris

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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    An estimated 82% of the remaining old-growth coast redwoods are now protected. Nearly all the trees being cut down are second- and third-growth trees as Chris says. I'm sure more land acquisition by the US and California Redwood parks would extend protection for the big trees, but they are not in immediate danger. Anyone wanting to put their money where their mouth is can contribute to "Save the Redwoods" which is dedicated to acquiring these old-growth forests and preserving them. http://savetheredwoods.org

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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Smalser View Post
    Second-growth Redwood has similar properties to Western Red Cedar, and will make a fine skiff. The only concern is that the acids in the redwood are hard on fasteners. Use appropriate marine-grade fasteners and bed the pilot holes thoroughly before driving screws.
    Bob,
    I'm not following what you mean by "bedding the pilot holes". When I think of bedding something, I'm thinking in terms of dolfinite or similar between faying surfaces. Are you saying line the holes with dolfinite? Lubing the screws well? I just want to be sure I understand.

    Also, to be clear, I'm assuming you mean that second growth woods lack the brittleness of old growth redwood. Do you think there's an "upper size limit" for redwood boats?
    Heute ist so ein schöne Tag...

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Also a question for Bob -

    I saw a shipwright down here overdrill his holes, then fill them with what I thought were cedar wedges before fastening, which he said helped protect the fasteners. Have you heard of this? I think the fasteners were stainless going in alongside old galvanized square nails.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Z. View Post
    Bob,
    I'm not following what you mean by "bedding the pilot holes".

    Also, to be clear, I'm assuming you mean that second growth woods lack the brittleness of old growth redwood. Do you think there's an "upper size limit" for redwood boats?


    Dribble red lead (or CPES) into pilot holes, let that dry and then fill the hole with bedding compound before driving the screw. Adds an impediment to rot where it is needed the most and protects the fastener from the acid in the redwood.

    Look them up in the wood handbook....it's all there in the numbers. Second-growth redwood tests out almost identically to Western Red Cedar, with redwood a bit harder. Both woods are stiff and weak, and in a California skiff I'd certainly use Douglas Fir for stem, chines, frames, knees and transom for its strength and screw-holding ability.

    Unlike other softwood species, old-grown redwood has a significantly lower shear strength than second-growth while also being significantly stiffer and heavier. It splits and splinters easier, so you can't reduce the planking scantling to reduce weight....the end result is a heavy and difficult-to-bend planking wood. Will that make a huge difference in a small skiff? Of course not....but with second-growth redwood a common plantation species available locally for under 2 bucks a board foot, why even consider old-growth, which is better used for cabinets and trim?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Thank you all for your very helpful comments. Don, I was also wondering about "bedding the pilot holes." Bob, thanks for the answers.
    The redwood I have access to, is from an old house, but in excellent shape.
    Kalawaia

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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    f/v henrietta, I am largely ignorant of the state of redwood forests in the West. I am glad to learn that they are being protected and managed intelligently. They are a national treasure though, so even people like me in New York do have a say about their preservation for future generations. If I ever travel out West again I will definitely look you up and come and look at the redwood in your backyard, if only to make sure there really is such a tree in your backyard.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Greetings folks, I have a stock of all clear redwood I salvaged from a 100,000 gal. water tank built in 1942. I am pretty sure this is old growth timber.
    Would it be satisfactory as grab rails on a small exploration pilot house I am building?

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    I wouldn’t hesitate. I had a bunch of Redwood left over from a deck project and used it for gunwales, seats, seat risers and trim on a John Gardner Skiff I built. All seems fine 18 years later.

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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by Smoky Mountain View Post
    Greetings folks, I have a stock of all clear redwood I salvaged from a 100,000 gal. water tank built in 1942. I am pretty sure this is old growth timber.
    Would it be satisfactory as grab rails on a small exploration pilot house I am building?
    No reason not to. But redwood isn't quite as strong for the purpose as a more typical teak. So I'd upsize the redwood rails slightly to compensate.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Redwood resists being eaten by bugs but the real problem is that it gets waterlogged and soggy.. It gets very heavy and it gets mold.
    I lived in a redwood forest for ten years. I would not build a boat with it. Its good for fences and decks that are out of the water and mud.
    I love the smell of fresh cut plywood in the morning.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    And splintery...and redwood splinters are a bear so Id not use it for grab rails

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Redwoods are like giant weeds. When there is a group of them the roots are all interconnecting.
    The branches often fall in the winter when the trees start swaying around and break limbs off of each other. Just a small
    limb one in inch in diameter can kill you when falling from 150FT. The limb will go through a car windshield even if the windshield is slanted.
    The redwood trees in Guernville ,California have grown to over 160 ft in less that 100 years. Like I said, think of them as giant weeds.
    I love the smell of fresh cut plywood in the morning.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    And splintery...and redwood splinters are a bear so Id not use it for grab rails
    So true Willin!!!
    I love the smell of fresh cut plywood in the morning.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    My uncle died of an infection that qas caused by a redwood splinter.
    I have one finger nail that is misshapen from a redwood splinter from a kickback on the table saw. Never could get all the debris out.
    Even a hand surgeon wasn't successful! It can be nasty stuff due to its acid content.
    Jay

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    And splintery...and redwood splinters are a bear so Id not use it for grab rails
    All of the 'splintery' complaints are legitimate... or mostly so. But I'd simply modify your statement slightly.l.. to "I'd not use it for grab rails without varnishing it". Which is always a good idea for grab rails. Unless you want to leave them to weather, which a few woods will take without rotting away.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    http://www.harborwoodworking.com/boat.html

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by donald branscom View Post
    Redwoods are like giant weeds. When there is a group of them the roots are all interconnecting.
    The branches often fall in the winter when the trees start swaying around and break limbs off of each other. Just a small
    limb one in inch in diameter can kill you when falling from 150FT. The limb will go through a car windshield even if the windshield is slanted.
    The redwood trees in Guernville ,California have grown to over 160 ft in less that 100 years. Like I said, think of them as giant weeds.
    You can say that again! Ah, the romance of the redwoods. I lived for nine years in the mixed Doug fir and redwood forest in Lagunitas, Marin Co., CA., a spit away from Guerneville. It's mostly new growth there, but there are some awesomely large stumps left over from the first growth logging. (I always get a kick out of the term "second growth." Redwood's been around for 240 million years. They live for about 2,000 years, so what we are really talking about isn't "second growth," but "120,000th growth.") They might amaze the tourists, but living beneath them can be miserable. I had a tar and gravel roof and it seemed like every winter, I'd have to go up and wet-patch the roof after another year's worth of redwood branch "arrows" came down, "point first" on it.

    In the midst of a big windstorm one year, I heard a loud "cracking and snapping" and looked out the window. A the noise was the roots of a big Doug fir breaking as it came down, slowly, as it's top hamper acted like a parachute, and coming to rest across the middle of the guy across the road's restored Bonneville convertible. That tree was only maybe a bit over three feet in diameter, but it crushed that hunk of Detroit iron flat like it was made of tinfoil. Redwood is good for a lot of stuff, like fences and decks and siding and, if you get some really nice stuff, interior trim, but I've always hated to get anywhere near it because it splinters like crazy and if you get one under your skin, the tannin in the wood will set it to festering immediately.

    NIce progress on the model, BTW. How did your last model of the Missouri turn out. The last picture I saw of it, she was coming along well, but I missed seeing her finished.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    NG Herreshoff used a lot of redwood for interior joinery in his boats because it is light. He also used butternut.
    Jay

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Cleek View Post
    You can say that again! Ah, the romance of the redwoods. I lived for nine years in the mixed Doug fir and redwood forest in Lagunitas, Marin Co., CA., a spit away from Guerneville. It's mostly new growth there, but there are some awesomely large stumps left over from the first growth logging. (I always get a kick out of the term "second growth." Redwood's been around for 240 million years. They live for about 2,000 years, so what we are really talking about isn't "second growth," but "120,000th growth.") They might amaze the tourists, but living beneath them can be miserable. I had a tar and gravel roof and it seemed like every winter, I'd have to go up and wet-patch the roof after another year's worth of redwood branch "arrows" came down, "point first" on it.

    In the midst of a big windstorm one year, I heard a loud "cracking and snapping" and looked out the window. A the noise was the roots of a big Doug fir breaking as it came down, slowly, as it's top hamper acted like a parachute, and coming to rest across the middle of the guy across the road's restored Bonneville convertible. That tree was only maybe a bit over three feet in diameter, but it crushed that hunk of Detroit iron flat like it was made of tinfoil. Redwood is good for a lot of stuff, like fences and decks and siding and, if you get some really nice stuff, interior trim, but I've always hated to get anywhere near it because it splinters like crazy and if you get one under your skin, the tannin in the wood will set it to festering immediately.

    NIce progress on the model, BTW. How did your last model of the Missouri turn out. The last picture I saw of it, she was coming along well, but I missed seeing her finished.
    I love all "redwood" stories.
    Some residents of Guerneville move out after the first big storm.
    You hear explosions all through the area as Redwood trees start breaking.
    One rainy day I heard a huge explosion that scared the hell out of me.
    It was a neighbors house. A huge redwood fell and took a couple of smaller trees with it.
    Luckily no one was home but it crushed the house.
    I did develop a fear that I would be killed one night by a falling tree.
    One rainy night my wife woke up at 3 in the morning because she felt water on her face.
    I got up and went into the attic which I had never been in and saw a tree limb sticking through the roof.
    I pushed it out and filled the hole with silicone. Luckily I had a tube! Very scary night.
    There was three incidents of tree limbs going through the roof.
    My neighbor and I had some big Redwoods next to hour houses cut down. It cost thousands.
    Some people did not like it that we cut down some trees. I would tell the people it was for safety reasons.
    I did not trust those redwoods.
    Those areas should only be for summer use. No one should live there unless the dwelling is properly located.
    I love the smell of fresh cut plywood in the morning.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    It makes pretty decent cores for strippers, where it is covered with epoxy/fiberglass to keep it dry. You need to be a bit more careful about picking the strips for spots which will get a fair bit of twist, because they can shatter if they have much grain run-out, but it works and at least used to be a good source of clear, long and fairly cheap lumber.



    rbig1.jpg

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    Some of the larger Monterey Sardine fleet used Redwood for the decks and bulwarks, the hull was Doug Fir. I was surprised to find this when asked to survey one of these a few years back, Chapelle does mention it though. Of course it was "old growth" stuff about 50 rings per inch, maybe 3"x3" square laid planks. I advised the owner how much it might cost just to buy that raw material, no labor, and that was the end of that! He pulled the engine (Cat U2, D-8) and walked away from it.
    These were fairly large, deep boats and I think all of them are broken up now.
    (I kept the ladder from the deck down to the engine room, it is 10/4 White Oak about a 18" wide and 9 feet long, and so friggin heavy I can't carry it! I have to "walk" it to move it! How the heck did I get it up out of there?)


  26. #26
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    Default Re: Redwood for boats?

    In the past I used reclaimed redwood for spars. I acquired a large stack of 4 by redwood that used to be stirrers in a sewage plant. They worked great.
    There is a joy in madness, that only mad men know. -Nieztsche

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