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Thread: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

  1. #1
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    Default Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I managed to snap off PickPocket's tiller at the WoodenBoat Festival this year, so one of my winter projects is to carve a new one. The existing tiller is laminated out of a single species, but I don't know what species that is.

    I'm not particular attracted to the alternating mahogany/ash tillers...a bit too gaudy for me.

    What species would you recommend? I'm thinking ash is a good choice. Any other suggestions?

    -Paul
    s/v PickPocket

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Ash or oak. Something with a bit of resilience, but too hard to crush in the rudder head socket.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Doug fir and mahogany would be my first choices

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    White Oak for a work boat.

    Spruce for a racing yacht.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Ash or oak.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Palmer View Post
    Ash or oak.
    Ash & mahogany is too gaudy? it's very traditional.

    Maybe for another discussion, but how did you break the tiller?

    It may start an argument, but I think I would choose Ash over White Oak as far as bendable and flexible. And! If you split it out of a log or board you could get straighter grain than if you were to saw it out.

    Sent from my LG-M430 using Tapatalk
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...0-Ducker-Resto

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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Over the years, some Lightning sailors have tried light species and have ended up with broken tillers at very inopportune times.

    My brother gave me some redwood and I had hoped to use it for the tiller, but my ex-lightning builder mentor vetoed that idea, saying it was way to brittle and breakable.

    However, he said it wouldn't hurt to put a strip of redwood in the middle of an otherwise ash tiller for decoration, so that is what I am planning to do.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I have made a tiller or two using limbs from an apple tree. Already has a sweet curve, and with careful curing the boxed heart did not prove a problem. (Truth be told I just cut a limb off the tree about 6" in diameter, carved it and sealed it well with shellac then installed it, next season it was perfectly cured! I figured if it didn't work I would do something else, but 20 years on it is still going fine. Today I would use a piece of Walnut, only because I have a mess of it)

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Black locust

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I used walnut and mahogany for the new tiller on Raven. Mostly 'cause I had it leaning in the corner. IMG_3537.jpg

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Ironbark. Put the cheeks on the rudder, not the tiller.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I’ve gone for a bit of Osage Orange for my H28
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Osage would be beautiful. Black Locust would be another great wood to use. Maybe I should stop singing the BL praises or everyone else will start using it and there won't be any left for me.....
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoeyawl View Post
    Today I would use a piece of Walnut, only because I have a mess of it)
    My situation exactly.








  15. #15
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    White Oak or Black Locust. Both have good flexural and compression strength. Ash is too springy and will give an indistinct feel to the helm. A natural crook is desirable but the oak can be steam bent.
    LF Herreshoff always designed his with a ball end that was lathe turned separately and fitted to the end which was shaped as a tenon.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Nobody for Yew? Yew is top notch. Flexible yet stiff and quite strong.

    Think longbow.

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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Sometimes you trip and fall onto the tiller. So it has to be made more strongly than steering the rudder requires.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by J.Madison View Post
    Nobody for Yew? Yew is top notch. Flexible yet stiff and quite strong.

    Think longbow.
    Good for yew! I have one growing in my yard but, it will be a while before it is big enough to cut.
    Jay

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    Ironbark. Put the cheeks on the rudder, not the tiller.
    What does this mean, "put the cheeks on the rudder, not the tiller"?

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    White Oak or Black Locust. Both have good flexural and compression strength. Ash is too springy and will give an indistinct feel to the helm. A natural crook is desirable but the oak can be steam bent.
    LF Herreshoff always designed his with a ball end that was lathe turned separately and fitted to the end which was shaped as a tenon.
    Jay
    Interesting. Does your opinion change any if I say that I'm planning to laminate it? The existing (now broken) tiller was laminated thusly.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    Sometimes you trip and fall onto the tiller. So it has to be made more strongly than steering the rudder requires.
    And this, in fact, is precisely what happened. At the dock of all places. You didn't happen to be standing on the dock when I did this, did you?
    The downward pressure exerted by my back onto the end of the tiller snapped it off cleanly inside the bronze cheeks of the rudder head. Damnedest thing I ever saw.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Seibert View Post
    Over the years, some Lightning sailors have tried light species and have ended up with broken tillers at very inopportune times.

    My brother gave me some redwood and I had hoped to use it for the tiller, but my ex-lightning builder mentor vetoed that idea, saying it was way to brittle and breakable.

    However, he said it wouldn't hurt to put a strip of redwood in the middle of an otherwise ash tiller for decoration, so that is what I am planning to do.
    Surprising. I would not have thought of redwood, which I wouldn't have thought would be anywhere near strong enough.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Ash or oak. Something with a bit of resilience, but too hard to crush in the rudder head socket.
    There's no possibility of crushing the butt end in the rudder head socket in our case. How do I describe the rudder headstock? It's an immensely heavy bronze casting in the shape of an H, with the butt of the tiller between two longer legs of the H, and the other two legs slipping over the rudder headstock with a long bolt through the whole assembly. Pretty standard kind of affair, I'm just lacking in the words to describe it.

    I'm currently trending toward ash or oak, as you suggest. Ash was my first thought, but Jay is suggesting that it may be too springy. I'm not sure that would be true with a laminated tiller though...

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I agree that the laminated tillers look kind of garish. We have three tillers on our current boats, each solid. Ash, oak and locust. As Jay says the ash is traditional but springy and diminishes the feel of the helm. Being on a power boat as it is, the ash dampens the vibrations transmitted to the hand, a good thing actually (I think?).

    The white oak tiller just doesn't look and feel good somehow. It's like the wood resents being a tiller, wishing it could be part of the all-mportant keel or parting the waves as the stem.

    The tiller should be something that's sympatico. It's the only part of the boat other than the sheets most often in hand. The locust has a really solid feel, has interesting grain under the varnish, won't break or rot ever and makes me feel like the boat understands it's 'in good hands'. I want to replace the oak tiller with one made from a nice curved limb of a locust tree that's been drying for a few years outside the back door.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by rbgarr; 10-14-2017 at 05:07 AM.
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGrun View Post
    What does this mean, "put the cheeks on the rudder, not the tiller"?

    not too fond of the metal socket....did the tiller get a "break here" crush mark on it from the metal?
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 10-14-2017 at 09:01 AM.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulGrun View Post
    Interesting. Does your opinion change any if I say that I'm planning to laminate it? The existing (now broken) tiller was laminated thusly.
    I would not laminate it in the first place.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post

    not too fond of the metal socket....did the tiller get a "break here" crush mark on it from the metal?
    I will take every chance I get to tell you how much I like her. I dig your taste in boats, Brother.

    Peace,
    Robert

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by JimConlin View Post
    Black locust
    I would second this choice, I made some wheelbarrow handles of the stuff and oiled with a mixture of tung and deck sealer. It earned its reputation as American teak. I would add that if memory serves, the book about building that big schooner at Gannon & Benjamin describes them finding a natural sweep of the stuff for the tiller. K

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    That would be really pretty! I know that a friend of mine made some gorgeous longbows out of it. Springy when thin, tough when thick. Good stuff. I have a request in to a local arborist for some chunks if he ever has to take any out.

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    LF Herreshoff designed some of the most graceful tillers, I have ever seen!. For me, the tiller shape and finish sets the personality of the entire boat.
    Just as a shabby mismatched dress can detract from a woman's appearance, so does a shabby clumsily designed and made tiller detract from the character of the boat it steers! So I urge you to spend a bit of time and do a bit of research choosing something that inspires your own sense of natural and graceful form when making that which is the signature piece of your own work and vessel!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-15-2017 at 01:51 PM.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I would say black locust is nice for this use, as it often has good natural bends. Also, I like the 'ironwood' aka american hornbeam, it also usually grows with natural bends, and it's stronger by a good margin. My walking / hiking staff is hornbeam https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpinus_caroliniana

    (I've sadly never used apple, except for bbq, as I usually only collect the rotten/dead limbs for such use, I don't have many)
    Last edited by Dirc; 10-15-2017 at 02:06 PM.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    LF Herreshoff designed some of the most graceful tillers, I have ever seen!. For me, the tiller shape and finish sets the personality of the entire boat.
    Just as a shabby mismatched dress can detract from a woman's appearance, so does a shabby clumsily designed and made tiller detract from the character of the boat it steers! So I urge you to spend a bit of time and do a bit of research choosing something that inspires your own sense of natural and graceful form when making that which is the signature piece of your own work and vessel!
    Jay
    I agree Jay! Which is exactly why I'm seeking the sage advice of the assembled company here. The old tiller was a graceful thing that felt perfect to the hand. I'm planning to replicate its shape and design (which is part of the reason why I'm thinking about laminating).

    As for detracting from the character of the boat, I could not agree more! That's exactly why I'm steering away from alternating/contrasting woods, and why I'll probably steer clear of a dark wood - the brightwork in the cockpit is all light in color.

    The thoughts and insights of all on this thread are deeply appreciated.

    -Paul
    s/v PickPocket

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post

    not too fond of the metal socket....did the tiller get a "break here" crush mark on it from the metal?
    Ah...I see now. You were assuming that PickPocket's tiller fits into a socket on the head of the rudder. Not in this case.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Time for a new tiller - wood species recommendations?

    I do like a tiller made of light colored wood. It also stands out and is more easily avoided when stepping a board or into the cockpit. A turks head near the end can be a nice touch too!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-15-2017 at 02:32 PM.

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