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Thread: Lignum vitae redux

  1. #1
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    Apr 2002
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    Default Lignum vitae redux

    I stumbled across Lignum Vitae North America yesterday. They've got a booth at the Workboat show in New Orleans this week. They're going after the market for water-lubricated marine bearings for commercial craft using this remarkable wood. I thought this had gone the way of manila rope and the astrolabe. I saw some photos of some recently cut lv logs -- 300 years old they say.
    Tom Greaves

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
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    Central Coast, Ca
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    17,887

    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    I made a center support bearing for a propeller shaft using White Oak knots. Cutting them square and mounting them in a mortise in the keel with the end grain against the shaft. Held in with a screw it could be "taken up" as needed. All submerged it worked perfectly and never really wore measurably.

  3. #3
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    Feb 2000
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    San Francisco Bay
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    11,350

    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    It used to be routinely used for shaft bearings on large ships. It must have taken a good sized tree to produce the stock for hunks of LV that size!

  4. #4
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    Rockland Maine USA and Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    I used to be the engineer on a 96' steamship built in 1895 - she was built as the Yarmouth to Gorleston ferry so she was pointed both ends, had a rudder and propeller both ends. The triple expansion steam engine and firetube boiler were roughly amidships. The shaft ran full length and, apart from one thrust bearing, ran in lignum vitae bearings. No gearbox or disengage system - both props turned when the engine turned – which was fine for backwards and forwards across a river/harbour - but made any other sort of manoeuvring pretty difficult! We used to steam her up and down the East Coast from Lowestoft to the Thames. Fun times ....

    Cheers -- George
    To be truly free to live, one must be free to think and speak.

    A C Grayling

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
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    Kingsville, Ontario
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    99

    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    I have a friend who used to turn lignum vitae bearings for food processing machines, low friction with no lubricant contamination in your canned corn.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Lindstrom, MN
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Unfortunately, Lignum vitae is an endangered species. Hard maple impregnated with petroleum wax is also used for wooden bearings, but is not good for water immersion. Maple may not be as durable as Lignum vitae, but since it is so much softer and lighter while still performing well, there must be some pretty decent woods that will make a reasonable substitute. Beech has been used for bearings and I would think that black locust, hornbeam, osage orange, wamara and quebracho are good candidates. From Peter Sibley's side of the planet there are a lot of really hard, durable woods like turpentine and coast grey box. Australian wood link Dare I suggest this for a shaft bearing?

    EDIT:
    Then again LV is hard to beat. Some hydroelectric plants replaced LV with composites and switched back to LV:
    Hydroworld 1 and Hydroworld 2
    It also seems that ships went from LV to oil lubricated white metal and are going back to LV and alternative water lubricated composites due in part to pollution from oil leaks:<< EDIT removed duplicate link. Hmm, it wasn't this, but... found it.

    Somewhat useless blurb on Sub bearings.
    Lignum Vitae replacement from Thordon and Tenmat.

    EDIT: https://turnersco.com/the-turners-and-the-navy/ used for sheaves since 1547?
    Last edited by MN Dave; 12-03-2017 at 03:05 PM. Reason: speling
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  7. #7
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    As I remember it our submarine had lignum vitae bearings. I think they were made of more than one piece and they were lubricated with extremely high pressure sea water with inboard shaft seals to make sure the pressure relief was out the rear end of the bearing. The shaft could be turned by a large motor wound right on the shaft, but could also be turned by a steam turbine. The electricity was generated by the ship's service turbine generator with secondary (produced in a heat exchanger) steam from the reactor. There was also a diesel generator and a very large battery bank. There was a bit more to it than that, I remember the term SSMG, ship's service motor generator, but don't remember how it tied in. It was a fantastic machine.

    That was 50 years ago. I wonder how they're set up now. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the shaft bearing is some sort plastic.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2004
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    Port Townsend WA
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Well Gib, I don't know if we had bearings made of "lig". I do know that many ships had bearings made of it. I was on the USS CATFISH SS 339. She was a Guppy 2 able boat, a converted WWII Sub that looked like an a nuclear sub but still ran on diesel and batteries.
    Jay

  9. #9
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    That's interesting Jay. I live on an island with an average yearly population of perhaps 14k, where I've been for most of the time since 1972. I know a lot of people here, and only one that I know of, besides me, has ever had anything to do with submarines. He was in the Israeli navy. When Israel bought a used boat from England he was supposed to be part of the crew delivering it home to Israel, but for some reason didn't make the trip, which was good for him because the boat sank in transit.

    Other than him, I don't remember ever meeting another "bubblehead", but here on the forum, where we have perhaps less than 50 regular contributors, there's me, you, Willin', Chris on the Boat, and, I think, Peter Allen, plus Nick who designs subs.

    I wonder if there are actually a lot more around and we only know of each other because we all relate experiences here, or if there's something about the forum, or wooden boats in general that attracts the likes of us.

    May we all stay on the surface.

  10. #10
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    Mystic, CT
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Reactor Operator USS Dace (SSN-607), got out in 1981 and I have been shaving with her since 1989. Yes, we had LV shaft bearings, that is why I opened the post. I have a piece of faux LV that I am using for the Sampson post on a Point Comfort 18. The faux LV is from South America that I bought from Woodcraft.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    That makes 6 + Nick.

    Shaving with her?

  12. #12
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    Nov 2002
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    St. Petersburg FL
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Professional Boatbuilder has an article in the April/May 2017 issue #166 about using Lignum Vitae in bearing. I think it is in France and they are using old stock that had been saved.

  13. #13
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    Lindstrom, MN
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Any credit for working on UUVs and DSRV control systems?
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  14. #14
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    You deserve credit for a lot more than that around here Dave. MN Dave=accurate info.

  15. #15
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    Jan 2015
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    Mystic, CT
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    MN Dave, DSRV passes my muster, along with nearly 4000 posts/resident expert (says this junior member/lurker with a whole 17 posts counting this one)

    I would like to thank you for being such a fountain of knowledge and expertise.

    Thank you all
    Dennis ET-2(SS)

  16. #16
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    Mar 2017
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    Indian Land, SC, USA
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    That makes 6 + Nick.

    Shaving with her?
    Gib, I think what Paper Moon means is that the boat was scrapped, and therefore 'turned into razor blades' -- the hull was recycled

    Rick

  17. #17
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    Jan 2015
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    Mystic, CT
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    Correct, USS Dace was decommissioned and on December 1, 1989 was 'stricken from the books.' From there, I assume she was sold to the radioactive razor blade factory.

  18. #18
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    Florida
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    At least they don't peg the geiger like titanium scrap out of Russia.

  19. #19
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    Mar 2006
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    w sac
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    Default Re: Lignum vitae redux

    This is a site I found after seeing this thread. I was searching for 'salvaged lignum vitea' figuring maybe ship wreckers save the big pieces somewhere.



    Check it out

    http://lignumvitaesolutions.com/


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