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Thread: Wooden Barge design plans

  1. #1
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    Default Wooden Barge design plans

    Greetings, I live in a little historic boat building community on the Northcoast of British Columbia named Oona River. We are just south of Prince Rupert at the mouth of the Skeena River.


    I am trying to replicate the build of a heavy timbered wooden barge that used to transport lumber from Oona River to all the canneries in the area. Since I am a saw mill owner operator I have the need for this barge practically and it is a tried and tested method.


    I was wondering if you guys could help me find some building plans for a heavy duty westcoast wooden barge or scow. I could even send some pictures of the one I am thinking of since it still sits down in the boneyard here.


    Let me know what you think, thanks for your time!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    An NA could have a lot of fun with this.

    Most barges are designed such that the hull is well sealed, watertight hatches and plenty of pumps, and when laden the cargo deck is down to about the water level. The load sits atop a big buoyancy chamber. Inside the wooden hull barges I have seen are massive vertical, diagonal, and arched timbers connecting the deck to the bottom and sides of the hull, also made of massive timbers. Sort of a huge wooden truss.

    Divide the hull fore and aft with at least one or more watertight bulkheads and make one of the sidewalls hinged to flop outward and you have something that can off load easily. At the timber's destination, release binding straps and sidewall latches and flood the hull under.

    Given the dynamics of loading a hull till the cargo deck is about awash, all the barges I've seen around here (New York to Maine) all had similar basic truss structure supports under the deck. I'd not be surprised if there's a certain structural universality to how these are put together that would hold true in the Pacific Northwest.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Rereading the OP with clearer attention: Logs have long been unloaded by tipping into the water. But this is not a good idea with dimensional lumber such as would come out of a sawmill, especially if there are multiple destinations for parts of a barge load. The unit in your local boneyard might be a good guide.

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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Get some measurements and particularly photos of the design you'd like to reproduce, as that will be a huge help when looking for plans. The more photos the better...
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    the barge I am looking at does not seem to have any inspection hatches so it is really hard to tell what is inside. I any going to try to post some photos here so you guys can have a look.
    The barge in the photo is 40'x14'x4'

    Attachment 21917Attachment 21918

    Attachment 21919Attachment 21919
    I am almost positive the old barge I am looking at is constructed of Sitka Spruce.
    I am looking for a drawing of the structures inside like bulk

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Quote Originally Posted by jiboo88 View Post
    the barge I am looking at does not seem to have any inspection hatches so it is really hard to tell what is inside. I any going to try to post some photos here so you guys can have a look.
    The barge in the photo is 40'x14'x4'

    Attachment 21917Attachment 21918

    Attachment 21919Attachment 21919
    I am almost positive the old barge I am looking at is constructed of Sitka Spruce.
    I am looking for a drawing of the structures inside like bulk
    No images, try this from the FAQ page
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    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    I would be happy to help, if I can, but be aware that, if you are going to use this barge commercially, it will have to meet Transport Canada regs and might need to be constructed slightly differently than your local hulk on the beach.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    I am currently conversing with transport Canada on the issue. So far to be legal for the workboat I plan to use, the barge has to be register as under 15 gross tons using the simplified measure for tonnage.
    As far as construction I am interested in building it a tough as possible, I have my own sawmill and assess too plenty of material.
    Was there something you had in mind as far as transport Canada regs? So far I've been told that if I am under 15 gross tons there are not many regs that apply.
    I did a gross ton measurement for the 40'x14'x4' "hulk" and it came out at 10.7 gross tons

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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    picturesIMG_0518.jpg

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Since it has grass growing on it I'd say that it still floats, so if you drill holes in it to determine planking thickness someone may get upset, but you could always plug and cap the holes afterward.

    My guess is that you will find that the side planking is all about 5" thick and maybe 8" high and all edge drifted together. The bottom may be a bit thicker for when it grounds out when heavily loaded. If I were to do that I would also spline with cedar and pack the joints with oakum.

    It looks like the posts along the edges are extended frames, so you can get their scantlings easily enough. The deck and bottom frames are probably the same, and like Ian said, lots of trusses.

    I think I would include a couple of bilge keels as well, 6x6 or so, even though I don't see any in the photo, placed 1/4 of the way in from the chines with trusses running above them for the full length inside. If you do that you should be able to use the same 5" for the bottom.

    The deck appears to be the same 5" planking.

    I would divide it into 4 watertight compartments, framed across, with flush access hatches on the deck. Once those were in place I would add the longitudinal trusses between them.

    Lots of wood preservative inside would be a good idea.

    While you're at it perhaps you can whip one up for me?
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 08-26-2018 at 02:38 PM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    There's got to be plans or drawings out there for something like this, any one knows where I might find some?

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Some of these were built heavily enough to haul stone. You should be able to find plans.

    https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&t...&bih=888&dpr=1

    If you can just pop a couple of deck planks off of the one you've got you'll be able to see everything you need to know.

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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Quote Originally Posted by mmd View Post
    I would be happy to help, if I can, but be aware that, if you are going to use this barge commercially, it will have to meet Transport Canada regs and might need to be constructed slightly differently than your local hulk on the beach.
    Mike, I am thinking about three longitudinal bulkheads and three transverse bulkheads interlocking to form an eggbox, well spiked together with drifts. That should both deal with subdivision and longitudinal and transverse strength issues. What think you?
    The shipyard had two similar pontoons of steel with the same sort of arrangement. Used as painters stages, fenders and so on.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    The last barge I did design work on was 80' x 35' x 10' in steel, so I don't want to speak to specifics until I look up the regs. Since it is suppertime on Sunday, I'm going to delay doing work-related stuff until tomorrow.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Thanks for the consideration guys, I have also written the wooden boat centre in Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island as well as the centre in Washington to see if they can access plans. Unfortunately I am not able to deconstruct the barge that is here. Again thanks for all the help and what I really need at this point is some plans to compare against each other.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    If you don't find what you're looking for and simply must have plans Howard Chappelle, in his book American Small Sailing Craft, Their Design, Development, and Construction, has recorded several of them.

    For instance;



    That's a lot more complicated than the simple box you're contemplating, but it will save a lot in fuel. Michael will probably save you anyway.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    One word of warning operationally. When I worked in marine construction with Thames open, flat bottomed, dumb barges our lighterage contractor would occassionally get a barge 'suction stuck' in the mud. With steel piles or similar it was a flood-pump out job, but with timberwork things could get exciting if the load was not firmly strapped down .... with service tugs chasing errant timbers upriver.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Hey guys, I still have not found plans or drawings for a simple wooden freight barge. I have a fellow who offered to go through some historical documents down south, but other than that I can't seem to dig anything up.
    What type of wood should a barge like this be constructed with?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    It is quite likely that you won't find such plans - any that were done (and there would be very few, most likely) would have been done for a specific client and therefore remained in the possession of either the designer of the client and not released for sale to the general public, and none would have likely been produced for at least sixty or seventy years, since the advent of cheap steel and modern welding.

    As for what wood species, that would depend on what was locally available, cheap, and strong/long-lasting enough. In your neck of the world, I would expect that mid-grade Doug Fir or Sitka Spruce would be the material of choice.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Do you have yellow cedar? If so that would be the longest lasting. You must have spruce, hemlock, red cedar and perhaps Douglas fir. I would go for the fir, then the cedar, then either hemlock or spruce. The red cedar may not be strong enough.

    If you can get your beams pressure treated over in Prince Rupert that would promote longevity. This would be more important with the hemlock and spruce, and whatever you choose avoid the very rot prone sapwood. Remember if you do get it PTed though that it doesn't penetrate very far, so if you cut it you will want to add your own wood preservative to the newly exposed end grain.

    If you have the option vertical grain will be more stable and less likely to develop leaks.

    Drifts would be best as hot galvanized. If you heat one end with an acetylene torch you can peen a head on it over a washer pretty easily. Hot galvy re-bar would hold better, due to the ridges on the surface, but re-bar is often made from low grade steel so use a bigger size. I've seen a lot of these old barges, or bits and pieces of them, with 1" diameter drifts and no sign of galvanization, but the zinc may have corroded off.

    You may be able to plank with 2 layers of 2 1/2" and fasten with hot galvy dock spikes, if you can find or make them. They look like this;



    You could make your own from square rod with a chop saw and a torch and hammer, but the heads would rust.

    If you put some kind of cloth like heavy canvas bedded in tar between the layers you will have fewer leaks. I'd apply lots of preservative to the faying surfaces if double planked like that, or use pressure treated.

    My bulkheads would be framed around the perimeter of 1" or heavier cement form plywood, held to the frames with lots of subfloor adhesive and hot galvy nails, edges sealed with epoxy.

    That old barge probably wasn't that sophisticated, but it lasted for a long while.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 08-31-2018 at 10:20 AM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    I do have quite a pile of yellow cedar logs right now (it is quite brittle)but I was planning on using Sitka spruce because we have so much around and not much use for it compared to cedar. No fir this far North.
    I am looking for a very simple plan to start with as I am working by myself a lot of the time and on a strict budget. I think I want to build a smaller barge first to get the feel for it. I'm going to keep it in the 5 gross ton range to comply with transport Canada regs and my vessel size.
    So the question is would you or do know someone that would be interested in drawing me up a simple blueprint?

    I would like to as big a timber as I can to make up for any other things I may be laking

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    I can do that, jiboo88, if you are not in a big hurry. I have other commitments right now that will keep me occupied for at least a few weeks. If interested, contact me off-line and we'll chat. Use the PM feature of this Forum, or email mmason1@eastlink.ca
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    That sounds good, will talk soon.

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    Default Re: Wooden Barge design plans

    Contact Michael, he offered.

    Here's an old idea of mine for a somewhat smaller one.

    Saw all of your YC into 2 1/4 by 4 and 2 1/4 by 8, thickness plane them to a uniform 2", and start at the bottom and stack it up log cabin style with alternately overlapping corners, framing and all, in 2" layers with each layer bedded in subfloor adhesive and spiked to the previous lower layer. It wouldn't hurt to include a thread of oakum in each joint as well, close to the outer face. Technically this would be called strip built, both planking and framing, and would produce a one piece (monocoque) unit. Every other end of the transverse and longitudinal framing should blind lapped 1/3 of the way into the sides and transoms and the next layer should be blind lapped 2/3 of the way thru.

    All of this could be built up on top of a double layer of vertical grain 2 by 8 for the bottom and then decked with another vertical grain double layer, both with the canvas and tar and wood preservative between the layers and both clinch spiked together.

    If your planking is not long enough to use 1 piece you can butt the ends, bedded in the subfloor adhesive, and put in a vertical stopwater right in the center of the butt joint and some oakum outboard of that.

    The 2 longitudinal and 3 transverse frames would cross each other the same way, one thru, the next partially thru, forming 9 watertight floatation compartments.

    Once the bottom, sides, transoms and deck are together cap the ends and edges of the bottom and deck all the way around with 2 by 8, bedded and spiked as usual.

    You could build larger simply by using 2 by 6. In fact, I would choose this building method over what you show in the photos. It would be stronger, but harder to repair, but should not need repairs for a very long while if you can keep it bottom painted.

    It would produce an awfully strong and rigid unit requiring no special skills. You could mass produce a lot of those 1/3 and 2/3 mortices by gang cutting them.

    Remember to stagger any butts.

    The 2 keels, just stacked up 2 by 8, one below each longitudinal frame, would still be a good idea.

    I think I would gun nail each layer to the last then come around again with 4" hot galvy commons. The gun nails would get it down snug before the subfloor adhesive get's too dry to compress.

    Use all flat grain for the sides and transoms and vertical grain for the deck and bottom.

    That sounds like fun. If I had the yellow cedar logs I would build that as a base for a float house.

    So no drawing, but if you have the imagination this description should be all that you need.

    A couple more thoughts...

    Three layers might be better for the bottom.

    The transoms will need to have the outboard edge beveled so should be from 2 by 6.

    The construction method is so strong you can use red cedar.

    Pressure treated hemlock or spruce would be good too. For some reason hemlock is usually the choice for pressure treating, I don't know why. Remember to use preservative anywhere you cut thru the pressure treatment, it doesn't penetrate very far.

    I'm looking forward to seeing this.

    I'm also interested in hearing what you think of this Michael.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 08-31-2018 at 02:09 PM.

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