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Thread: Beech?

  1. #1
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    Default Beech?

    Anyone have experience/knowledge/opinions regarding using beech for stuff like breasthooks, quarter knees, braces, floors etc?
    I'm building an Oughtred Penny Fee using Meranti ply and African Mahogany for stem, rails, transom etc. A friend showed me some Beech he was using for a non-boatbuilding project and it's beautiful wood. I thought the contrast with the mahogany would look pretty nice...
    Thanks
    pvg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beech?

    If you are in Europe and the Beech is Fagus sp then it rots quite happily if damp.

    Australian "White Beech" is a different kettle of fish.
    Creationists aren't mad - they're possessed of demons.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beech?

    It is/was quite common here to use beech for under water-constructions, above the waterline it is not rot-resistant.
    Due to its short fibres it is well suited for false keels (is that the correct term? - A plank screwed on underneath the keel that can be replaced if too much damaged)

    /Mats
    Yes the avatar depicts me; yes I drew the comic boat pic, it's a joke on the pop song I'm not a robot by Marina and the diamonds

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Australian White Beech is traditionally used in Oz on boats for deck planking. Local stuff no longer readily available (?), related species harvested from the Pacific islands (New Guinea, Fiji, Solomons,...)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beech?

    'Northofagus' is Southern beech... And is rock hard. I do not know of its rot resistant properties.

    'Fagus' is European beech and will rot if wet. Used for easels and indoor furniture.

    My rule is, if not used historically for boats, steer clear.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Beech rots easily.
    R
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Quote Originally Posted by mohsart View Post
    It is/was quite common here to use beech for under water-constructions, above the waterline it is not rot-resistant.
    Due to its short fibres it is well suited for false keels (is that the correct term? - A plank screwed on underneath the keel that can be replaced if too much damaged)

    /Mats
    Here in the U.S. we call that sacrificial false keel a “worm shoe”. Same function, and red oak was commonly used (or whatever other hard wood was kicking around).

    beech was commonly used for wooden plane bodies, and they are commonly found with rot and powder post beetles.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beech?

    The Wood Database considers both European and American beech non-durable, vulnerable to rot and insects. https://www.wood-database.com/european-beech/

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Beech?

    It is very good fire wood. I am not kidding.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Beech?

    wooden plane body's, tools handles, workbenches, eating/kitchen utensils, backs/sides on some musical instruments all kinds of great uses for beech if you care for it. not so much great for the aquatic world.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Beech?

    And it carves beautifully

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I have a book on shipbuilding in Europe (can't remember the title off the cuff) which contains the statement that beech keels are less liable to break than oak, which would bear out mohsart's information. It is never mentioned in other contexts.
    For fittings on a dinghy which is almost always dry, you could use it. The blocks for the additional oarlocks on the Mirror are made of beech that used to be a table leg.
    We have a huge beech in our garden and branches we've removed seem to resist rot as long as they're not permanently wet.
    As mentioned elsewhere, one should not use materials which boatbuilders have shunned in historical times. There is probably a very good reason for their not using it.

    Cheers,

    Gernot H.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Thanks for the replies (some more relevant than others, but this is the internet; what are you gonna do?...)
    I'm in northern California, so the Beech I referred to is a European variety- don't know precisely what- and is available through a local hardwood supplier. But the general consensus seems to be that it's not a great choice for boatbuilding.
    Interestingly, the Wood Database Ian McC referenced lists typical uses including flooring, furniture, and boatbuilding, after saying it is vulnerable to rot and insect damage
    But I am more inclined to defer to the experience of my "virtual" friends here on the Forum.
    Thanks again to all, much appreciated!
    pvg

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I recommend updating your profile here to show your location, as it makes questions like these much easier to answer accurately. Even though your boat will probably be stored dry most of the time, it is safer & more professional to use more durable hardwoods for the structural parts you describe -- but you could use it for other parts like thwarts, oarlock bases, etc. Hope to see you at some of the Northern CA TSCA events once you get on the water!
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I used european beech as the sacrificial 'false keel' on a small, trailered, sailing dinghy maybe 10 years ago. At last report, they still haven't had to replace it - despite heavy use. But it doesn't live in the water, not even stored where there's a wet/dry cycle.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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    "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)

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Beech?

    The OP appears to have American or European beech. It is not durable, but has been used in traditional shipbuilding for keels or deadwood that it continuously submerged. It can be used where it is always dry or always submerged, but nowhere in between. Rot likes moisture, but not too much moisture since it also needs oxygen.

    Five southern beeches are listed on this New Zealand site http://www.nzffa.org.nz/specialty-ti...zealand-beech/ Some are more rot resistant than others.

    I ran across references to maple keel timbers in some 19th century information that also listed beech and black (red?) oak for frames and planking. That sounded so wrong that I looked up some additional information. (Maple likes to rot.) It turned out that maple is OK for continuously submerged timbers, and centuries old maple timbers in good condition have been found in shipwrecks when the keel wound up buried in the sediment. There may have been something more about having to be totally enclosed in the keel to prevent exposure to aerated water, worms or whatever. Since I have no plans to build a ship in the near future (I'm too old for any other kind), I didn't take any notes.

    Link #16 Maple in boats?

    Edit 10/3/18: moved this long edit up to answer to post 22
    Last edited by MN Dave; 10-03-2018 at 10:31 PM.
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I have experience of beech susceptible to fungus if it got wet - on my dinghy. So I would use it - only - if it is completely sealed from water. See earlier discussion: http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...gunwale+repair
    Last edited by JonasK; 10-04-2018 at 06:31 AM. Reason: Add link

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Hence the old saying, "Ain't that a beech?"

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Beech is a great wood for plane bodies. Most of the early molding planes were made of it. It is stable and takes a good finish. But for boat work, it is all wrong and the rest of it is questionable!
    Jay

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Quote Originally Posted by MN Dave View Post
    I ran across references to maple keel timbers in some 19th century information that also listed beech and black (red?) oak for frames and planking. That sounded so wrong that I looked up some additional information. (Maple likes to rot.) It turned out that maple is OK for continuously submerged timbers, and centuries old maple timbers in good condition have been found in shipwrecks when the keel wound up buried in the sediment. There may have been something more about having to be totally enclosed in the keel to prevent exposure to aerated water, worms or whatever. Since I have no plans to build a ship in the near future (I'm too old for any other kind), I didn't take any notes.
    there was a guy in MN or WI who was reclaiming timber from the bottom of Superior, including Beech and Maple. It was good looking stuff.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I saw that wood. It may be rot-resistant now that it has absorbed so many minerals but... at $30bf you might as well use angelique.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Brown View Post
    I saw that wood. It may be rot-resistant now that it has absorbed so many minerals but... at $30bf you might as well use angelique.
    It may be well seasoned, but the mineral content of Lake Superior is pretty low. The preservation is due to lack of oxygen. The rot resistance is probably not much different from freshly cut wood once it's out of the water.

    When I read about Slocum's career prior to the single handed circumnavigation, it struck me that commercial sailing ships were lucky to last 10 years. If that impression was correct, rot might have been considered more as a fact of life than a problem to be solved to some ship builders. The timber available in 1866 isn't what we get today; "The straight [beech] trunks make excellent plank stocks for an average length of thirty eight feet."

    Link #16 Maple in boats?

    19th century information 1866
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I noticed the mention of "Butternut" above.
    Butternut is an excellent wood for interiour finish work on a boat. Herreshoff used quite a lot of it for trimming out his boats as, while it looks like a cross between walnut and teak, it is extremely light in weight. Another wood he used for gratings, bent cockpit combings and drain boards is
    Eastern Elm. Elm is a wood that turns white with repeated scrubbings. When varnished it closely resembles teak and is often mistaken for it.
    Jay

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Beech?

    I think we forget that most boats were a commercial enterprise. A clipper was supposed to pay for itself and turn a profit on the first voyage. It also had a full or part time shipwright as crew.
    Smaller boats were no different, you knew more or less what was expected to be made from a season of fishing or hauling cargo and balanced that against initial cost, upkeep and lifetime of the vessel. Different from now, material costs were significant and labour was cheap beyond our imagination. Couple that with basicly no antifouling (coppering was not for everyone beeing higly expensive) and woods like beech and birch make sense.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Beech?

    Lloyds assigned numbers of years ( http://www.bruzelius.info/Nautica/Sh...91)_Tab-A.html ) for beech planking:
    From top of Keel to two-fifths the depth of Hold
    12
    From two-fifths the dept of Hold to Wales
    6

    The same table says 16 years for "East-India Teak" in the same application and 12 for oak.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Beech?

    European Beech rots faster than you can imagine if its anywhere remotely damp, At old leigh it was imported for the furniture industry & many a slab slid over the wall into the alleyway for a "drink". It was then known as "Leigh Oak". Every person who ever put it into a boat found it rotten within a couple of years regardless of how well it was painted. It literally turned to white mush in no time.

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