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Thread: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

  1. #1
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    Default Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    I need to make the boom, lug yard and sprit boom for my CY and am wondering about alternatives to sitka spruce. Three options I have considered were black spruce, poplar and white pine. I am close to rejecting the pine due to lower strength and am still considering the spruce (if I can find it locally) and poplar. Poplar is very close to sitka in terms of the common measures of strength but about 7% heavier. Poplar's virtue, to me, is its price and availability. Since both sitka and poplar are not considered very durable in terms of moisture resistance is poplar a bad ides for spars and booms?

    I'd also welcome any suggestions for woods I have not considered.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    doug fir.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Lumber yard Spruce (aka Whitewood) makes good small boat spars. Rot resistance is usually a non-issue if you seal the end grain.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Conway View Post
    doug fir.
    This is what I may use for the booms but it is 19% heavier than the sitka so I am not so sure about the yard.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Canoeyawl View Post
    Lumber yard Spruce (aka Whitewood) makes good small boat spars. Rot resistance is usually a non-issue if you seal the end grain.
    I'll see what is in stock in the yards around here.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    I've used both Doug-fir and pine without problems for small boat spars (yards and masts). WAY cheaper than spruce, but heavier, of course. I haven't found that to be a deal breaker.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Bamboo?

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Steamboat View Post
    This is what I may use for the booms but it is 19% heavier than the sitka so I am not so sure about the yard.
    databook mean is 19% heavier, yes. small spars take a piece or two or three of lumber so what matters is what you can buy at your lumberyard. wood density within the same spruce tree can vary by 25%. Even among very stringently sorted quality lumber (violin tonewood - european spruce) you'll find density ranges of 20% available for common purchase.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by sharpiefan View Post
    Bamboo?
    Funny you should mention bamboo, there are some big stands of Japnase bamboo around here that have escaped from yards and garden centers. It would be free and some shoots are close to 3” in diameter.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Bamboo is quite likely to have really poor and uncontrollable flex characteristics, which will have a huge influence on your sail's shape (and probably not at all in a good way). That would be a far greater problem than a little bit of extra weight from pine or fir.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Bradshaw View Post
    Bamboo is quite likely to have really poor and uncontrollable flex characteristics, which will have a huge influence on your sail's shape (and probably not at all in a good way). That would be a far greater problem than a little bit of extra weight from pine or fir.
    I was not planning on harvesting bamboo.

    The question remains, is poplar ok too?
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  12. #12
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Conway View Post
    doug fir.

    Great minds think alike.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. ó P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    I think Black Spruce is used in Nova Scotia.
    MMD ?
    I think Avenger has Black Spruce, Tom is quite fond of them.
    I dunno, this is for a pretty small spar though.
    Consider "T" spars of fir probably.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Steamboat View Post
    The question remains, is poplar ok too?
    I've made a number of small boat spars out of poplar, and I like it. It's as close to Sitka that I can get around here - and it is very close.

    I try not to leave my spars laying on the ground, and haven't had any rot issues in the last five or six years. Not even on the two that I left out, uncovered, for two of those years.

    Dudley Dix specifies poplar and cedar for the mast of his Paperjet, btw. He lives not so far from me, and likely has the same issues acquiring good lumber.

    Good luck!
    Dave

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by DGentry View Post
    I've made a number of small boat spars out of poplar, and I like it. It's as close to Sitka that I can get around here - and it is very close.

    I try not to leave my spars laying on the ground, and haven't had any rot issues in the last five or six years. Not even on the two that I left out, uncovered, for two of those years.

    Dudley Dix specifies poplar and cedar for the mast of his Paperjet, btw. He lives not so far from me, and likely has the same issues acquiring good lumber.

    Good luck!
    Dave
    Dave,
    Thank you for the direct answer to my question, and beyond that, thank you for your experience based information.

    For my yard and sprit boom poplar it will be. I have just enought good clear DF for the lug sailís boom.

    Tom
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Steamboat View Post
    Dave,
    Thank you for the direct answer to my question, and beyond that, thank you for your experience based information.
    You're welcome.
    Most everyone was simply speaking from their own experience. Poplar is not at all a traditional boat building wood, so not many have tried it. I build a lot of boats, and get to experiment.

    Dave

    I have built oars and paddles from poplar, as well.
    Last edited by DGentry; 11-01-2018 at 08:20 AM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by DGentry View Post
    You're welcome.
    Most everyone was simply speakinr from their own experience. Poplar is not at all a traditional boat building wood, so not many have tried it. I build a lot of boats, and get to experiment.

    Dave

    I have built oars and paddles from poplar, as well.
    I think I see long poplar oars in my future.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    I have a grp flagpole as mast on my lugger 'Lucia'. Cheap and light. Frank
    Www.oarandsail.nl

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Occasionally I pick through the pile of 2x8's and 2x10's and 2x12's at HDepot. In the longer lengths like beyond 16' they sometimes have some pretty good stock in "White Wood" and fir. I just try to not make a mess. I scored some nice spruce for oars last month and another few 2x10's from which will come my new 25 ft square yard. The yard is box sectioned as per LFH's drawings for the Marco Polo. I have another friend who has built his entire 43 ft ketch from lumberyard stock. He was a good customer at the local yard so was welcomed to periodically picking through the new stock. Cheers/ JC

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Poplar rots fast if the wood is allowed to get wet -- if the coating fails.

    Ive used lumberyard spruce, with good success, but as was said, rip what you need from a 2x12, not a 2x4. You'll get clearer runs. (Bigger tree.)

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    Poplar rots fast if the wood is allowed to get wet -- if the coating fails.
    Respectfully, his has not been my experience, at all. I suspect, however, that poplar rots fast if the wood is allowed to stay wet.

    Dave

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    fyi - francois vivier says (in the translated boatbuilding notes) you can reduce diameter of Oregon Pine (aka Douglas Fir) spars by 4% for the equivalent strength which means they are only 10% heavier for equivalent strength.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    Poplar rots fast if the wood is allowed to get wet -- if the coating fails (Bigger tree.)
    Which makes it just like the revered Sitka. Sitka is NOT durable but it is ‘highly desired’ for spars. We’re not talking frames, keels or planking. Another example of woods not considered durable is ash, commonly used in paddles and oars.

    Sometimes canonical dogma needs to be re-examined.
    Last edited by Steamboat; 11-06-2018 at 09:12 PM.
    Steamboat

    I get by with the judicious use of serendipity.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    We have used cypress from our local mill, and also European Spruce that the Mom and Pop lumberyard stocks for furniture makers.

    Here are some wood selection ideas from Sam Rabl's Boatbuilding In Your Own Backyard.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Alternatives to Sitka for Spars

    Eastern white pine seems logical for your location.

    Mark

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