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Thread: Sustainable boat building wood

  1. #1
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    Default Sustainable boat building wood

    Good day,

    I am contemplating building a 40ft wooden power cruiser. Thin, low resistance, lightweight and comparatively affordable. See links below on Nigel Irens powered mono-hulls. Construction will be plywood with a stripped planked hull sheathed in epoxy/grp. The wood under the waterline will be the stripped planked for strength, weight and longevity. I would just go with plywood below the waterline but I am concerned about longevity and resale value. I for one would think twice about buying a plywood hulled boat.

    The entire theme of the vessel is efficiency, economy, sustainability, affordability. With that in mind what is the best wood to use for the strip planking? I want the hardest, strongest, lightest, cheapest and most importantly the most sustainable wood I can find close to where I live in Quebec City. Nothing with regards to traditional boatbuilding woods are I have researched appears to be sustainable.

    Any ideas?

    https://nigelirens.com/boats/power-boats/rangeboat/
    https://www.yachtingworld.com/boat-t...-launch-120503

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    The 2nd most sustainable is probably something plantation grown. It's not perfect, but better than old growth as far as renewable. I believe there are meranti plantations in indonesia that are used for some marine plywood. Lots of plantation fir around here, encapsulated you could get a couple decades out of it probably. It has a decent strength to weight ratio, but is full of knots.

    The most sustainable is whatever grows locally. Whatever trees fall down in your neighborhood during winter storms. You could build with those for the rest of eternity. I don't know your area, but is there a local pine or cedar species that is common?

    People have built boats using only their local wood for thousands of years.

    BTW hard and light weight are mutually exclusive properties.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Buy whatever you find at home depot, then go plant some trees in your garden. Sustainability problem solved.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    With the caveat that I have never built anything with it so I can't say anything about its qualities, Eastern White Pine (pinus strobus) is commonly used for boat building, is native to your area, and is grown sustainably in the Northeast.

    https://www.wood-database.com/eastern-white-pine/
    - Chris

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    And if Eastern White Pine doesn't float your boat (get it...Oh dumb, huh?) how about the ubiquitous Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Menzieseii) ​? Probably more boats in North America planked with that than most other woods combined.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    resale ?
    hahahahahah
    oh sorry...
    a homemade strip plank boat may have as little value as a homemade plywood boat.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Gotta agree with Bruce (Wizbang)....... an amateur built, any material, boat has about 25% resale v material cost. If you’re lucky.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Resale should not figure into any equation for a home built boat.

    Not sure how easy it is to get cypress in Quebec but as far as sunstanability goes, cypress grow like a weed in the southern US and has been used for boat building on the gulf coast since God was a boy. Its strong, rot resistant, works beautifully and at least around here is available regularly in lengths up to 24 foot.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    resale ?
    hahahahahah
    oh sorry...
    a homemade strip plank boat may have as little value as a homemade plywood boat.
    Exactly my reaction on reading the OP. Build it because you want too. Use whatever semi durable wood is available. Maranti is quite good as is Doug fir /Oregon pine.

    Also consider that Stormvogle was built in ply, as were many classic (and saleable) boats. Pedigree counts. If you use a recognised designer, then you have some hope of recouperating a bit of the money on resale. Do it yourself and you have little hope. So just get on and enjoy.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Thanks for the advice. All of which I will take onboard. Even the home depot one got me thinking about cutting down one of my own trees and replanting one in its place :-)

    The boat will be professionally designed, built and surveyed throughout its construction to ensure it can be insured and for its resale value. I used to survey yachts for a living and have seen some one off's go for three times what the builder/owner put in to them. I think the main reason is most home builders (or boat owners for that matter) dont think about resale before they embark on their journey. Visions of romance tend to blur their vision. Nothing wrong with that but for me I have to make something on the build or I wont embark on it. Here's an example of someone who can sell their boat for three times what they put in to it. Not counting his labour of love of course. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=zGNVlqBKnP4

    Eastern White Pine, Douglas Fir or Cypress seemed to be the best recommendations from the comments so I made up a small chart to compare their performance ie. mechanical properties with respect to their weight. I put them to Mahogany, Teak and Alaskan Yellow Cedar to see how they compared. (Corrected post) Douglas Fir seems to be the highest candidate in tensile, compressive and stiffness but only by about 10%.
    Last edited by Zakwaddell.ca; 11-24-2020 at 01:27 PM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    What "cypress" are you talking about? In latin name that is. The two "cedars" you listed are also cypresses.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    I imagine that we are talking about taxodium distichum.

    https://www.wood-database.com/cypress/
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Yes. All the data is from that web site.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Ok, I was unsure because the numbers from your post did not match the published ones for that species.

    Realisticly a fully cored construction would only require a light wood, so western red cedar and eastern white cedar are your best homegrown woods. Balsa, paulownia are the foreign contenders. Alaska yellow cedar and Douglas fir are better with simple strip, sheated only on one side, since they are stronger.

    Black locust is really eco sustainable wood, but it's heavy.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    "The boat will be professionally designed, built and surveyed throughout its construction to ensure it can be insured and for its resale value. I used to survey yachts for a living and have seen some one off's go for three times what the builder/owner put in to them. I think the main reason is most home builders (or boat owners for that matter) dont think about resale before they embark on their journey. Visions of romance tend to blur their vision. Nothing wrong with that but for me I have to make something on the build or I wont embark on it."

    Go back and re-read what you've written there. Especially the part about visions of romance blurring vision, I think you're right about that and might want to check your own prescription. There are beautiful wooden boats with known pedigree selling for much less than their replacement cost all over the world, unless the market in Quebec is significantly different I don't see how "make something on the build" is a realistic goal. Your builder will "make something" but as soon as you set off from their yard all you have is another used wooden boat.

    Call me Mr. Gloomandoom if you will. By all means build the boat of your dreams but the chances of coming out ahead on this quest are pretty much slim to none.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
    H.A. Calahan

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    No doubt sound advice Stromborg. You are probably right. By chance did you see the youtube video I posted above? As a conversation piece what do you think could minimize the chance of taking such a hit on this type of project?

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    An insurance valuation is just that, it does not mean someone will actually part with that amount of money unless it is exactly what they are looking for, and they can afford it. It a very limited market.

    They did a good job and used good materials, and the survey during the build was probably worthwhile, that is as much as one can do to limit losses, but is no guarantee of making 3 times the investment.

    I know professional yards have taken massive hits on some cold moulded boats, and a professional builder of yachts that admits he would make more money (profit) working a minimum wage job than he has done on the last 4 boats he built. In other words, build it because YOU want it, or someone else does. Building on speculation in todays world is a recipe for lost hair, stress, and possibly financial ruin.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    What do you mean by "hit"?

    Those two knew what they wanted and how to build it themselves. 20 months of work, at 40 hours a week that is 3600 hours each, billed out at the UK minimum wage of 8.72 and hour you're at roughly 60,000 pounds labor cost. I don't know what boatbuilders are charging these days but I bet it is more than the minimum. They said it cost 45,000 pounds for materials and yard fees, I don't think that included the tools they already had and the experience from building boats before this endeavor.

    As Flobart said, insurance is one thing, resale is another. What does the market look like? The world is awash with 'glass boats that will last just about forever with very little maintenance, even the best epoxy sheathed boat needs more care than than a typical fiberglass one will.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
    H.A. Calahan

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Black locust is native in the eastern US along the Appalachian mountains from Alabama to Pennsylvania. Out side of that range, it is considered invasive and is usually a colonizer in disturbed soils. As a result a lot of it is forked and crooked from growing in open fields and on the edges of woodlands. It can be difficult to find straight lumber, assuming you can find a sawyer who wants to cut it at all. It’s tough on tools and way heavier than any of the cedars, cypress or white pine.

    It is fantastically rot resistant. I removed and replaced some rotted sills on a 19th century barn. One section was made of of locust that was a sound as the day it was cut, surrounded by white oak that had rotted away into mulch.

    I’ve used it for sills in timber frame structures and as trunels, but not for trim other small flat stock. The stuff I’ve used has been challenging to work

    Eastern White Pine is lovely to work with, native to the region, smells great and is still possible to find in large clear pieces. I’ve been curious about using it instead of cedar in a strip built boat. The sap wood is not very rot resistant though, so you’d want to seal it up or be very picky about using only heart wood.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    I believe it was distributed by wagon trains and planted along campsites along the routes to Oregon and California as a quick growing ready shelter and firewood source. Archaeologists have identified campsites by centering in on the expanding ring of the very invasive trees.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    I imagine that we are talking about taxodium distichum.

    https://www.wood-database.com/cypress/
    Thats the stuff.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Regarding sustainability, the wooden boat market is such a tiny fraction of the market, it is silly and delusional to think the choice of wood makes any difference in the large scheme of things. Cypress is a wonderful boat building material. I use it because it is available from a local sawmill and it great to work with, nearly rot proof as well. The cost of delivering southern US cypress to Canada would make it uneconomical. Use whatever is local and good quality.

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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Arlc View Post
    Regarding sustainability, the wooden boat market is such a tiny fraction of the market, it is silly and delusional to think the choice of wood makes any difference in the large scheme of things. Cypress is a wonderful boat building material. I use it because it is available from a local sawmill and it great to work with, nearly rot proof as well. The cost of delivering southern US cypress to Canada would make it uneconomical. Use whatever is local and good quality.
    This idea is one of the fundamental flaws in the human ability to assess cost and benefit on anything other than an immediate and individual scale. There are no individual efforts that "make any difference in the large scheme of things". None. It makes absolutely no difference whether I, as an individual, drive an electric car or monster V8 SUV from the 1960s, with single-digit gas mileage and no emissions controls (which I used to do - a 1969 Jeep Wagoneer. It was a wonderful machine). It makes no difference in the large scheme whether I run my sewage through a treatment plant or just dump it into the sea. I could spend the rest of my life pouring my used motor oil into Puget Sound or rolling coal and dumping as much carbon and particulates into the atmosphere as I possibly can. I can justify all of those actions and far more under the banner of "it makes no difference in the large scheme of things". But our actions certainly do make a difference in aggregate. Every choice that we make collectively adds up to an environmental impact that is unsustainable. We know this. Even those who deny the large effects of human impact on the environment acknowledge that their lives are affected by our collective choices.

    So of course building one boat from illegally-logged Malaysian meranti would make no difference. Building all the wooden boats currently under construction from endangered rain forest teak would probably amount to one day's worth of logged timber from those sources. But our actions mean more than their individual impact. They also establish boundaries for what we will accept as a society. We can either make deliberate choices based on a long-term goal of managing our impact on the environment or we can give up and just accept that we are not able to control this aspect of our character as a species. I'm pessimistic - our track record is not great - but I have a kid so there is no way that I am giving up.
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Arlc View Post
    Regarding sustainability, the wooden boat market is such a tiny fraction of the market, it is silly and delusional to think the choice of wood makes any difference in the large scheme of things. Cypress is a wonderful boat building material. I use it because it is available from a local sawmill and it great to work with, nearly rot proof as well. The cost of delivering southern US cypress to Canada would make it uneconomical. Use whatever is local and good quality.
    Now there is a great piece of advice. I think you are right. In the grand scheme of things if someone is going to buy a used wooden boat does it really matter what the core material is? If the boat is marine plywood, below the waterline or stripped planked Alaskan Yellow Cedar (gold) is the second hand value really going to change? I would say definitely not for the first 5 years, probably not much for the next 5 years and probably yes for 10 years+ but by that time it would have devalued close to residual and that will be pretty low anyway.
    Last edited by Zakwaddell.ca; 11-25-2020 at 12:52 PM.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    If you are looking for a locally produced, sustainable wood to use as a core material between fiberglass lay-ups then Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) would work splendidly.
    White pine (Pinus strobus) and Black spruce (Picea mariana) grows abundantly in your area as well.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    This idea is one of the fundamental flaws in the human ability to assess cost and benefit on anything other than an immediate and individual scale. There are no individual efforts that "make any difference in the large scheme of things". None. It makes absolutely no difference whether I, as an individual, drive an electric car or monster V8 SUV from the 1960s, with single-digit gas mileage and no emissions controls (which I used to do - a 1969 Jeep Wagoneer. It was a wonderful machine). It makes no difference in the large scheme whether I run my sewage through a treatment plant or just dump it into the sea. I could spend the rest of my life pouring my used motor oil into Puget Sound or rolling coal and dumping as much carbon and particulates into the atmosphere as I possibly can. I can justify all of those actions and far more under the banner of "it makes no difference in the large scheme of things". But our actions certainly do make a difference in aggregate. Every choice that we make collectively adds up to an environmental impact that is unsustainable. We know this. Even those who deny the large effects of human impact on the environment acknowledge that their lives are affected by our collective choices.

    So of course building one boat from illegally-logged Malaysian meranti would make no difference. Building all the wooden boats currently under construction from endangered rain forest teak would probably amount to one day's worth of logged timber from those sources. But our actions mean more than their individual impact. They also establish boundaries for what we will accept as a society. We can either make deliberate choices based on a long-term goal of managing our impact on the environment or we can give up and just accept that we are not able to control this aspect of our character as a species. I'm pessimistic - our track record is not great - but I have a kid so there is no way that I am giving up.

    Really good thoughts, Chris. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Jeff

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    So of course building one boat from illegally-logged Malaysian meranti would make no difference. Building all the wooden boats currently under construction from endangered rain forest teak would probably amount to one day's worth of logged timber from those sources. But our actions mean more than their individual impact. They also establish boundaries for what we will accept as a society. We can either make deliberate choices based on a long-term goal of managing our impact on the environment or we can give up and just accept that we are not able to control this aspect of our character as a species. I'm pessimistic - our track record is not great - but I have a kid so there is no way that I am giving up.
    looking at it in aggregate might not be the best way to evaluate it for sustainability. As example An estimated 10% of Ebony biomass cutdown exits the sawmill. Ebony is a cranky wood, and ebony consumers often cranky & demanding so end yield is far less, so how does ones views of a violin frog change if you think 100x or 1000x the volume of it might have gone to waste to yield that single frog? How much teak was wasted to yield those perfect deck planks? Thinking like that really opens the eyes, ime.

    And What if that FSC stamped plywood contains illegally logged wood?

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh Conway View Post
    looking at it in aggregate might not be the best way to evaluate it for sustainability. As example An estimated 10% of Ebony biomass cutdown exits the sawmill. Ebony is a cranky wood, and ebony consumers often cranky & demanding so end yield is far less, so how does ones views of a violin frog change if you think 100x or 1000x the volume of it might have gone to waste to yield that single frog? How much teak was wasted to yield those perfect deck planks? Thinking like that really opens the eyes, ime.

    And What if that FSC stamped plywood contains illegally logged wood?
    All good points Hugh. In my view all of these questions are indicative of a larger need for individuals to look at end-to-end impact of our resource use and environmental impact. But we can't stop there. Establishing boundaries and making better choices is not an end goal, it is the means by which we can exert pressure on governments and corporations to impement more sustainable policies on a mass scale. The issue of illegally-stamped plywood, for example, cannot be addressed by individual action. It requires both government enforcement and corporate responsibility. Another perfect example is GM's recent announcement of support for the California EV regulations. GM is not doing that because they have a corporate conscience. There is no such animal. They are doing it because a large segment of the buying public supports those goals. What we do as individuals matters in ways that go far beyond the direct impact of our choices.
    - Chris

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    While there's no end of debate on this, many modern strip planked hulls are sheathed inside and out, essentially making the strips themselves into a core.

    I see that you're in Quebec - I'm over in New Brunswick. We have mostly the same species of softwood trees. I'd probably use cedar rather than pine, for its better rot resistance. While cedar is softer than pine, my lapstrake boat's cedar over oak - and hardness just isn't an issue. It will be even less an issue in a GRP coated strip plank context. When a few years back I asked a designer a similar question for a (much smaller) strip-planked design I was considering building, he said that Eastern cedar sheathed inside and out would be ideal.

    You can purchase cedar expensively at a big-box store, or much less expensively at a small local sawmill - there are a handful of those near where I live, and there will be similar folks near you. Getting it rough sawn from such a sawyer will be cheaper, and at least as good for your purpose.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Sustainable boat building wood

    I'm in Gatineau Quebec and we have lots of local white pine, white oak, and eastern white cedar. Pretty prime boatbuilding woods. I'd say buying from a local small mill is more likely to be sustainable, all things considered, because the small woodlot owners tend to care more about their properties long term. Not to mention the transportation!

    Paul Gartside has written a lot about sustainable lumber use in boatbuilding. He's a big proponent of buying from small local mills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rumars View Post
    What "cypress" are you talking about? In latin name that is. The two "cedars" you listed are also cypresses.

    All the "good" cedars aren't 🤯 they're mostly cypresses. Douglas Fir isn't a fir, either (nor a pine, as in "Oregon Pine"). It's in its own funny little genus, Pseudotsuga (literally "false hemlock".

    The only true cedars are

    - Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica)
    - Cyprus cedar (C. brevifolia)
    - deodar cedar (C. deodara)
    - Cedar of Lebanon (C. libani)

    And none of them from North America.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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