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Thread: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

  1. #1
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    Default black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    I'm scrounging wood for ribs of an umiak. Today I went out near Sacramento, California and found a couple of fallen trees that could be suitable: a valley oak and a black locust. I am wondering if folks here have experience with these specific species and can help me out.

    Both woods are reputed to be durable and bend well. The black locust tree(s) I've found are all very straight, while the valley oak is twisted and spooky. Thus, I'd prefer to collect and use the locust. However, I've never heard of it being used for bending into ribs (mostly I hear about locust being used in knees and frames). Meanwhile, white oak is the classic go-to choice for steam-bent SOF ribs. Can someone with experience steam bending black locust say anything about its suitability?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    the locust will be less straight inside the tree, lol
    it is a notoriously gnarly and twisty tree under the bark
    should be suitable in the short lengths that you will need however
    steams very well
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    Just be careful with fallen trees. The timber can have stresses and shakes within it which can leave you feeling very disappointed. The rule with furniture is never to use fallen timber, and almost never use branches. Boats are different, but still, beware.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    Nice, thanks folks. Good comments.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    For skin on frame, wouldn't you want a lighter wood than either of these choices? Strength of a beam goes up a lot with cross-sectional area,. so if you rip the locust to the same weight per foot as spruce, the spruce probably wins because it has a greater cross section for the same weight.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    For skin on frame, wouldn't you want a lighter wood than either of these choices? Strength of a beam goes up a lot with cross-sectional area,. so if you rip the locust to the same weight per foot as spruce, the spruce probably wins because it has a greater cross section for the same weight.
    Softwoods don't bend particularly well, in my opinion.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    First, how confident are you on your oak species identification? Many trees in the valley that resemble valley oak are in fact varieties of black oak. You'll find lots about the relative merits of these with the search function.
    If you have to choose betwee, the two for steam bending, I'd steer you away from anything with twisted and spooky grain. My uncle mills his own oak (all black) and uses it to make doors and trim. It never really stops moving. For him, the beauty of the grain is worth it.
    For the stringers: I built a SOF whitehall using Western Red Cedar, which is what the designer spec'd. I'd say that most of the skin on frame builds I've seen have used softwood stringers, but take that with a grain of salt. What are you planning for your stringers?
    Keep us posted on your progress!

    James

  8. #8
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    The main thing for those stringers is straight grain. And clear. That's usually easier to find with softwoods: douglas fir, western red cedar, alaskan yellow cedar, spruce, etc.

    If you're set on using one of your 'finds'... I'd skip the black locust. I love it for many boat applications... but long straight-grained stocked is mighty hard to find. Hard to imagine you'd find it in some 'scrounged' stock.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    Quote Originally Posted by Wesley View Post
    I'm scrounging wood for ribs of an umiak.
    just to be clear he's not looking to oak or locust for stringer material

    i see no reason not to look at the locust
    even if it's been down for a while, it's not gonna be rotten, it's not gonna have fungus in it, it's not gonna have bugs in it

    it is admittedly, extremely difficult to find straight locust in long lengths, but he's not looking for long pieces of lumber

    having cut and milled hundreds of black locust trees i think it could be the perfect choice

    he'll know soon enough, buck one log into eight foot lengths and split it into quarters
    Last edited by Paul Pless; 10-13-2021 at 10:22 PM.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: black locust or valley (white) oak for SOF rib stock

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    just to be clear he's not looking to oak or locust for stringer material
    Same same for ribs, or almost any part of a SOF structure. Unless it's plywood bulkheads.

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