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Thread: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

  1. #1
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    Default oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I'm replacing a broken and weathered mahogany trim strip/rubrail in a 12' sailing dinghy of no particular pedigree. I have in stock an appropriate piece of white oak that I could mill for the job. Or I could go looking for a suitable piece of mahogany to buy. The oak would look good new and varnished, but I have the impression from somewhere that oak stains and turns black if the finish is breached, and if get water in the grain, particularly in the presence of exposed metal fasteners (of which I'll need many). I have the impression that mahogany does not share this disadvantage. I'd be happy to hear that the oak would work OK, and that my staining concern is unfounded.

  2. #2

    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    No, you are quite right. The tannins in white oak turn it dark when exposed to water. However, it does steam beautifully, and can be sealed up pretty well. I usually cotton swab the screw pilot holes before install, and that helps... along with lots of varnish. My swimplatform edge is white oak, and has been fairly easy to maintain given its location. Mahogany works very well, and does not stain as easily, altho part of that is that mahogany is darker to begin with.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    So is white oak a bad idea on deck? Or is it a matter of upkeep and sealer/varnish? Just asking, I really don't know.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I think White Oak is a traditional choice for rubrails regardless of how it looks. It's a harder wood than Mahogany. Varnished Rubrails are going to get trashed no matter what you use. You might consider an oil finish.

    Neil

  5. #5
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    A long time traditional builder from the Northeast told me a few years ago that the traditional small boat rub rails were Northern white pine; thrifty, easily replaced when dinged, looked OK when stained, varnished, painted, or what ever your choice of finishes.

    To answer your question, I would use the oak. Good luck

    I have one boat with pine rails finished with paint, one with spruce and bunged screws and one with ash. The boat with the ash outwales lives on a trailer. It resembles oak and looks great under six coats of varnish.

    abe

  6. #6
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    The oak is a bit tougher than the mahogany, but as mentioned will be more difficult to keep bright.

    It won't matter much. Life is short. Use what you've got. If the oak gets away from you a bit, so what? I'm feeling fatalistic these days.
    So many questions, so little time.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    White oak is fine, varnished is a bit more work to keep looking nice but also looks nice. Go for it.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Couple other options are dark red meranti and cumaru. Both are a bit darker than H. mahog, and they both hold the finish well. Cumaru is really hard and tough. Available in long wide clear stock at a pretty reasonable price on the Left Coast. But the oak will work just fine.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I really do not know if this is a standard practice , or if in fact it is used by anyone at all, but I brushed epoxy with nothing added over laminated fir on a gunwale on my dory, which gets a lot of abuse, and it looked beautifully varnished, through the mud and debris, at all times.
    ..don't judge a man till you've walked a mile in his shoes..

  10. #10

    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Quote Originally Posted by chuckm View Post
    So is white oak a bad idea on deck? Or is it a matter of upkeep and sealer/varnish? Just asking, I really don't know.
    i cant say for white oak, its not used much for boats, in europe, that i know of, but european oak was used for covering boards on workboats, but not decking runs, on account of its ability to keep moving, distorting, it was used for hulls, but not in a hot climate , as far as i know, its strength a & looks of course, & ease of working its prime assets, on one boat they used oak for rubrails, & it turned black, becayse it was fresh, but the admiralty have used it drier for hundreds of boat rubbing bands, hdml's, asr's, pinnaces etc

  11. #11
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I have white oak rails on my Hvalsoe, though eric seems to be experimenting with purple heart these days. i like the white oak under varnish, and it bends in nicely. My rails are mostly 16 years old, and don't like as nice as the short pieces that were scarfed in last year (go figure!), but the difference is not too noticeable and the little bit of staining on the old sections us barely an issue. The scarf has it's own charms!

    On bigger boats, they use gum/ironwood around these parts and that stuff is tough. Toughness is a virtue in rub rails, I think. White oak seems well suited to the job. And I'm not a boat builder! By the way, some mild staining and discoloration bothers me hardly at all if the wood is sound beneath. I varnish right over it and give it no mind at all; it's a boat.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I agree with most of the comments about White Oak. Very good idea if you can preseal the fastening holes. The fellow who only has epoxy on his rails - I believe most epoxy resins break down readily under UV. There may be some resins that are an exception. Thus it is recommended to paint or varnish (UV) over epoxy resin. Possibly your boat does not rercieve enough exposure to matter on this account.

    There is mahogany and there is Mahogany. If you really think of the rails as being sacrificial, and you don't mind lots of dents, or replacement in short order, than a guess a relatively soft wood, a luan or other soft mahogany is ok. If you want tougher rails than I would suggest at minimum something as hard as Meranti.
    Lew did not seem to think much of my Purpleheart rails on the last boat, I thought they were beautiful - I have more of it which I will not hesitate to use again.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Purpleheart will lose the nice color by turning brown within a short while. UV, I think, is the cause.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Rub rails on small boats almost always take the worst beating of all the components, except perhaps the keel. Personally, Iíd go with Teak. Itís expensive, but it also requires no maintenance if you leave it bare, save the occasional wash down. The extra money spent up front will be next to nothing compared to all the maintenance costs over the years to come, say nothing of the labour.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Hard to argue with Don. Frank, you're right, still seems like a reasonable choice.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Go with ebony, it's already black.
    Kidding aside, if you ebonize either the Oak, or the Mahogany to begin with, you'll be a step ahead. Black trim is very salty looking, and easy to achieve with a little steel wool, and vinegar. Then varnish over it as you would any other boat part.
    Never trust a man with a clean workshop.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I should add: my 30 year old Whitehall had epoxy coated and varnished mahogany rub rails Ė it didnít stand up. Iíve sanded them down recently and I think I will just go with Seafin for awhile and see how that works out. Then, maybe, I might take my own advice!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Speaking of "eboniseing" oak : During the Arts and Crafts movement (I think the Wooden Boat Revival is related ) it was common to darken Oak by fuming it -tenting it with saucers of strong ammonia . I'd use the harder Oak in any case .
    The creation of beauty is more satisfying and joyous than mere possession.

    John Gardner

  19. #19
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Apel View Post
    I'm replacing a broken and weathered mahogany trim strip/rubrail in a 12' sailing dinghy of no particular pedigree. I have in stock an appropriate piece of white oak that I could mill for the job. Or I could go looking for a suitable piece of mahogany to buy. The oak would look good new and varnished, but I have the impression from somewhere that oak stains and turns black if the finish is breached, and if get water in the grain, particularly in the presence of exposed metal fasteners (of which I'll need many). I have the impression that mahogany does not share this disadvantage. I'd be happy to hear that the oak would work OK, and that my staining concern is unfounded.
    I'm confused ... are you replacing all or part of your rubrails?

    If you're doing the whole thing, and already own the oak, then go with the oak. Otherwise, if you're doing only a section and plan to finish bright, then I'd try to match the original wood.

    I have meranti rails on my peapod. It's only been two years, but life seems good with them. I found some meranti decking material and ripped them into rails. Like many parts of my boat, the decking material was a price point consideration.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    Purpleheart's fine Eric. What made you think I was non-plussed?

  21. #21
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    Default Re: oak vs. mahogany rubrail

    I was being somewhat tongue in cheek. I believe you prefer the oak on your beautiful 13, as well you should. Hey, you made the front page - that is a great photo of you, Lindy, and the boat (already posted on the forum) http://hvalsoe-boats.com/

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