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  • live oak for boatbuilding

    Does anybody have any experience with using live oak for boatbuilding? A furniture maker friend once told me that that it's no good for anything but firewood; however, the last issue of Woodenboat had an article that said something about west coast boatbuilders favoring coast live oak for construction. I don't have any coast live oak on my property, but I have plenty of what I think is interior live oak (Quercus wislizeni). In fact, I even have a big old live oak that fell over the winter before last and probably hasn't rotted much since then. I was eventually going to cut it up for firewood, but perhaps I should get one of those small chainsaw mills and cut some boards. Is anybody out there using live oak in construction?
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    "
    The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."
    Roosevelt, Theodore

  • #2
    It appears that some caution is called for here regarding species...I was about to say that Live Oak was famous as a shipbuilding timber in colonial days, BUT that live oak is Quercus Virginiana and its native range is in the SE, and west to Texas adn the mountains of New Mexico. It sounds like you may be dealing something else. So, I will be interested in hearing what the West Coast folks have to say on this one...

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ed Armstrong:
      ... but I have plenty of what I think is interior live oak (Quercus wislizeni). In fact, I even have a big old live oak that fell over the winter before last and probably hasn't rotted much since then. I was eventually going to cut it up for firewood, but perhaps I should get one of those small chainsaw mills and cut some boards. Is anybody out there using live oak in construction?
      Hmmmm...your Quercus wislizeni stumped the Center for Wood Anatomy Research data base. Quercus virginiana (live oak) on the other hand is listed. Strongest, heaviest, hardest, longest lived of the oaks. In it's own group by the way. I reckon if what you have really is a live oak and you can mill it and the boat it goes in can tolerate the weight, GO FOR IT!

      Oak Data

      Wayne
      In the Swamp.

      [ 06-02-2005, 04:26 PM: Message edited by: Venchka ]
      Wayne
      Somewhere in Texas

      Originally posted by Yeadon
      The Straight of Georgia looks big.
      http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/ven...isabeth+Grace/
      http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/venchka/

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      • #4
        As others have pointed out, the Virginia Live Oak, Quercus virginiana, has a long history of use as a superior boat building wood. Quercus wislizenii appears to be a synonym for Q. agrifolia (Coast Live Oak), see page 380, "The Complete Trees of North America," by Elias. In short, the Coast Live Oak (range Northern California to Baja), is a red oak species, the wood is "heavy and brittle" and is "only used for firewood." I'd NOT consider using this wood in boat building. The term "live oak" is applied to several oaks because they are evergreen, retaining their leaves all winter. In other words, not all "live oaks" are Virginia Live Oaks.

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        • #5
          I have a lot of experience with Q. Agrifola, my cousin has a couple hundred acres just east of San Juan Capistrano and they are the dominant tree species. While very hard and heavy it is too brittle in long pieces for proper boat use; but it makes downright excellent mallets and BBQ flavor.

          HF

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          • #6
            Thanks for the responses. We definitely consider Q. wislizeni and Q. agrifolia to be different species in the landscape ecology biz, but they may be similar wood-wise. I guess I'm not going to run out and buy a chainsaw mill yet, but I also have a couple of white oaks on the property and maybe when I'm ready to fell and cut up one of them, I'll cut a few boards from an interior live oak and see what I get. It sounds like it might work for shorter pieces like knees (there are plenty of natural crooks in interior live oak)and thwarts.
            --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            "
            The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."
            Roosevelt, Theodore

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            • #7
              the property I just sold had lotsa the proper Live oaks onnitt........but you need an act of congress to cut it.......
              Wakan Tanka Kici Un
              ..a bad day sailing is a heckuva lot better than the best day at work.....
              Fighting Illegal immigration since 1492....
              Live your life so that whenever you lose, you're ahead."
              "If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."

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              • #8
                Around here Live Oak (Quercus Verginiana) is almost a weed tree. There are saw mills, the last time I looked, that can offer it. Be careful, we also have Water Oak and Laural Oak.

                The Constitution was built from Live Oak from this island.

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                • #9
                  Right, California coast "live oak" is a red oak species. I've milled it and tried to work it, but it's impossible. Not only is it a red oak, but it also has a very wavey interlocked grain. If you try to dry it, it will go every which way. An odd piece may be useful for a mallet, but other than that, we burn the stuff.

                  Coast live oak is not to be confused with Valley Oak or, up north, Gary or Oregon Oak (Q. Garryana), which are white oak species and ARE used in boatbuilding out here.

                  I haven't got my new WB issue yet (dunno why it hasn't arrived), but I'll be interested in reading what they say about West Coast oak. The good stuff isn't widely harvested around here.

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                  • #10
                    We have the evergreen live oak here in Florida and I used to split alot of it for the smoker and the wood stove and it is tough stuff and the grain has the look of white oak or that tiger oak you see in antique furniture. But damn the leaves. I have a large one in my back yard and another that survived lightning which grows partially over my house and makes sleeping thru a hurricane a little nerve busting.The bark on the live oaks is real coarse and the laurel oaks is not so.Even well seasoned logs will bounce a wood grenade right back out at you.The leaves make excellent compost and mulch but are a chore to rake up.Water oak here is rather soft/pulpy and doesnt even make for good fire wood.

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                    • #11
                      Then again it might be "Canyon live oak"... Which I would imagine would make good natural crook bits, like knees and etc.......

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                      • #12
                        Bob, thanks for the information. I suppose I'll limit my interior live oak usage to the fireplace. I do have a couple of white oaks, probably Q. lobata or Valley Oak, on the property, which I hope to use for the keel and other structural parts on my next boat. Trouble is, these trees are so beautiful, it'll be hard to cut one down. Maybe one'll get overthrown in a storm next winter! [img]smile.gif[/img]
                        --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        "
                        The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything."
                        Roosevelt, Theodore

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                        • #13
                          I'd sure avoid cutting a nice big old white oak on my own property. Chances are you can find somebody who wants one removed for some good reason (or not) and can get it for zip. Sad as it is, I've seen a lot of valley oak go into the commercial wood piles simply because the tree services can't be bothered milling the stuff. When some home owner wants one down, they just limb it standing and then work their way down loppping off rounds. To give them their due, it is often the case that there just isn't room to fell the tree anywhere when it's in a postage stamp sized suburban backyard.

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                          • #14
                            Here's a web site that is using Live Oak in a Concordia sail boat restorationb project.

                            http://www.sailingwithsarah.com/proj14.html

                            ** nice wooden boat restoration site

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                            • #15
                              Here's a web site that is using Live Oak in a Concordia sail boat restorationb project.

                              http://www.sailingwithsarah.com/proj14.html

                              ** nice wooden boat restoration site

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