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Thread: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

  1. #1
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    Default wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Hi all,

    I've just moved to Nova Scotia (Ile Madame) and I'm finally settled enough to be thinking about building a little boat. Does anyone know about availability of boatbuilding wood here? I see lots of spruce, pine and tamarack in the woods, but I don't see a lot of oak or cedar.

    Is white oak readily available? What about eastern white cedar? Does anyone have recommendations for mills or lumberyards that would supply small quantities for boatbuilding needs? I'm in Cape Breton, so preferably something in the eastern part of the province. I don't mind driving as far as Bridgewater to pick up materials though - I have friends to visit in that part.

    What about marine ply, while I'm at it?

    Is there a local species that would substitute for white oak? (With an adjustment to scantlings.) I'm thinking planking is usually white pine? What is used for framing, eg for a dory?

    Thanks,
    Adam

  2. #2
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Tamarack. Knees for dory framing. It can be steamed. Tough for bottoms and rails.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    There's a couple big windthrown tamaracks near me. I'll definitely try and get some knees out of it.

    What about tamarack for frames?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    You can build a perfectly satisfactory dory using nothing but larch (tamarack).

    I prefer 3 piece frames, laminated if they're curved, to going to all that fuss obtaining natural knees and waiting for them to dry. I glue the joints too. That excludes moisture and makes for a joint that is much less likely to work and split.

    Knees do look ever so salty though, there's that.

    Also, I add chines, whether they're specified in the plans or not. They make for an easier build and a more durable and leak proof hull.

    You asked about plywood. It's much more durable than lumber, in my opinion anyway. It wont shrink and leak and it's lighter for it's strength and is definitely the way to go for a boat stored under cover most of the time. It's quite suitable for the planking and is excellent for the bottom. Look for BS 1088 Hydrotek.

    Don't forget to post photos (please).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    For my Caledonia Yawl which I built here in Fredericton, I got BS 1088 okoume plywood and some Douglas fir from Eastcoast Specialty Hardwoods in Halifax. I havenít been there for at least ten years now but they were great to deal with and had an incredible selection of wood. Most of the other wood that I used was tamarack that a friend and I cut on his woodlot and milled with his bandsaw mill. We also dug out some tamarack knees, one of which I used for my aft stem. The bow stem is from a piece of naturally curved tamarack. Itís a beautiful and versatile wood; I wish I had more of it.


    Iím currently thinking of building a small Swampscott dory and hopefully I have enough tamarack left to use for the frames and some other parts. Iím still trying to decide whether to use plywood for the planking or go the white pine route. The plywood would make a better dry sailed boat but the pine would be a more enjoyable build I think.


    You will probably find that, in your part of the country, tamarack is referred to as "juniper". I was on Isle Madame a few years ago and when I was talking about using tamarack in boatbuilding, some people had never heard of it until someone said "Oh, you mean juniper". Thatís when I remembered that that was what we called it where I grew up, just across the water from you, near Canso.


    Good luck with your lumber search and welcome to the Maritimes.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    red oak

  7. #7
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    red oak
    This crowd will say that you blaspheme, wiz.

    But I'm on your side...
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Adam, maybe a visit to Bras d'Or Boatworks in Baddeck would be in order to enquire about where they get their wood supplies from. Down at my end of the province (Yarmouth) there is Churchill Lumber (Aurilie Churchill, 902.761.2774, auriliechurchill@gmail.com ) who "specializes in sawing quality long length timbers for boat shops all over Maritimes. They can custom saw and plane your order to your exact specifications and also offer delivery." There are other sawmills that will cater to your needs, too; ask around your area, some old guy will know somebody who "usta build boats, an' he got his lumber from..."

    As for species of wood, not all boats get built with white oak, cedar, mahogany, and teak. There are plenty of other regional wood species that work, too. red oak, spruce, hackmatack, ash, and pine are used to effect and have been in this area for a few hundred years.

    Finally, go to the Isle Madame Boat Club and ask about a guy who lives in Lennox Passage (I believe, but may be wrong) who built a series of wooden catboats that he used as a rental fleet some years back. Nice guy, I just can't recall his name right now. He would be able to guide you to local resources.
    Last edited by mmd; 03-08-2021 at 09:36 AM.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Quote Originally Posted by mmd View Post
    This crowd will say that you blaspheme, wiz.

    But I'm on your side...
    I did not believe it until I saw it Michael.
    On Avenger of course.
    50 yo frames, broken, but not rotten.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    I've been tryin' to tell 'em, but nobody listens to a naval architect unless they pay him/her...
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Red oak may even be better than white oak in some instances because being so porous it will absorb so much wood preservative. Kept sealed after having been completely shaped and bored and soaked in a vat of borax solution for a couple of days I bet it would outlast most humans.

    Don't cry Michael, I listen to you mate.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 03-14-2021 at 12:41 AM.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Awww. gee, thanks, Gib.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    I will be interested in finding out what you come up with Adam. I am at the opposite end of the province - Freeport, Long Island, Digby County.

    I am looking at building something small down here (likely dory-esque) and will be trying to source 'non-exotic' woods where possible.

    Good luck with your build.


    John B
    Freeport

  14. #14
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    So...red oak soaked in Bora-care. I could learn to like that. Got access to red oak for days and a gallon of Bora-care concentrate. Interior framing, seats and stuff. Mind blown.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    CPES
    Boat Soup

  16. #16
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    https://eastcoastspecialtyhardwoods.com/

    Bit of a drive though, well west of your new island home.
    Last edited by sp_clark; 03-14-2021 at 12:03 PM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Yeah, interested as well. I've managed to source some Black Locust logs from time to time but not enough for my big boat project to come. Plenty for my Catspaw. Larch (Tamarack, hackmatack, whatever you call it) is available here. Lots of Red Oak, very few White Oak. Everything's small compared to a lot of other places. Big trees here are nothing compared to tropical hardwoods, or wester timber like DF etc. There's not much boat wood in Halifax though and I'm looking out toward Cape Breton as well as west to Mahone Bay and the valley. I think there's probably enough boat wood (Black Locust for me) to build my boat here but I'd be getting it from everyone who had some. It's thin on the ground in NS.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  18. #18
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    East Coast Specialty Hardwoods has some good stuff. I find it expensive. Just picked up some teak there for a helm console pod to hold my chart plotter. Cost WAY more than anyone should ever have to pay for something like that. But they have a decent selection and plenty of boat type woods like white oak, mahogany, sapele. They have some exotic stuff too like zebra wood, large burls for turning, and HUGE slabs to make boardroom executive tables from. I got my WRC to build my Redbird canoe from them.
    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
    -Henry David Thoreau-

  19. #19
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Hey all, really appreciate all the tips and suggestions. I've done some asking around and there are a couple places near here that will sell me tamarack/juniper. Is tamarack suitable for a sawn stem and frames? What about the transom? Do I need to adjust the scantlings?

    Going through some old posts and from what was said above, I'm thinking probably yes tamarack is suitable and that the scantlings are okay. But definitely could use a sanity check on that.

    I've settled on the 13 ft outboard dory skiff from Gardner's Dory Book chapter 26. The one-piece stem is specified to be white oak sided 1 5/8", molded 2 1/2". The sawn frames are 7/8" sided, 2" molded. He doesn't say anything about the transom, but a similar sized semi dory in the same book calls for a 1" mahogany transom. Would that thickness work in tamarack?

    Adam

  20. #20
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Ile Madame looks like a great place to explore by water: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Is...!4d-61.0106872
    ďEventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs."

  21. #21
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Yeah, I think it's going to be paradise for boating here!

  22. #22
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Just a bit of follow-up on this, it turns out my neighbour a few doors down has a millwork shop and sells good quality lumber at a good price. It's all imported, but the convenience is going to be tough to beat. Plus he said I could "play around" on his bandsaw any time, so I'm in great shape. Another neighbour is bringing us a free beehive tomorrow. The island has been good to us so far!

    Anyway, I'll pop out the larch scantlings question to a design thread. I'll probably end up using w.o. for the stem (hangs head). I'm still looking for a source of local tamarack though that I can use on other parts of the boat.

    Having this contact makes the whole thing fell a lot more possible - somehow sourcing lumber was a big question mark.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Just found this pdf: https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_m..._4_2_11-30.pdf
    The Nova Scotia Small Craft Survey, 1994

    Some really interesting stuff about boatbuilding in Nova Scotia in the 90s and before

    A lack of consensus as to the best type of wood for boat construction was evident.
    If a pattern exists it is that the most commonly available local woods are chosen. In areas
    where hardwoods are scarce or of poor quality, Lunenburg County is most often cited as
    the best source of supply. Nonetheless, some woods are more common for various
    components than others. To illustrate this point we can examine the woods used in Cape
    Island boats. In these craft the keel was most often made from Lunenburg County red
    oak, although local versions like sour and grey oak were also used. Some builders,
    however, never used oak, claiming that it was too porous for underwater use or that it
    slivers badly when hauled up skidways. Ash, birch, elm and maple are other popular
    selections, with birch (yellow or white) the most popular. The stem, sternpost and apron
    were also most often of oak, which was sometimes used even by those who claimed that
    it was unsuitable for keels. Oak was also often used for the vertical, unimmersed
    backbone areas, although in general the wood selected for the keel was also chosen for
    the other backbone timbers. Spruce was often selected for the knees on the backbone,
    with hardwoods used when available. Boatbuilders sometimes acquired their knees from
    specialists, since making them was hazardous if rocks, which could turn into dangerous
    projectiles, were embedded in the roots.

    Transoms were almost always flat and made from hardwoods (only two builders
    interviewed used softwoods), the precise species varied considerably. On boats with
    curved hulls frames and timbers are always steam bent oak or hackmatack, with the
    occasional builder using ash. Virtually everyone considered hackmatack best, even those
    using oak. Those using hackmatack were derogatory about local oak, believing it a poor
    choice because it rotted quickly if continually wet, as in bilges and skegs. The popular
    choice for planking was pine, although many who used it claimed it was too soft. Spruce,
    a much harder wood often found on Bay of Fundy boats subject to constant abuse at
    wharves due to wide tide differentials, was a close second choice. On the Northumberland
    coast edge-nailed boats were also mainly spruce-planked due to a lack of good sized or
    first quality pine and spruce. Consequently, only narrow plank sizes could be obtained
    knot free. Spruce was also most popular for beams and knees, while virtually all the
    remaining wood used on Cape Island boats is plywood.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    oh that clears things right up

  25. #25
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    Default Re: wood for boatbuilding in Nova Scotia

    Well, the authors of the piece - David Walker and Marven Moore, are well qualified to opine on the matter. David was a naval architect, marine consultant, and historian at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (MMA) in Halifax, and Marven Moore is a historian and director of MMA.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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