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Thread: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

  1. #1
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    Default Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    I'm in the midst of building one of Dave Gentry' SOF designs, the Great Wicomico canoe and am looking for wood for the stringers and gunwales. The plan calls out vertical grain Western Red Cedar. Not real common in these parts (northern NJ.) Even if I could find I'd be a bit hesitant because two of the intended canoe passengers will be somewhat large rambunctious dogs so durability and splintering comes to mind.

    For the past couple years I've noticed Home Depot has been marketing Burrill White Fir as a premium stud. This is the only place I've ever seen white fir and I've been to lots of lumber yards. A lot of it is vertical grain and a little digging in the stacks will turn up completely knot free boards. Most of the studs have a smattering of small pin knots. I'm wondering about the suitability of this for boat building. I can't find much information about durability, rot resistance, etc. It's light and stiff and presumably strong. I'm pretty sure I can coax it into the shapes needed for the canoe.

    So, does anyone have experience using this wood in boats?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Don't know that exact species. While many, but not all, of the firs will be more rugged and durable than western red cedar, the only one I know of that offers rot-resistance - if that matters to you - is douglas fir (which isn't strictly part of the fir family). The combination of light weight with rot resistance is why designers usually specify wrc for such applications.

    Also - it's hard to imagine that wrc wouldn't be available in NJ?
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Burrill is a brand name. There are several varieties of white fir, all of them somewhat harder and stronger than red cedar and so long as the boat is stored dry should work just fine, but they are quite rot prone. Doug Fir will be harder, stronger, more rot resistant and heavier. Look thru wide framing lumber, there will be some with fairly tight and clear grain on one or both sides of the heart.

    https://kobi5.com/news/local-news/ho...-lumber-14491/

    You can harden red cedar up some with a couple of coats of epoxy.

    If you're going to use okoume for the frames you may as well use the equally rot prone species for the stringers.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 04-16-2021 at 11:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    Burrill is a brand name. There are several varieties of white fir, all of them somewhat harder and stronger than red cedar and so long as the boat is stored dry should work just fine, but they are quite rot prone. Doug Fir will be harder, stronger, more rot resistant and heavier. Look thru wide framing lumber, there will be some with fairly tight and clear grain on one or both sides of the heart.

    https://kobi5.com/news/local-news/ho...-lumber-14491/

    You can harden red cedar up some with a couple of coats of epoxy.

    If you're going to use okoume for the frames you may as well use the equally rot prone species for the stringers.
    One small correction. There are more than one species of fir that are equally as soft as western red cedar. I'm working with one example now - 'Silver Fir'.

    Also - in terms of 'hardening' wrc - I'd not coat it with any sort of film. If anything, I'd soak it liberally with polymerizing oil (boiled linseed or tung)... or an oil/varnish blend. Something that will soak in a tad, then harden (polymerize) WITHOUT forming a film (which, over a soft substrate like wrc, can fracture like an eggshell on impacts).
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    it's hard to imagine that wrc wouldn't be available in NJ?
    You'd think this would be the case, what with all the home builders here, but clear, VG WRC at the retail level is scarce.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    Burrill is a brand name. There are several varieties of white fir, all of them somewhat harder and stronger than red cedar and so long as the boat is stored dry should work just fine, but they are quite rot prone. Doug Fir will be harder, stronger, more rot resistant and heavier. Look thru wide framing lumber, there will be some with fairly tight and clear grain on one or both sides of the heart.

    https://kobi5.com/news/local-news/ho...-lumber-14491/

    You can harden red cedar up some with a couple of coats of epoxy.

    If you're going to use okoume for the frames you may as well use the equally rot prone species for the stringers.
    Gib, thanks for the info about WF being rot prone, this is the kind of info I'm looking for.

    Sorry for confusion on the name, I should have mentioned the Burrill-is-a-brand thing. (Oddly enough, the white fir is harvested by Burrill in the Northwest but only sold by HD in the Northeast and Phoenix AZ, go figure)

    I'm making the frames out a piece of Hydrotek I have laying around. The canoe will be stored dry but the idea of rot prone wood on a boat just doesn't sound right. I have a VG DF 2x10 that I've been saving for some project so I may just reduce the scantlings a little and use that.

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...t=#post5931998

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Try a better lumber yard.
    WRC is widely used as decking.
    Last edited by JimConlin; 04-17-2021 at 07:11 AM.

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Quote Originally Posted by JimConlin View Post
    Try a better lumber yard.
    ... if you can find one. They’re out there but not nearly as common as they were even ten years ago, sadly.

    Growing up in the ‘60’s I can remember five or six independents within 20 miles of home (25 miles NW of Chicago metro) besides the ubiquitous Edward Hines in every town.

    Where I live now there’s exactly one in town besides a hardware store (where I work part-time) that has a lumber shed, both stocking basic construction materials. Menards & HD are 30+ miles north.

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    It’s April 2021 Lumber on the exchange has gone up 50% in a month, a 2*4*8’ is $8 at menards, demands been high for a year and we are heading into building season. Any “good” lumber yard that has a huge selection for reasonable prices isn’t long for the business.

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Quote Originally Posted by sp_clark View Post
    ... if you can find one. They’re out there but not nearly as common as they were even ten years ago, sadly.

    Growing up in the ‘60’s I can remember five or six independents within 20 miles of home
    So true, Unfortunately HD and Lowes have decimated the local yards by offering cut rate crap to the un-discerning masses, who are really to blame. Seems like a race to the bottom.

    I can find VG WRC if I'm willing to drive but I'm not sold on WRC for my purposes. The intent of my thread is to get a better understanding of white fir and whether it's suitable for my project.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    If you find nothing local - Boulter in Boston will likely ship you what you need.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Condons in White Plains is still around, I am pretty sure, not far from north Jersey.
    Steve Martinsen

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    Default

    Most decent lumber yards should have CVG Western Red Cedar. It's usually sold for trim work. Expect to pay for it, though.

    These guys have CVG western red cedar as well. They're in Fairfield NJ.

    https://www.woodboardsandbeams.com/cedar

    Atlantic White Cedar would be the local equivalent for your canoe I think. These guys in Medford, NJ have it.

    https://www.cedarspecialties.com/atl...ar_lumber.html
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    Default Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    White fir is abies concolor.

    It, like most other "white woods" used for construction lumber, is "rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, with little resistance to insect attacks."

    That rating is based on heartwood. What you are almost certainly getting at Home Depot is second-growth sapwood, which will be worse than that.

    https://www.wood-database.com/white-fir/
    Last edited by Nicholas Carey; 04-18-2021 at 02:58 PM.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    As noted, white fir has poor rot resistance. That said a skin on frame boat that lives in your garage will be just fine. Chances are your garage is built with the same stuff, generic SPF. Keep a finish on it, it will mold readily. The bigger problem is it's brittleness, although red cedar is fairly brittle as well.

    Cedar sources are getting a bit thin on the ground, and when it is cut it is generally replanted with plantation fir for some damn fool reason. In other words, I like the idea of using alternative woods where possible.

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicholas Carey View Post
    White fir is abies concolor.

    It, like most other "white woods" used for construction lumber, is "rated as non-durable to perishable regarding decay resistance, with little resistance to insect attacks."

    That rating is based on heartwood. What you are almost certainly getting at Home Depot is second-growth sapwood, which will be worse than that.

    https://www.wood-database.com/white-fir/
    White fir - of the sort he's talking about - is not an actual species name, but a marketing name. Sort of like calling something 'mahogany'. It embraces a wide variety of fir species, but not likely any of the preferred species. It can be made to serve for a boat that will be stored under shelter with good ventilation. But it's certainly not my first choice.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    White fir - of the sort he's talking about - is not an actual species name, but a marketing name. Sort of like calling something 'mahogany'. It embraces a wide variety of fir species, but not likely any of the preferred species. It can be made to serve for a boat that will be stored under shelter with good ventilation. But it's certainly not my first choice.

    "Burrill White Fir" is just a Home Depot brand for generic white fir lumber.

    https://kobi5.com/news/local-news/ho...-lumber-14491/

    And "white fir" is actually Abies concolor, just a single species.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    Default Re: Burrill White Fir for boat building?

    I get that Burrill sawmill will be supplying what they call a 'premium' stud called a Burrill White Fir stud, as an exclusive to Home Depot.

    But unless you've got further information - I doubt that the stud will be, or ever was, exclusively Abies concolor. The mechanics and logistics of logging and milling would make such a segregation difficult and quite expensive. The generic fir framing lumber that is widely sold as 'Hem/Fir' is a mix of fir species (not including douglad fir or larch), along with some hemlock mixed in, and even some non-Sitka spruce at times. Abies alba, procera, balsamea, amabilis, etc. I expect the same from Burrill.

    I'd imagine they will live up to their 'premium' label on the basis of grading, not species. Much easier to manage, and probably more effective. I say this not from knowing with surety, or knowing their mill... but from a long history in the plywood mill industry, and a long acquaintance with several folks in the lumber mill and logging industries.

    Unless you saw somewhere that they intend to use only the one species. Then color me quite surprised.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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