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Wood Use/Characteristics


The Wood Characteristics chart is presented as a general guide only, and the qualities listed should be taken with a grain of salt. The reason for this is that there are many variables that must be considered in the application and usage of various wood types.

For example, the fact that white oak may be excellent for frame members does not mean that each and every piece of white oak lumber will be suitable for such service.

Then too, in some parts of the country, a wood that may be suitable in one area may not be suitable in another for various reasons, such as the quality or quantity available, local practices of seasoning, or any number of other variables. In other words, the recommendations are all relative not only to the locale, but to the services to which the lumber will be applied.

Again, the emphasis is made that this listing is general in nature, and the guide to follow is to use those woods that are proven in boat building use in the locale. Also, when selecting a wood from the chart, be sure to look over the adjoining text for that particular species.

Hardwoods Weight Strength Decay/Rot Resistance Fastening Ability Comments
Apitong Heavy Strong Poor Good Difficult to work
Ash,white Heavy Fairly strong Poor Fair High shock resistance
Elm, rock Heavy Strong Fair Good Good for steam bending
Greenhart Very Heavy Very strong Very Good Very good For heavy, durable construction
Iroko Heavy Strong Good Good Can be used in place of teak in many parts
Ironbark (eucalyptus) Very Heavy Very strong Good Good For heavy, durable construction
Lignumvitae (Ironwood) Very Heavy Very strong Very Good Good Used for keel and worm shoes, rubbing strakes
Mahogany, African Medium Fairly strong Good Good Not as good as Honduras Mahogany
Mahogany, Honduras Medium Fairly strong Good Good Best of mahoganies
Mahogany, Philippine Medium Fairly Strong Fairly good Good Use dark red variety in boats
Oak, white Heavy Strong Good Very good Don't confuse with red oak
Okoume Light Not strong Poor Fair Suitable for light, small boats
Teak Heavy Strong Very good Good Hard on tools, can remain unfinished


Softwoods Weight Strength Decay/Rot Resistance Fastening Ability Comments
Cedar, Alaska Medium Fairly strong Good Good Heartwood & sapwood look similar
Cedar, Atlantic White     Good   Planking
Cedar, Northern White     Good   Small boat planking
Cedar, Port Orford Light Strong Very good Good Preferred boat building cedar
Cedar, Western red Light Not strong Very good Fair Suitable for veneers in cold mold planking and for light, small boats
Cypress, Bald   Moderate Strength Very good   Planking
Douglas-fir Medium Strong Fairly good Good Use only clear, vertical grain
Larch, Eastern Light Fairly strong Fairly good Good Traditionally used for natural knees and stems
Larch, Western Medium Strong Fairly good Good Similar to Douglas-fir
Pine, White   Weak Fairly poor   Non-structural joinery
Pine, longleaf yellow Heavy Strong Good Very good Substitute for white oak
Redwood   Moderate Good to Poor Poor  
Spruce, Eastern   Moderate Poor   Non-structural
Spruce, Engelmann   Weak Poor   Interior joiner work
Spruce, Sitka Light Fairly strong Poor Fair High strength to weight ratio

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