Best Marine Mahogany plywood for restoration

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by kjohnson, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. kjohnson
    Joined: Oct 2015
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    kjohnson Junior Member

    I have a 1962 Correct Craft Compact skier that i am restoring. This is a plywood boat and i need advice on the best Mahogany plywood to use for the sides of the hull and deck. I want something that will have a good appearance and will hold up well. I have heard stories of pore quality in Mahogany plywood in recent years.

    Any advice? Any good suppliers?

    I am on the east coast in Maine.

    Thanks Ken J
     
  2. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome to the forum.

    There's no such thing as the "best" in plywood, though there are clearly superior grades, species and brands to look for, depending on your needs.

    The first thing is, what was used previously, as this is the size (thickness) and weight the boat can tolerate (fasteners, framing and performance). Next, the finish it will have. All marine grades come with an "A" grade face (one or both sides), so they accept paint well, though some species, can be more attractive than others under varnish.

    If you're needing real "mahogany" faced plywood, you'll have few choices, none of which are cheap (comparatively). These will be marine grade panels "faced" with a mahogany veneer (again one or both sides). As to the "hold up well" requirement, well this is much more maintenance and owner related than panel related. Assuming reasonable care, your service life will be long, regardless of the species employed.

    It's likely some of the "mahogany" sheets that have had bad reports are really not mahogany, but red shora (lauan), which looks a bit like some of the mahoganies, but isn't as hard, dense or durable.
     
  3. kjohnson
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    kjohnson Junior Member

    Thanks PAR

    The boat is at 16' runabout, the plywood used originally was 3/8" for the hull and 1/4" for the deck. The hull pieces are more than 16' long so I plan to scarf two pieces together which is what was done when the boat as built.

    The hull sides and deck will be finished with varnish so I am looking for a nice grain and attractive wood. My concerns for quality are that some people I know that are professionals have had plywood rot and delaminate. One of these people has gone to having his own plywood MFG as he has had enough problems with quality and appearance. The stuff he has is very very nice but extremely expensive. Any comments on Okoume, Meranti or Sapele?

    Ken
     
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Are you sure it is true mahogany? If you post some close-up photos it will help. Also, are you trying to match the grain?
     
  5. kjohnson
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    kjohnson Junior Member

    gonzo thanks for the reply.

    I am not matching grain as the boat I have is a frame at this point. I do have the original plywood but it is in such bad shape it is only useful for patterns.

    Are Okoume, Meranti or Sapele real Mahogany?

    Ken
     
  6. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    None of the species you've listed are mahogany, though both Sapele and Meranti are often substituted for mahogany. There are about 40 sub genius of mahogany, though only a few actually employed in veneers. Of the species above, Sapele is closest visually to Mahogany, though a woodworker can tell the difference, 99% of everyone else will not. Meranti is a close second, though can suffer from checking and other issues, if not well selected.

    Weight is an issue. Sapele is twice as heavy as Okoume and this is a significant difference. Let's say you basic hull has 500 pounds of planking on it. Are you willing to jack this up to 1,000 pounds. That's two well fed friends that'll have to stay ashore, not to mention the performance and economy impact it'll have. Sapele will also be the most costly and more difficult to find. Okoume and Meranti are more common.

    To be frank all can be stained to look like a dark red mahogany if desired, which is what most are after in the long run. The difficulties your buddies may be seeing (again) are the less than desirable sheets. A few years ago, China flooded the market with some marine grade marked junk. It was marketed as a BS-1088 sheet, some labeled mahogany, others Meranti. They proved to be not WBP sheets and not built to the BS-1088 standard. Most of this stuff has been pulled from the market, for fear of the liability sellers might experience (they have), just to be safe . . .

    If you buy from a known supplier, your BS-6566 or 1088 sheets will be good stuff. On the other hand, you can order some "faced" stock, which is even more costly. I have a source down here, for AA Douglas fir faced with whatever I like. This is a costly way to go. If I were you, I'd just get some good Meranti from a major supplier and stain it up. Meranti looks so close, most will not know.
     
  7. Pericles
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    Pericles Senior Member

  8. kjohnson
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    kjohnson Junior Member

    Thanks.

    Great advice and knowledge!

    I have a supplier near buy that handles Merrante and Sapele in the thicknesses I need. I will take a good look at the both.

    Ken
     
  9. SukiSolo
    Joined: Dec 2012
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    SukiSolo Senior Member

    Sapele is good but beware of it's two way grain characteristic ie striping. Usually you can work it OK with sharp tools. I've used it as substitute for Brazilian mahogany but by using as a face to lighter stuff such as WR Cedar so the weights equal up a bit. In the UK Sapele is fairly easy to find but it is heavy, the trade off being it wears well and does not dent easily.

    The African Mahogany species Khaya is one of the most similar to Brazilian but is a little more two way grainy than the best Brazilian stuff. Good for colour similarity though. Worth digging out if you need large areas of solid and/or for a facing veneer. A good veneer merchant should stock it. If you are really lucky you might find some real stuff that is legally shipped and logged such as after hurricanes etc of the original. The last lot of Brazilian mahogany I bought I paid 79 pounds sterling per cu ft so about 120/130 USD? The CITES treaty does allow for naturally fallen trees to be logged and exported.

    I believe the supplier to Robbins in the UK is an Italian manufacturer, you may be able to track down a US importer. Certainly I have faced straight gaboon/okume ply with sapele veneers before now to control costs.
     
  10. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Par makes a good point re the weight, it would be a good idea to cut yourself a square foot out of the old planking and weigh it and use that info to help select your new stock. Ive used all the species mentioned and find the sapele to be by far the most attractive, meranti on the other hand is probably the best value in BS 1088 available in the US.

    Steve.
     
  11. kjohnson
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    kjohnson Junior Member

    Thank you all for your input! I am going to look at some Melanie and Sanpete and will decide between the two.
    Ken
     

  12. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    If Boston is not to far for you to travel you might want to contact Boulter Plywood in Somerville, just off I-93. I had a good experience with them when I did a restoration a few years back.

    http://www.boulterplywood.com/
     
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