Steel/Aluminum suppliers & materials price listings For New England area?

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by Jay and Ebben, Feb 26, 2011.

  1. Jay and Ebben
    Joined: Jan 2011
    Posts: 46
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Vermont - U.S.A.

    Jay and Ebben BilgeRat

    I am currently working on a feasibility study of building a 43' cutter - and I am comparing the costs of steel vs aluminum. If you are aware of any suppliers in the New England area that post their pricing for everything from plating to scantlings I would love the link. I am interested in learning of any scrap yards as well... although I would guess they are becoming harder every day to find!

    Thank you.
     
  2. Eric Sponberg
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,003
    Likes: 207, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2917
    Location: On board Corroboree

    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    J&E,

    You will not likely find any on-line pricing because the costs for both steel and aluminum have been very volatile in the last few years. It would require too much effort to keep updating the pricing guides since prices recently have been known to change monthly, weekly, or even daily.

    That said, there are New England sources for you as far as providers, which you may have already found. You can call them for some sample pricing:

    For aluminum: http://www.piercealuminum.com/

    And for steel: http://www.centralsteelsupply.com/

    These will give you the types of plates and shapes that are available. Calls to a ship design firm, a shipyard, or someone else knowledgeable in the design and construction of ships and boats will give you information on the size and shapes that are typically used in boat and ship construction.

    Finally, in your researches, you should reduce your price findings to a "cost per pound" number. Steel is three times heavier than aluminum, but it is generally a third or less of the cost of aluminum. Steel has similar strength capabilities as aluminum, but it is also three times stiffer than aluminum. Many design details in a boat or ship structure are stiffness critical more than strength critical, so stiffness may play the deciding role. What generally happens in boat and ship design is that the aluminum plating in a boat hull is about twice the thickness of a comparable steel hull. Also, the internal frames in an aluminum hull are generally bigger and deeper in physical dimension than those of a steel hull, because of that stiffness criterion.

    The plating thickness is determined in part by the frame spacing inside. You can make a lighter hull by adding more frames! This is because generally, in metal boats, approximately two thirds of the weight of hull and deck structure is the plating, and the rest is the framing. So it is possible to make a very heavy steel boat (few frames, thick plate) or a very light aluminum boat (lots of frames, thin plate). Aluminum boats will be lighter than steel boats, certainly, but the amount of difference must almost always be taken on a case by case basis; it is not cut and dried. With study and perhaps some sample plans of each type of construction for a particular size of boat, it might be possible to make a fairly accurate estimate of the differences of weight, and therefore, cost, using the cost-per-pound figures that you generate.

    If you have not already, Dave Gerr has a good discussion of the differences between aluminum and steel construction in his book, "Elements of Boat Strength."

    I know this is not a truly definitive answer to your question, but I hope this helps.

    Eric
     
  3. Jay and Ebben
    Joined: Jan 2011
    Posts: 46
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Vermont - U.S.A.

    Jay and Ebben BilgeRat

    Eric,

    Thank you very much for the insight. I have read Colvins 2 volumes of Steel Boatbuilding and Gerrs The Nature of Boats. It looks like Elements of Boat strength will be ordered next. If you have any metal boat building books that you really think are not-to-miss would you let me know? Design books in general as well.

    I will look into the suppliers you mentioned tomorrow. I know that the market is always volatile, but I bet it is really chomping at the bit of anxiety right now!

    Eric, I believe it was you that had mentioned last week that I am unwise to look into designing my own boat. As much as I have to agree with you ; ) I want to say this;

    After losing a few of my best friends over the years I am seeing how finite my time is here on earth. Sounds kind of morbid but clearly that is the bottom line! I have two kids that are 7 and 13 that will one day be going to college. Until then, I will be here in Vermont raising them with my wife. My last boat was in my life for 4 years.... and they were incredible years. That was over 15 years ago. My biggest regret was selling it before I took the big loop around. But I had never owned a home before then and that, at the time had its own allure. Now, again, I CONSTANTLY think about boat design... while at home, while at work, while eating.... Since I was very little boating is what I looked forward to more than anything. In that regard, not much has changed in my life. There is little else that I find more satisfying.

    At this time I have come to the understanding that ultimately, I want to design the boat I build, which will be fully capable of sailing anywhere in the world. I'll sail by myself if need be but ideally, with company. I have plenty of time to work out the details and plenty of time to build it. The only thing that is pushing me is the desire to be out there and the fact that I will be 50 this September and I don't want to die prior to getting it wet. I am hoping that if the numbers work out, and I take this project on in earnest, that once people see that I am serious they may help me with advice. I am a clever person and I feel I can handle the build, but the design is something more of a challenge. Who knows... perhaps I will find that it is just too much and at that time I will have to hire a NA. But by that time I will certainly be well versed in what I am trying to accomplish!

    You have probably read it before on my posts - my greatest challenge is financing. If it were not for that, I would have a NA signed on already. But that is just not possible. You and other NA's are probably reading this now and thinking 'but it is going to cost you MORE in the long run!' perhaps... but that is all part of my ultimate challenge! What could be more wonderful than one day standing on my deck.... with the boat trimmed nicely, and thinking WOW! I DID IT! and.... if it does not all pull together I can at least go down knowing I really tried.

    I know that the thoughts I have swimming in my head are absolutely unaffordable if I were to purchase a new boat now. Building myself allows me the opportunity to make it all happen in the long run, but on a timeline I can start to afford now.

    My friends at the fire house call me a "bottom feeder" and a "salvage expert". Those are titles that I have come to be proud of, because it is an attitude that has allowed me to live in ways that otherwise would not be possible.

    I thank you again for your support. I hope you will stay tuned to my posts. I very much appreciate your thoughts.

    J-
     
  4. Eric Sponberg
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,003
    Likes: 207, Points: 73, Legacy Rep: 2917
    Location: On board Corroboree

    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    J--

    I do not mean to quash your dreams because when you have the will you will find a way. I will stand by my earlier comments and urge you to be extremely careful. You'll be going through the design effort for essentially the first time--we naval architects have been around the block hundreds and hundreds of times and we know the track and the method inherently. What may seem an easy or unique feature to you may in fact be a huge mistake to the practiced eye. The professionals know what works best, and we know the pitfalls.

    In my work, literally every week I hear from people who say, "I want to build a boat, but I don't have any money." (I would really like to write a book with that title someday.) The path to boat building hell is paved by these practitioners. In the end, the vast majority of boats don't work because they are too heavy, not well engineered or built, something is way out of balance either by weight or by aero-hydrodynamics, they are just plain unsafe, or they are never finished because the builders/owners run out of spirit and/or what little cash they have.

    Good luck on your journey; you have plenty of company. I offer my advice freely, and I sincerely do not mean any ill will at all. I do hope your boat will carry you and your family safely on your way.

    Eric
     

  5. pdwiley
    Joined: Jun 2008
    Posts: 1,002
    Likes: 86, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 933
    Location: Hobart

    pdwiley Senior Member

    I'm a dedicated bottom-feeder DIY type. I built my house to my own design, I built my 16m x 13m barn to my own design. Both work and I'm very happy with them.

    I bought my boat plans from a recognised designer who also built boats himself, including personally building 5 hulls to the design I chose. In 3 weeks I'll be finished welding up the hull and there's plenty of scope left to exercise my 'creativity'.

    Read http://www.milliej.com/index.html and see the problems they had with a first design from a recognised, experienced designer. Nothing that was a show-stopper, but still the plating needed some tweaking and extra reinforcement. Now multiply that by, oh, about 100 for a first build by someone who's doing their first design.

    Buy the plans closest to what you want after working out your requirements and concentrate on finding the stuff you need to do the build. The $1000 or so you spend on plans is *trivial* in comparison to what you're going to spend on the boat. I've spent 4X the cost of the plans on blasting & priming the steel alone.

    I'm not saying you can't do what you want, many have. It just isn't sensible IMO.

    PDW
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.