Substituting Wood Species for Local Australians

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by Jislizard, Feb 11, 2010.

  1. Jislizard
    Joined: Jan 2010
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    Location: Australia

    Jislizard Junior Member

    Hello, I am doing some early research on building a wooden boat in Australia.

    I have chosen a style I like and managed to get some information on what the recommended construction material will be;

    A choice of
    Red Cedar / Thuya plicata
    Okoume / Aucoumea klaineana
    Padouk / Pterocarpus soyauxii
    Iroko / Chlorophora excelsa

    Mahogany / Khaya ivorensis
    Oregon / Pseudotsuga douglasis
    Teak / Tectora grandis

    I have been in touch with a carpenter and he was doubtful that I would be able to find much on the list and if I could it would be far too expensive. Expensive enough to consider using local woods or some from New Guinea.

    He was also concerned the measurements required would be difficult to find. The plans call for planks 2500mm long and 15, 20 & 23mm thick.

    Apparently most of the woods he is used to sourcing are 2400mm long and different thicknesses.

    My friend is a carpenter and cabinet maker and does not have any previous boat building experience (and assures me there is none planned either)

    I am keen to look at local woods anyway, it would be nice to sail past somewhere and point to land and say "That's where my deck is from"

    However I do not want to sacrifice performance for cheapness. I am intending to build this boat over the next 20 years or so, it needs to be ready for my retirement. The cost of wood will average out quite reasonable over that time period.

    In the meantime I have joined a yacht club and I am sailing every weekend on someone elses boat to get experience.

    I will catch up with some of the boat builders in the club but most of the people I have met so far don't seem to like wooden boats and hate the idea of a Junk.

    Would any forum members have experience in using Australian species for boat building?
    Any idea of straight swaps?
    Any idea of swaps that need extra treatment to reach the same level of performance?
    Any recommended resources on the web that I can quickly look up the relative merits of the Australian species?
    Any recommended books I should be looking at that specifically cover Australian species?

    I understand that the Hull is only a small portion of the overall cost but until I pay for the plans I have no idea which bits of wood will go where.

    I am not just trying to wriggle out of paying top dollar for the boat, I want it to last. I am not keen on buying a ready made second hand boat, I want to build one with my own hands. Time is not an issue as I am a long way from retirement. I would say cost is not an issue but I think my wife would disagree.

    Thanks for considering my request, if you have any tips or advice please let me know, I haven't had any outlay other than time yet so it is not too late for any helpful sugestions.

  2. flyinwall
    Joined: Feb 2008
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    Location: Cooroy Queensland Australia

    flyinwall Junior Member

    i would like to know this information as well since i am in a similar situation myself
  3. rasorinc
    Joined: Nov 2007
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    Location: OREGON

    rasorinc Senior Member

    Dry Ironbark (eucalyptus ) Also look here under Tropical boat building lumber under lumber and plywood.
  4. marshmat
    Joined: Apr 2005
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    Location: Ontario

    marshmat Senior Member

    There's almost always a local, or somewhat local, species that's a suitable replacement. Sometimes I get the feeling that some designers will specify particular woods just because "it's traditional", or "it's exotic", or "so-and-so has used it for years". But pretty much anywhere you find trees, you'll find the local boatbuilders have figured out what species to use for what parts.

    There are significant variations in mechanical properties between different woods, so it's worth looking up the "target" species and the available local species to get a feel for what might be comparable:

    The expertise of local boat builders will be invaluable..... being Aussies and being boaties, they'll probably be friendly, approachable folk if you can track down their shops.
  5. jmolan
    Joined: Dec 2008
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    Location: Mexico/Oregon/Alaska

    jmolan Junior Member

    You might read this. I have no idea other than what I read, but I am going to be building in a while, and I plan to check this out.
  6. Guest62110524

    Guest62110524 Previous Member

    you might like to consider double or triple diagonal this way you do not need expensive thick stock A very common method in NZ
    google Don Senior boats
  7. waikikin
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    Location: Australia

    waikikin Senior Member Blue Gum&Itemid=462

    Hi Jislizard, check this site for some guidance on Aussie timbers, a typical build might incude turpentine in keel/deadwood, spotted gum for steam bent timbers("ribs") & maybe some select flooded gum for hull planking, white beech(solomon Is as aussie is hard to get) & some blue gum for sampson posts & tea tree(melalueca) for hanging & lodging knees.
    You'd do well to find a shipwright from a yard(now long closed & think) like Mclarens from Ballina who would be more skilled in species selection able to source a suitable mill & suppliers & advise on the cutting, grain orientation & seasoning for each application, Aussie hardwoods need certain care in regards to this & especially as you've estimated quite a long build time.
    You might also consder a build in the Milne bay area of Papua New Ginea, I visited about 15-20 years ago & the Nationals there where skilled(things change though?) in carvel construction using PNG rosewood & Kwila, others have had success & various frustrations in Solomons & Indonesia. All the best in your endeavours from Jeff.
  8. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    Anything and everything has been used to build boats, almost any wood can be made to work, each species has advantages and disadvantages. It is a matter of adjusting the size of the critical structural elements to the properties of the wood you are building with, and many species are close enough to substitute straight across.

    As an engineer I have designed a lot of wood structures and know a lot about the structural properties of wood. If you make a list of what lumber species you have available I can suggest which ones to use, or adjustments to make. I would use whatever local wood is available.

    Also you might consider contacting the designer of the boat you want to build (if he is available) and give him the list of species you have available, and have him make the suggestion.
  9. Hunter25
    Joined: Mar 2006
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    Location: Orlando

    Hunter25 Senior Member

  10. Jislizard
    Joined: Jan 2010
    Posts: 15
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    Location: Australia

    Jislizard Junior Member

    Thank you for all your responses, I have also been in touch with the naval architect who designs the boats, he is based in Thailand and the plans are based around woods that are available there, he is open to substitutions as long as they will not have a negative impact on the performance.

    He has offered some suggestions with regards to the different standard thicknesses, he is happy for 2 thinner planks to be glued together to bring them up to the right thickness, he is happy that 1mm extra would not be a problem if I can't get it exact. Of course it would increase the cost of the epoxy and increase the build time but neither should be prohibitive.

    As to the substitution of timbers, he is confident that there will be woods in Australia that can be substituted, he has not used them but he recognises that as the cost of Mahogany and Teak rises we will need to find replacements anyway.

    I have been given the address of a timber merchant in New South Wales (I am in Queensland, Australia) who has a list of woods and their uses, there seem to be quite a few that are used in boat building so I will find out more about them and see if I can get something with similar properties.

    I will soon know more about wood than I do about anything else.

    There is also the option as I think whoosh suggested, of extra layers to build up the thickness. I think that an extra layer may be more structural than just gluing two planks together to make up the thickness but it might not make much of a difference when all is said and done.

    Thank you for your kind offer Petros, I am intending to look around to see what I have available locally. This first phase is to see whether building this particular boat is feasible in Australia, the second phase will be when I am sure that I won't be wasting any money buying the plans. Once I have the plans there will be full details of where all the wood is going and what it will be used for.

    I think it is likely to be do-able, as the architect has stated I need quality wood to ensure the boat lasts for the next 50 years, I was hoping that it would last longer than that, not that I will still be using it but I thought that unless they sank they would last for ever (with careful maintenance and occassional replacement of parts)

    Thank you to all the other contributors who have sent me links to other resources, I am slowly working my way through them, I have time as I am not intending to purchase the plans until November so please keep sending them in.

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