White Oak-Red Oak?

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by Winingar, Jun 6, 2007.

  1. Winingar
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Location: Oklahoma

    Winingar Junior Member

    Hello All,

    I'm preparing to build a 21' wooden runabout and was wondering if you guys could help me out to understand the difference between using White Oak instead of Red Oak to build the frame.

    I understand that White Oak is recomended for marine use over Red Oak, but would there be any major difference in using Red Oak for the framing?

    Thank You.
     
  2. timgoz
    Joined: Jul 2006
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    Location: SW PA USA

    timgoz Senior Member

    Welcome. Plain & simple, White Oak is a superiour framing material. Others with specific expertise will chime in I am certain. A basic wood properties table would be informative.

    Let me guess, you got a nice supply of Red Oak? :(

    Good luck & once again, welcome.

    Tim
     
  3. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Red Oak can be used in applications where it will remain well soaked. Typically, successful uses include deadwood assemblies on substantial craft that are moored or berth continuously in salt water.

    This said, red oak is a weaker, much less rot resistant, species of oak and it has limited use as a structural element within the vessel. Framing pieces that have contact with sweet water, will rot very quickly.

    On a trailered boat, where it will remain well ventilated, clean, dry and covered when not in use, red oak can be used to advantage. Encapsulated, it will survive much longer (as will any wood).

    As a rule I recommend red oak not be used, except as trim or interior furniture. The ease at which it rots, the weight penalty for it's given strength and very porous nature make it less forgiving as a structural element material, without exceptional care. Since most don't care for their boats as they really should in this modern age, the more rot resistant materials are often a better choice, surviving neglect longer before repairs.
     
  4. Winingar
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Winingar Junior Member

    Thank You Tim.

    Well, actually I can get either White or Red, it's just Red is easily more available and also less expensive.

    I just want to understand why White is more superior to Red.

    I have been a cabinet builder for almost 15 years and have worked with almost every type but boat building has taken me back to square one.

    I have used Red Oak for many years in quite a few different areas, all of which I understand have no relation to boats.

    I am just wondering if it's due to rot, or strength, or application of finishes.

    Would using Red Oak in the framing cause failure of some level?

    Thanks again.
     
  5. timgoz
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    timgoz Senior Member

    PAR addressed all above.
    Take care sir.

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

    From a technical stand point there are two basic types of oaks the reds and the whites. There are some interesting off shoots, like the so called evergreen oaks. They're not, they just drop their leaves and sprout new ones, in a few weeks during late winter or early spring, making them appear evergreen. Some of these are superior to traditional white oak.

    The whites are denser, stronger and more rot resistant then the reds. The physical structure of the reds cause them to be very porous, which isn't good on a boat, nor helpful at resisting rot. A 1/4" square by 12' long section of red oak, if placed in a container of water, will produce bubbles if you blow on the end like a soda straw. This is a function of it's fiber orientation and causes it to "wick" moisture throughout the piece.

    As far as boat builders are concerned, it's the rot issue and partly the weight. If you're going to use a particularly dense hardwood, you'd like to get the strength of similar weight hardwoods, of which the reds suffer slightly. If it's weaker and rot prone, most just select a better suited species. I hope this helped, Good Luck . . .
     
  7. Winingar
    Joined: Jun 2007
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    Location: Oklahoma

    Winingar Junior Member

    Thank you Par, your insight is appreciated.

    So then, White Oak it is...

    Now then, where can I buy it? I've called all my local lumber yards today and in fact White Oak is an ordered product.

    How will I know if it's the correct species of White Oak?
     
  8. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    I agree about white oak being better. The cost difference isn't very great either. !'m paying about a dollar more per foot here.
    By the way, white oak, when quarter sawn, had many more medullary rays than red oak. All that tiger stripe oak furniture from 100 years ago was white oak. In that aspect, it is a far better looking wood too.

    Alan
     
  9. longliner45
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    longliner45 Senior Member

    it will be hard to work with ,,but barn beams are white oak,,,kinda plentifull now but getting scarce,,,,longliner
     
  10. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    In Oklahoma, you may have an easier time finding live oak, which is superior to white in many regards. Try www.woodfinder.com to see who has the stuff you need locally. Live oak has an interlocking grain which resists splitting much better. It's also denser and slightly stronger. This wood is the reason the USS Constitution got it name of "Old Iron Sides" and it is the densest of all the North American hardwoods. It will still cause difficulty when machined, like all oaks, tending to chip along internal stress lines, but live is better (interlocking grain thingie) in this regard. Both white and live oak will be well suited to framing stock.
     
  11. longliner45
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    longliner45 Senior Member

    paul ,not disagreeing ,,but I have never seen a live oak with enough staight line to make a keelson or keel ,they all look kinda crooked ,,am I wrong,,,,,longliner
     
  12. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    All that said, red oak is available practically everywhere. I wouldn't hesitate to use it where it was high enough to stay dry most all of the time--- deck frames, sheer clamp, hanging and other knees, etc..
    There is a point where practicalities enter into things. There are so many ways to protect wood these days, and a lot more attention to detail, and boats are babied a lot too. Standing water in the bilge used to be common, but today it is not. Bailing and pumping used to be the way of things, along with quick and dirty repairs using galvanized fasteners, tar, and a bucket full of creosote or pine tar thrown in for good measure.
    A coating of epoxy is especially effective on wood having occasional wet conditions. Rot starts when there is a means to hold water for an extended period. Bilge water might come and go, but if there is no absorbant surface to hold it, rot doesn't have a chance.
    Ventilation is your best maintainence. If air can carry moisture away, even untreated wood will do okay. Savvy designers recommend ceiling planks to create air chimmneys between frames that pull air into the top of the shady side, down under the sole, and up the sunny side. This is a solar pump of the simplest kind.
     
  13. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    A few boatbuilders use red oak and get big money for their work. The Pulsifer Hampton is one example, but there are others. I'm not saying it's as good as white oak at all. But there is a point where common sense dictates that true elegance in any pursuit is the achievement of perfect balance of design, materials, and budget, because after all, titanium hulls are expensive, Honduras mahogany, teak, copper-plated bottoms, heavy bronze hardware, all monel fasteners, copper water tanks, sitka spruce spars, two-part paint, and other such niceties are hardly affordable to everyone.
    It might be that red oak is readily obtainable where white oak isn't. I would say the better one-off builder is the one who most efficiently produces the best product for the money. What's wrong these days is that marine suppliers have become boutiques for people with too much money and the average shmuck is relegated to playing that game even though it's costing him all he's got.
    I've played that game, and I'm afraid I've got to side with Dynamite Payson. He would use red oak and he's built hundreds of boats. Or Alton Wallace (I think that was his name) who built hundreds of west-pointer skiffs (strip-planked pine on red oak frames). Generations fished from those boats. I visited him years ago, still out on west point, in his early eighties, still building boats--- outside. His helper was maybe in his sixties. You can't get one of his boats any more nor anything close. He died a few years back, and copies of his boat are quite sanitary and properly built, and ten times as much money too, and fishermen in Phippsburg now buy fiberglass skiffs, and wealthy people buy the Wallace copies.
    I did ask Wallace about the red oak he used, by the way. He just gave me a funny look.
     
  14. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I have two live oaks I felled last year from my front yard. They threatened the house (which is how I convinced her) and now are in a solar kiln after quartering. The trunk, at just above the bell is 24" on one and 19" on the other. The 24" one is 26', dead bang straight until the "crotch" and the other is just short of 20' with a slight bend (about 8") across it's length (no bells included). They were originally in a very tight stand, which is why they are so straight. If left in a clearing, they'll branch out at first opportunity, but if tightly packed they'll all fight for sunlight and reach for the sky trying to find some.
     

  15. longliner45
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    longliner45 Senior Member

    gootcha good on that paul ,,the ones I noticed were in south carolina,,in peoples yards,,but they were large,,,,like the magnolias of tidewater va ,,have a good one,,,, longliner
     
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