Wood or Steel?

Discussion in 'Materials' started by axius0, Sep 19, 2005.

  1. axius0
    Joined: Sep 2005
    Posts: 6
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rhode Island

    axius0 Junior Member

    Hi I want to build a sailboat that will be able to cross the Atlantic Ocean. I don't care about the looks of it, I don't want to build a fancy yacht, just something that will work. I am going to be doing all the work myself, so I was wondering in terms of cost of materials would it be cheaper to build from wood or steel?
     
  2. nero
    Joined: Aug 2003
    Posts: 624
    Likes: 13, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 112
    Location: Marseille, France / Illinois, US

    nero Senior Member

    Wood is expensive. Even if the intial cost is low, there is a lot of time, machines, and materials needed to build with it.

    Then again a wood boat (without ballast will always float)
     
  3. D'ARTOIS
    Joined: Nov 2004
    Posts: 1,068
    Likes: 18, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 321
    Location: The Netherlands

    D'ARTOIS Senior Member

    If you can work with steel, then work with steel. You get dirty, (very) it is not the softest material to work with, but if you can weld it and treat it, or vice versa, you will have a cheap boat.
     
  4. axius0
    Joined: Sep 2005
    Posts: 6
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rhode Island

    axius0 Junior Member

    Would plywood be even cheaper than steel?
     
  5. Raggi_Thor
    Joined: Jan 2004
    Posts: 2,457
    Likes: 64, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 711
    Location: Trondheim, NORWAY

    Raggi_Thor Nav.arch/Designer/Builder

    One lowcost method is strip-planking glued with polyurethan and sheated with glass and epoxy on both sides. This can be very cheap if you make the strips yourself, take a 2x8 and rip it into desired thickness, say 1/2 x 2 (inches). A boat built this way can be quite light so you'll need a smaller rig, smaller sails and a smaller engine. These things use to cost much more than the "boat" (the hull). You will probably want some wood inside a steel hull anyway :)
     
  6. Milan
    Joined: Apr 2005
    Posts: 317
    Likes: 24, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 279
    Location: The Netherlands

    Milan Senior Member

  7. axius0
    Joined: Sep 2005
    Posts: 6
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rhode Island

    axius0 Junior Member

    Ok thanks for all your replies.
     
  8. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
    Posts: 19,133
    Likes: 488, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 3967
    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Do your self a favor and buy George Buehler's book "Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding" It's cheap and has several ocean going sailboat plans in the back (free with the purchase of the book) ranging in size from 28' to 50'.

    His writing and building style will have you itching to build more then you do now and he specializes in getting it done cheaply.

    The plans in the book are for wooden yachts, though he has many designs for steel. If you want a solid boat, that will get across the pond and back (maybe not as fast as others) with a good hunk of boat around, your stuff and loved ones, this book is a must read.

    Dollar for dollar it's difficult to compete with wood in value for your buck and workability, until you get in the 40' and up range. Most people have the skills or can develop the skills necessary to build a workboat style wooden yacht. You can learn to weld, but the material (steel) can be very difficult to manage, (in the sizes necessary for a small ocean going vessel) in your backyard. Not that it can't be done, but learning how to weld in a night school class is one thing. Welding on your back in a very confined space, with your feet in the air, while you reach around an object to blind weld a water tight seam is only available from experience.

    Get his book, it's worth the free plans alone and the information you'll absorb will be of great value, when you do build.
     
  9. Bergalia
    Joined: Aug 2005
    Posts: 2,517
    Likes: 40, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 254
    Location: NSW Australia

    Bergalia Senior Member

    It's and unnecessary question, Axius0. Wood, sir. It's what the good lord meant us to cross the Atlantic in... And I can't blame you wanting to reverse the route of the Pilgrim Fathers...
    I mean, did Noah choose steel or fibreglass - No sir, timber every time.
    Though I must admit the wiser heads above have put up a 'reasonable' case for steel...but...
    There is nothing to beat the joy of working in timber. The texture, the scent,the warmth...And most handimen have the basic tools necessary for building a wooden boat. Lapstrake, chine, or carvel. And those tools you don't have are easy to make up yourself.
    And it needn't be too expensive. watch the small ads in your local paper - whose renovating their home - used floor boards can offer up some superbly seasoned timber (so you get the odd nail hole... but what putty for); look out for a church that's being refurbished. They have some great species of wood. Poke around the timber yards. You never know what you'll find in odd corners that 'Gawd - completely forgot about that...'
    Don't rush it - enjoy the exercise of building. And in doing so you feel confident in the craftsmanship of each hook, knee and plank you lay. When you're out there in mid-Atlantic you'll recognise the groans and sighs as your handiwork eases itself into a new and more comfortable position.
    Enough purple prose. Stick to wood (forgive the pun) - and have a look at:
    www.svensons.com/boat
    Under the section of Sailboats have a browse at 'Gypsy' - or if you're really ambitious, then 'South' is the boat for you.
    Good luck. :cool:
     
  10. Milan
    Joined: Apr 2005
    Posts: 317
    Likes: 24, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 279
    Location: The Netherlands

    Milan Senior Member

    I agree that wood, (traditional construction, without glues, resins and other often smelly and poisonous stuff), is most satisfying material to build with. It's way to go for those who are more into building then sailing. But, if the goal is to go sailing in foreseeable future, steel is a better choice. Especially for those who want to see remote places and do it on the limited budget. (Steel being less sensitive to floating debris, hard bottoms, coral reefs and what not. If damaged, easy and cheap to repair in far away places). Building in metal is fastest way to build one-off hull. Tools for building in steel are not expensive and learning basic welding skills is not that difficult. If simple chined hull form is chosen, if deck detailing, (railings, handholds and similar places most sensitive to paint work damage) is done in stainless, result will be very strong, economical, fast and simple to build and maintain cruising boat. Amateur builders should avoid aiming for work of art, it's very easy to get carried away, and get stuck for years in the building phase. Go for practical and functional, that way sailing will start much sooner and for a lot less money. Boat is never completely finished any way, so I think it's better not to try to get every thing done before great departure. Get the essentials, keep everything simple and basic and go sailing. Fancy stuff can always be added later on. If really wanted, luxury interior could be more pleasurable (and cheaper too) to build anchored in some exotic lagoon drinking coconuts.

    If pleasure in handling beautiful pieces of wood, steaming and bending ribs, fastening every thing with copper e.c.t. is what the heart wants, build a traditional clinker (or is it lapstrake?) dinghy. That's chalengeing / satisfieing enough and at the same time small enough to be finished some day. It will also provide all the warnishing pleasures one would ever want without major headache it could provide on the biger boat.

    Milan
     
  11. Raggi_Thor
    Joined: Jan 2004
    Posts: 2,457
    Likes: 64, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 711
    Location: Trondheim, NORWAY

    Raggi_Thor Nav.arch/Designer/Builder

    OK, steel is cheap and strong. I am not neutral here in any way as I also sell frames and bulkhead kits for (modern) wooden boats :)
    BUT what do you want inside your steel hull? Steel?
    If you build a wooden hull, you can go sailing right away and have a warm and cozy interior "for free".
     
  12. Milan
    Joined: Apr 2005
    Posts: 317
    Likes: 24, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 279
    Location: The Netherlands

    Milan Senior Member

    Hi Ragnar,

    yes, you are right here, there is more work with a steel hull to provide cozy interior then with a woody. It can be done in different ways. The fastest is to spray a foam and then depending on the taste, maybe finish it by spraying some kind of plastic finishing layer on the top of the foam, leaving a sort of surface similar to fridge interior. That would probably not appeal to the traditionalist, but could look nice in the modern kind of interior. In any case it's quickly done, it's excellent isolation, it's easy to keep clean and doesn't need paint and / or varnish every couple of years. The biggest disadvantage of the foam is that welding on the hull becomes dangerous because high temperature caused by welding can set foam on fire. To avoid this, mineral whole could be used for insulation. On top of that different kind of paneling.

    It depends on climate too. My cheap, 30 year old, steel 25 footer doesn't really have an insulation. When built, she was sand blasted, painted and some kind of water proof wall paper was glued on top of the paint. 30 years later it's still on, and I don't feel a need for insulation during the sailing season, from April to October. I think it could work reasonably well in warm climate as well, providing that exterior is painted in light colors (preferably white), and ventilated.

    Talking about materials, it's always a compromise as everything in boat design (and most of the other things in life for that meter). Nothing is ideal, each material have its advantages and drawbacks, but all things considered, for a low budget, unlimited ocean voyaging, amateur built boat, steel is hard to beat.

    You are selling some nice boats by the way. I like Dudley Dix's work. The other boats looks as a lot of fun too.

    Regards,
    Milan
     
  13. axius0
    Joined: Sep 2005
    Posts: 6
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Rhode Island

    axius0 Junior Member

    Ok thanks for the ideas. Yeah I bought that book, Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding, it's a really good book. I'm thinking I might just cut down my own trees then bring them to a sawmill.
     
  14. Saltwaterlover
    Joined: Jun 2012
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: canada

    Saltwaterlover New Member

    Wood or Steel? I think the real question is how many years are you willing to commit to this endevour. I built a Roberts Offshore 44 from steel and it took 3 years from start to finish. My recommendation would be to purchase a solid boat that you can make the trip in and then Sell It after you've completed the voyage. The time and money you will spend is therefore recoverable and the boat has a pedigree once you've completed your trips. The Atlantic is not a Picnic.
     

  15. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,531
    Likes: 367, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    That is not necessarily so. Wood boats have been built for thousands or years and many did not have ballast and still sank. Anytime you put more weight into the boat than the buoyancy of the wood is able to support, the boat will sink. I have tested many wooden boats for the USCG that sank like a stone because people believe that wood boats don't sink.

    No truer words were ever spoken. I spent a lot of time on the Atlantic when I was an enlisted Coastie, and the Atlantic can be particularly nasty just about any time of the year. The best insurance is a well found boat. Doesn't matter if it's wood or steel as long as it was designed for the purpose of crossing oceans, and is solidly built. Wood boats have been crossing the Atlantic at least since 1492 (and maybe earlier according to the Viking lore). Steel is fine too.
     
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.