Boat Building Wood 1

The design of a new wooden boat requires thinking about the choices of wood. Trying to keep the water out of the floating space takes a combination of strength, stability, toughness and endurance. Western Red Cedar, Alaska Yellow Cedar, Sitka Spruce, cypress, teak, ash, white oak, and mahogany are some of the most highly prized woods for the beautiful traditional wooden boats of the last century. 

Some physical properties that matter most for the wood in a boat are: strength, density, hardness, stiffness, bending properties, moisture resistance, and dimensional stability. From a practical standpoint, some of those factors may be overridden by cost, being able to source them close by, and working ability. With all of that in mind, here is one of my personal favorites:

Alaska Yellow Cedar – It is not cheap, in 2023 around $10-15 / board foot rough. But everything else about yellow cedar is amazing. Mine came in generous 4/4 thickness 1″ x 6″ x 16 feet long with no knots. The prime vertical grain boards are straight, lay flat, are very stable and weather resistant. It is very light weight, and has an exceptional strength to weight ratio which is great for boats or airplanes. The distinctive aroma advertises its unique personality, which is like your Grandma’s cedar chest, spiced up a bit. 

But it really shines when you actually pull it off the rack and put it to work.

Alaska Yellow Cedar cross frames and stringers.

The tight consistent grain cuts so consistently and smoothly, that it makes hand tools seem like a good idea. A bonus is that it over a few years working with Alaska Yellow, it has never once given me a splinter. I love this wood.

Perhaps you can imagine how sorry I am, that the original stash I bought in 2013 to start the first boat is coming to the end.   But, there are other wonderful wood choices . . stay tuned.


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