Why your local lumber yard might be your first stop…

I’ve got a couple of pieces of wood that have been sitting out in the open for the last couple of years as sort of a “when-will-this-stuff-rot/fall-apart” test.

Now, I’ll admit it’s not a serious scientific test and more a simple bit of satisfying my curiosity but it has been enlightening.

The wood in question is a bit of yellow pine “2X4″ , a bit of cypress 1″X6” and a scrap of some formply I used for a mold section when I was strip-planking my new mast. For a control I have a little offcut of teak and a scrap of marine plywood.

As to the conditions it’s been subjected to, I happen to be in the Caribbean and it’s been through the same old same tropical weather and conditions that everyone warns you about when they are telling you that you need an expensive tropical hardwood because anything else will deteriorate and rot.

So, here’s the thing…

The pine 2″ X 4″ is, except for some minor discoloration, just peachy keen and so is the cypress 1′ X 6″. As for the formply it looks pretty much as it did when I cut it out. I should restate the point that it has been out in the sun/rain/humidity unprotected all this time.

The teak on the other hand has some “soft” spots and the marine ply is delaminating.

So ends this test as I threw out the control groups the other day…

While not exactly conclusive, it does reinforce some opinions I’ve had for a long while about teak being just about the last wood I’d use for boat construction (well, unless it was FREE) brought about by having worked on a lot of boats with serious rot issues that involved teak and redecking an old schooner built in 1910 whose original pine deck was in pretty much pristine condition the problem being the oak beams under the deck which were soft.

In a couple of weeks I’m going to build a new T-section boom for “So It Goes” and I’ll be building it out of yellow pine. It’s cheap and more than strong enough with the addition of a bit of carbon roving I happen to have laying around. Coated with epoxy then painted, it will likely last twenty years or so with minimal maintenance. Better yet, I don’t have to take out a mortgage to be able to afford a more seamanlike wood.

Even more important, woods like yellow pine and cypress are much more sustainable materials than exotic hardwoods… Not only are you saving a lot of money, you’re also doing the right thing ecology wise. What’s not to love?

The formply, on the other hand, needs some more testing where long term epoxy/glassfiber adhesion is concerned. That said, If I were going to build a sharpie or any traditional plywood construction boat I’d be looking very seriously at formply for the hull, deck, and bulkheads…

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