Making the best of mediocre wood

Boatbuilders like to have really good wood. The best stuff is quarter sawn, vertical grain, air dried two years, felled by ceremonial beaver at midnight under a full moon.

What you actually get, especially when buying in small quantities from lumberyards that are unfamiliar with boatbuilding, is plain sawn, a bit warped, and often a bit wet, like the batch of western red cedar I'm using for various small parts of the Starwind 860 power trimaran.

For planking purposes, that would be problematic. For some smaller bits, though- especially in epoxy saturated construction- we can deal with mediocre wood.

The problem with plain sawn wood is that it warps, shrinks and swells in complex ways as its moisture content changes. In epoxy saturated construction, the moisture content will be locked in when we encapsulate the wood. I can't wait all year for this wood to dry, and I want any warping to happen before I cut the parts. We'll have to kiln-dry this stuff.

So we pull out the Dry Kiln Schedules for Commercial Woods. We look up our species and dimensions, and find a time-controlled temperature schedule for drying it to a specified moisture content. Noting that moisture can escape along the grain much faster than it can escape across the grain, we rough-cut our parts before drying. It's hard to predict exactly how much this will reduce the drying time, but a "best guess" approach is good enough for this work.

Into the oven it goes:


Now it's dry enough to cut up and laminate, and most of the warping and checking should be done. Whatever shape I carve from these blocks should be locked in pretty well when everything gets saturated in epoxy.



Add new comment