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Why use wood for a boat?

With all the modern materials available to make boat, why would you want to choose wood? There are several reasons. The first is that working with wood is well within the means of most people. It doesn't take a lot of time, the material is relatively easy to obtain and it is not too expensive. But even if you are not interested in building your own boat, wood still has some significant advantages. Done right, wood is an almost miraculous. It is very strong, lightweight and does not fatigue.

Most people are used to the ability of taking a stick of wood, bending it over their knee and breaking it in to pieces quite easily. How can it be so easy to break, yet still strong? You need to consider how little that stick weighs, if you were to get a piece of plastic, fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber or even steel, of the same weight, what would you be able to do with it if you bent it over your knee. Most would bend very easily, some would break with very little effort.

If you just compare strength vs weight, wood is stronger than steel, most fiberglass and aluminum. If you compare stiffness vs weight, wood is stiffer pound-for-pound than Kevlar, all fiberglass, and steel. By these measures wood still doesn't measure up to carbon fiber and other exotic materials like titanium, but if you look at structural efficiency which relates stiffness to density it turns out that pound-for-pound wood is the most efficient material for producing a given structure.

The down side of wood is it is soft, and it rots. However, there is a simple solution to both these problems. A simple layer of fiberglass and epoxy sheathing the wood will provide protection from abrasion as well as moisture. This composite construction is one of the best ways to build a boat that is light weight, strong and durable. And it is something most people can do in their basement or garage with a minimum of tools. All it takes is a little time.