The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

What is Wood and What Not (2)

More people have read my post on the merits of solid timber vs plywood than any other post: to date 1,023 to be precise, and reading it again for the first time in years I find it hard to change a word. As the Arctic Tern nears completion I thank my lucky stars that the owner was persuaded to build her in larch and Scots pine, not plywood. "All that mixing of mayonnaise..." came to mind and something about the "deadness" of the material.

This boat already shows signs of life, and throughout the build has been a delight, albeit at times frustrating. But to turn out an almost flawless top strake from a board of creamy Scots pine, fire it through the thicknesser (should that not be thin-nesser?) and offer it up to its lower sister is a joy that cannot be matched.

What's the pleasure in hacking out a strake from a panel of 8 x 4, planing the edges (mind the splinters) and slapping on the goo compared to the tap tap of hammer on copper nail?

No, any wooden boat revival must be based on a reappreciation of real wood, not man-made laminates masquerading as wood. Build in plywood to the highest standards for all the best reasons but don't pretend they are anything but good boats. And when the epoxy's run out and you're sick of the sight of inert sheets of 8 x 4, have a shot at building a boat in solid timber. You will be amazed at the difference.

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