Mankind has been creating and learning about boat building for thousands of years. In fact, it was recently discovered that not only was prehistoric man building boats 10,000 years ago; but in 1700 BC in the United Kingdom, man was building boat yards too. Prehistoric man and hollowed tree trunks aside; it comes as no surprise that our fascination and desire to travel via the elements has continued into the modern world.
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Materials Used In Boat Building
Wood has always been used as a traditional boat building material, and is still a favourite among many boat builders and renovators alike. More to the point, pirates used wood so if that doesn’t say anything about its durability and versability, then I don’t know what does- Arrrr!
- When using the correct wood it can be relatively lightweight material.
- Non-conductive (wood doesn’t allow electricity to pass).
- Wood is obviously non-magnetic and won’t affect a ship’s compass.
- Wood work is often taught at school and can be easily learnt using basic tutorials.
- Wood can easily be replaced and repaired.
- The tools to work with wood are relatively cheap.
- Hard wood may be required for decorative purposes such a teak decking or may be needed for more structural spar work. Hard wood can be more expensive and harder to acquire.
- Sawdust can be hazardous especially when wood has been coated with old varnishes or paint and can potentially contain lead-based products. Care should be taken to acquire the correct personal protection equipment.
- Wood absorbs moisture and will rot in damp environments.
- Will often require a paint or varnish topcoat to protect the underlying wood.
- Oiling, painting or varnishing will have to be undertaken regularly in order to keep wood protected against the harsh marine environment.
GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic aka Fibreglass)
Fibreglass is one of the most commonly used materials to date, and its use can be traced back as early as 1933 when it was accidentally discovered by Games Slayter, a researcher at Owens-Illinois. You can still see the original fibreglass patent to this day : “Method & Apparatus for Making Glass Wool”. Fibergass was created in an attempt to create wood synthetically, in which the grain always goes in the right direction.
When you join two pieces of wood at right angles, you really want the fibres to flow from one piece and curve into the other, for maximum strength and this is what is achieved with fibergalss. With wood we end up with what is known as a “stress concentration” at the join, as the very strong fibers are discontinued, at least unless we laminate of course and that can be looked at as a form of fiberglass with wood instead of glass fibres embedded in a plastic/resin based glue.
- Its popularity means it is widely available online, in auto centres and chandeliers.
- Becuase it is also used in the automotive and roofing industry, it means it can be purchased without the higher costs of being “marine grade”.
- Material strength can be accurately chosen as long as the correct quality of the fibreglass cloth or matting is used for the correct job.
- Fibreglass is more fire resistant than wood and can be coated with flame retardant topcoats for further protection.
- The fibreglass itself requires minimal maintenance and will last almost forever as long as a suitable topcoat is used.
- Fibreglass needs to be laid thick for strength and can often be heavy once finished.
- Like wood, fibreglass is non-magnetic and won’t affect a ship’s compass.
- Unless salt water is present, fibreglass is non-conductive.
- With the right knolwedge fibreglass is easy to work with but harder to get a good finish.
- Easy to patch; professional help may be required for more extensive work.
- Gel coat will need to be maintained regularly and is subject to UV damage and wear and tear over time.
- If Gel coat is not applied correctly it can absorb water and start delaminating. This process is called osmosis damage.