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Traditional Maritime Skills :: Selecting Timber 1

Selecting timber


Once the timber that has been ordered has been delivered by the timber merchant it is handy to sort the planks properly first and stack them away accordingly so that they are in the sequence in which you want to use them. In this way you are able to maintain oversight of the often large number of stacks of timber planks. Using chalk make a note on the planks of their intended use. The better the pre-selection the less you will have to lug them around later in order to find the correct plank.


Before the restoration of a wooden boat can start you have to select sufficient suitable timber. To do this you select a number of trees of the required type of timber at the timber merchant. The trunks that have been sawn into planks must already have been wind-dried for several years; the parts for the frames can be sawn from green timber. When the trees are delivered the trunk is sawn into planks and the crown is sawn into thick slabs. Proceed as follows to select the supplied timber:

  • When the timber is supplied first of all make a rough selection, by sorting the timber by thickness and length. Keep types together and thickness together.

  • Smear the cross-cut ends of the planks with paraffin wax (candle wax) and hammer end laths onto them (image 4). This will prevent drying out and splitting of the timber (image 4). Remember that a restoration can take a long time and that planks can be lying for a number of months before you use them.

  • Carefully build stable stacks of planks (image 1).

  • Make sure that the planks have air circulation and stay dry by placing sufficient laths between and transverse to the planks so that there is sufficient spacing between the planks.

  • If the timber is exposed to full sunlight then it is recommended that the timber is covered, using corrugated sheets for example.

  • Remember to reposition the timber stacks every month by turning the planks and always repositioning the laths so that the timber can dry evenly and colour differences do not form. You therefore have to leave sufficient space between the various stacks of timber (image 2).

  • The first thing you do is find extra thick and curved sections for the mast frame and the leeboard frame. When sailing these frames are subjected to the greatest forces and therefore have to be heavier than the other frames.

  • When selecting suitable timber sections for the frame-timbers and the strakes you look for the most ‘efficient’ piece of timber so that you do not end up with a shortage of timber or more waste timber than is absolutely necessary. If two frame-timbers are cut from the same tree then keep these together so that you have a good matching pair.
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Tools Required

None applicable

Materials Required

  • Rough-sawn timber planks and planks of timber
  • Laths of equal thickness
  • Paraffin wax

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