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Hello,

I would like to laminate up some new beams for my Melanesia.  What is the best wood to use for strength and weight in the UK?  Plus which glue to you recommend?  Used cascamite in the past but it parted.

All the best, Mark

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Hi Mark,

I was hoping someone who's built a Melanesia would give you a response, but as they haven't here's my view for what it's worth...

Ideally I'd use whichever timber is recommended in the plans, assuming one is...  If not, the best easily-obtained timbers in the UK for good strength with low weight are sitka spruce or douglas fir.  Knot-free lengths of sitka spruce have been used for making masts for a long time.  I think douglas fir is a little bit heavier but also good.  They are easy to work, and quite resiliant for this sort of application.  If you want to go for higher strength I would use ash.  It's very strong and extremely good at taking shock loads without breaking, and tends to have a good straight grain.  The downsides are that it's heavier, and being much harder it's not so easy to work.  I've used ash for tillers in the past, and it's very difficult to damage.  I once built an own-design outrigger canoe, and used douglas fir for the outriggers on that.  Avoid oak, it's very strong but heavy, and it sometimes causes problems with glues (including epoxy).

All of the woods I've suggested glue well with epoxy.  The easiest brand to find in England is West, and they publish loads of guidance on techniques and which filler powders to use etc.  West is expensive though, and these days I use EL2 from Easy Composites (online), as I'm getting through a fair quantity.  Wear disposable nitrile (powder-free) gloves when using epoxy, and especially avoid getting the hardener on your skin.  I wouldn't use cascamite for anything on a boat.  If you don't want to use epoxy you can still get Aerolite 306, which is a very strong and water-resistant wood glue.  It works well for laminating but isn't as tolerant of badly fitting joints as epoxy.

All the best

Rob

Hello Rob,

Thanks for the advice.  I think I will go with the douglas fir and expoxy glue.  Cheers Mark!

Robert Hughes said:

Hi Mark,

I was hoping someone who's built a Melanesia would give you a response, but as they haven't here's my view for what it's worth...

Ideally I'd use whichever timber is recommended in the plans, assuming one is...  If not, the best easily-obtained timbers in the UK for good strength with low weight are sitka spruce or douglas fir.  Knot-free lengths of sitka spruce have been used for making masts for a long time.  I think douglas fir is a little bit heavier but also good.  They are easy to work, and quite resiliant for this sort of application.  If you want to go for higher strength I would use ash.  It's very strong and extremely good at taking shock loads without breaking, and tends to have a good straight grain.  The downsides are that it's heavier, and being much harder it's not so easy to work.  I've used ash for tillers in the past, and it's very difficult to damage.  I once built an own-design outrigger canoe, and used douglas fir for the outriggers on that.  Avoid oak, it's very strong but heavy, and it sometimes causes problems with glues (including epoxy).

All of the woods I've suggested glue well with epoxy.  The easiest brand to find in England is West, and they publish loads of guidance on techniques and which filler powders to use etc.  West is expensive though, and these days I use EL2 from Easy Composites (online), as I'm getting through a fair quantity.  Wear disposable nitrile (powder-free) gloves when using epoxy, and especially avoid getting the hardener on your skin.  I wouldn't use cascamite for anything on a boat.  If you don't want to use epoxy you can still get Aerolite 306, which is a very strong and water-resistant wood glue.  It works well for laminating but isn't as tolerant of badly fitting joints as epoxy.

All the best

Rob

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