The modern wood/epoxy constructions
With the arrival of water-resistant adhesives and epoxy resins (see materials), plywood will have its main defect deleted. Indeed, the possible resumption of water by the side will be made impossible by the external stratification of one or more glasscloth layers, which will further strengthen the assemblage. Better still, we can avoid internal battens by " welding " the two CP with a radius joint that will be more or less stratified as needed.
The average size of boats has increased, helping architects to draw shapes where the bilge, unpleasant because of its “shoe box” look, almost disappears. For their part, manufacturers have realized that this material is "workable", that it does not inevitably requires developable shapes, it can accept constraints to become a little more rounded, eliminating the “sickle cut” appearance. It has become the material of the experienced sailors, long cruises and circumnavigations boats as it can easily be repaired anywhere. It is also ideal for catamarans as it is quite light, which is a must for this type of boats. And, very important, it remains the less expensive material for a one-off custom boat.
Cold molded wood
This remains the reference is the boat par excellence, for its lightness and amazing strength. For the record, one of our boats, a Merry Dream designed by D.Z. Bombigher, had the misfortune to be in Sri Lanka during the tsunami of December 2004. She has been thrown ashore, more than 100 meters inland, and suffered only cosmetic damage. The molded wood remains expensive, both in material and labour. We have a perfect expertise of this material, mainly through the construction on plans of Bombigher or Xavi Cardell, and always with the great pleasure of doing beautiful work.
Strip planking or, how to reinvent a technique.
It was formerly called Norwegian planking. Instead of scribing the planks on site, they used to plank the hull with small flexible strips, all alike. This method was mainly used for prams, traditional Norwegian boats. Even if we could build round shapes with an excellent longitudinal strength, there was a cross fragility. This is where the contribution of architects was essential : to keep the main interest of the wood construction, ie lightness, they used interior partitions to strengthen cross-resistance. Then reinforced the jointings with inside and outside stratification, creating a stratification / wood / stratification “sandwich”
This construction technique produces very nice boats, modern as well as classic. Light enough, round shaped, and with the passing of time, we can say durable. We might add that this is the ideal material for catamarans as they mainly bear longitudinal stresses.
Sandwich already seen with strip planking, started badly because of disastrous water infiltrations in case of accidental local damage : wood literally permeated like a blotter, causing a separation of the coats. This system, planned for balsa core, then has been reserved for decks due to its characteristics of sound and heat insulation and lightness. The occurrence of PVC closed cell foam has solved the problem of water infiltration and advantageously replaced the balsa becks including the use of vacuum stratifications. We use this technique whenever possible, in agreement with the architect.
We can make any part of a boat with fiberglass / PVC / fiber sandwich because of its excellent stiffness / weight ratio ; it is just necessary to give particular attention to the stratification to avoid delamination. This is the perfect material for prototype racing boat or enthusiast racer, but it is expensive in total construction because of the PVC foam, and carbon fiber for even more lightness.
A future technique for building
The qualities of the wood epoxy / composite now exceed those of the traditional reinforced polyester construction. It will never become an industrial product. This is the boat of the well informed sailor or professional with special needs. A renewable material, durable, lightweight, insulating, easy to repair and maintenance-free or nearly so. This is really a technique of building a future for all those who know their needs and fast understand that no production boat can truly fit their requirements. The boat of the customer with a real passion. Just like us.