What is a "wooden boat"?

Since I started building "plywood boxes" and messing around with epoxy, I've every now and then been asked questions like "is a plywood boat a wooden boat?". Or "is a wooden boat still a wooden boat, if it has been coated with epoxy?"

Let's start with a universal answer to all questions like those, to know what we are talking about in the next sections.

Plants in the nature are classified systematically. Trees are plants, so it is not far-fetched to classify also wooden boats systematically ;-)

So here is "the complete systematic classification of wooden boats" (to be complemented if needed):

1 Wooden boat

1.1 Genuine wooden boat

In a genuine wooden boat all pieces are of natural wood and all pieces are fastened to each other using mechanical fasteners (dowel pins, nails, screws, rivets, ties, lashings etc.).

1.1.1 Natural genuine wooden boat

Each separate piece of wood comes from a part of a tree. Possibly bent. Possibly naturally crooked.

If You take a natural genuine wooden boat apart (remove the mechanical fasteners), You get a pile of wooden parts, each of which has been a part of a living tree.

For example a dugout canoe, a log raft, a viking ship, almost any boat before the 20th century.

1.1.2 Natural-like genuine wooden boat

Separate wooden pieces may be glued out of several pieces, but always with the grain running in the same direction, imitating "real" wood.

For example boats with laminated frames, laminated stems, planks glued out of several battens.

1.1.3 Unnatural genuine wooden boat

Separate wooden pieces may be glued out of several pieces in such a way, that grain directions don't correspond to anything appearing in the nature. Strength and other properties of wood have been manipulated by the use of crossing grain directions.

For example a genuine wooden boat with plywood strakes or plywood frames.

1.2 Laminated wooden boat

Strength and other properties of wood have been manipulated by cross grain gluing other than just separate pieces.

1.2.1 Fully laminated wooden boat

Lamination takes place as the boat is being built.

For example cross laminated boats out of battens or plywood strips.

1.2.2 Piecewise laminated wooden boat (plywood boat)

Industrially pre-laminated components (that is, plywood) are used.

1.3 Composite wooden boat

Properties of wood have been manipulated by the use of other materials, that have been seamlessly attached to wood, and that carry the (main) part of the load.

For example epoxy-glass fiber laminated stripper canoes.

1.4 Hybrid wooden boat

In addition to wooden parts, parts of totally something else have been used.

For example wooden strakes on metal frames.

Special considerations

Where does a strip planked (but not fiber laminated) boat belong to?

If there is no glue between the strips, cathegory 1.1.1.
If there is glue between the strips, cathegory 1.1.2 or 1.2.1.

Why are cathegory 1.3 boats wooden boats and not glass fiber boats?

If You build a glass fiber sandwich hull with a foam core it's called a glass fiber boat, not a foam boat. If You build the same boat with a wooden core, why is it a wooden boat? Well, it's a matter of taste, I quess. You could of course call a stripper kayak a "glass fiber boat". Most of the shape comes from bending properties of wood, however. And building is mostly woodwork. Maybe that's because it's a "wooden boat".

The wooden boat cathegory 1.3 equals the glass fiber boat category "sandwich with wooden core". What does it matter if there is no clear border line between boat cathegories?

Will a cathegory 1.1 boat turn into a cathegory 1.3 boat if it is covered with glass cloth and resin?

No, it does not. The cloth on the outside is not structural. Rather like a coating of "thick paint".

If You coat a wooden boat with epoxy (without cloth) is it still a wooden boat?

Of course it is. Epoxy resin is varnish like any other varnish. Or, mixed with pigment, paint like any other paint. Epoxy is new in the market, so it's fancy to call it "epoxy", not varnish or paint.

Of course it may be questioned if epoxy is a suitable varnish type for a traditional boat, but that's another thing.

What is a "wooden boat"?
Structure of wood
Moisture behaviour of wood
Why does a wooden boat leak?
Surface treatment of a wooden boat
The "correct" construction of a wooden boat

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