Making Sawdust

The whole process of building a boat involves cutting a lot of lumber, but at the beginning there were whole days of doing nothing but.

The plans called for kiln-dried or air-dried lumber of no more than 12% moisture.  I live in the hills of Northern California which at times is like living in a rain forest, so that seemed unlikely.  In terms of what species of lumber, what tree: there was a long list of species that would work and a long list of ones that would not.  Doug fir is the most commonly available light, strong construction lumber on the west coast and was on the okay list.  So this began with a treasure hunt to find just the right lumber to build the frame of the boat that would not be ridiculously expensive.

The reason for the specificity of tree and moisture content of the lumber had to do with the epoxy that would be used to bind it all together.  Every joint and every plywood seam and every place where plywood contacts a member gets epoxied. Epoxy won’t bind well if the lumber is green, wet, or is of a species of wood that is high in natural oils.

After a little research, I found that our local lumber company, what used to be San Lorenzo Lumber (now ProBuilt), had in one of their yards kiln-dried Doug Fir that was not much more expensive than the green wood they normally sell for construction.  Sweet.  Three hundred dollars of wood later, my old work truck was loaded with boat lumber and headed up to E. Zayante where the boat was being built.

Generally, I had big long 16 and 20 foot 2×4 lengths.  The boat has a 20 foot long top deck, and because of the rake at the ends, is 16 foot along the bottom.  There are also 8 foot long beams across the boat (“athwartship” in boatbuilding-speak) and a bunch of little stuff that would be ends, posts, etcetera

But the plans called for ripping every piece to some new width, some 3 inches wide some 2-1/2.  A finish 2×4 from the lumberyard is actually 3-1/2 x 1-1/2 with smooth rounded corners.  Instead of taking a half inch off of a side to make a 3 inch thick piece, the plans called for taking off a 1/4 inch on either side.  The reason for this is sensible:  Cutting off the rounded edges of the lumber makes a better joint when it is epoxied.

So we spent a whole day feeding 16 and 20 foot long lengths of lumber into the tablesaw… twice. We made lots and lots of sawdust.

Then we cut a bunch of stuff to length, labeled it, and voila.  At the end of the day, we had a pile of lumber that we intended to turn into a boat.

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