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Rails

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
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What kind of lumber have you guys used for rails on your pirogues? I am ready to shop. Options I have easily available:
  1. 2 x whatever select SYP. They have some pretty 16' select SYP at the local Lowes in sizes from 2x6 to 2x12. I could pick a clear or mostly clear piece and have the rest left over for future projects. When I was last there some of it looked real nice.
  2. They also have some nice cedar, pine, and poplar in 1 x whatever. The lengths would need to be scarfed possibly in three pieces depending on how clear it is, but most likely just two pieces (one splice per rail).
  3. I could make a 1/2 day trip to my supplier of rough sawn lumber to get other species and some of the same ones including cypress, poplar, maple, cherry, walnut, and so on. No ash or spruce though. I buy a good bit of lumber from them and work it up from rough to finished sizes myself, but as a luthier who sometimes makes other small projects I typically work with short lengths. He sells in 12' lengths, but for most of my work it is cut in half before I do anything. Working in long lengths will be a big change of pace.
 

oldbuffpilot

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
374
10
77
Central Kansas and Central Texas
Pete, The rails seem to me to be the toughest part of a build. On some boats the bends aare compound and extreme. Because of this I ususally use spacers and build a miniature box beam. This is strong, light and you can use thinner (easier to bend ) wood for the rail. The second picture was a boat that I put in the shop to "spruuce up" and added a wear strip to the top where the double paddle was wearing the cedar. Having said all this .... on Uncle John types a pine trim strip about 3/4 by 3/8 thick on the out side is easy and does the job well. try shopping around in the trim sectiondon't hesitate to modify standard trim pieces to meet you needs. Have fun!
1546
1547
 

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
0
69
Pete, The rails seem to me to be the toughest part of a build. On some boats the bends aare compound and extreme. Because of this I ususally use spacers and build a miniature box beam. This is strong, light and you can use thinner (easier to bend ) wood for the rail. The second picture was a boat that I put in the shop to "spruuce up" and added a wear strip to the top where the double paddle was wearing the cedar. Having said all this .... on Uncle John types a pine trim strip about 3/4 by 3/8 thick on the out side is easy and does the job well. try shopping around in the trim sectiondon't hesitate to modify standard trim pieces to meet you needs. Have fun!
Thanks, 3/4 x 3/8 is less than I was thinking. It would be great to keep the weight down though. I am building with 4mm so obviously minimizing weight is one of the goals, but does the 4mm need any extra support at the rail. I am guessing no, but asking anyway.

Thinking how light that combination might be makes me smile. It kind of makes me wish I had bought lighter glass. My ideas have changed since I ordered the resin and glass a few years ago and bought 6 ounce glass and 17 oz 4" bi-axial tape. Makes me wonder if I should rethink that. Maybe skip the tape or use the tape, but only glass the outside. I have time to mull it over a while. I think I want to use what I bought or at least some of what I bought rather than order new.
 

oldbuffpilot

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2014
374
10
77
Central Kansas and Central Texas
Thanks, 3/4 x 3/8 is less than I was thinking. It would be great to keep the weight down though. I am building with 4mm so obviously minimizing weight is one of the goals, but does the 4mm need any extra support at the rail. I am guessing no, but asking anyway.

Thinking how light that combination might be makes me smile. It kind of makes me wish I had bought lighter glass. My ideas have changed since I ordered the resin and glass a few years ago and bought 6 ounce glass and 17 oz 4" bi-axial tape. Makes me wonder if I should rethink that. Maybe skip the tape or use the tape, but only glass the outside. I have time to mull it over a while. I think I want to use what I bought or at least some of what I bought rather than order new.
Pete you definitely need a real of some kind in whale or gunner. That will become of this when you get to that point
 

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
0
69
Pete you definitely need a real of some kind in whale or gunner. That will become of this when you get to that point
For sure . The question is how much is needed with the 4mm Okoume. I was surprised at the suggestion of 3/8 x 3/4 thinking more was typical. After hearing it and thinking about it it doesn't sound unreasonable.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
13,714
113
83
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
Pete, my canoe might furnish an example for you? it is built with 4mm okume.
I cut out a 3” wide stip of the 0kume to exactly match the curve of the existing gunnel edge of the top edge of the boat. But, I didnt glue it directly to the hull.

Gunnels are a main source of strength for canoes, so I built a box beam that looks to be similar to Andy’s. I took a strp of 1”X2” and marked off 90-45-45 triangles all down it. Every other one pointed up, in between ones pointed down. After cutting them out, I drilled a hole into the center of each one. But not so large that it neared an edge. The hole was to lighten the blocks.I glued these with the 45-45 edge even with the top and bottom edges of that 3” wide inwhale.so that there was a 2” gap in between them, and the top and bottom ones were evenly staggered. Each bottom triangle was under an emptyace above it, and each top triangle was above an empty space.

This arrangement offers several advantages. It is, as Andy described, a form of a box beam. As such, it is very strong for its weight. The open spaces along its length offer a ventilated gunnel, allows you to tip the boat up on edge to empty water. It also offersa surplus of tie down points to secure camp gear etc.
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,161
12
South Louisiana
I used Western Red Cedar for one pirogue and figured it was about the best strength to weight ratio out there. I had originally bought SYP and it struck me how darned heavy it was moving the boards around. I returned them and got the WRC. Probably saved close to 10 pounds in the finished boat.

One thing to consider. Many people, myself included, thought that a pirogue had to be completely rigid in order to be strong enough. I've found that using a little less wood in the chines and the gunnels doesn't really affect the strength that much. A little flex in a well-built boat is entirely acceptable. That's something that takes a certain "feel". A box beam like Jack suggested is a good compromise in weigh vs strength. More surfaces to glue and paint/varnish around, though.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
13,714
113
83
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
Joey has something in the flexing of a boat. While my kayaks are rigid craft, My canoe does have some flex, though I’ve never sensed it.

Years ago, a paddling friend had a hand made kayak. He had 2X4s as gunnels". Then he went to the willow tree in his yard, and harvested flexible branches. In the bottom edges of the gunnels were series of holes running the length of the boat. He cut those flexible branches to length, inserted ends into the holes, and had bows forming the hull. He covered the willow bows with a light canvas and applied outdoor house paint. He had a skin-on-stick kayak.

He told me that when he paddled in waves, he could feel the boat flexing.
 
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PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
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69
Western red cedar would be light and pretty strong, but require care as far as how much abuse it is given as far as abrasion and other trauma. I'd love to have some Sitka spruce but sourcing that here would be even harder than sourcing decent plywood. I'd probably need to have it shipped from the PNW. I can find the cedar here. It will be in lengths that will require scarfing, but that isn't a deal breaker.

I used to love ash on my whitewater boats. It is pretty heavy but the strength to weight ratio is good and it takes a ton of abuse. I could go with a very small cross section with ash. It is a moot point though since I probably can't get any nice ash here.

I am inclined to think that the shape of the UJ pirogue with it's single sweeping curve at the rail tends to automatically be fairly stiff. As such I bet it needs minimal stiffening compared to many designs. I sawed some paper thin veneer and built a 27" model from a scrap of english walnut. I was surprised just how stiff it was with no frames or rails. With a center frame added it stiffened up more and with a minimal rail even more so to the point there was no detectable flex (not sure there really was any before the rail was added).

I plan to reserve judgement until I have the hull seamed and the frames in place to decide on the final rail dimensions. I am currently thinking of an outer rail only and am thinking of going pretty light. I figure that if it seems too flimsy I can add an inner rail after the fact.
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,161
12
South Louisiana
Pete, flexible and flimsy are definitely not the same. The sides and the rails have to flex in order to make the shape of the boat. When all nailed, screwed and glued together, it makes a much stronger unit. Unless you're hauling anvils around, it doesn't take as much wood as you might think.

A buddy of mine built a pirogue out of aluminum sheets. Despite my suggestions, he "knew" he had to make it with bigger and thicker components. Result...... 13.5 foot pirogue.....105 lbs. He's already talking about a trailer.
 

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
0
69
A buddy of mine built a pirogue out of aluminum sheets. Despite my suggestions, he "knew" he had to make it with bigger and thicker components. Result...... 13.5 foot pirogue.....105 lbs. He's already talking about a trailer.
I am definitely not looking for something that is hard to load on the roof rack. I am getting too old to be loading excessively heavy boats. I hope I can keep this one reasonably light. A 105# boat would be a huge fail for my usage. I think I'd probably sell it or give it away if it came in that heavy.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
13,714
113
83
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
I use my boats as tools, not as pieces of furniture. They have battle scars from rocks and dams. Sand it down, epoxy on a permenant band aid, it’s ready for the next trip. 4mm okoume continues to serve. I took Joey’s advice and didn’t toss in any anvils. (I tend to listen to Joey)

Here’s another observation. When paddling in a group, even when there are multi thousand dollar Krueger Sea Winds there, the admiring comments from others always are aimed at wooden boats. Always.

But, make no mistake - if you ever seek aboat that is a true swamp-to-sea boat, the Sea Wind is it. Bar none. The closest thing to it would be Matt’s Northwind or Southwind. They are plywood versions of a Sea Wind.
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,161
12
South Louisiana
Just as a guage, here are some of specs on various boats. 14 foot x 22" wide pirogue.... 1/4" sanded pine ply and WRC chines, gunnels and stems....46#. 16 foot x 25" wide pirogue..... 1/4 " sanded pine ply with sinker cypress chines, gunnels and epoxy filleted stems......56#. 16 foot x 22" wide kayak with 2 foot x 4 foot cockpit and front and rear bulkheads......1/4" luan ply glassed and epoxied both sides.........no solid wood ...........46#.

My really coarse rule of thumb .........For pirogue shaped boats in the 14-16 foot range, the finished boat will weigh about what 14-16 feet of the full width ply sheets you are using. Pine ply weighs about 28 lbs per sheet x 2 for a 16 foot boat = 56 lbs. That's with just about the lightest solid wood you can find. Southern yellow pine can add 8 or so pounds to that.
 

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
0
69
Hmmm... So I seem to be going down the rabbit hole....

On my way to pick up my 4mm okoume from the freight terminal I stopped to pick up some 2x4s to stiffen the load on my roof rack, While there I saw a nice piece of cedar that should make some nice rails with a bit of scarfing. It is really pretty with vertical and straight grain. The thing is that it got me thinking.... Why not re do the frames in cedar too and save a bit more weight.

Then if that, why not do something about the stems? I already made a pair that weigh 12 ounces each, but I can probably give them to someone who doesn't want to make their own or doesn't have a table saw. It may be an odd choice, but I have a piece of Paulownia that is big enough. It is crazy light (it almost feels like picking up balsa wood), very strong for it's weight. and reportedly rot resistant. Barring that I could laminate some of the cedar if I have enough left (or use some less select stuff if I have some in the scrap pile, or buy some more). I figure it might require a bit of extra glass, or dynel, or a metal strip to protect the stem if made of softer wood.

So am I going overboard or is this all a good idea? Someone talk me down if I need it :)
 

PeteStaehling

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2020
72
0
69
It’s YOUR boat. You have only one person to satisfy. You do the math.
Yeah, that is what it comes down to I guess. I do find myself second guessing not using parts that I already made, also using 6 ounce glass on a boat where I am skimping on ounces everywhere else, but that is what my gut is telling me to do.
 

jdupre'

Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2007
2,161
12
South Louisiana
To make a light boat EVERY component needs to be scrutinized. Here's what I do. Can this piece be made half as long/wide/thick and still do the job? If not, how much can I get away with? Nails or screws every 3" or every 8"? Rails..... 3/4" x 1 1/2" or 5/8" x 1 1/8" ? Paint or varnish......1 coat or 8 coats? Breasthooks or decks......18" or 6" long? Wood variety ........balsa or oak? Side height....... 12" for safety or 9 1/2" for less weight but more care in paddling. Pine ply weighs 7/8ths of a pound per square foot. Boat length..... the difference in a 16' boat and a 15' boat is basically one foot out of the center of the boat. The ends pretty much stay the same. That one foot is made up the most per foot of wood, glue, and paint....probably 6-8 lbs right their.

No easy answers to any of these questions. You make an educated guess on this boat and you get better the more boats you build. Experience comes at a cost.