What Type of Wood is Used for Building Wooden Ships?

The magnificent ships, afloat on water with their huge sails, always made for an impressive structure. The purpose they solved made them even more elusive right from the start. Today, ships and the entire ship construction industry have come a long way. Ships today are no longer just wooden structures needed to travel across oceans.

They are an entire breed of themselves making a place in everything from trade to pleasure to warfare. However, if we talk about the ships and ship construction materials, the change has been the greatest in this particular aspect. Ships today are made of a blend of iron, steel and wood, with wood making a very less percentage of entire ship. But previously, in absence of better construction material and also some unawareness on parts of ship builders then, wood was the main material used in construction of ships.

Wooden ship is one of the oldest forms of ships, with their sails being a prominent feature. Even today, the ships can sometimes contain high percentage of wood. However, the use of wood for shipbuilding has changed in terms of the nature of wood.

The most common wood types used in a wooden ship include both hardwoods and softwoods. Depending upon the part of wood ship being constructed, the selection of wood type varies a little. To talk a little about these two particular types of wood, hardwoods are the stronger types, coming from trees with larger leaves and shorter fiber lengths. The softwoods, on other hand are obtained from trees mostly like conifers. The stronger parts of ship, which make for the load bearing regions, are usually made from hardwoods for better strength.

However, the type of wood for shipbuilding has been a very variable factor in the entire process of wooden shipbuilding. In ancient types, the mariners were new to the whole ship culture.


With finding more and more new routes, the marine world was seeing advancements like never before. Most people were sort of experimenting with various construction materials, mainly to find out the one that suited them the most. In the process, many materials for wooden shipbuilding were used. Some of these woods included species like Teak, Sal, Mango wood, Terminalia spp etc.


The variations in types of wood for shipbuilding were immense mainly depending upon the availability of that particular wood in an area. In most cases, ship construction was carried out along the coastal regions as this facilitated movement of wood and other materials especially when it was being imported from another region. Reports of Cedar timber being a common raw material for wood ship have come forward. There was a time when this particular wood type for ship construction became so famous that a shortage of this particular timber began to emerge. In most regions like Egypt and Spain, the use of this timber for wooden ship construction was so widespread that entire regions with thousands of cedar tress vanished, owing to their use in ship construction.

Today, however, the choice of materials for ship construction is quite different from the past. The main materials used today include iron and steel and other alloys with wood making only a little part of the entire ship construction material. Entire wooden ships are no longer seen cruising the seas. Iron and steel for their better strength and longer duration properties make a much more suited material. But some parts of the ship like the keel, planks and frame are still dependent on wood. These wooden parts can be made from any kind of wood like oak, Pine, Cedar or larch. The choice of wood for such wooden shipbuilding depends on the part under consideration and the kind of wood properties expected. Add to this the fact that our knowledge about various kinds of wood and its properties is much better today.

Wood types like Kauri, Bagasse, Pengal and Chenak are used in frames while the wooden floorings of ships maybe made from the types including Araracanga and Santa Maria. A yellow sander happens to be a choice wood type for decking, planking and framing. Others include Albarco, Araiba, Porcupine- wood, canary wood etc which are used in wooden shipbuilding for parts like planks, keel, decks and trims. These and few other names feature in the list of common wood types used today in wooden ships.

A wood ship maybe a rare site now with wood being no longer the sole material used in ship construction but types of woods still form an integral part of the entire shipbuilding process.


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