Exotic wood hulls, decks

Have any of you had experience with using exotic wood for hulls and or decks? If so, would you share your experiences here?

I would like to plank a hull with something like Mahagony, Rosewood or possibly one of the exotic woods like Bocote or Wenge. I have found many sources for 1/8" thick wood for most of the fancy & exotics. I have also found that there is a lot of veneer 1/32" to 1/16" in very fancy woods. I wondered if a hull could be done with balsa or basswood, smoothed, filled and then overlayed with one of the veneers. I’m talking plank style for all of this.

Has anyone ever worked with any of the fancy or exotic woods for any building?

Thanks in advance for your replies…


You have to be careful working with some of the exotics. A good source on wood toxicity is at:




I’ve read some things on dust from wood. Some of the common woods seem to have moderate to high risk and I’ve used them many times. I usually wear a mask if there’s to be dust from sanding any amount, but then again I’ve smoked all my life, so…

Thanks for the links. A good quick chart seems to be at the bottom of the page here…

I tried cutting planks out of veneer and was not happy with the result. The veneer was peeled off the outside of the log(maybe all veneer is) and the grain looked like plywood so when I cut the planks the grain was all over the place and just didn’t look right. The knife followed the grain so it was almost impossible to cut a plank. You’ll get better results cutting your own planks. You need a saw with a very thin blade or most of your money will end up as sawdust. Take a look around this forum

A planked deck can be kind of heavy for a racing boat but they sure look cool. You can glue up some panels of planks on a plastic sheet(so the glue won’t stick) and then sand it as thin as you dare and then cut the deck out of it. If you’re lucky and don’t sand through you can make a thin deck that isn’t too heavy. This deck was made of yellow cedar with black cardboard filler strips for caulking. It’s about 1/16" thick. I put one lay of 1 1/2 oz cloth on the back to hold it together.
Hope this helps a little

This is a one meter hull built using some longitudinal stringers and then covered with thin mohogany veneer. The light strip you see is a piece of maple added on purpose for visual effect. Veneer is simply laid up at a slight anle to allow compound bending and glued in place.

It was then covered with 1/2 oz. epoxy glass cloth on outside and thinned epoxy on inside.

Unfortunately, this hull has passed on to it’s present owner with whom I’ve lost touch, so I have more photos of build, than of finished boat.

Don - Thanks for your thoughts. I have also thought of buying the veneer already stripped from the vendor. A couple of them have said they could do it.
I will never race an RC boat, just for my own use. I think that’s why I want it to look as good as possible, since it will probably sit on the shelf most of the time, so weight is not an issue.

Dick - Did you like the veneer look? Was it also hard to cut or were these pre-cut strips? What if the veneer was 1/16" and was used as regular planking, like balsa, along the length of the hull instead of diagonal? More like real life?

Thanks for the answers so far,

The mahogany (dark) veneer was sold as counter top edging and was about 1-1/2 inches thick and had heat sensitive glue on the back for attaching to flat counter top substrate. It was so very inexpensive to veneers from a wood-workers store. (Bought mine through Menards) And I used the glue to attach at bottom of keel and at gunwales. I ran thinned epoxy between veneer and longitudinal stringers.

I liked the look - especially from a distance, but even with careful layp, the edges had a tendency for not lie tight against the previous edge. I tried re-cutting but didn’t help and I think some of it was due to the compound bending taking place. Up cllose with a careful eye, you could see that i had to back-fill each seam from inside. I applied clear plastic packaging tape on the outside so I could see the seam, then applied epoxy and microballoons (brown) from inside to fill seams. Tape kept it from running onto the outside of the hull, plus allowed vision as to how well seams were filled. Because of the number of stringer that I used, it was the typical PITA that normally always accompanies some build. :smiley: Name of the boat (Cosmic Woodpecker) was added in black lettering on the diagonal on the lighter strip and then all was clear coated. I thought about a fine glass covering, but worried if any low spots it wouldleave glass looking whiter than rest of hull, so just gave it several coats of epoxy, sanded between and finished with two coats of gloss spar varnish.

I think Earl was trying a similar build too - as a couple of us were messing with veneers at the time. Not sure I would do it again as it was a lot of time fitting the strips.

As for laying up in normal strip fashion, the veneer is usually a lot easier to bend that balsa or solid “sticks” so it might have a tendency to droop slightly between shadow stations. Also fairing might present a problem being that thin. You migh have better lluck laying up 1/8 x 1/4 strips of solid lumber to allow sanding and fairing. Both methods would still look nice if clear finished.

Dick - Actually I figured to lay balsa planking first, smooth it and make it as a base for doing the veneer on the top, so the veneer would take form as it should. What type of epoxy was used on the hull?

I have also been looking at all the “thin wood” and that’s an idea too. It’s more expensive, so I thought about doing the veneer first as a test and then if it worked well, do another hull with the 1/8" thin wood strips. According to what answers I get from veneer manufacturers, the 2 layer veneers should cut well and give better edges…

I have even thought of the basswood “clapboard” for a hard chine footy, just to see what it looked like… So many ideas and I still haven’t got a clue;)

Don - I really like the looks of that deck…


Justin -

from my big catamaran experiences and needed repairs from time-to-time, the fact I only lived about 35 minutes away from them, and that I had become friends racing Force 5 dinghies with them, I use - and continue to use the Gougeon Brother’s WEST System epoxy products.

There are several really good and really respected epoxy systems out there - MAAS, SYSTEM 3, WEST, RAKA to name a few, and everyone seems to have their favorite. I continue to use my selection because I am familiar with the products, their mix ratios, and also what to expect in terms of cure rates, and look/feel.

I would strongly recommend you find a good marine product that will allow you to glue and finish witht he same basic components rather than having to buy multiple cans of different formulas. Some will argue about expecting one formula to solve all problems, but as mentioned - I know the WEST limitations and seldom have need to move away from them. Biggest exception is CA glue which I also use frequently - especially for taking things in place. I’ve had no reason to be disappointed in the WEST System brand products.

NOTE: The 5 minute, 2 part stuff from home building centers is primarily a glue - not a final finish and often remains a bit “rubbery” when cured. I try to steer folks away from using it all - unless it’s an emergency repair at pond-side where time is of an essence. Even then, there are much better alternatives.


Ok, why epoxy? I see almost everyone uses it or uses glass cloth and resin. Why not marine paint or even a clear marine finish instead? Just asking because I don’t know and want to understand…

Thank you,

It acts like a medium viscosity glue. It can have silica, microballoons, talc, fairing compound or carbon powder added to make it thicker or to add properties desireable for it’s intended use. WEST happens to mix 5:1 ratio (resen:hardener) and can be mixed for 15 minute work period - or up to 35 minutes. It cures to a golden/amber color if nothing is added to it, which enhances clear wood finishes, it can be pigmented with color. If left clear, it must be coated to prevent UV degradation (usually spar varnish with UV inhibitors).

As a glue, it is waterproof, and can fasten wood, metals, class, carbonfiber, etc. (just can’t use on plastic - although they now have a formulation for that which I haven’t tried yet). For coating, it can be rolled on, and “tipped off” with a brush and usually self-levels when on a horizontal surface. It can be drilled and tapped for coarse threads. It displaces the air in the woods cellular structure to resist rot and decay.

Best is that you can seal (or glue) foam for boat hull plugs and it doesn’t melt the foam. It doesn’t have a bad odor so can be used indoors without “smell complaints”. Some use it for sealing foam for sculpture work.

Ummmm - lots more - but do a Google and visit their site for more info and ideas. Either Gougeon Brothers - or WEST SYSTEM.

Thanks for the info. I will check out their site…

I ran across a site about wood boats. It pertains to larger boats, but some of the info was interesting…


Can I paint over the epoxy? (I will check the web site), I plan to do a paint scheme on the hull of the first test boat. I’m doing a “Razor” footy, just to see if I like this stuff, but I already do…:wink: After the first boat or two, I will try the planking and after I learn that, the exotic stuff comes.

I will make a build log if anyone is interested…


Justin - you can pint over it if you wish. A good quality enamel - or automotive/marine one or two part polyurethane are at the top end of quality ( and may be a bit harder to use/apply ) while good old Krylon or automotive spray colors are the easiest to use. Just lightly sand the surface to slightly roughen it up ( or use an appropriate primer) and spray like you would an ordinary plastic kit model.

A wooden hull, epoxy coated and sanded and then painted with a marine grade of one or two part polyurethane looks as good - or better - than a fiberglass gel-coat. In fact, some dinghy builders skipped the gel-coat and painted their hulls with the two part polyurethane paints - since it looked as nice as gel-coat but didn’t get the fine “spider” hairline stress cracks, wasn’t as heavy as gel-coat and seemed to have a harder finish. When you get to the two part stuff, it is best to have it professionally sprayed/applied. If you are happy with abase white hull or a few common colors, I found my local autobody shop willing to paint a hull for free to use up any left over car paint if they are spraying urethane. A definite requirrement is to have a good prep finish as tthe urethanes are very thin and will show any imperfection.

I know you didn’t ask about the high-end paint, but seemed natural to throw it in here. For your needs, a decent spray can paint will work, and you can always airbrush any major graphics.

A spray can is more my style… Railcars, bridges, walls…:rolleyes:

Not really, but I have used them a lot over the years. Painted two cars with spray cans, real cars. People said it wouldn’t work, so I had to do it… Also sprayed one with a Wagner paint sprayer… I’m the spray can master…:lol: