Converting a 2x12 into Planking Stock

Building a boat requires materials, which costs money. The biggest expense in buying lumber is paying someone else to mill it for you. If you can locate good quality lumber at a fair price and do the mill work yourself, you will be able to save a significant amount of money.

The wood for Doug is Douglas Fir from Home Depot. I'm not saying that all the wood they carry is excellent boat building lumber, because it is not! Their lumber is very inexpensive and some of their boards are of good quality. For $27, I can purchase a 2x12 that is 16 feet long, that comes out to $1.69 a foot! A 1x12 from a local lumber yard sells Douglas Fir for $4 a board foot.

While it is time consuming to find the good pieces in the stack, the price savings are amazing! The things to look for are planks that have little to no sap wood, straight grain, few knots, and tight rings. The ring count should be more than 16 rings per inch to count as strong lumber. The boards at Home Depot are all flat sawn, so selecting a board that can be ripped into two quartersawn boards is best. 

If the rings are too far spaced and too flat on the board, the resulting lumber will not be of very good quality. It can take hours to find a good board and then get it out of the stack, but it is worth it! Sadly, I have made trips to Home Depot and not found a single board worth buying. Other times, I have found three or four!

This plank was in the discount bin since a chunk of the center had been ripped out. While the damaged section is not usable, and there is a bit of sapwood, the rest of the plank will offer very good and usable lumber for planking the hull.

The dinghy will be planked with double diagonal planking, allowing me to use shorter boards and with less concern about knots and grain run off. The planking was marked and prepared to rip and cut.

Using the skillsaw, I was able to rip off the strip of wood from the plank and then cut it into the shorter lengths that I need for the planking.

With the rip fence installed on the bandsaw, I was able to resaw the planks to 1/4 inch thickness, creating a 1/2 inch hull thickness after the double planking is completed.

I am able to select the perfect pieces that are not ruined by knots or other defects for the planking. Sections with knots at the end are still usable, simply by placing the knot past the working portion of the plank. When I cut off the excess lengths, the knots will be cut off and no one will need to know that they were once there!

This whole process does take considerable time, and it would be much easier to go to a lumber yard and buy 1/4 x 2.5 x 28 inch boards, but they will charge a considerable premium for all the milling time. On top of this, most lumber yards will charge you for wasteage, meaning they will charge you for the portion of wood that got turned to sawdust by the kerf of the blade they are using. The costs add up really quickly, and an inexpensive dinghy project can quickly become the price of a luxury boat if you don't keep a handle on it! All the wood to build this dinghy only cost me $135. If I went to a lumber yard, I would only be able to buy 33.75 board feet, when I ended up purchasing five 2x12 that were 16 feet long each!

As with everything, time is money. If you want it fast, it will cost money. If you want it cheap, it will cost time.