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post #10 of Old 05-27-2012
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Re: Balsa cored hulls

Originally Posted by PCP View Post
The others you mentionI don't know but Dehler that had built balsa cored boats for many years is changing. I don't know why but building with balsa is cheaper than building with a high end foam and I am sure it is no better. I know particularly the Dehler 41 where the cheap version has balsa core and normal resins while the expensive version (lighter and stronger) is made with epoxy resins and top foam core.

I have observed that more traditional brands still use balsa and more modern and technical boats use almost all some kind of hi-tech foam and epoxy or vinilester resins. I guess they have a good reason to do that and it is not price for sure.


Balsa has much better adhesion than foam core. A stronger bond makes for a better laminate. But you have to keep it dry. Ask any boat builder and they will tell you the same thing. Personally I use balsa core mostly because I have lots of it around. It is cheap. I store it in the attic to keep it bone dry.

My preference is foam because it adds flotation. I would worry about it in lightweight boats that get bashed up on the ocean, like these Class 40's and Open 60's.

I use plywood for molds on things I don't care about.

I also like solid glass because it doesn't rot. I am debating building some cabinets, engine bay sound shields, and bulkheads on one boat out of solid glass just for rot prevention. Water gets in everywhere, and plywood seems to suck it up. My big boat is rather heavy. I don't think it will hurt much to use a lead sound shield around my engine. I like quiet diesels. A combination of solid glass rot-proof panels, insulating paint, glue on foam and lead sheeting is my plan.

Epoxy resins are heavier. I like them because they are stronger. I would always chose epoxy resins, and pay the premium for them. If they can make the boats lighter using epoxy then they are saving weight somewhere else. Switching from balsa to foam? A different layup? I suspect the epoxy is needed for better adhesion to the foam. I am no expert of foam, but I believe builders use a scored foam to increase adhesion. I'd like to see a cross section of both options. Hanse is selling an epoxy version. It is heavier, not lighter. I don't know what the core material is. So the layup and core are identical with the trade off being heavier epoxy for greater strength--something to think about when you are slamming brutally hard into a wave trough in the Gulf Stream every 45 seconds in a pitch black storm...I can tell you that from experience. I'll take the stronger hull any time.

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