Rebuilding - Wood Vs. Fiberglass - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 22 Old 07-03-2011 Thread Starter
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Rebuilding - Wood Vs. Fiberglass

I have a bit of a philosophical question to throw out to the members.

Over many years of reading about, working on and generally learning about boats I have noticed that a widespread attitude towards wood boats is that as long as a few scraps of wood (including the main beam with the reg. #'s) remain, a wood boat is infinitely rebuildable. Like Abe Lincolns' axe, lots of new heads & handles but still the original piece.

Please note that I'm not talking about historically significant boats like Dorade or Ticonderoga etc. but I've seen any number of stories of pretty ordinary wood boats being essentially re-created from new with a couple of bits of original wood incorporated and the result being called a rebuild. I realize that legally they are considered that, I'm talking about the work, logic etc. of the process.

In contrast to that, the general attitude to glass boats seems to be if they need new wiring, upholstery and paint they are ready to be scrapped. Not literally that minor but pretty close. Re-coring all or a large part of a deck seems to be a big dividing line.

I fail to understand this. To my mind a glass boat is much more easily rebuildable than a wood boat - re-coring all or part of a deck is pretty simple and a LOT less (extremely skilled) work than replacing a wood deck, beams, shelves, carlins etc. Similarly, doing some glass work on a hull, fairing & painting, maybe replacing a bulkhead or two, compares very favourably with building a new keel (backbone), steaming, sawing or laminating dozens of frames and then replanking a hull, which then requires the same fairing & painting as glass.

All the rest, new engines, wiring, systems etc. is pretty well the same and costs the same.

I'd really like to see thoughts & opinions on this please. (CharlieCobra, Jeff H?)

I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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post #2 of 22 Old 07-03-2011
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It sounds to me like you've never had to repair serious collision damage in a 'glass boat...


Anyways, as a current ordinary wooden boat owner, my take on all this is that a wooden boat is more easily fixed as it slowly falls apart over the years - a plank here, a fastening there - than a 'glass boat, which could seemingly last forever and then come down with a good dose of osmosis.

As far as needing skills to fix, I'd say, for example, rebuilding the keel would take about the same level of skill for both types, but for me, I prefer the smell of wood shavings in the morning over wearing a full-body moon suit at the height of summer and getting high on thinners..

But perhaps the main reason someone might fall in love with a a really old wooden boat and attempt to rebuild it is because they can - after all, it was built by hand one-plank-at-a-time as a one-off, only-one-exactly-like-this-one original and can be fixed exactly the same way it was built. A 'glass boat can be a little more difficult (particularly if awkward, unwieldy and expensive moulds are required) and, if you do a really great job at fixing it, the boat might end up looking exactly the same as someone else's Columbia 43..

Still, there comes a time in the life of ALL old boats, both wood and 'glass, where they are just too tired to keep living. True - you could take a couple of bits of original timber or make a mould of the old 'glass boat and start anew, whichever is easier - but if not, the wooden boat still comes out best, being easier to "recycle" piece-by-piece with the rest of it on the bonfire to keep you warm at night; instead of throwing glass shards off the chain-saw everywhere and filling the local toxic waste facility with the remains many times over.

It's a good question.

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"Honestly, I don't know why seamen persist in getting wrecked in some of the outlandish places they do, when they can do it in a nice place like Fiji." -- John Caldwell, "Desperate Voyage"

Last edited by Classic30; 07-03-2011 at 08:13 PM.
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post #3 of 22 Old 07-03-2011
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Why rebuild a generic wood hull from essentially the ground up ?


Because boats and boat people can be irrantional sometimes.


a buddy just sold his award winning restored 1930s racing sloop for 1/5 what he had in it, becuase the new buyer was going to treat the boat right. Hen could have sold the boat for 3x.
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post #4 of 22 Old 07-04-2011
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When any boat gets old and needs replacement of mechanical items, wiring, rigging it can be done. When a wooden boat needs planking replaced or a fiberglass boat needs a deck recore it can also be done. The bigger question is at what point does it become illogical economically.

If the boat is unique, which pretty much rules out production fiberglass boats, it can be worthwhile and budget be damned.

But if the boat isn't unique, regardless of material, will cost more to rebuild than it will ever be worth when finished then it makes less sense.

Remember that a boat that was originally bought in 1970 dollars will cost 2011 dollars to rebuild. Costs can get out of hand quickly in both labor and parts.

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post #5 of 22 Old 07-04-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo View Post
But if the boat isn't unique, regardless of material, will cost more to rebuild than it will ever be worth when finished then it makes less sense.

Remember that a boat that was originally bought in 1970 dollars will cost 2011 dollars to rebuild. Costs can get out of hand quickly in both labor and parts.
Now we're in the 21st Century, I've noticed an increasing push world-wide for old fibreglass "modern classics" to become the New Wood.

I'm thinking that it will actually be far more expensive (in labour and materials) to restore an old fibreglass S&S, Nicholson 32 or such like than a similar era something-or-other in wood, but it will be interesting to see what happens when people try (and they will) to do exactly as you suggest.

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"Honestly, I don't know why seamen persist in getting wrecked in some of the outlandish places they do, when they can do it in a nice place like Fiji." -- John Caldwell, "Desperate Voyage"
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post #6 of 22 Old 07-04-2011
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Repairing cored decks on fiberglass boats is very common and a common person can do the deed

The real killer is cored fiberglass hulls below the waterline as the cost goes out of control if its a large problem due to the issue of keeping hull shape

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post #7 of 22 Old 07-04-2011
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Boats,(wood or glass) cars, all kinds of big ticket items that are bought or acquired with the right intention, often become neglected and discarded after the excitement and pride wear off. All the friends that offered to "help" disappear. The cost of keeping it until it's restored/refit/re-powered etc are a constant drain on budgets that are not comprised of disposable income. There are thousands (millions?) of "project" boats, cars, airplanes, houses, that are on the "market" because someone's dream became a nightmare.

Some of the most famous boats ever built have been found abandoned, scuttled, burned, or just left in the mud. Maritime institutions all over the world are always trying to raise funds for such projects, trying to keep a tradition "alive" (beating a dead horse imho)

Wood or glass, it's not about the material it's about the cost and "use and discard" way our society has evolved. Eye candy quickly becomes sourdough for someone that really had no idea of costs and commitment.

Jus sayin...

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post #8 of 22 Old 07-04-2011
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And to prove it isn't just boats, as an example, here's someones dream of an airline:




That's the world we live in.

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"Honestly, I don't know why seamen persist in getting wrecked in some of the outlandish places they do, when they can do it in a nice place like Fiji." -- John Caldwell, "Desperate Voyage"

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post #9 of 22 Old 07-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post
And to prove it isn't just boats, as an example, here's someones dream of an airline:




That's the world we live in.



But now that they are being made from fiberglass (or at least plastic composites)???

Maybe new engines, upholstery and paint???

I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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post #10 of 22 Old 07-04-2011 Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo View Post
When any boat gets old and needs replacement of mechanical items, wiring, rigging it can be done. When a wooden boat needs planking replaced or a fiberglass boat needs a deck recore it can also be done. The bigger question is at what point does it become illogical economically.

But if the boat isn't unique, regardless of material, will cost more to rebuild than it will ever be worth when finished then it makes less sense.


Good points and close to what I was looking for when I posed the question.

To me (restorer of 2 glass sailboats - 26' and 43') the economics made lots of sense. I bought them for about $0.05 on the (new) $1, spent judiciously, consignment stores, Craigslist etc. and ended up owning boats for a small fraction of new costs. The Columbia 43 cost me about $45k (and thousands of hours of work) - what would a new Hunter 43 cost?

To me it becomes economically illogical when the boat is ordinary and the cost is approaching a new comparable boat. Following that logic I could easily have spent $150K had a basically new boat and still been waaay ahead of buying new.

And since when did economics play any part in owning a sailboat? They are ALWAYS worth less than you paid as soon as you take ownership. Actually, I think I made a few bucks (not counting my work) on the 26' racer after 9 years of ownership.

To further make my original point, any wood boats that had been as badly neglected as my two glass boats would have required MAJOR structural rebuilding - new backbones, ribs, planks, decking etc. They would have to have been built as new boats with some scraps of the old boats incorporated.

To connect this to my original point though - it seems to me that very many people would regard doing that hypothetical wood job as "doable" and even sensible but the glass boats I started with should have been scrapped - that's the attitude I fail to understand.

I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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