Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

Need some honest feedback please...

This is my first build and I'm building the wood duck 14'....

Boat will only be on ponds and ocean surf.

If your glassing everything anyhow, can you use carefully selected luan from Lowe's or Home Depot..or do you really absolutely have to use the marine grade?

Would love to hear from someone who has built both...

10 replies:

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RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

Try taking a piece of luan and boiling it to see if it comes unglued.   That should tell you a lot. 

I currently building my fourth boat, a Chester Yawl.  I opted for a kit this time because I wanted a pretty boat.  Prior boats were a couple of banks dories and a Bolger Sweet Pea.  All of them were made with Home Depot's best C-D plywood.  Couple of sheets of 1/4", one of 3/8" and a 16 foot PT 2x4 ripped into four lengths for the gunnl's.  The 1/4 is for sides and 3/8 for bottom/transom.  These boats were glassed only on the bottom and up the sides for 6", one coat of epoxy inside and painted with water based paint.  

I fish out of Little Harbor, have done the Snow Row a couple of times, rowed several times out of Kittery on New Year's Day and even cartopped to the Chesapeake.  

Bright Luan would be prettier than C-D, but if you paint, who would know? 


RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

The Wood Ducks have some strong curves. I had a hard enough time closing the bow on my WD12 with okoume, which is stronger and more flexible than luan. This happens before glassing, so the glass will be no help at all during the initial construction.



RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

i used 1/4 inch Luan on a small workboat and as Lazlo says, it doesn't bend well at all, particularly around compound curves.  Recommend against it.



RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

Luan worked fine on a eastport pram. But then, not much bend.

RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

I used Luan for a Wood Duck 12 and it worked. The bow and stern were tough but it just took a lot of patience  some water and steam from my iron.  I did crack the deck forward fo the cockpit though.  

RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan


RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

Can it be done?  Certainly.  Plenty of boats out there to prove it.  Will anyone recommend it?  Probably not, except maybe me. 

There are some valid (and invalid) reasons people go with the more expensive marine grade woods.  The question comes down to how much budget room do you have and what are your intentions with the boat.  

If you're planning to paddle it hard in rough conditions, opt for marine grade wood.  If, however, you're planning to paddle once a week on flat water lakes, you may be able to safely opt for luan with no problems whatsoever.  

As others have said, the boat design may be a factor given the lower flexibility of the luan, but it is possible to build damn near any boate with it, if you are patient.

Prioritize your costs versus use and you'll have the best answer and only you can make the final decision.

I regularly paddle 20 mil thick vinyl boats through sticks and weeds and semi-rough bottoms and have yet to have problems so I lean toward the side of using luan.  If you can get it to make the bends required, I tend to believe it will be just fine.  It may not last quite as long as marine grade stuff but I suspect it will.  If it doesn't you can build another boat out of luan and still be about the same overall price as building the original boat out of marine grade ply.

Other people have different experiences than I and will advise differently.


RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

Thanks All for the feedback...

 I did find a local source for 4mm meranti marine grade, so I think I'm going to go with that.

It's only about 40 bucks a sheet, so my thinking is it's a happy compromise on price AND it's a marine grade ply (supposedly a bit tougher and more mold resistant than the Okume)

Thanks Again

RE: Marine Grade or carefully selected Luan

The most expensive part of a build is your time. I'm finishng up a project where I used 9 mm G1S Douglas Fir instead of 6 mm Okoume. I managed to pull it off, but it increased the weight and the difficulty. Some of the bends were really tough. As others mentioned there are lots of boats out there built wih less than optimal materials, but I won't be doing it again. I have a stack of BS-1088 Okoume in the garage for the next three projects. 

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