Why are boats made of wood

Yacht interior: a small atlas of the most popular types of wood


Oak is the best known European hardwood for boat building. The oak is very species-rich, about 300 species are known, 20 of which are native to Europe. The clear radial medullary rays, which can be seen as small mirrors in the wood image, are typical of all oak species. They provide the structured surface that makes oak wood so popular. The color is more or less pale light brown, sometimes with a reddish tinge.

With a density of 0.6 to 1 depending on the type, oak tends to be rather heavy. In modern interior construction with veneered sandwich panels, however, this is less noticeable than in classic boat building, where solid wood is processed. Oak wood is also rich in tannic acid, which must be taken into account when building boats with solid wood. Iron-containing screws or nails are to be avoided accordingly.


Mahogany is one of the classic boat lumber for both the hull and the interior. It should be noted that the real mahogany species from South America have become extremely rare and expensive. They belong to the plant genus Swietenia. In addition, the dark atmosphere that the deep red wood gives a boat below deck is a bit out of fashion. Nevertheless, interior fittings made of mahogany give boats a nautical character.


Ash wood is one of the classic native boat building timbers. Typical for its appearance are the light gray-brown, in some species almost white color and the clearly recognizable pores. These pores give the ash its typical grain when cut. Because of this drawing, among other things, the ash is a common furniture wood, especially for visible surfaces, which has finally found its way into the interior design of yachts.

The density can be compared with that of oak. On the one hand, ash has a higher flexural strength than oak and is easier to work with. On the other hand, it is less durable than oak. Ash wood is traditionally used for straps, cleats and flagpoles, i.e. parts that do not hang around unnoticed.


Like mahogany, teak is one of the classic boat building timbers from the tropics. Like mahogany, teak creates a rather dark atmosphere, but the golden hue is appreciated by many. In boat building, various secondary plant raw materials are of particular importance, which on the one hand make the wood very resistant to pests and rot, but on the other hand make it difficult to glue or paint the wood.

The wood is made for natural decks, with varnished handrails or the like you will more likely have problems. Coatings below deck are a little more durable due to the lack of exposure to UV rays and salt. A popular variant is the clear lacquered teak frame around single-colored panels.

There is more about the interior in the current issue of segeln.