James Speaks Pt. 2: Updating the wooden parts

We’re beer and pretzels rich, not Hinkeley/Morris rich and were staggered by the cost of trying to replicate original equipment Toerails and Taffrail on Hull #9.  I spent a lot of time working with various local timber suppliers and decided Cumaru stock would be my most economical choice.  Here’s what I learned…

Cumaru is HARD!!!  Nails bounce right off it!  Planes gouge it!  Plan to sand sand sand! Cumaru is oily!!!  Rub your hand on a finished piece and it leaves your hand waxy.  PU varnish doesn’t stick to it! PU glue can’t bond it.  Glue with epoxy after an acetone de-oiling. To finish it bright, you must first shellac it.  Shellac stabilizes the oil present in the Cumaru, bonds to it/with it and seals the piece.  2 coats of 1/4 cut shellac, then on to polyurethane!


For now Cumaru is cheap, and pretty.  Easily sourced in 1″x6″x16′, it is being used for outdoor decks in high end homes.  My old man (who worked for Back Yard Boats in Alexandria VA in ages past) couldn’t initially tell it wasn’t mahogany.

It milled extremely well with high end saws and routers, going slow.

Regarding the toerails, Dad and I scarfed them together (8 to 1) and bent them.  I glued with PU glue and the more stressed scarf joints came right apart.  We remedied the scarf Joints with big clamps and epoxy. The bend is easy, the Cumaru followed the twist nicely in the thickness we used.  Our toerail is not, however, remotely as robust as the original at 1″ wide by 1.5″ high.  If time weren’t an object and “full restoration” were my goal, I would use a series of strips in these dimensions to laminate as I went along, building off of a strip bolted to the gunwhale, and shaping as I went along to achieve the needed dimensions.  Cumaru is available at Portsmouth Lumber in Portsmouth VA for decking applications.  I don’t recall the board foot price but bought 100ft linear of 1″x6″ for under $100.

Carrie took a hand in this project too.  She cut all the plugs for the rail, while I held a baby.  I was proud of her for taking on some new tools and processes.

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