Basswood for strip building

Submitted byJohnAbercrombie onFri, 11/22/2019 - 17:51

I'm building my current project (Njord by Bjorn Thomassen) with strips mostly from 'boards I'll never use' and leftovers around my garage shop.

I had a piece of basswood which I added to the stock for cutting into strips.

Those basswood strips came in handy when dealing with some areas where the strips had to twist a lot - the transition from the 'flat' rear deck to the area forward of the cockpit, near the sides of the deck.

There's a definite advantage of having alternatives to the stiff red cedar strips. Basswood isn't that much heavier than the alternatives, and is lovely to work with as it doesn't have the hard grain lines of cedar or spruce. Heavy kayaks (I've built a few!) are usually the result of extra epoxy & glass, IMO.

BTW, heat-bending strips doesn't work for me. I've hand-bent quite a few guitar sides, so I'm not a complete beginner at wood bending. That said, basswood also heat bends much more easily than red cedar.

I use basswood often for accent strips, because of the nondescript grain. You can cut it "any old way", and sometimes come up with some iridescence.

I heat bend often in builds, and I'm still learning. I'm building a hull with pawlonia, and found that it responds to heat bending BETTER than cedar, which came as a surprise. I sense that it has a very low lignin content, and I had thought that woods with a higher lignin content would respond better. Maybe I'm heating up the lignin faster in this low-density wood.

Hi John, I am in the beginning stages of my first strip build, have built 4 skin on frames. What little basswood I have encountered has been white, is most of this wood white or very light colored? Would like to use it for water line, shear and deck accent strips on a shortened Frej play boat.. Have walnut, mahogany  and cypress that can be used also but would like some options for white strips. I enjoyed watching your Frej build as it progressed, hope mine turns out as well.


Sat, 11/23/2019 - 23:12


I haven't used a great deal of basswood......I've seen basswood boards with grey or brown 'stripes', but most of  the stuff seems quite white-ish.

Yellow cedar is a nice wood but heavy IMO for planking, but would be good for accent strips.

On my current build (Njord) I used a lot of cedro (aka Spanish Cedar) which is nice to work with. I only used it because I had it on hand and bought it for a good price years ago; I think it's gotten expensive. (??)

For accent strips when I built a couple of clear finished kayaks (and before that canoes) I've laminated together 3 strips (dark-light-dark, or the converse) and then ripped the laminate into a couple of strips. Laminating makes it easier to get full length strips that have the scarfs reinforced by the adjacent layers.

Good luck with your Frej build -I'm sure it will turn out fine. I'd definitely recommend a skeg.  Also, if you haven't done so already, and if it's not too late, make a mockup of the area where your feet will fit. It's a tight fit for anything over about size 9.5 if you want to wear anything but booties. It's pretty easy to raise the sheer on a strip boat (not as easy as SOF, though!).

Thanks for the reply John. I'm still in the planing stage, accumulating the consumables, upgrading table saw, router table and new pads for sanders.

Definitely will install a skeg. How has the skeel worked long term?

I think I'm a little smaller at 174cm,  78k, 9.5shoe. Booties are all I usually wear, I'll check it out though.

With the up coming holidays it may be first of the year before I actually start building.

My local lumberyard that stocked hardwoods closed several years back. I may have to find my white accent online, have plenty of wrc, walnut and mahogany on hand.

I use basswood a lot as you mentioned it behaves well and makes nice accents.  Make sure it is sealed well watbasswood accentser is hard on it.