I use clear spruce on all interior parts of our wood prams. I would use the ash for gunwales but not for anything that will be that close to water. Also, if you use ash make sure it's eastern ash not western (swamp) ash. It DOES make a difference. My .02
I would not use ash for the chines or chine battens. Good white ash is certainly strong enough, and bends well, but will take up water and is not very rot resistant. White oak would be a much better choice for these parts.
Keith Steele used to build drift boats on the McKenzie River in Oregon. He used Port Orford cedar for chines and sheer. I think Port Orford is stronger by weight than our red cedar. I would think your white cedar is suitable, altho I know nothing about its strength to weight ratio. A nice piece of Honduran mahogany makes a nice stem piece.
I scarfed ash for sheer on my canoe once and had trouble getting one of the joints to stay. I eventually replaced them with long pieces of spruce I was able to get, and they're still on the canoe.
White cedar is strong for its weight. But it's very light, and very soft. I would stay with a good hardwood for the chines and chine battens. And for the stem piece.
Long, clear spruce should still be available in Maine -- check with some of the traditional canoe builders. If you really wanted to avoid hardwood for the rails, spruce would be a better bet than the white cedar.
In traditional canoe building, white cedar is mainly used for the ribs -- it bends well. Rails may be hardwood for durability or spruce for lighter weight. Canoes are often seen with hardwood outer rails, and inner rails of spruce.
To get your questions about the right woods for your drift boat answered by an expert, contact Professor Richard Jagels at the University of Maine. He wrote (still writes?) the Wood Technology section for Wooden Boat magazine.
Professor of Forest Biology
128 Nutting Hall Orono, ME 04469-5755
(207) 581-2884 [email protected]
Many Good posts here with sound advice. Something a little out of the box but quite appropriate would be Tulip Poplar. Should be available in long lengths on the east coast and has very impressive properties.
Google Robb White, he has written extensively regarding this (although, sadly he died unexpectedly a couple of years ago) and his website can help. I think if you read his work you may consider this unconventional species a good solution. It bends very well, has good rot resistance and is quite plentiful.
Dr. Jagels would be considered authoritative in every regard.
P.S. Robb White work is thoroughly entertaining, Maybe the John Gierach of wooden boats.