Marine wood in Hong Kong

UPDATE 5 JULY 2020: Oak, Walnut, Beech and Teak (and some others) are available from Hardwood Hong Kong.

UPDATE: 25 May 2015: Well, the boat I built with these woods,  Gabrielle, was launched in early 2014, and she now sits on a mooring in Discovery Bay Hong Kong. She seems to be in fine shape, so I’m going to say that these woods work fine for marine use (at least so far!).
I'm now starting the build of a Noddy 16, which is built by Stitch and Glue method, marine ply, covered with fibreglass.  I've gone back to the same guys, Tai Yick, for the marine plywood.  They're quick and efficient, and now that I have a Van man to collect the wood, I'm in good shape.
I think I'll need a bit of "Batu" from Florence Tang, for the keel.   [End Update]
These are the woods that I’ve been able to find in Hong Kong for the building of the Somes Sound 12 ½.
The main source of the woods is Hung Kee Timber and Metal Limited (previously "Dorfield Ltd") and the helpful owner Florence Tang (9016 2487).
This is the closest place I’ve found in Hong Kong to your average Lumber Yard in, say, Australia or the US.  No 146E Pok Wai, Yuen Long, HK (Phone: 2471 1159).
The short story of Hong Kong is that since the wooden boat building industry virtually shut down some years ago and moved to China, there’s just not much available here.  Most wood is now for the building and furniture industries.  Nevertheless, I didn’t want to get into the business of buying in small lots of imported wood, so I’m making do with what I can find, and this is the summary so far.
The characters are simplified Chinese and the transliteration is standard Mandarin Pinyin.
Batu 抄木 (chāo mù).  This is a tropical hardwood, similar in characteristics to mahogany, so I tend to call it "Chinese Mahogany".  It looks fine, planes and sands prettily.  It's really a lovely wood.  It is available only on order from China, via Dorfield.  I’m using it for the Keelson, Keel, Mast Deck Beam and Transom. Big advantage: you can preorder your size. Downside: takes at lest three weeks to deliver
Douglas Fir 杉木 (shā ), or in full 北美黃杉 (běi měi huáng shā; literally “North American Yellow Fir”).  This comes in sizes only up to 12' long,  4” wide and ¾” thick. (At least from Dorfield). So far so good with this one.
Ham Fir: 铁杉 (tiě shā) literally “Iron Fir”, or Chinese Hemlock, Tsuga Chinensis.  Florence tells me that this wood was used in her home village in Guangdong for boatbuilding, and the Chinese name of "iron fir" is encouraging.  I’m not sure if the name “Ham” is right, or perhaps short for “Hamilton”.  I’ve got some, it seems fine though I haven’t used it yet.  I’ll use it in a few places in replacement for Douglas Fir. 
LATER: I've used this wood throughout the boat, for deck beams, floor cleats, floor beams, seat supports and the side decks. It's a good wood, cuts well, planes well and I've become rather fond of it.  I note on rereading a boatbuilding book that Hemlock is prone to rot.  Whether or not that applies to "Chinese" Hemlock, I'm not sure.  So I make super sure to seal it with epoxy.  Most books say that epoxy sealing will avoid the rot that certain woods are prone to.  I'm also planning to use it to make the lead keel mold: t's very dry, a big advantage, when pouring 400-degree C lead.
Mahogany: 桃花心木 (táo huā xīn mù).  This is here only for interest, as it appears to be currently unavailable even from China. The Chinese back-translates literally to "Wood from the heart of the peach flower".... Rather poetic, that.  Makes me wonder the connection of mahogany with the peach tree....
Marine Ply: WBP 1088 胶合板 (jiāo hé bǎn). This seems fine; though time will tell….  It comes in sizes from 6mm to 20mm.  From Tai Yick Timber Company, 1123 Canton Road, Kowloon, HK. (Phone: 2394 2143)
Pine 松木 (sōng ).  I’m not using any pine, except for the Jig.  Widely available.
Ramin: 白木 (bái mù).  Literally “White wood”.  It’s a tropical hardwood, used in furniture making.  I’m pioneering its marine use.   It seems fine so far, glues up well for lamination.  Its shortcoming seems to be susceptibility to rot, but various websites say that if you thoroughly epoxy any wood subject to rot it will avoid that problem. 
I’ve made the inner and outer stems, the tiller and various other bits and pieces from it.  It's available in length 8' by 1" or 2" widths by 3/8" thick.

Stainless Steel Fasteners: Hyundai Screws Mfy. Co., Ltd.  G/F 987 Canton Road, Kowloon, HK. (Phone: 2148 2236).  These folks have most sizes on hand, and can get any unusual sizes ordered in.
Feel free to contact me with any questions, or if you have useful tips for other marine-use woods in Hong Kong.
Peter Forsythe
July 2012


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