I recently broke down and bought a couple of teak boards and paid more than $300.00! (I own a boat so I've already lost my mine). Of course the boards were plantation lumber which doesn't look quite like the Burma teak I'm replacing (grumble, grumble).
I recently visited the WW ll battleship Iowa, berthed in Long Beach, CA. Her dilapidated teak decks are currently being replaced piecemeal, as funding and materials permit.
I was amazed at the immense size of the vessel and the literal mountains of 2" teak required to sheath her steel decks. I can't begin to fathom the required cost today to complete the work.
I little research into the former widespread use of teak, also shocked the holy-hell out of me. It seems every navy, commercial ship and yacht in the world used to have teak decks. The British even sandwiched teak planking into the hulls of their war ships in a futile effort to reinforce them against torpedoes? Yachts and fishing vessels of all sorts constructed in the Far East, were often built entirely of teak. Imagine all the decks of all the combined aircraft carrier forces of the world, overlaid in 2" teak!
I guess I know now why I paid a fortune for a couple of boards. It is a sad story and only getting sadder. Is there anything positive in all this? Is there anything that anyone can say that might cheer me up? Have we really cut down all the teak forests of the world and sunk the lot into the sea?
I used to work with an older draftsman that served on an aircraft carrier in WWII. He was stationed in the woodshop, a fully equipped mill that worked Teak into 4" planks for the main and other decks on the ship. If there was a fire or crash, the damaged deck would be replaced, on the go, so to speak.
4" thick Teak flight decks - how many board feet is that??
He mentioned the difficulty in milling the teak with only steel tooling, and how the grinderman was always busy.
The amount of Teak that went into the shipping industry is amazing - probably beyond estimation. One wonders what else disappeared as those forests were cut.
Here in the US, before we were the US, the English had marked the tall Pines of the Northeast and the Live Oak in the coastal South as crucial for their ship builders. Hence the phrase "Kingswood" - to keep the poachers out. Another reason the English fought so hard to keep the colonies. They also had Burma at the time, as well as other lumber producing areas.
Going back even further, the various Mediterranean seafaring cultures used their resources to build ships and rule the waves, until their trees were gone. Cyprus, Syria, Greece, Italy.... all had their turn while the trees were available.
You left out Easter Island, a sub-tropical island once covered with millions of palm trees and a thriving native population. When the Europeans arrived there were no trees over 10 feet tall and only a few starving natives.
Gigantic stone heads (Moai) still stand, staring out to sea, as if looking, pleading for help. Some of the natives, in bitter remorse, were in the process of knocking them over but there weren't enough left alive to accomplish the task.
It seems I recall hearing about the Hawaiian Islanders destroying Sandalwood trees in an attempt to drive the Jesuit-led Europeans from the islands. Upon seeing the islanders living a fine life, the Europeans pronounced them lazy, and then put them to work harvesting sandalwood for export. The destruction of the trees was a desperate move seen as the only way to rid themselves of the European pestilence.
There is no viable substitute for teak. Perhaps the plantations may someday restore some of the former supply but it's going to be a while... Government or corporations also need to to plant and restore forests which are not intended to be harvested for a lifetime or more.
As in all natural resources, everything now requires micro-management if we are to sustain the ecology and ourselves. The time of harvesting without planting has past.
All this has come to a head within the last few decades. My boat (built in 1976) has a solid timber, 6X6 teak bowsprit along with substantial amounts of teak trim and hatch-work. The interior is all teak. This boat was only one in a production-line and one model in dozens that were mass-produced by the thousands. The bowsprit was painted white by the factory and never even intended as part of the bright work.
I can get real emotional about this stuff as I consider the destruction of our global ecosystem, more life threatening than all our Geo-political problems combined.
Its funny (to me ) that this post appears today. i pulled into my drive last night with a trailer load of teak and mahogany from a 50' boat built in 1960. The boat is being torn down because it was abandoned in a boatyard and the boatyard owner wants it gone.The teak is 3/4 thickness. The mahogany is Honduran. I will have to learn the art of plugging to use a lot of this stuff but it has yielded a lot of beautiful wood.
I thought the original poster was looking for a cheering-up. Now I'm depressed. Richard made a good point about salvaging the lumber. I mill salvaged logs almost exclusively, and have friends who have recovered some beautiful chestnut from old barns that were being torn down. If I lived on the coast, I would look into salvaging teak from old ships.
I once turned down an offer to salvage a teak storage tank made of 4" x 6" t&g boards stood on end, with metal bands to hold in place. 16' deep.
Why? Well, it was made and used for storing hog pancreas for manufacture of insulin by a local pharmaceutical company. Used for 25 years. The chemicals were not disclosed, but I could not picture it being anything enjoyable.
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