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Old 11-02-2020, 11:02   #1
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Sailboat made of Flax

A quick search didn't show this being mentioned on CF. There has been some hand wringing on several threads about electric or green boats not being so green due to the construction materials.

This fellow is building boats from flax fibers and plant based resins. A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.



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Old 11-02-2020, 15:03   #2
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Pretty much the same as a cold molded wood boat.

The glass used to reinforce the resin isnít exactly the greatest environmental impact of a boat like this.
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Old 11-02-2020, 16:16   #3
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

No, but he claims to be using a plant-based epoxy, as well as the cork decks. Be interesting to know quite how green that epoxy is or if it's just a token effort.

Good start though, lots of credit for trying. Shouldn't be a measurable difference in strength from that to glass fibre.

I remember my father was contracted to evaluate and redesign the mixture of timbers used in the top end Dunlop rackets for John McEnroe (as he kept breaking rackets by hitting the floor with them in anger and that's not a good look for Dunlop). My father got Dunlop to make an identical racket using strips of cardboard instead of all the much-discussed different woods used in a traditional racket. It was well over 90% of the strength of the wooden ones. The epoxy is everything, not the material you're encasing in the epoxy.
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Old 11-02-2020, 17:22   #4
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Quote:
Originally Posted by billknny View Post
...The glass used to reinforce the resin isn’t exactly the greatest environmental impact of a boat like this.
^^ This.

It kind of reminds me of bamboo bicycle frames. What about the resins?
  • How long will it last? I still use my 1979 steel bike as my around-town bike--the frame, which is what we are talking about, will last 100 years. I also have a 1920 bike I ride now and then, and it spent a lot of years in a damp shed.
  • Is it recyclable? My steel frame sure is.
If better materials last longer, is that often greener. The glass itself is inert and the glass making process is not awful. Will this hull last 60 years with complete neglect? Many fiberglass hulls have. Laminate sails don't strike me as low impact, given the short life expectancy (unless babied, which does not count).

In fact, if you're feeling green, rescue an old boat.

Or just build a wooden boat.



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Old 12-02-2020, 10:00   #5
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

I get a little upset by folks trying new ideas and experimenting. What good can come of it? Ea instructed Upnapishtim, who I call Timmy, to build a giant coracle and that should be good enough for us all. It was built of mostly woven reeds and sealed with tar and saved all of humanity. That is pretty green.
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:09   #6
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tillsbury View Post

Good start though, lots of credit for trying. Shouldn't be a measurable difference in strength from that to glass fibre.
.
I seriously doubt flax fibre is anywhere near the strength of glass fibre. Glass fibre has a very high elastic modulus, and is incredibly inert in terms of biological degradation. Cellulostic fibres are notorious for rotting.

Life cycle costs need to be part of any analysis for switching to new construction materials. For instance, if a flax reinforced hull has, letís say for argument, 1/2 the carbon footprint, but only 1/4 the lifespan of a glass fibre reinforced hull, the net negative by using flax (in my hypothetical example) is 100% worse.

Glass has been made by human beings for thousands of years. The raw components are quite simple.

I suspect that flax tensile reinforcement wonít come out as a superior product to glass fibre.

The plant based epoxy sounds kind of interesting though.
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:18   #7
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

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No, but he claims to be using a plant-based epoxy, as well as the cork decks. Be interesting to know quite how green that epoxy is or if it's just a token effort.

Good start though, lots of credit for trying. Shouldn't be a measurable difference in strength from that to glass fibre.

I remember my father was contracted to evaluate and redesign the mixture of timbers used in the top end Dunlop rackets for John McEnroe (as he kept breaking rackets by hitting the floor with them in anger and that's not a good look for Dunlop). My father got Dunlop to make an identical racket using strips of cardboard instead of all the much-discussed different woods used in a traditional racket. It was well over 90% of the strength of the wooden ones. The epoxy is everything, not the material you're encasing in the epoxy.
Sorry to say, you learned the wrong lesson from your dad's experiment.
If he had made a racket entirely out of epoxy and nothing else then your statement would be accurate.
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:27   #8
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

But he didn't.
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Old 12-02-2020, 11:31   #9
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tillsbury View Post
No, but he claims to be using a plant-based epoxy, as well as the cork decks. Be interesting to know quite how green that epoxy is or if it's just a token effort.

Good start though, lots of credit for trying. Shouldn't be a measurable difference in strength from that to glass fibre.

I remember my father was contracted to evaluate and redesign the mixture of timbers used in the top end Dunlop rackets for John McEnroe (as he kept breaking rackets by hitting the floor with them in anger and that's not a good look for Dunlop). My father got Dunlop to make an identical racket using strips of cardboard instead of all the much-discussed different woods used in a traditional racket. It was well over 90% of the strength of the wooden ones. The epoxy is everything, not the material you're encasing in the epoxy.
Maybe I missed it? I heard resin not epoxy.? Recessional (sp) is a resin that
has been around forever, I remember mixing it in wood shop circa 1955. I wish them luck.
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Old 12-02-2020, 12:34   #10
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

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Sorry to say, you learned the wrong lesson from your dad's experiment.
If he had made a racket entirely out of epoxy and nothing else then your statement would be accurate.
I'm not quite sure what you're suggesting. Even as a child it was somewhat obvious to me that making it out of epoxy and nothing else would have been ludicrous -- it would shatter immediately. Epoxy is only useful when it's encasing something else (and we all know that the best glassfibre has the least possible epoxy in it as long as it coats everything). But yes, as long as the structure is similar then the epoxy is what gives the final product its durability, not the material you are encasing in the epoxy. I can quite believe that a well-designed flax or other fibre, used in the same way as woven glass, is very nearly as strong if not insignificantly different from traditional glassfibre.
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Old 12-02-2020, 12:49   #11
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Save energy, buy a used boat instead of building with flax and plant-based resin.
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Old 12-02-2020, 12:53   #12
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Quote:
Originally Posted by thinwater View Post
^^ This.

It kind of reminds me of bamboo bicycle frames. What about the resins?
  • How long will it last? I still use my 1979 steel bike as my around-town bike--the frame, which is what we are talking about, will last 100 years. I also have a 1920 bike I ride now and then, and it spent a lot of years in a damp shed.
  • Is it recyclable? My steel frame sure is.
If better materials last longer, is that often greener. The glass itself is inert and the glass making process is not awful. Will this hull last 60 years with complete neglect? Many fiberglass hulls have. Laminate sails don't strike me as low impact, given the short life expectancy (unless babied, which does not count).

In fact, if you're feeling green, rescue an old boat.

Or just build a wooden boat.



"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

I agree 100%! I've gotten lots of flack (is that flax ) for being environmentally conscious while sailing a plastic boat but I maintain that I rescued a large piece of plastic from almost certainly being discarded. Maybe someone else would have rescued it but I did. And, I restored (restoring) it.


My boat is forty years old and over-built. Many people have bought new and inferior plastic boats that won't even make if forty years and if they do may not even be worth restoring because they were under-built in the first place.

Whether or not the material that something is made of is "green" is less important than the quality of construction. If the unit will have a long service life and can be fixed, rebuilt, etc, it is far better than something that is made "green" but won't last.

We have to remember to calculate the energy that goes into to construction too.
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Old 12-02-2020, 13:00   #13
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

Sort of a marine version of a Trabant?
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Old 12-02-2020, 13:03   #14
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

FWIW, the earliest resin/fiber boats used cotton cloth among others as the fiber. From memory, in the infancy of resin boats alls sorts of fibers were tried. There were commercial boats built in '40s cotton/resin that were still in use in the '60s.
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Old 12-02-2020, 21:19   #15
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Re: Sailboat made of Flax

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Originally Posted by Bill Seal View Post
Sort of a marine version of a Trabant?
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