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Posted to Maritime Musings (by on May 20, 2014

The wood of choice for marine decking

Teak is the common name for the Tectona grandis, a member of the verbena family native to the hardwood forests of India, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  It is a large deciduous tree, growing to a height of 130 feet, with gray and grayish brown branches.  The papery leaves are often hairy on the lower surface and can be up to 17 inches long.  In south India, the teak leaf is used in making jackfruit dumpling, where batter is poured into the leaf and then steamed.  When in bloom, the teak tree has small, fragrant, white flowers.  Teak has a leather-like smell when freshly milled.  Though easily worked, teak can cause severe blunting on edged tools due to the presence of silica in the wood.  The wood’s natural oils, high tensile strength, and tight grain make it highly practical for uses in exposed locations, such as decking on vessels and piers.  The oils also provide resistance to termites and many other pests.  Teak is durable even when left untreated.  This characteristic allowed teak decks, primarily on naval vessels, to be holystoned on a regular basis.  Holystoning was the use of a piece of soft and brittle sandstone in the shape of a brick (sometimes called a prayer book) to be rubbed back and forth over the teak to clean and smooth it.  Nowadays, teak is no longer used for the decks of naval vessels.  It remains highly popular, though, for decking and trim work on recreational sailing vessels and yachts.  In those uses, teak is often stained and almost always finished with linseed or tung oil, varnish, or synthetic finishes.  It is also used in outdoor decking and furniture.  Because of its relatively low shrinkage ratio, teak is popular for applications exposed to moisture changes.   

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