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Fibreglass boat building
Fibreglass (also called GRP - Glass Reinforced Plastic) is a material composed of microscopically thin fibres of glass bonded in a plastic resin.
For more information there is a separate page on Fibreglass Boats
Composite boat building
GRP, wood, and even concrete hulls are technically made of composite materials, but the term "composite" is normally used for plastics reinforced with fibers other than (or in addition to) glass. Historically "composite" referred to a timber skin fastened to iron frames - the 'Cutty Sark' is built like this. It allowed copper anti-fouling to be used without galvanic corrosion of the hull.
The modern use of the term composite, specifically refers to the use of Kevlar fibre, carbon fibre and other high tech materials. These fibres are bonded together in a plastic resin, usually epoxy or vinylester. The main advantage of these fibres is a high strength to weight ratio. For more information there is a separate page on high tech composite and Carbon Fibre boat building.
Wood epoxy compositeThis is a general name for the various methods of building with wood and epoxy. The main ones are cold moulding and strip planking. Strip planking uses strips of wood (often western red cedar) of rectangular section which are glued together at their edges over frames to form the hull. These strips are then covered in fibreglass and/or thin wood veneers set in epoxy resin. For more information there is a separate page on Wood Epoxy Boat Building
Steel Ship and Boat Building
Steel is strong, but heavy. It is by far the most common material for
shipbuilding. It is also quite commonly used to build boats bigger
than 50ft/15m. However it is not much used for small craft
because of weight. As a vessel gets smaller, the hull needs to be
thinner if it is not to be too heavy. But there is a limit to how thin
steel can be to use on a boat - to allow welding without distortion and
to provide some reserve against rust. Any boat smaller than 32ft/10m
would be very heavy if made in steel, if a metal hull is required in
this size range, aluminium would almost certainly be chosen instead.