General Question

anon's avatar

A good tree for raft building?

Asked by anon (1631points) December 8th, 2009

What would be the best tree to use for building a light but solid raft.

The raft when constructed needs to be light enough for two children to carry (12 – 14 years old) and come to a size of roughly eight feet by ten. Optimal size of logs would be appreciated too.

At the moment I’m thinking of using twenty cottonwood logs, no wider than six inches each. Is that realistic?

Any help appreciated, thanks.

It’s for a story I’m writing.

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9 Answers

J0E's avatar

drift wood?

YARNLADY's avatar

The best material for building rafts is bamboo.

anon's avatar

@J0E The raft is discovered on a city beach and it’s origins are supposed to be mysterious. Drift wood wouldn’t be as effective in that regard. I should probably have added that in the details.

@YARNLADY Bamboo hadn’t even crossed my mind. It would certainly be light, but would it stay afloat for long periods of time? The actual wood is only going to have the appearance of being constructed from whichever tree I choose but I still want expectations to be realistic (if you see what I mean?).

YARNLADY's avatar

There are several good sites that can tell you all about it. I used to do my search, because they make a contribution to my favorite charity everytime I do a search.

You can also use bundled reeds, as Thor Heyerdahl did.

anon's avatar

@YARNLADY Thank you for that Thor Heyerdahl link! Perfect.
101 days in a raft? Wow.

anon's avatar

Although that raft was pretty huge.

Harp's avatar

I’m thinking that cottonwood logs would almost certainly be too big; the trunk grows to a huge girth, and the branches are rarely straight enough to use for the pontoons of a raft. How about linden/basswood? The trunks are quite straight and often of moderate diameter, and the wood is among the least dense (.4525, less than half the density of water), so you’d get lots of buoyancy for less weight. The range is in the northern temperate zones, so if your story is set down South, that might be an issue.

A 6” diameter by ten-foot basswood log would weigh 55 pounds. You’d need two of these, plus whatever decking material you use to bridge the pontoons. So each kid would have to be carrying close to 80 lbs, I would think.

Darwin's avatar

Actually, Heyerdahl’s first raft, Kon Tiki, was constructed from balsa logs. Then later he built Ra and Ra II out of bundled papyrus. After that he built the Tigris also out of reeds.

anon's avatar

@Darwin, thanks you for clarifying. Kon Tiki is the one I was looking at :)

@Harp, The origin of the trees themselves aren’t an issue, the mystery of it’s origin is part of the story, but it’s the weight of the entire raft as a whole (if the vessel was built primarily out of tree logs which I was aiming for). I may just relocate the raft’s discovery closer to the water though, if weight is going be an issue.

Thank you for the great info, it helps a lot.

I’m actually starting to think of just modelling it on Kon Tiki and having it situated mostly in the water, a small push and the pull of the sea taking it’s solitary passenger off into the unknown…

This is actually the first short story I’ve written for years (I’ve been mostly writing poetry up until now) so I don’t think I need to get too hung up on details, getting back in to it is enough for now.

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