Sunday, February 5, 2012

Starboard as an Alternative to Wood

Over at Capt'n Pauley's Boat Yard, he's written about the advantages of using starboard. here's what he had to say.....

Are you tired of refinishing the wood aboard your boat? Has a wooden part aboard your boat rotted and needs replacement. Do you want durable and easy to clean surfaces aboard your boat? Something you can just wash down with a hose and not worry about drying?
Well, if your answer to any of the above questions is YES, you may want to hear more about a material called StarBoard (R). Starboard is a sheet polymer material especially compounded for use aboard boats. It has several features to eliminate the problems mentioned above. It’s waterproof; the same color all the way through and doesn’t deteriorate in the presence of UV rays.

King Plastic Corporation, of Northport, Florida, manufactures StarBoard (R). The material comes in a wide range of type, sizes and colors. Most boating supply stores either carry it or can order it for you. Some plywood dealers and lumberyards that deal with the marine trade also carry it. I’ll discuss the kinds of StarBoard (R) available, the sizes and colors, and then talk about some of the techniques you can use to work with Starboard(R).

Kinds of StarBoard (R) Available
If you have looked at this material in a boating store, you probably have seen only one, or at most, two types of the sheet polymer. In fact, King manufactures four different types at last count.

StarBoard (R)
This is the original material first offered to boaters. It is available in sizes ranging from 12” x 27” up to 24” x 27” at most boating stores. You can special order additional sizes up to a maximum of 54” x 96”. Thicknesses range from 1/4”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1” and 1-1/2” (this size only available in 48” x 96” sheets).

There are a limited number of colors available, namely sanshade (sand tone), light gray, seafoam, dolphin gray, white and black.

StarBoard (R) XL
StarBoard (R) XL is a cellular form of StarBoard (R). Being cellular in form it is about 33% lighter than regular StarBoard (R). StarBoard (R) XL is usually only available in full sheets which, for this material, is 60” x 90”. XL is available in 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4” thicknesses.

Starlite (R) XL
Starlite (R) XL is a material specifically designed to replace the plywood backing typically used in cushions. The material is lightweight and easy to staple to. The material holds staples very well and can be easily formed into curves for curved cushions. Full 60” x 90” sheets are available in 1/3”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4” thicknesses.

StarBoard (R) AS
AS is designed for use on decks and ladder rungs. The surface has a special dimpled anti-skid surface. Standard sheet size is 54” x 96” and available thicknesses are 1/2”, 3/4” and 1”

Material Properties
As noted before, StarBoard(R) is a homogenous sheet of polymer material. As such, it doesn’t rot, delaminate or swell when subjected to rain, spray or saltwater. The polymer is treated with stabilizers to protect it from UV damage and it will retain its color indefinitely. Cleaning is simple with a scrub brush or ScotchBrite pad and scouring powder. For tougher stains use bleach and water.

StarBoard(R) is made from FDA and USDA approved materials. This means its fine for things like cutting boards, galley countertops or fish scaling tables.

One characteristic to be aware of is that StarBoard(R) is not a structural material. That is, you will need to reinforce or support large flat areas of the material. You could use wood cleats underneath, but why introduce the thing you are trying to replace – the wood? When I need to reinforce a piece of StarBoard(R), I use a piece of extruded aluminum, angle or tubing, or a narrow piece of StarBoard(R) set on edge.

Using StarBoard (R)
One of the greatest advantages of StarBoard(R) is the ease of fabrication. Common woodworking tools can be used. Table saws, routers, saber saws and drills are all acceptable tools. Use carbide toothed tools for finer finishes. Table saw blades should have 50 to 75 carbide teeth for the best edge.

Routers also work very well on StarBoard(R). Use two or four flute carbide bits to allow chips to clear the cutting surface. Specially shaped router bits can be used to produce a decorative edge cut a rabbet or route a piece to a specific pattern. A technique I often use is to clamp a straight edge along the cut line. A router bit with a ball bearing follower on the end then follows the straight edge giving a smooth, straight edge. I find it quicker and easier to rough-cut the piece to size and then use this technique to finish the cut instead of setting up the table saw.

Most normal adhesives do not stick to StarBoard(R). There is an adhesive available, but it is extremely expensive and requires a special applicator. Plan on joining your StarBoard(R) projects together with stainless steel fasteners. Self-tapping screws hold very well in StarBoard(R).

Make it or buy it
If you choose not to make your own StarBoard (R) project, all is not lost. A wide range of fittings and accessories are available in StarBoard (R). In fact, almost any accessory available in teak is also available in StarBoard (R). Check the hardware and accessory isle at your local boating store.

Now for some examples of projects I have done in StarBoard (R):

I needed a convenient place to store spare lines on one of my boats. I attached a StarBoard(R) grab rail to the underside of the cockpit locker. The lines are hooked to the grab rail with short Velcro straps. With the lid closed, they lines hang down in the locker. With the lid raised, the lines lay back against the lid, allowing access to the locker contents.

I used StarBoard(R) for a propane locker aboard my daughter’s boat. There was no convenient place to install a commercially available locker, plus the lockers were expensive. So I built one of 1/2” thick StarBoard(R). I used 1” aluminum angles in the corners and bolted it together with stainless steel flat head machine screws and lock nuts. 3M5200 was applied to the aluminum angles before bolting in place, providing a gas-tight locker. A lid with rounded corners and teak fiddles looked great and provided a flat space at a useful height.

I have open cockpit recesses for things like winch handles and such. These openings have teak frames that I will soon be replacing with StarBoard(R). The mount for my electric bilge pump is made from StarBoard(R). It doesn’t mind being in bilge water at times.

These are but a few of the possibilities for using StarBoard(R) on or in your boat. As always, use the Internet to find more information and other uses. Visit the King Plastics site at for full specs, suppliers and articles covering other StarBoard(R) projects.

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