Sea Dreamer Project: Building Plywood and Epoxy Diesel Tanks

Scott Smith hadn’t built a boat when he started constructing his own 41′ full displacement trawler. But he knows a thing or two about building as an avid woodworker, so he’s confident in his decision to build his backyard trawler with plywood and epoxy fuel tanks. This is NOT an option for storing gasoline, but it IS an option for diesel and Scott thinks it’s the perfect solution for his build.  Check out today’s video and see if you agree with Scott’s plan to use TotalBoat Epoxy with plywood for storing over 300 gallons of diesel fuel.  Then, comment below and leave your opinion about Scott’s diesel tank build.  Enjoy! 


14 responses to “Sea Dreamer Project: Building Plywood and Epoxy Diesel Tanks

  1. This would worry me… In restoring our all-teak Chinese Junk, my husband built an 8-layer epoxy plywood box, channeling all scuppers to this box and out one thru-hull. After a few years, the box became mush — you could stick your fingers through it. I have since replaced the boxes with stainless steel pots, but it was a lesson I’ll never forget.

  2. I am a huge advocate of epoxy and wood – BUT I would prefer to use aluminum tanks in any vessel. I restored a wooden Grand Banks 42 and fabricated three tanks (535 gallons) and they are bullet proof after encapsulated in Rhinoliner.

  3. I admire people whom question the status quo, and use their brains/skills to “explore”. But sometimes a little humility can save alot of future pain in asking “what if” versus rushing down some road.
    A few concerns: The ocean if one tough “lady” and boats need flexural strength,not necessarily ridgidity of key structural interior components.
    Epoxy is great stuff, but type, usage, and substrates are key. Material compatibility data should only be considered as a starting point. Actual real world testing is difficult, expensive, and very specific.
    Real world diesel is not test lab diesel. What test data exists for specific plywood glue in this application ( it will be saturated with “sour diesel”).
    I understand modern tankers often employ a double hull of thick (malleable) steel. The human body has a rib cage, and seat belts protect us despite the external steel chassis/body. Remember the Pinto gas tank?
    Lastly, what about the Coast Guard and insurance companies? Maybe you should consider designing a cocaine sub?

  4. As a professional engineer for 50 years and builder of many fuel facilities, chemical compatibility of plywood glues and fiberglass resins is a major concern, as is independent flexibility in structural isolation from the hull.

    The Coast Guard has rules about all fuel lines and fuel containers being metallic so that a small fire does not expand rapidly into a huge fire, by breaching a fuel tank. In my business no fuel storage, piping, valving, or other fuel containment hardware may be made of materials with melting point below 2400F, which eliminates Aluminum , brass, bronze, etc. I think these materials are fine in a boat.

    All organic based synthetic materials can be chemically attacked and very often the predicted long term compatibility with fuels is just wrong.

    It all seems like a very poor idea to me and I just don’t see any reasonable gain that would offset the risks.

  5. I feel this is one that you need to buy the fuel tanks. If for no other reason your and family safety. I have seen way too many cracked, ruptured metal tanks that have been on the oceans. All well mounted
    CGA aproved inspected and approved. You do not want this to fail, and they do. The one wood/ epoxie tank I have seen was soft and fuel saturated, and mush and was 4 years old. Don’t do it.

  6. You’re building a nice strong box. Put an aluminum fuel tank in it and move on. There are too many red flags raised with your plan. I agree with Clarence . I don’t see Coast Guard approval of these tanks or imagine an insurance company issuing a policy.
    in heavy weather the boat will flex and stress your tanks seams a ton of fuel in the bilge means — no motor and the potential of an environmental disaster. You don’t want to put your family in the position of needing to be rescued.

  7. While I agree that this is not the place to be “creative” with plywood and epoxy, do you really think the guy doing this plans on insuring his creation? I think not.

  8. I agree with the majority. Fork out the cash for a metal fuel tank, I would go with stainless steel and set it in the wooden box that was going to be the fuel tank. With the wooden tank idea all it needs is one crack the size of a pinhead and you will have a situation I don’t feel you want to deal with.

  9. Man, half these comments are just stupid… Fiberglass tanks for non alcohol bearing fuels has been used for literally Decades. The plywood is simply used as the structural core. That type of construction is also well known.. Its basically going to be a fiberglass fuel tank containing diesel fuel. There’s nothing wrong with using fiberglass for diesel fuel tanks as long as they have the strength, structure and appropriate materials. Every single material ever used for a fuel tank has seen failures.. Up to and including those on the Space Shuttle. In my experience the two materials that cause the least problems with fuel oil have been Black iron (aka mild steel) and fiberglass. His construction methodology is adequate to the task. His techniques may not be what someone else would do, however they do work. No cringing necessary… A pinhole leak… Just drive a screw into the pinhole and apply sealant till you get to your destination and can evaluate. Oh and the Coast Guard does have rules. They however do not “require” anyone to use only metallic fittings. If that were the case then there would be no Coast Guard approved non-metallic fuel hose. This guys not building a 500,000 gallon Nitrazine tank. He’s building tanks to hold 380 gallons of fuel oil. That’s about as easy as it gets. His boat is not going to blow up, burn up or sink and drown his family because he chose Fiberglass fuel tanks. I’m proud to see a fellow take on a task like this, with no experience in boat building. Just the dream, desire and balls to make it happen. As an aside the material that has been the most disappointing as a fuel tank in my experience is aluminium. In both Naval yards I worked (Mare Island Naval Shipyard and Bremerton Naval Shipyard) the tanks with the highest failure rates were Aluminium, Spun Glass composite pressure tanks and Plastic. In my own yard I’ve found Cured fiberglass and Mild Steel to be about as trouble free as anything on the ocean can be. Kudos to you Mr. Smith your doing an excellent job!

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