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Types of Wood Used for Building Spearguns

Types of Wood Used for Building Spearguns

Types of Wood Used for Building Spearguns

This post is about types of wood used for building spearguns. Most of my claims are from my own experience using the materials and from basic research.  It will become clear fairly rapidly I am partial to using teak to build spearguns.  Teak is my basis of comparison for all the other woods I write about when building spearguns, as it is my preferred type of wood to use.  This post is just going over some of the more commonly used species and their pros and cons.



Teak has the greatest properties by leaps and bounds for a speargun.  The wood is buoyant, but not too buoyant.  It is resistant to warping and rot.  It is a hardwood which is resistant to scratching, and requires very little maintenance.  The above is a partial list of why teak is so widely used on boats and other marine uses.  

Maintain teak by lightly sanding the wood and applying teak oil.  One quart of teak oil can last a spearo the life of his speargun.

Teak is destructive to tools and eats away at rotary blades like few other woods. The reason for this is the large silica content.  So not only is teak expensive to buy, it causes tools to wear out quicker than normal. Some people develop allergies to teak from the natural oils in the wood.  Most of these allergies result in a mild rash when teak sawdust comes in contact with the skin, especially around joints, like the elbow.  


Other Hardwoods

The challenge that speargun builders run into is board warp. When most woods come in contact with water it causes the boards to expand.  The issue is the boards do not expand evenly.  Different portions of the wood expand in different directions as a result of the grain. This causes the board to warp.  This is why woodworkers tend to laminate their boards so the grain of the different boards goes opposite each other.  The theory is that if the grains of the boards face opposing directions if both boards are exposed to water they will both warp in the same direction and counter each other’s warp.  

In addition to laminating boards it is also important to seal any speargun that is not teak.  The most common material used to seal a speargun is epoxy.

Sealing a speargun is no easy task. It adds costs to the construction, and time to complete the speargun.  I recommend at least seven coats of epoxy to seal a speargun. The reason it is so important to seal a speargun is to prevent water coming in contact with the wood.  In addition to warping, water intrusion can cause the wood to rot. 

The abuse that spearguns receive chip away at anything used to seal them, and over time water will come in contact with the wood, then it will slowly start to eat away at the beautiful hardwood and result in the speargun needing serious repair, or more likely result in the need of a new speargun.


Functional Hardwoods


Mahogany is a beautiful and dark hardwood that has good buoyancy properties, but lacks some of the resistance to warping that teak does.  Overall, it makes a beautiful speargun, which just requires a little more care and attention than a teak speargun.  After mahogany is properly finished and sealed it has a deep red-brown coloration, and is a common wood used for building spearguns. One of the ways to deal with the warping problem that many speargun builders have utilized is to laminate, the speargun. You can find an article about speargun lamination on the neptonics blog page. 

The main benefit of mahogany is that it costs about half as much as teak.  The natural oils and lack of silica found in mahogany also make it less damaging to your woodworking tools.



Padauk is a beautiful wood that is very red in color. It is an easy to work with hardwood that is inexpensive when compared to most other hardwoods mentioned in this post (slightly cheaper than mahogany).

If you want a blood-red speargun, this is the type of wood you should use.  It is one of the easiest hardwoods I have ever worked with. It is not overly abrasive to tools which means it sands easily and shapes well, and even has good buoyancy characteristics (which makes ballasting easy).   

But, Padauk isn’t as hard of a wood as other types. Chips and dents are more common with this wood.


Ornamental Hardwoods

Purple Heart

Purple Heart is another example of a hardwood that is a strange color. This species reminds me of jatoba, but a deep to mid purple in color. I have seen some guns made out of a combination of teak and purple heart. White Oak and Purple Heart are also a popular combination. Because of the color, it is a great wood to use with a lighter wood to bring some contrast to a speargun.  It definitely produces a cool looking project. This wood isn’t going to make your gun a greater hunting tool than any other type of wood, but it will give it that flair that some divers like. 



Zebrawood is also beautiful.  It is very similar to teak in appearance, but the grain of the wood has greater contrast in color, which is how it gets its name.  The light part of the wood is a few shades lighter than teak, and the darker portions of the wood are almost a gray-brown coloration.  When the gun is sealed, it has a beautiful contrasting appearance. The wood is not all that easy to come by and is also fairly expensive, and it also still needs to be sealed properly to prevent warping. 



Jatoba is another beautiful hardwood very similar to teak. If you love a true brown wood with a tight grain, then look no further than Jatoba.  It has the same coloration of an oak trees bark, and darkens up slightly when it is sealed, bringing out a slight golden coloration.  It is a truly beautiful wood and costs a good bit less than teak.

However, it is very dense, which makes it tough on tools because of how hard the wood is.  When working with jatoba, it feels harder than teak, but with less natural oils.  I don’t recommend building a speargun entirely out Jatoba due to its density.  It is likely an entire speargun made out of this material would sink, even without a spear in it.  

Otherwise, it is relatively easy to work with and responds well compared to some species of wood.  Like all hardwoods that aren’t teak, it needs to be properly sealed to prevent extensive damage to the wood when exposed to water.  



Lacewood is easily one of the most beautiful woods I have sworn never to use again.  This wood has extremely high silica content. This gives lacewood its iconic appearance of an orange-brown wood with lighter spots of the same coloration. Its appearance is about where the benefits of this wood stop. Lacewood is extremely dense, which means a speargun made of lacewood sinks without the spear. 

Beyond the challenge of the woods density, the wood’s silica content is extremely high, which is damaging to tools and causes the sawdust from this wood to be extremely fine, to the point that it is a major hazard to respiration.  Additionally, the sawdust gets everywhere.  There will be a thin layer of this dust covering your entire workshop, which becomes extremely difficult to clean up except with an industrial vaccum.  



The industry standard for wood is teak, which is bar none the best wood for building speargun because it handles the aquatic environment best. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to build spearguns out of other woods, it just means there are some challenges to those woods that aren’t present with teak.  If you are going to try to build a speargun for the first time, I recommend using a wood that is less expensive than teak, but still a dense hardwood that handles water well. It’s never a bad idea to branch out and try new things in the construction of spearguns.  Trying new things is how we get innovation and progress. However you choose to do it: get out there, make something awesome, and have fun with it!
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