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.
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.
Mahogany is a beautiful and dark hardwood that has good buoyancy properties, but lacks 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. It is a great wood used for building spearguns.
Some of the benefits of mahogany include it costs about half as much as teak. The natural oils and lack (or less) silica found in mahogany make it less destructive to woodworking tools.
Jatoba is another beautiful hardwood very similar to teak. It is a dark wood, and very dense. It is 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.
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.
Jatoba is still a very hard wood and is rough on tools. 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. 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. Like I have stated, this is a beautiful wood, but it is one that I hope to never work with again because it is such a pain.
Zebrawood is 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 grey 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. It still needs to be sealed properly to prevent warping, so that is a downside to using zebrawood. Ultimately, due to the high price of the wood you may as well use teak and not have to worry about warp or rot as much.
Padouk is a beautiful wood very red in color. It is an easy to work with a hardwood. It is inexpensive when compared to most other hardwoods mentioned in this post.
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 and sands easily and shapes well. It even has good buoyancy characteristics. Overall it has a lot of good qualities for building a speargun. That being said it does have some drawbacks.
Padouk isn’t as hard of a wood as other types. Chips and dents are more common with this wood.
Purple Heart is another example of a hardwood that is a strange color. This species reminds me of jatoba, but 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 popular. Because of the color, it is a great wood to use with a lighter wood to bring some contrast to a speargun. Ultimately it comes down to 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 look very interesting.
The industry standard for wood is teak. is the best wood for building spearguns. 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 the build 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 has some good qualities. 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. So get out there and make something awesome and go have fun with it.