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Wood preservatives

Started by andrewfoster, Mar 27 2011 17:41

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I would be interested to know what wood preservatives people are using successfully with sleepers and structures. I initially offered the GME bridges with preservative already applied to the decks, but the smell was abominable. It takes weeks for it to settle down to the point where the poor customer doesn't pass out when he or she inhales it, and I didn't even ask the Post Office if they'd care to handle them - already knew the answer to that one.

I've had good results from a preservative consisting mainly of petroleum distillate (which isn't very specific) and zinc naphthenate (harmless, according to the MSDS) from a company called Recochem, but they are in Montreal. Are there other brands that have worked well, that anyone would recommend?

I wonder what is considered to be an acceptable life for structural timbers? I haven't been renewing the treatment on the test samples, as I wanted a baseline result to work on. I've had a group of red cedar decks exposed to rain, sun, birds, small animals, snow and salty slush hurled at them by a snowblower. The oldest untreated one is looking a bit ragged after six years of this, but the treated ones are in good shape. I wanted a creosote look, and stained two of them with a mixture that looked about right when new. After six years you can hardly tell the difference - like their builder, they've gone grey and the weather has washed and/or bleached the colour from the exposed upper surfaces almost completely.



My sleepers come from Brandbright. According to my late father they are made from Horse Chestnut. Brandbright say that they use Cuprinol to preserve them and when I finish a length of track I dunk it is a tank of Cuprinol Clear overnight and then us Duck fence paint on the sleepers. As the Duck does not stick to either the brass or the white metal it washes off in the rain. However I would be the first to admit that the smell does not appeal....




The best preservative used to be creosote, but the EU Gestapo banned it as we know. Recently our local hardware shop have been selling a product called 'Creocote', it smells a bit like creosote, so only time will tell.
I am not yet sure what to use on any wooden structures which will then be over-painted with Humbrol paints.

Ian the Gauge '3' Pirate.


I submitted a post loosely on this subject on 17/2 Making Track and Points. I mentioned a man called Richard at Bird Brand. He was very helpful to me in comparing preservatives. He said, for example, that Creocote can no longer claim to be a wood preservative for ground contact timber. He added that only creosote was effective for ground contact. Fortunately I can still legally obtain creosote. Preservative for sleepers may not be as demanding as ground contact. It may be worth giving Richard a buzz to get his views.
Needless to say, I have no connection with Bird Brand other than as a customer.

Peaky 556

Hello all,
I'd be interested to know how your "Creocoted" sleepers are getting along with the weather, Ian, five and a half years down the line?
And has anyone else managed to source creosote proper?


Just a comment on this with respect to "wooden structures" - I met a most interesting guy at the recent Guildford MEX - who builds model steam launches. I was admiring the high standard of finish he achieves and we got to talking about his build materials and methods.

He basically uses the same technology now widely used in full sized boat building and restoration - which is based on epoxy resins. The resin is used to both seal and finish the surfaces of the boats - as well as effectively being used as a filler (with micro-beads) and as an adhesive system. It can be painted over but can also be used standalone to allow the wood grain to show. The type of resin he uses is called the "West System" (after the American firm that pioneered the approach).

It's not cheap but apparently not only makes the wood completely impervious to water but also considerably strengthens it. Maybe not for use with sleepers but perhaps for other wooden 'structures' that are valuable (if only in the time spent constructing them) - at least enough to want to protect them from the elements.

Not tried it myself so far but tucked the idea away for possible future use....


Nothing's ever Easy - At least the first time around.


As a postscript to my first post above, a few months ago I had a customer ask if I would sell him (I did!) one of the treated red cedar decks that had been weathering in the open for about 8 years. It looked pretty good - the wood was perfectly sound, the nails a little corroded on the surface, and overall a very natural weathered finish. The key, I am sure, is that it must be in a well drained location. The process has something in common with the production of good single malt whisky... I wish I'd had the foresight to start weathering a large batch of these timbers years ago.


Peaky 556

As a follow-up to my query on the use of Creocote, and the deafening silence on availability of creosote in the UK, I did plump for the Creocote and liberally soaked a hardwood sleepered complex track panel. After a week out in the sun (it hasn't rained much here) it is still oily to the touch, which I suppose is positive in that I firstly applied enough, and secondly it remains water repellant in the short term at least. This panel will sit on a felted raised trackbed, so shouldn't remain wet to long in the winter, but another such panel will be screwed down to concrete in a cutting. That will be more challenging! I don't really fancy my chances using the household vac and hairdryer without resistance!  Regards, Tim