Staying Ship-Shape with Borates

:: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor sits the U.S.S. Constellation, a more than 150-year-old wooden ship that served the United States Navy for nearly a century. Its age, however, is just a number. The historic vessel is channeling its youth through the use of borates.

Launched in 1854, the Constellation was the last all-sail ship designed and built for the U.S. Navy. Its missions were many, including freeing would-be slaves from Africa, relieving famine in Ireland, transporting art across the Atlantic, and providing a training base for U.S. sailors.

Through ongoing applications of Tim-bor, a highly water-soluble borate product created by Rio Tinto Borates (U.S. Borax), its maritime history won’t soon be forgotten.


The environmentally friendly wood preservative, also called spray dry, protects against wood-rotting organisms such as fungi, beetles and termites — all while remaining nontoxic to humans and other mammals. That means a truly safe experience for the ship’s 100,000 visitors annually.

“People are excited about this,” said Lead Shipwright Tim Fowler, a Baltimore native, of the preservation efforts. Fowler has worked on the Constellation since 1997 and began using Tim-bor in 1999, after receiving donated product from U.S. Borax.


He and Joan Murphy, also a shipwright, spray a Tim-bor solution on the ship’s 200-foot by 50-foot spar deck three days per week using a barrel, pump and garden hose. The repeated exposure ensures saturation.

“Any place I think I need it, I use it,” said Fowler, who added he also sprinkles Tim-bor powder into cavities on the ship, and uses it in a semi-liquid form, as slurry, to leech into areas of rotted wood. “It gives me peace of mind that I’m doing something proactive in stopping the rot.”


Others in the business of preserving historical ships have also relied on Tim-bor. U.S. Borax has sent product to crews committed to the preservation of the Wapama, an historic steam schooner launched in 1915, and the U.S.S. Cairo, a 153-year-old Civil War city-class gunboat.

“We’ve built a lot of long-term relationships,” said Mark Manning, the RTM’s director of market development, biocides and
agriculture. “It’s nice to help with the communities and keep historic artifacts around for another 100 years.”


 wood protection

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

Copyright © 2024 Rio Tinto. All Rights Reserved.