Probably the most anticipated part of building a wooden boat is the planking. The old boat builder I learned from used to call it “boardin’ ‘er up”. It represents the transformation from a building project to something an owner can start thinking of as “My Boat”. There are many tricks and nuances to planking that I will not try to explain here; suffice to say that it’s not as easy as it looks – until you’ve done it a few times anyway. If done well the boat looks “right”and it won’t really be noticed, but if done poorly it really shows and will most definitely be noticed. On this job it was made a bit more critical because the owner wanted to finish bright, no paint. The planking here is 1 1/2” yellow cedar, fastened with silicon bronze screws.
The first photo shows a batten that has been tacked to the ribs about mid girth. This batten represents the most important line in the planking scheme. It is the dividing line between the topside planking and the bottom planking and getting it in the right place before you start to cut any boards is crucial. All planks above this line will be the same width at any station on the hull. This not only gives a handsome appearance but makes it much easier to mark out, cut and fit the planks. Below this line there is a great deal more area to be covered aft than forward so it is not possible to have the repeatable pattern used in the topsides. It’s an acquired “eye” that lets you fiddle this batten into the “just right” position.
Once the dividing line is defined, a pattern is drawn up for the topside planking and the bottom is planned out “a row at a time”. Here the topside planking has been started and the keelson is being prepared for the garboard, the first plank above the keel.
In this one three rows of planks have been fastened on the bottom and the fourth is clamped in position. This is a good shot of the bronze straps from the inside and the 3” sided yellow cedar floor timbers.
I put this photo in to show the extent of the stationary tools I had at the time, a 36” Crescent band saw, a 6”x 20” Park planer and a General 10” cabinet saw (souped up with a 5 horse three phase motor). I think there was a small drill press around somewhere too.
Here the planking is progressing nicely, probably about four or five days in. If you look carefully at the picture above and the two below, you can see how much space had to be “caught up” aft on the bottom. This is often done as was here by using “stealers”, where one forward plank buts against two aft allowing one strake of planking to go from say 6” at the stem to maybe 14” at the stern post.
The planking is finished here. Two things to note. The topside planking is usually narrower than bottom planking because 1) It is more likely to dry out and the resulting shrinkage will be less trouble spread out over more seams, 2) It looks better and 3) The bottom has the large area differential forward to aft discussed above. Second interesting thing here is that one plank is quite a bit darker than the others. It got left in the steam box too long and became discolored on the surface. It wasn’t in long enough to damage it and the color sanded off easily. It is worth saying that all planks are steamed, even if they are easy bends. As steaming drys the wood out, this insures that all planks are dried equally.
As I said last time, I just love the stern view of this boat, It makes me think of a big mandolin. This is freshly planked and rough. It will now be faired and sanded and it will look much sweeter.
I apologize for not having more detail photos or more shots of work being done but back then I didn’t know I’d be doing this now. I have to work with the photos I have.
Thanks for checking in. As always questions and critiques are encouraged.
Next up is decking and lead keel.
‘til next time
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/