Notes On Planking

It is generally accepted that the plank nearest the keel, the garboard plank, should be shaped and fitted first. Only the lower edge of the plank should be shaped, the edge that abuts the keel. The upper straight side forms a straight baseline for subsequent planking. The second plank next to the garboard can be laid as it is with no shaping of the plank apart from the angles where it meets the stem and the stern. All planks after this must be “spiled”, that is tapered particularly foreward. The degree of tapering depends on the number of planks. Remember that the distance from bulwark to keel is greater amidships than at the stem so if it takes 20 5mm (100mm distance) planks from bulwark to the garboard those 20 planks must be shaped to fit into a smaller distance at the stem, so you still have the 20 planks narrowing to fit. There are simple ways of measuring the taper needed, in this case divide the 20 planks by the keel bulwark measurement (easier to use mm) the keel bulwark distance will reduce nearer the stem so dividing the measurement of the frame distance bulwark to keel by 20 will give the width of the plank required at that point on the hull. generally tapering will only be necessary for the first 3 bulkheads, the main run of bulwarks will have the same b’wark/keel measurement. According to the boatbuilders I know all shaped planks will be identical so when you have worked out the taper on a plank that will serve as a template for the rest. In practice the 5mm plank will commonly taper to 3mm. But measure it, you may be making a totally different hull to me.

You can now, with your planks nicely spiled, plank up from the garboard until you get to the bulwark itself which is straight planked with no tapering required.

There are other choices depending on the type of hull, you can plank up to the centre and down from the bulwark and meet at a plank placed in the middle, useful for the first planking. Try “Wooden Ship Modeling for Dummies” a one off payment to join but it will answer most questions until you form your own methods. It also shows a neat jig you can make from aluminium to shape the planks.

I have bought all the plank benders on the market and would not recommend any, the only reason they are not in the bin is because of what they cost! There is no substitute for soaking and bending overnight. With narrower (spiled) planks you can easily damage them with all the bending tools (all these benders leave marks or scars on the wood). What you soak the planks in depends on how experimental you are, I have used alcohol, ammonia, plain water and soapy water. Each have their place. You can spend your life trawling the net (feels like I have) looking for advice like this. Join all forums and get all the help you can, have a look at the “dummies” site. Good luck, Bob

Images posted by Tom Smith

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

One Comment:

  • Vale: Thanks for putting this blog together! Hopefully this will help some readers out :)

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