Archive for April, 2009

Middle Planks Hung

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

mid planks donelap bevelThese went a lot faster than the garboard planks. No steam bending needed. There was a lot less white goop too; the dog walking down the street escaped with no goop this time.

A couple of details are interesting. Lapstrake planks overlap at the edges. The “lap” on this boat is 5/8 inch and is, like the edge of the boat’s bottom, a rolling bevel. Getting the bevel right is pretty easy with the use of a temporary batten (that really thin piece) which simulates the edge of the next plank. Then stand a simple lap gauge between the batten and the existing plank to find the bevel angle. Plane along the bevel using the gauge to check for the right rolling angle. Keep the lap flat and free of crowns and all will fit well.

gainsThat is, until we get to the ends of the boat. There’s no overlapping at the ends. So, as we approach the ends, we plane a rabbet into the lap area of the garboard planks, and into the matching area on the middle planks. If one gets this rabbet to be half the plank’s thickness at the end of each plank, the result is nice and smooth at the stems. This area of transition is called “gains.” No, I don’t know the origin or reason for the term. My gains turned out fairly well.

Fastening is with a few screws in the stem, adhesive caulk (3M 5200) at the stems and in the rabbets, and clinch nails every 2 inches.


Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

My slow and deliberate boatbuilding adventure is slow not only from forgetting to order the right fasteners, but also stopping to make tools as I need them.

clamps-and-gauge1Lapstrake planking is the sort where one plank overLAPS the next. Two tools useful for this kind of construction. First, one needs to mark the width of the lap on a plank edge so that yet another rolling bevel can be planed as a joint area. Some boatbuilder make simple little gauges from a notched piece of wood. That’s basically a one-time use gauge. I decided to make a good marking gauge that will last the rest of my woodworking days. It’s in the foreground of the photo. (Click any picture to see a larger version.) It is made of cherry with a couple of coats of wiping varnish as finish.

clamps in useNext comes the clamps. Deep throats are needed to reach around the width of the planks, deeper than most c-clamps. These are traditional lapstrake clamps, cut from pine and poplar stock that was already on hand. The hinges are nylon belt webbing and the tip pads are rubber drawer lining material. Finish is 2 coats of boiled linseed oil thinned with mineral spirits. Yes, they are very lightweight, yet are strong enough for this lightweight planking.

The wood that’s clamped to the boat is not a new plank. It is a spiling batten, 1/8 inch thick plywood. Spiling is the measurement process used to discover the shape of the next plank. Measures are taken from the lap line on the garboard plank above and from a thin temporary batten that marks the edge of the next plank.

Garboards Hung – A Cracking Success

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Dan in the black cap. Greg in the blue cap.

Dan in the black cap. Greg in the blue cap, demonstrating something on the Whitehall.

“Doc” Dan and I were hanging a plank on a Whitehall boat last spring. It was one of the planks at the turn of the bilge, a part of the boat with difficult curves in all directions. Dan and I had a beautifully spiled plank, a perfect fit.  Yet, it took a good bit of clamping to keep it where it belonged while we screwed it down. When clamping a plank, it is very common to hear little cracks and squeaks as the plank rubs against any of the 24 frames of the boat. A much louder CRACK sounded as we tightened the 5th or 6th clamp. Dan and I stared at each other in wide eyed surprise. Then we examined the plank and found no cracks or splits. Our uninvited sound had come from a frame that cracked. It’s relatively easy to replace the plank (just a few hours of spiling and shaping), but much harder to replace a frame. Sigh! Our master shipwright, Greg,  shook his had sadly and then gave instruction on how we could make a repair with epoxy.

garboard crackThe sinking feeling of an unexpected CRACK happened again with one of the Fiddlehead’s garboard planks. The last time I posted was after steaming the planks and temporarily fastening them. The next step was to remove them, apply an adhesive, and permanently fasten them. The stem of each plank was held by 4 screws. I set about removing all the temporary screws, not thinking much about the tension that might still be in the twisted wood. I removed them in the sequence shown in the picture (click the picture for a larger version). As screw #3 was removed, with #4 still attached, the plank cracked.

I sat in the moaning chair and diagnosed the failure as having two causes. The most obvious was removing the screws in the wrong sequence. The other was getting ahead in the sequence of things. The planks were originally left a couple inches long on each end. I trimmed off the excess after initial fitting. Had I left the excess, there would have been more meat around the screw holes and less probability of splitting.

The repair is a gap filling mix of epoxy and two additional screws. I think it is sufficient, but might add some additional patching on the inside later.

The white stuff is 3M 5200 adhesive. It is very much like construction adhesive, but is “Marine” grade which justifies at least tripling the price. It is very sticky stuff and gets all over everything. The stickiness lasts for days, as it takes 7 days to cure completely. It migrates so insidiously that some got onto a dog that was walking down the street, 50 yards away from the shop.

Clinch Nailing

Friday, April 10th, 2009

#$%*&!!! DANG!

I don’t have the 7/8″ cut copper tacks (also called clinch nails) needed to attach the garboard planks. I ordered all of the fasteners some months ago, but had forgotten that this particular size of tacks were out of stock. Apparently, they are a scarce size. Three of four providers still list them as out of stock. The fourth has a minimum order quantity of 50 pounds, which is 49 and 1/2 pounds more that this boat needs. A couple hours searching found a roof gutter firm in Pennsylvania that has them in reasonable quantities. They’ll be here in a few days.

ADVICE: If you think you have everything you need for your current project, stop right now and go double check.

Clinch nailing is not very common these days, and I have never done it. I watched some other guys do it at the Wooden Boat School, but didn’t get into it myself. So, it was time for some practice on scrap lumber. The concept is simple. Use a nail that is a bit longer than the pieces of wood being joined. Cause the tip of the nail to turn and bury itself inside the wood. I imagine many of us have had experience with the tenacity of unintentionally bent fasteners. They don’t come out easily. I’m guessing that some ancient bent nail victim said, “Hey, I have an idea…” and came up with the idea of clinching.  The result is indeed tenacious.

clinching-toolsBoat builders use copper tacks in pre-drilled holes, a lightweight hammer, and a clinching iron. The iron has enough mass to do the job, and is interestingly curved to get right up close to a boat’s many non-flat surfaces. The process is simple. Place the iron at the spot where the tip of the nail should emerge and then hammer the nail in place. The tip hits the iron and goes back into the wood. Watch this video of Brahm and his friend doing clinch nailing at Hillmark Boats. It is as simple as it looks.

Before you ask why my clinching iron looks like it’s wrapped in packing tape, I’ll answer. Yes, it is. Mine is iron and will leave dark marks. The tape helps avoid the unsightly marks. The other alternative is a bronze clinching iron. The price difference between iron and bronze will by a couple of cases of Snickers bars.

As always, click on any image to see a larger version.

clinch-thin-1clinch-thin-2Now, I’m curious about how well the joint holds and what the nails look like (inside the wood) when clinched. So here are a couple of destructive tests. One is joining a 5/16 inch thick board with a much thinner piece. I used 3/4 inch tacks, which I obviously have, and found that a curl of almost 360 degrees is formed inside the wood. It took a good bit of effort to pry the boards apart and the curled ends of some nails refused to release the fibers they had trapped. Yet, I think this is less than optimal because the curl traps too little material.

clinch thick 1clinch thick 2The other test is again using 3/4 inch tacks, but this time joining two 5/16 inch boards. This time the end of the tack made a 180 degree turn, but no more. It trapped more fibers. This joint was very difficult to break, and is much more tenacious than the one with the full curl.

These tests show how the length of the nails, in porportion to the wood being joined, is important. Too short, no clinching. (You don’t get to see that test.) Too long, we get a circular curl. Just right, a 180 degree turn and a strong clinch. Seeing these results, I’ll believe the designer’s specs and wait for the rare 7/8 inch tacks.

Garboard Progress

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

plugging knotsSlow and deliberate are good adjectives for my boat building methods. The “deliberate” is because I’m new to this, learning as I go, and approach unpracticed tasks with a little trepidation. The “slow” is just, well, slow. Since the last posting, I’ve removed and plugged 17 knots in each of the garboard planks, trimmed the upper edge of the planks to land precisely on the knuckles of the frames, and steamed the planks into place.

towelsThe garboard planks on this boat have a lot of twist (maybe I said that before). Harry Bryan, the designer, suggests that Northern cedar probably won’t have problems with the twist, but that other cedars might, and suggests steaming the planks.  People who build lots of boats have steam boxes for such work. If I were building a Whitehall with 48 sets of frame, I’d probably build a steam box. Yet, for only two planks, I used an alternative method.

steaming the garboardsWrap an end of the plank in a couple of old towels. Wrap the towels with plastic. Then, saturate the towels with boiling water. Draw up the plastic wrap to hold moisture and heat in. Repeat several times, to keep the plank hot, over a half-hour period. The wood becomes more pliable and is easily clamped or fixed in place. Sounds easy. Actually, it is. My only complication was having the 4 gallons of boiling water in big kettles on a stove one floor away from the shop. So, there were many trips with a small pan of water down and up the stairs. That actually worked out well, causing the dousing to be spread out over time. Of course, there’s spill over and water on the floor. That’s OK. The shop is a converted garage with a concrete floor. I used a 30 gallon trash can at the end of a plank to catch runoff. That seemed to work OK, until I went to empty it and found only about 1/2 inch of water in it. A “hole in my bucket” had transformed the can into a funnel. Oh well, the shop floor needed a good cleaning.

garboards dryingTwo planks, four plank ends, four separate steaming sessions, about four gallons of water each. The shop, and the kitchen upstairs, were saunas for a while.

There aren’t many clamping spots, only the mid-frame and the two bulkheads. I used drywall screws along the runs between the clamps. The drywall screws will be removed after the planks are permanently fixed and their holes will be patched. I probably used more than I needed, adding yet one more reason for the slow part of my boat building.

Next step: The planks come off, an adhesive bed gets applied and the planks go back on with permanent fasteners.