More planks! This past week has been quick, slow, quick, slow. Like a dance step. We have our first broads and both our stealers on now. Definition time: the first broad is the first plank next to the garboard, and stealers are 2 planks that go in the place of one. They’re called stealers because early shipwrights were a thieving lot, and they used to snag any bit of wood they could. However, they were also much shorter statured back then, so they couldn’t grab a big long board by themselves, so they had to opt for the shorter ones. Hence the name. Ask me about my great deals on bridges next time you’re in town.
Here’s Kev spiling out his first broad. Mine is clamped into place, and you can see how it stops about halfway down the boat. That’s so we can practice putting in stealers.
Here’s a reason why it’s good to know about how wood moves. If you think your planks will swell when they get wet and seal up any tiny little places where you didn’t get a perfect joint between planks, you’re generally right. HOWEVER, if you know your wood mechanics, you recall that wood swells mostly across the grain. Take the board shown here on the left:
This board is quartersawn. You know that because the rings go almost straight up and down. When this board swells, it will tend to swell along the line of the grain, in other words, this board will get Taller, not Wider. If the grain has been running side to side (called flatsawn), the board would swell into the board next to it, and it wouldn’t get much taller at all. Why is this important? Because if you can’t count on a board to swell into its neighbor, you have to make it fit tight tight tight.
We do that with a light light light. You can see the light under the boat here, and in the center of the joint, you can see a little crack of light between the boards. It looks big because of how the camera deals with light, but it’s about a paper’s width.
Here’s a close up.
Gotta fix that puppy.
And I did. Took a long time though. I got cocky after the second garboard went on so quickly. This put me in my place again.
Did I mention about caulking bevels before? If I didn’t, you can clearly see how one looks in profile in the photo of the quartersawn plank.
One of the things you want to do before putting on your caulking bevel is to make the edge of your plank perfectly square to the plank’s face. This is hard at first, because you’re smoothing and fairing the plank with your hand plane. Keeping it dead square to the face takes some practice. So, you check for square often, all along the length of the board. There ya go, pretty square.
When it’s out of square, you have to remove some of the wood from the high side to flatten things up. Again, you’re dealing in shaving widths here, so you use tricks to guide you. The easiest one is to look at the shavings as they come out of the mouth of your plane:
Ignore, if you will, the fact that the plane is not facing straight down the board. It’s called a skew cut and it’s not relevant to this particular bit of minutia. In this case, I’ve angled the plane just a bit up and to the right (hold your right hand straight out in front of you and parallel to the ground, now tilt it to the right a hair by lifting the thumb side… that’s what I’m talking about), and you’ll see that the plane is only taking a shaving on the right side of the mouth. That means I’m cutting one side of the board more than the other. The previous cut had made the board edge slope down to the left, and this begins to fix that. With practice, you hardly need to do this… you can feel one degree of bevel off of square.
Ok, I’ve now got the first stealer cut, fitted, and ready to screw down. These planks don’t need to be steamed because they hardly have any bend to them. They’re the easiest planks on the boat, so they go fast.
Ah, but not so fast me hearty! The first stealer’s easy, but the second stealer requires you to make the outer edge (the “non-marrying” edge) continue a perfectly fair line with the 1st broad. So, when you put your 2nd broad in, there won’t be a little flat spot, or dip, or hump where the first broad transitions into the 2nd stealer. Seems easy, but it requires you to be vewy vewy careful. Kev made a mistake with his second stealer: he spiled it all properly and then planed down to his spiling marks, but then when he went to fit the plank, every shaving he took off of the marrying edge to make it fit just right meant that the non-marrying edge moved that much closer to the center of the boat. The result was that even though he had a perfectly well shaped plank, it ended up being about a 64th of an inch inside of the fair line that continued from the back of the 1st broad. In other words, it made it impossible to fit the 2nd broad tightly, so he had to re-do the 2nd stealer.
Oy vey. I need movies. Too many words.
Here, rest your brain with this picture of a cute puppy.
That’s Loki, and he’s a good boy.
Now we get to talk about butt blocks. When you’ve got planks that butt up to each other, you need a way to stabilize and waterproof that joint. Here’s the situation in a picture. This is the right end of the 1st broad and the left ends of the 2 stealers meeting up together in a butt joint.
You can see that the planks are screwed into the frames, but if there wasn’t a butt block in between the frames, the ends of the planks could flex, and as we all know by now: Flexing Is Bad and Lets the Bad Water Into the Good Boat.
So, we put a butt block in between the frames and under the planks. We screw the planks down tight to the block, and coat the inside with bedding compound. And as always, we put in a caulking bevel so we can caulk this joint later.
Lastly, let’s look at another way to spile.
Instead of using a compass, you can use a spiling block. This is simply a rectangular block of wood with a little handle on top. You place the block on your spiling batten, take one corner of the block and have it touch the plank you want to have your next plank form to. Then you draw the outline of your block on your spiling batten with a little arrow indicating which direction the block was touching a plank on. Despiling is easy, just put the block onto your little outlines, and draw a dot where the corner of the block is. Here’s a photo:
The block is sitting on the spiling batten here, and the batten is sitting on a board that will be cut into a plank. You can see little circled dots on the board? If you look at the outlines in pencil on the batten, you can see how the dots are where the lines from the outlines would meet (i.e., at the corner of the block). Once again, connect the dots, and you’ve got a plank outline.
Whew. That’s a lot about boats. Next one will be about other news.