Post XX - Planking Techniques

On the whitehall hull, the topsides and garboard areas are pretty flat and my first few planking sessions didn't require very much custom planing. As I approach the turn of the bilge I'm relying a lot more on my block plane to get a good fit. I had originally planned on following the technique described on the Laughing Loon website:

The problem is that you need at least three hands to cut a rolling bevel like that -- one to secure the strip, one to hold the work against the plane's sole, and a third to push the plane along the strip. In the LL case, the "securing" hand is replaced by a clamp on the amidships station mold, and the builder's hands do the other two jobs. He also has a much nicer saw than me and pre-cuts every strip with a 3deg bevel beforehand to minimize the necessary planing work on the not-so-curved sections of the hull.

I have a lot of short strips and you end up needing to fit in even shorter lengths here and there so as not to have the seams all line up at the same mold station. It makes it tough to use exactly the LL method everywhere and I just couldn't get good results. I also have a super shitty table saw that barely manages to cut straight (let alone accurate bevels, see Post II), so I made up my own method.

First, check the bevel before cutting -- just hold it in place and you can see exactly how much to shave off the inboard side of the strip.

Figure 63: Check the bevel by putting the strip in place. 

And before you go saying I'm a no-talent hack...I know the staples are crooked and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

Step two: clamp a block plane gently in a vise. Do this carefully in a pussy little vise using a block plane you don't care much about. No Lee Valley planes allowed!

No clue who keeps linking here from homemadetools.net, but I'm
glad somebody takes an interest in my hackish methods.

Figure 64: Beat-up block plane clamped in a small, weak vise.

Step three: Use your left hand kinda like the picture below. I use thumb and pointer finger to set the bevel angle and my other two useful fingers to squeeze the strip against the plane's sole. Right hand pulls the strip through my fingers and the blade. If you're one of those satan-spawn lefties then do all of this backwards like everything else in your backward life. 

Oh, and i quickly realized that the edges of the strips are sharp as fuck and will quickly cut your fingertips to ribbons. Use gloves or a little scrap of wood under your fingers to protect them!

Figure 65: Muckle onto that strip!

This technique is working really well now that I've used it for a few bevels. I just mark on the strips how much bevel is needed as I fit them (Figure 63) and as long as I come somewhat close then the result looks fine. 

Finally, some boat porn for anybody that actually reads this; current progress on the port side is 10 strips. 8 strips to starboard. Got a way to go yet, but it's very gratifying seeing the curves coming together at long last. 

Figure 66: Current progress: 10 strips port side, 8 strips starboard side. 


Post XIX - Two Weeks' Sessions Worth of Planking.

Planking continued over the last two building sessions. This part is going relatively slow since I have to fit each individual piece and bevel it by hand - but I keep telling myself it's just using up time I would have spent setting up (and swearing at) a bead n' cove router table. Just thought I'd show the two tools I've been using for the planking task. Figure 59 is my block plane and Figure 60 is the backwards staple gun. Seriously buy one of these staplers for the task if you ever plan to do this (assuming you don't have air tools). I have no idea who invented the regular-type staple gun (where the lever points away from the business end) but they were a moron. The power-shot is infinity times better.

Figure 59: My beat-up block plane. I could do with a nicer one for such a precise task, but this one works half decent...and yes the blade was retracted before I placed it sole-down in the photo

Figure 60: The glorious and holy power-shot stapler. Best design for a hand stapler ever. Shut up if you disagree.

One thing that's come back to bite me is the fact that I didn't bevel the molds. It's not a massive deal since the molds are completely removed at the end anyway, but it means I'm always stapling into a corner of the mold rather than nice n flat on the face. On one side of the boat I realized I was stapling into the wrong corner too (woops) and it caused some unfairness in the planking. Luckily I'm above the turn of the bilge and I was able to simply remove the offending staples and re-staple the planks in the correct spot. Not the best solution, but most of my mistake will be hidden by the rub rail or by paint in the finished boat. 

Here's a few pics of my simple method for holding the planking together between molds as the glue dries -- low-tack painter's masking tape! When you stretch it over the current strip and stick it to the strips below, it holds every bit as well as a spring clamp. Butt joins are treated with tape, plus a clamp to draw the ends of the planks in-line with each other (Figure 61). Some spots it isn't needed but wherever the plank twists (toward bow and stern especially) it's hard to get the strips to line up without light clamping pressure

Figure 61: Butt join treatement (glue is scraped away afterward too)

Figure 62: Current progress port-side and bow

Figure 63: Current progress, port-side toward the stern.

I can't explain how pleased I am that the hull planking is going on.  I can finally see the shape of the hull and it looks absolutely fantastic. Super motivating on such a long-term project. Next post should be more of the same. I'll try to get some better pics that show the shape the way I see it when I look at it -- always hard to capture on a camera.


Post XVIII - Back from Hiatus & Planking Begins!!!

I began planking the hull the other night. It was very nice to be working on the project again after such a long hiatus. You know how it is -- summer, doing stuff gets in the way of doing stuff.

Well the cool rainy autumn months have arrived, family vacations are done and it's time to get back to work. I'm also very glad I got the mold to the point where the first post-hiatus task would be planking. I was excited to say the least!

Most of the cedar strip resources tell you that you should start your planking using a full-length strip at the sheer so that you end up with a perfectly fair curve. In this case, I've already decided that butt-joins will be my modus operandi, so where better to start than with the first plank right? My approach was to buddy a pair of strips at the sheer to avoid serious unfairness at the butt joins. Remember also that my strips are all in the vicinity of 8' 4" long, and cannot span the entire sheer, even in two pieces.

My method was to start a strip in from both transom and stem, and terminate each midway between a station, leaving 3 completely unattached stations in between. Then I used a full-length strip in the *second* strip position to span the 3-station gap in the first. Edge glued it and stapled to the molds it above the sheer strip, and clamped it to the sheer strip midway between stations to ensure that the two strips stayed snug and fair. Then I buddied in a filler strip in the centre of the sheer and clamped it to the second-position strip. It took a bit of jiggery and pokery to get the joints tight (see Fig 55) -- lots of dry fits and sanding off minute amounts of material from the ends to get it to lie in there tight. Last thing was to add a filler for the stem and transom sections of the second strip position, and clamp the remaining butt joints.

Figure 55: Clamped & glued butt joins in the sheer strip. A bit of a finnicky thing to do with just one clamp, but not too bad.

Figure 56: Completed 2-strip sheer plank.

Figure 57: One nice thing I noticed -- the staples are long enough that they cannot drive in to full depth using the hand staple gun. This means they are all sticking out and will be real easy to pull out when it comes time to sand the hull. Yay!

Nice revelation I had several days later when I removed the clamps and looked at the sheer from different angles. For some reason, I never quite appreciated the size of this boat until I added the sheer plank. This is going to be a sizeable ship when I'm all done. 

Figure 58: View from what will eventually be the top. This shit gonna be huge! I need a boat trailer. 

Didn't get much more done than this - only one side and only 2 strips, but I sorted out my system for fitting and cutting pretty well. The other side should fly on pretty quick and then it's all butter from there. It also upped my enthusiasm for the project pretty heavily, so I'll be motivated to sneak downstairs and work on it more often.