Plank 10 (Gig)

After doing some helping out last week I get to do some real work on the Cornish Pilot Gig this week. A three day training assignment on clinker planking turns into a wonderfully challenging and satisfying exercise where tonight, after three days, I have ‘hung’ my first plank – and what a plank.


Plank 10 (starboard aft) is two from the top and apart from a nasty tuck at the transom should have had no problems. In the end, it didn’t but working with Elm, when it is still moving, is an exciting and volatile process. (warning – there is some jargon in what follows – if you don’t understand it all just enjoy the stress as the plank I am working on changes shape during lunch break)

Day 1 – finishing off and fixing Plank 10 (starboard frd), learning how to use the router jig for scarfing, trimming the rabbet to ease a ‘squeak fit’ that was having an impact on the plank run into the stem, nailing up (but not riveting) the plank, selecting stock for the next couple of planks, halving the through sawn board that we selected with a jigsaw and running the lengths (at least seven or eight times) through the thicknesser to give us our 5/16″ planking stock. Clean up the spiling batten with a sander and spile the bottom edge of the new plank that I am to prepare and fit.


Day 2 – Get the stock through from the machine shop, work out the best place to take the plank, drill and prick through the spilling batten to create the lower plank edge, fair the plank edge using a batten, draft in the top edge of the plank, add 15mm to allow for the ‘lively’ nature of the wood once cut, cut out the rough plank using a jigsaw, plane the bottom edge to the line, offer it up to the boat – it fits fine (hooray!). Mark up and fair the top edge for the plank using the station plank widths as marked out on the station faces (the topsides of the boat have, at each station, equal plank widths – but each station has, of course, different plank widths). Eyeball review indicates a few problems, check the station marks, resolve a few anomalies, re-fair the lines, have lunch. Come back from lunch, decide to check the plank once more on the boat before planing the top edge – oops the bottom edge no longer fits. Moisture loss during the day has let the front dip and the transom end skyrocket. Thank goodness for that 15mm spare. Re-line the bottom edge ensuring we can still get the plank out (two stations are left with 0 mm waste at the top edge) plane down to the line for the bottom edge (again), offer the plank up to the boat – no more movement – so far. Run in temporary (fine) copper nails to position the plank, clamp up everything, cross fingers, go home tired out.


Day 3. Take plank off – draw top of plank line in and plane square the top edge – eyeball the result – uggh – a hard spot at station 16. Check everything, decide to fair through anyway – then resolve anomaly in station marks and correct – clean up line – now back to the expected clean ‘S’ profile that works with the plank lower edge. Offer the plank up – fits OK with some spare left to fair through the midships scarf once it is assembled. Measure and mark the browing required for the top outer edge of the plank (this is preparation for plank 11 but is much better done on the bench). Simon’s new (patent pending) adjustable lap gauge proves a hit and extremely accurate. I have to brow off to split the line (drawn with a .5mm propelling pencil). This is really the hardest bit for me. Getting a flat land for the next plank with the browing needing to fair smoothly from 0 to 3mm along the plank needs a lot of concentration and a very sharp plane taking very thin shavings since for this bit working with the elm suddenly gets quite tricky. Offer up the plank, check the browing, find a couple of sections where I’d under-browed (planed short of the line). The last half station to the transom will also need additional browing once it is steamed into the tuck. Fix the browing – Simon’s gauge is spot-on! Trim the scarf end of the plank, cut the transom end of the plank (leave 10mm for trimming on the boat), use the router jig and router to cut the plank scarf, clean up the face with a shoulder plane, use the (other) router jig and (other) router (both on shop built slider frames) to cut the transom gerald – the plank starts splitting half way through so finish off by hand. Sand the plank clean, get the plank on, apply (under final sized) copper nails to locate it, glue the scarf (Balcotan – great with all this wet wood), clamp up everything, clean up, go home completely tired – the plank is on.


Tomorrow I will help in fairing through the scarf and maybe even help with the transom a bit – but I have another boat to build – and timber for the stem and keel should be there in the morning. Anyway, many thanks to Gail – who is leading the gig build – for patience and encouragement and wonderfully high standards and showing by example how much fun wooden boatbuilding can be.



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