Planking the Fore Deck

Day 62.

With a plan in place, it is time to start planking the fore deck.  The fore deck is planked with thin strips of basswood which run parallel to the center line.  While this is simpler than the quarter deck (which uses curved, tapered planks), it does require nibbing, which will probably be a pain.

Planking will begin along the center line and work outward.  The first step is to get the center planks installed.

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The first center plank is installed along the center line.

Based on our planking plan, we cut the first plank.  The end at the bow needs to be angled to fit the angle of the waterways (which come to a point at the bow).  The other end is trimmed to match where the joint should be according to our planking diagram.

The edge of the plank is colored with a graphite pencil.  This is done to simulate the caulking on the deck planks.  A number of different techniques exist for this, but I saw many people recommend this method.  We color only one edge so that when the planks are butted against each other this coloring creates a faint line.

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The edge of each plank is darkened with a graphite pencil to simulate caulking.

With the first plank installed, we add another plank at its end to complete this row.  Since the center planks cover the mast hole, we take a moment to cut out the portion of the plank covering the hole before moving on.

The plank on the other side of the center line is installed next, following the same proceedure.

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The two center planks are clamped in place while the glue dries.

After getting these two installed, we will continue to work our way out to the edges.  The Bluenose has those two wider planks near the bow where the windlass rests, and we’ll use those as a ‘milestone’.  The planks inside of those wider planks are not nibbed, while the planks outside of the wide strakes are nibbed.

Let’s get all the non-nibbed planks knocked out first according to our planking plan.

Oops.

As I looked to find where the joint falls for the next plank, I realized that despite all my planning, my very first deck plank was installed wrong.  According the plan, the first plank I installed should have ended at joint #4 (bulkhead D).  Looks like I made it too long and put the joint at #5 (bulkhead E).

After reviewing the plans, I decided to leave the plank as-is and proceed with the rest of the planks according to the plan.  The spot with the mis-placed joint will be covered by a deck building, so you won’t be able to see that joint.  I simply created a false joint in the right place by cutting the plank, and moved on.

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The first plank had a joint in the wrong place.  This makes the joints at that bulkhead too close to the nearby joints.

With that fixed, we continued working our way out.  This planking plan of ‘every 5’ means that we should have 4 planks between joints.  Aside from that initial error, it ends up working out just fine.

The basic process goes as follows:

  1. Place a plank in the correct location, and mark the amount of taper needed for the plank to sit flush with the waterway.
  2. Taper the plank to fit the waterway.
  3. Test fit the plank to make sure it sits correctly.
  4. Refer to the plans and determine where the joint goes for a given plank row.
  5. With the plank sitting in its place on the ship, mark the length based on the joint location.
  6. Cut the plank to length.
  7. Dry-fit the plank to be sure it fits correctly.
  8. Remove the plank and color one edge and one end with the graphite pencil to simulate caulking.
  9. Add some glue to the bulkheads and planks this plank will rest against.
  10. Install the plank and clamp until the glue sets.
  11. Repeat.

Eventually we hit the spot where the wide planks go, and those get installed.  From here on out, we have to nib our planks.

Nibbing involves cutting an angled edge in the end of the plank, then notching a ‘nibbing strake’ that is installed just inside the waterway.  The nibbing strake was installed easily, and the first nibbed plank was cut.

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To determine the angle for the nibbed plank, it is placed on the model.  The point where it crosses the nibbing strake is marked.

Once the plank is marked, it is removed from the ship.  Using a #11 blade and a straight-edge, the plank is cut.

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Each nibbed plank is cut to create a tapered end.

The cut plank is then returned to the ship, and used to mark the notch we’ll make in the nibbing strake.  That notch is then carefully cut, and the plank is installed.

For nibbed planks, the process goes like this:

  1. Place a plank in the correct location, and mark the spot where the plank crosses the nibbing strake.  Also mark the nibbing strake.
  2. Mark the end of the plank, about 1/2 way across the plank.
  3. Using a straight-edge, cut the angle into the plank.
  4. Place the plank back in its location on the ship, and trace the shape onto the nibbing strake.
  5. Carefully cut the notch into the nibbing strake (be sure to take into account that the markings are outside of the plank).
  6. Test fit the plank to make sure it sits correctly.
  7. Refer to the plans and determine where the joint goes for a given plank row.
  8. With the plank sitting in its place on the ship, mark the length based on the joint location.
  9. Cut the plank to length.
  10. Dry-fit the plank to be sure it fits correctly.
  11. Remove the plank and color one edge and one end with the graphite pencil to simulate caulking.
  12. Add some glue to the bulkheads and planks this plank will rest against.
  13. Install the plank and clamp until the glue sets.
  14. Repeat.
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Nibbing in progress.

This process continues for what seems like forever.

As we continue, we’re careful to follow our planking plan so our joints are evenly spaced.  Eventually we get the last few planks installed.

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The completed fore deck planking.

The completed deck still looks a little rough because it hasn’t been sanded.  We’ll tackle that later.

So far, I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.  Aside from that initial mix-up, the joints ended up well spaced.  There are few, if any, noticeable gaps in the planking, and there are the same number of planks on either side of the centerline.

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