Look, a plank! On our actual boat! It was a very exciting end to the week when we fixed the first plank in place a couple of Fridays ago. We spent a while debating where to put it, which might sound ridiculous but it turns out that in the world of planking, there are many ways to skin a errrrm boat. Sorry…
You could start from the top, or the bottom, or just freestyle it kind of in the middle in the best place where it fits the hull in a nice curve. Essentially you’re going to have to cover every inch of it with planks sooner or later, but it’s important not to make your life unnecessarily complicated. In general, I feel, as well as within a planking context.
So we decided that given the shape of our hull, we would be best to start planking from the sheer (i.e. from nearest the workshop floor) upwards with some wider planks, and then to work from the keel down with narrower lengths and finally meet in the middle with shorter sections.
We’re fixing our planks in a number of ways. Each plank arrived at the workshop machined in a manner similar to tongue-and-groove flooring; one side has a convex moulding and the other a concave moulding. Except that instead of being a square section moulding as with the flooring, it is rounded. This way each plank being joined can accommodate the curve of the hull. It’s called ‘cove and bead’, and it works like this:
We’re glueing each plank to the adjoining one with a polyurethane glue, which foams slightly to provide as tight a joint as possible. We’re then fixing each plank to the frames using plastic nails. Plastic nails? I hear you cry. NAILS, made of PLASTIC??!! Am I hearing you right? Garlic bread? GARLIC? BREAD? But let me tell you now, Peter Kay was right. Plastic nails are the future, we’ve tasted them. Well I haven’t, but there’s no accounting for Simon.
But yes, plastic nails are indeed a revolutionary step and a fairly recent innovation. The ones we are using are made by Raptor Nails and are fired using a pneumatic purpose-designed nail gun (very kindly loaned to us by Steve at Fibrefusion). The advantage of using these is not only the speed and ease with which you can fasten planks to frames, but also the properties of the nails themselves when compared to conventional metal fastenings. They are not only lighter and not going to rust, they can also be easily sanded or cut without needing to be removed when it comes to fairing the hull. We will eventually epoxy fillet bond the planks to the frames as well, and this combination of fastening should give us a very strong and light construction. But most of all, the rapid-firing plastic nail gun has got to be about the best toy ever and it’s a wonder we’ve got any planking done at all really with the amount of other interesting things there are to fire plastic nails at in the workshop, just for fun.
But eventually we got the first plank on, and managed to get three subsequent ones on in the same Friday afternoon, to our delight. The next day we came back to find the planks were all still in place and the joints that had needed glueing had all dried neatly, so we pressed on and managed to end the day with eight planks on each side! The cedar is bending well so far and we’re getting more confident about fixing planks in place as we get used to the materials and find the best way to do it.
Most conversations we’ve had with people in the past few weeks have started – quite understandably – with ‘How’s the boat? Have you started planking yet?!’ To which, having found a multitude of jobs to be done before the first plank could be fitted, the answer has been ‘No’, quite possibly accompanied by a large sigh. To anyone who has been on the receiving end of this, I apologise. But after a productive few days last week, the answer now is a resounding, beaming ‘Yes’. So if you’d all like to ask us again….