A bit on how those big planks are installed

These days, most of us are involved in replacing planking. There are two main areas where we’re working. The one you’ll see if you come by the ship is the lower hull planking. These are the 3” thick oak and yellow pine planks that take just about the whole shipyard crew to pick up and position against the frames. You can see this in action in the video link on the right side of the page.

We use a few things to hold the planks up against the hull that you won’t find in a yard building smaller boats. The first is called a ring staff. This is a 4×4 oak beam with one end cut down to a kind of thick pencil point. You can see it to the left of Jeff here.

An eyebolt is screwed through what will later be a trunnel hole in a plank below the new plank, and another one is screwed in well above the plank. A rope is tied to that eye.

The ring staff starts off sitting on the deck within easy reach. When the plank is brought up to the boat, the ring staff is picked up and the lower end is dropped into the ring. The upper end is tied in place, and now the plank is trapped between the boat and the staff. This is a very solid thing to hold the plank up. So solid, in fact, that we drive wedges between the staff and the plank to force the plank tight up against the frames.

The other big dog in our kennel is the lagged clamp. This is a large C clamp that has one side of the C replaced with a heavy duty lag bolt. We drill a hole in the frame just above the plank we’re working on, and thread this beast into it.

We can then use the Acme-threaded screw to apply clamping pressure. This is particularly handy at the ends of the boat where the curve of the hull may make it impossible to set up a ring staff.

Big planks require tools. And they require big whacks to move them. Here’s Rob winding up with a sledge hammer to move a plank a few fractions of an inch aft.

It’s hard to see in these photos, but there’s a wooden pad covering the end of the plank. This keeps all that whacking from damaging the plank end. That end will eventually butt up to another plank, and we want to keep it in good shape.

When a plank has to go between two existing planks, it’s called a shutter fit. You may hear this used as a verb as well, “this plank is shuttered along the aft couple of feet.” The final plank that goes into a boat, like the last jigsaw piece, is surrounded by other planking. That plank is called the shutter plank. Ok, it’s also called the whiskey plank, because the event of installing this puppy calls for celebration. There is always a ceremonial toast before installing the shutter plank, and the plank gets a little taste as well.

I bring this up because one of the aft starboard planks that went on the other day was partially shuttered. The very last 4’ or so of the plank was shuttered where it curved up into the aft end of the boat. I’ve circled that area here:

Forward of that, the plank was only bounded on the lower edge. There’s a ton of curve and twist back there, and so rather than trying to simultaneously bend,twist, and fit a 3” thick plank into a space that fits tighter than a jigsaw piece, we chose to just tackle the bend and twist part first. That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll see that the new plank is clamped on top of the plank below it.

The plank below essentially acts as a bending form for the new plank. Once the new plank has cooled and its shape is set, we can unclamp it, and do the careful final fitting and maneuvering required to make a watertight fit in the shuttered space.

Ok, shutter can also be used as an adjective. Add that to the list.