America's Most Historic Yacht

Progress through June 2012

Posted By on November 24, 2012

In an effort to keep things more current, I’ll be doing shorter posts to keep the task at a manageable size. I may also include less text, since sometimes the thing that stops me is coming up with a coherent theme for each entry.

Thirteen frames have been installed at the aft end of the boat.

Eighteen frames are now up at the forward end.

Remember those huge piles of futtock stock? You may have wondered how they keep track of all this material. No? I did. Each end has been numbered and that number is connected to a particular futtock.

And is there a map of where each piece is located on the shop floor? Only in the heads of the shipwrights…

One of the challenges of working with long lengths of wood arises when you have to join two edges together along a long span. Take the planking that makes up the transom skin for instance.

The inner and outer layers are edge-joined, and you want those joints to be perfect. In the old days, the edges would have been planed flat using a jointer plane.

The long bed of the jointer plane rides over the slight bumps and hollows of the work, planing off only the high spots. This eventually leaves a very flat, straight edge that can be joined seamlessly to another flat edge. The boards were held stationary and the tool was moved over the edge to be jointed.

With the age of power tools came stationary power tools that did this same job.

The board to be jointed is moved over the long beds of this tool, and a rotating cutter head (hidden underneath the orange guard) cuts off the high areas, just like the hand plane would. So, instead of moving the tool over the work, the work is moved over the tool with these big machines. This is fine as long as the board is not so long as to be unwieldy. For longer boards, it’s easier to keep the board stable and move the tool.

However, using a jointer plane is slow, so the crew use a third method to get a dead-flat edge along their boards. They get one board perfectly straight using hand tools, and then use that board as a guide for a power tool like a router.

The top board is the guide, and the board underneath it is being worked on. The guide is tacked to the work so that it doesn’t move. The router has a bearing that rides along the edge of the top board, and a cutter that is exactly in line with that bearing.

Image courtesy of

As the bearing rides along the upper guide, the cutters below cut a perfectly straight line in the wood below. The result is an edge that mirrors the shape of the guide. This method is not just good for making long, straight edges, it’s good for replicating any shape from the guide to the work.

When you have as many boards being joined as are in the transom, you want to have a method that is fast and accurate like this.

There are always side project to be done as well. Here, Jono is working on a metal working vise.

He’s cleaned everything and is now putting on a coat of protective metal paint.

Big vises like this have a long foot that extends down to the ground. This stabilizes the vise and keeps the jaws from flexing down when parts held in the jaws are struck with a hammer. If the vise was simply mounted to a table top, each blow would flex the table top down a bit, and you’d lose some of the hammer’s energy into that flex.



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