America's Most Historic Yacht

Planking continues

Posted By on August 17, 2014

The crew has been making steady progress on the hull planking.

2014-IMG_4917 2014-IMG_4919 2014-IMG_4920 2014-IMG_5203Here’s how things looked in mid June.

Port side

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The planks are trunnel fastened, with a few bronze hanging spikes to hold everything in place while the trunnels are set.


The butts are all spiked.


So are the hood ends.


In case you’re not familiar with trunnel fastening, it’s a great way to hold planks. The trunnels (aka “tree nails”) are made of locust. They’re often made in a machine that cuts them much like a pencil sharpener cuts a pencil. They’re cut to a set size, and then dried. This shrinks them a tiny bit. When the plank is installed, the carpenters drill holes through the plank and into the frame just a shade smaller (as in a few thousandths) than the trunnel diameter to insure a tight fit. The trunnel has a slot cut into it to accept a thin wedge.


The trunnel is driven into the plank using a large wooden mallet called a beetle.


Once the trunnel is driven into the hole, a wedge is set into the slot to lock the trunnel in place. The wedge widens the top of the trunnel ever so slightly and makes it act like the head of a nail.


As the trunnel gets wet, it expands and further locks into place. Even though the end grain of the trunnel is exposed to the water, the wood is so rot-resistant and compressed, you rarely see them rotting out.

One advantage of fastening with trunnels is that you don’t have to worry about hitting metal fasteners as you fair the hull. They don’t require bungs either, so they speed up the process of planking.

By mid-June, part of the lead ballast keel had been through bolted onto the keel.


The stairway leading down from the deck into the main salon has been set into place to show its location.


The deck beams are installed, and lodging knees are going in to brace everything.


That’s it for now!

Planking season

Posted By on February 5, 2014

It’s going to be planking season for quite a while now. Sorry for the long delay between posts, but here we go.

As of November, the garboard (the first and lowest plank on a boat) was being installed. Here’s the starboard forward end.

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Louie Sauzedde has joined the crew working on planking.


He has a series of informational videos that you may find interesting under the heading Tips from a Shipwright on YouTube.

Louie was fairing the deadwood by the sternpost when I stopped by the shop last November.


Everyone has their own take on how to spile planks, and Louie is no exception. Spiling is the process of transferring the shape of a plank as it’s laid out on the boat to the raw planking stock. It’s part of a multi step process that goes like this:

  1. Lay out the plank lines on the boat. The plank locations are marked out along the length of the boat using long, fair battens. This allows the builders to step back and see how the planks will eventually look. Any wiggles, flat spots, or unfair lines are addressed here. The edges of the planks are drawn onto the frames.
  2. Spile the planks. This step copies the shape of the drawn planks onto flexible stock (often thin plywood) that can be removed from the boat.
  3. Copy the spiling pattern onto the plank stock. In this step, the spiling pattern is laid down onto rough stock, and the shape is precisely drawn.
  4. Determine the planking bevels and draw them onto the stock as well. Planks rarely have square edges since they attach to surfaces with flare and hollow. In order for two planks to butt together tightly, their edges need to be beveled.
  5. Cut out and bevel the planks. Cut a slight caulking bevel along the edge to allow for later caulking. Shape the inner face of the plank to lie snugly against the frames as need be.
  6. Steam the plank if needed (usually just for areas with twist or curve).
  7. Attach the plank to the frames with just enough hanging spikes to hold it solidly in place.
  8. Drill and trunnel the plank to fasten it to the frames.

Phew. And you thought they just threw those suckers on.

There are 4 spiling methods that I know, and I’ll show you a couple of them. All spiling methods use some kind of flexible wood as a base It’s often plywood, but it can be anything that fits easily against the frames. This is called spiling stock. The spiling stock has to fit within the edges of the plank that it’s copying. The stock is tacked onto the frames, and the locations of the plank lines are copied onto the stock. Some people do this using a compass like this:


The point of the compass sits right on the plank line and a curve is drawn onto the stock. When that spiling stock is placed on the plank wood, the curve can be used to re-create the exact location of the compass point (and thus the location of the plank line) onto the wood.

Some people like hot gluing little wooden fingers onto their planking stock.


The tips of these fingers are placed to just touch the plank line. The nice thing about this method is that it’s easy to copy the pattern onto the plank stock by tacking down a batten that just touches the tips of each of these fingers.

The compass method is a bit slow, and the finger method requires making lots of little fingers and messing around with hot glue. Louie likes a third method. He uses sticky file folder labels as fingers.

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This method is quick, inexpensive, and you can easily rip the old fingers off and replace them with new ones to reuse the spiling stock.

By the end of January, the planking was marching right along. Here’s a butt joint with the caulking bevel clearly visible below it.  The bevel opens up from the line marked on the plank.


A butt joint is where two planks butt up to one another at their ends. These joints are commonly located on frames so that the end of each plank is solidly fastened into a frame.

Here you can see the hanging spikes (dark) and the trunnels (light) holding the planks to the frames. The hanging spikes are large bronze square nails that hold the plank in place until they are fastened with the trunnels.

Trunnels (short for “tree nails”) are wooden pegs, usually locust for rot resistance that are driven though the planks and into the frames. A small wedge is driven into the end of the trunnel just before it’s pounded home to add extra gripping power.


This plank is from the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship. Coronet’s planks are a little nicer looking…

Often planks are steamed before they’re attached to the boat. Steaming softens the wood a bit and makes it more amenable to twisting and curving. The usual way to do this is to build a steam box, pipe in hot steam, steam the plank (1 hr. / inch plank thickness), carry the hot plank to the boat and clamp it in place. After the plank has cooled for about a day, it’s fastened to the frames.

Louie decided to try steaming the planks in place. He bagged the plank, clamped it to the frames, and piped steam directly into the bag. After cooking for the proper amount of time, the bag can be removed and the plank clamped again to the frames.

Here’s his steamer in action. It’s a section of double walled stove pipe with a coil of copper piping inside and a burner below.


Water feeds through the copper pipe, flash boils, and comes out of a rubber hose as you will see.

In this video, Louie has just gotten the generator going and it’s kicking out steam like there’s no tomorrow. He plugs the hose into a pvc pipe that goes into the bag and spreads the steam out along its length through a series of holes. You can see the white pipe inside the bag here.


Unfortunately, the pvc was softened too much by the steam, so the pipe / hose connection failed. There’s more than one way to do this, however, including just putting the hose directly into the bag. We’ll see how the system has been modified during the next visit.

In the meantime, here’s the planking progress so far. Starboard:

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Leo brings in a plank for spiling.


The overhead crane is priceless.

Up top, the deck furniture is in place and the tops of the frames have all been tied in at bulwark level.

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Erik has been forging the bronze hanging spikes.

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A few of the finished products.


Until next time!


Progress through September 2013

Posted By on October 16, 2013

Temporary boards laid along the inside faces of the stanchions show the eventual shape of the bulwarks. (they’re really safety rails) Coronet’s form is easily seen these days now that she’s completely framed.

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The deck skylights and covered hatches have all been positioned to give a sense of how she will look when completed.

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Looking up from below, their white undersides and varnished oak ribs blend in with the roof of the shop.


The keelson is finished,


and the area beneath the main mast step has been reinforced.


The carlins have been installed (these are the fore-aft connections between deck beams).


The next task is to finish putting in the half beams. These are beams that extend into the boat from the sides but don’t completely span the width of the hull. You can see that the the sloped dovetails have been cut for them here.

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And a little closer view…

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Normally, these are half-dovetails, like this:


I’m not sure why these are full… a question to pose to the crew on my next visit.

You can see how the areas where the mast comes up through the deck (called the mast partner) have been reinforced.


If you look down from this opening you can glimpse the mast step on the keel below.

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Leo has finished the beam shelf. This is the large fore-aft beam just below the deck beams.

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Back in a month for another update!

Carlins and a Keelson

Posted By on August 27, 2013

These days, most of the work is focused on installing carlins in the deck. Carlins help to support the deck, and attach to the deck beams via ramped half-dovetails. The slots cut into the beam look like this:


Or if you prefer a drawing…


The carlin slides down into the joint. The ramp keeps it from sliding right through the deck beam as could happen with a normal through-dovetail, and the dovetail locks the carlin in place and keeps the beams from moving.

There are a lot of carlins in the deck.


Some go fore-and-aft like the large ones in this photo,


and some go side to side. You can see an example of the latter at the bottom of the above photo.

The locations for all of these are drawn out and posted up on deck.

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Sam was an IYRS intern and is now with the crew full time.  Here he’s flattening a deck beam face before laying out the next carlin.

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He’s got everything he needs right at hand.


Leo’s been working on the beam shelf. The beam shelf is a long timber that runs the length of the boat, and fits up against the underside of the deck beams (hence, beam shelf).


If you’re familiar with boat parts, it acts like a bilge stringer in that it helps to support the hull fore-and-aft. These are pretty straightforward along the middle section of the boat, but as he gets to the stern, the sudden curve in the hull makes fitting this part a real challenge.

He’s been using a very long batten to lay this part out.


There’s really no substitute for a good quality batten when it comes to creating fair lines on a boat.

The keelson is now complete. The keelson sits on top of the floors, and is made of laid-up layers of yellow pine.


Much of the material for the keelson came from the old building floor that had been constructed at the beginning of the project. This is the platform that all of the frames had been built on.


Some of the material came from old ceiling planks that were not good enough for re-installation, but could be made to work for the keelson. In case you didn’t know, the ceiling is the planking that goes on the inside of the boat’s frames. Here’s the ceiling back when it was first being removed.


The ceiling and hull planks were fastened to the frames with wooden trunnels. Some of these trunnels remained in place and are still visible where the saw cut through them.


Others came out when these old timbers were cut.


Even if it’s not in the same place, it’s good to see original material staying in the boat.

Andy has been drilling for bolts that connect the keelson to the keel. Before the keelson was installed, Leo drilled down through the bronze floors and the keel. Now that the keelson is in place, Andy is drilling back up through those holes from below to complete the hole through the keelson.

First the drill bit is pushed up through the hole in the keel by hand.


Then the drill is attached to the bit. It’s a very long bit.


The long shaft that’s been welded to the drill bit has a smaller diameter than the drill bit itself. To make sure that the drill runs straight and true through this hole, a bushing has been made that has the same outer diameter as the drill bit and the same inner diameter as the rod. The bushing snugs up into the keel bolt hole and helps to keep the bit running true as it exits the top of the keel and goes up into the keelson.


Here’s the bit just emerging through the lower hole in the bronze floor.


Going up into the upper hole in the floor.


And now it’s a long slog through the layers of yellow pine that make up the keelson.

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Drill’s getting closer to the keel, almost there.


And the tear-out that appears at the top of the clamped block tells us that he’s through.

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The pine block that’s clamped onto the keelson guarantees that the exit hole at the top of the keelson will be clean and neat. The pine block is sacrificial, so the tear out there doesn’t matter.

More next month…

Framing complete

Posted By on May 30, 2013

A lot has happened over the past six months. By early May, all of the frames had been cut, beveled, assembled, and all but two were installed. You can see these last two leaning on the catwalk to the left.


With the framing almost complete, the size and shape of the boat are readily apparent now. Even with the distortion from this panoramic shot, it’s clear that this is a beautifully fair hull.


As Eric says, when you have really good drawings, building exactly to those drawings yields a wonderfully fair hull.

The caliber of the workmanship is easily seen in long views down the center of the hull (in this case looking aft), where mistakes and unfairness would jump out.


The crew has been doing the final tweaking of the deck beams before locking them in place. They use a laser line to make sure that everything lines up exactly right.


You may recall the piles and piles of framing stock that used to fill the shop floor. This is what’s left now.


Not much at all…

The last frame went in at 3:44 PM May 26th 2013. Bob was there for the event.

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Bob stuck around, and was fitting carlins all weekend.


In case you don’t know, the carlins are timbers that surround openings in the deck. They tie into the deck beams using half-dovetail joints. If we zoom in, that joint is visible in the photo above.


The crew will be working on carlins and building up the keelson next. The keelson is a long beam that rides atop the floors and runs the length of the boat. It’s made up of layers of wood that are laminated and fastened together. The crew is trying to reuse as much of the old material as possible, and one way to do this is to incorporate old yellow pine ceiling planks into the new keelson. Here’s one that still has the old trunnels in it.


The building floor (formerly used for laying out and assembling frames) has been disassembled, but this wood (also yellow pine) will be used for the keelson as well.