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Which ship is easiest to plank?

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In the past several years I have tried, and failed horribly, to plank a ship.  To be as honest as possible, I have tossed about 7 models into the trash because they had clinkers, huge gaps and just plain did not work.  I 'suspended operations' and turned to solid hull models and have done very well with about 9 of them.


So now I am asking for advice as to what would be a good model to again start planking lessons.  


There is no hurry for an answer as I am currently working (and enjoying) the Essex cross section model.


Also, when planking, is it easier to use shorter planks or planks that are as long as the model itself?


Appreciate your opinions.



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Absolutely easier if the planks are scale length, about 30 feet.

'They' say a hull that is fairly streamlined is easier than one that has a bluff, apple-shaped bow.

No doubt ten more will reply so you will have an assortment of opinions.

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Obviously a more 'pointy' bow is much easier to shape than a rounded bow such as on the Endeavour.


My advise is to:

1. work on s simple model that does not require too much planking. There are plenty on the market.

2. Calculate the width (approximately) of your planks as they taper towards the bow and stern before you commence planking.

3. Use filler blocks at the bow and stern (even if the kit doesn't include them) as this really helps when shaping an supporting planks. These can be shaped from bass wood.

4. Get or make yourself some planking screws. These really help to hold planks in place while they dry.

5. Always shape your planks in pairs ( port and starboard together) so you end up with a symmetrical result.

6. Never taper your planks to less than half their width at the end ie a plank that is 5mm wide should not be tapered to any less than 2.5 mm.

7 Use a quick drying PVA glue in combination with a CA gel. The CA gel is great when applied to the ends of planks. To holds them in place while the PA glue dries.

8. Get yourself a good quality plank bender - preferably one where the planks are soaked then heated to bend- make sure they are dry before you fit them.

9. Make sure you buy a model that is 'double planked'.' You can then afford to make some mistakes on the first layer, fill, shape then apply the second (thinner) layer of planking.

10. As to your question about the lengths of planks, I think that for a beginner, longer planks are better. They are easier to shape and bend. You will find that you need shorter 'stealer' or 'drop' planks at some point in your build. These are shorter and more like a wedge. They are often applied at the stern.


Take your time and don't be afraid to take planks off and refit if they don't look right. I have planked 10 models over the last 30 years and am still learning :)

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I wished you hadn't thrown them away and sent them to me, I may have been able to salvage them for you and sent them back. I have had to do this numerous times for new or fellow modelers including my brother.


To answer your question, no ship model is easy to plank, but some are easier than others. I have found sharp hulls like the Cutty Sark to be a bit easier to plank than round nosed ships. Do yourself a BIG favor and look for a pair of Ship Model Planking pliers, they cost you about $15.00 for a pair of them and makes planking actually fun. This will help you make those ridiculous bends without soaking, heating, bending and breaking. Then once you have mastered you first or second model using the planking pliers, you can start soaking, heating & bending those planks the traditional way.


Lastly, pick a ship model that would look good with a painted or coppered hull. Paint and copper foil cover up a ton of putty and a multitude of sin. Before you know it, that souse ear will turn into a silk purse and no body the wiser of it.


Good luck,


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Here is a pic of the planking pliers I use from time to time. I found these particular ones on Ebay for about $15.00. They also sell a cheaper or plastic version made by Artesania Latina that will work, but they are plastic and will eventually break. These will not. Also, soaking the plank for an hour or so helps make those really nasty bends even easier.


Good Luck,




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If you want a simple (realitively simple) practice project try building a small pulling boat like a whitehall or peapod.  Plans for both of these types are available from the Smithsonian for reasonable prices and Howard I. Chapelle's books "American Small Sailing Craft" and "Boat Building" also have plans as well as a wealth of info on building them.

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Another option which hasn't been mentioned: try a model with planks that are pre-cut for you. The Model Shipways Bounty Launch worked very well for me in my first attempt at building a planked kit. Having pre-cut planks helps you understand the geometry of planking and you really can't make many mistakes if you're methodical and sensible. Doing this will help you practice bending, shaping, and gluing.


Another benefit of the MS kit: if you mess up a plank, you have two easy ways to replace it. One, trace a new one from the laser-cut outline left by the original one. Two, trace a new one from the included plans, which have all the planks drawn on them. Look at the build log in my signature to see how it went for me.


I have to consider the MS Bounty Launch pretty close to foolproof as a teaching tool. The only drawback is that it's an open boat, so you see both sides of the planks and can't use filler blocks, but I never felt I needed them, the kit was designed so well.

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  • 5 months later...

This is one area that turns off new people to modeling some not all do not have either the skill or patience with planking.You would think that some co. or individual would create a simple planking LEARNING  kit that is priced reasonable and with clear common TERMS.I have bought many partial  kits for parts as the the individual just gave up because of either poor planking instructions or lack of interest in the planking process. Not all kit designers have the ability to transfer knowledge to verse, especially when it comes to 101 kit planking

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The best advise I received from this website was to: "treat each plank as if it is its own model". That means studying then shaping  each plank carefully  before trying to glue it. Shaping the plank means getting the length correct, tapering it to fit top and bottom and beveling the edges to give a tight fit. Figure out how you are going to hold each plank, one at a time, until the glue dries. Don't forget you can plank from the deck down and from the keel up. It will definitely try your patience.  

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I consider myself expert at the forbidden art of bending planking strips "sideways" which helps!  A bit of steam and some clamps works magic.


But for a little extra expense, if  your budget can stand it, buy some additional planking strips in double width and  shape the plank .


But my chief lesson  learnt is  - dont stick/nail a plank on until it is first bent/shaped to sit on the hull exactly as its going to stay.

Steam and clamp and leave over night - THEN fix it.

Its so much easier to do shaping and attaching as separate steps.

Edited by SpyGlass
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Mischief, there ARE plenty of beginner kits available, including some with pre-cut planks so you don't even have to shape them (much). But it's still not the manufacturer's job to hold the modeler's hand through even the most basic steps (Step One: Which end of the knife to use). At some point people should take responsibility for learning a new skill, not demanding that everything be handed them on a platter (this goes for modeling building, too). 

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