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A question about trennelling. (spell?)


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I would like to know what the average diameter of tree nails would be on the average wood ship kit. Would .5MM be an OK size? The reason I ask is that I realized that .5MM mechanical pencil lead might be the perfect solution in some cases if not most. Black may be too dark (or not?) but it is sold in different colors. You could even use the pencil as an insertion tool. Drill a .5MM hole about 3MM deep and insert a piece of lead, then break off. It would probably sand much like wood also.  What say the experts?



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Are you asking about decking or hull planking?  Also scale matters.   Figure 1" to 2" max diameter and scale accordingly.  I'm of the school that says 1:64 or smaller and treenailing is a waste of time as anything visible is over scale.


On decking, they usually drilled, put in the treenail and then a plug over the top of it to protect the end grain.  On most ships, they're not all that visible even standing on the deck.


What a lot of guys do is a tiny drill, make the hole, and fill with a bit of wood putty in maybe a contrasting or "off" color that just enough to be visible.  Others just poke the wood with a pencil, leave a black mark and go with that.  Then.. there's those that actually do treenail. 


Boils down to "Captain's Choice" and also what works for you.  Test on some scrap of the same wood used for the planking and go with what you like.

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Trunnels were not one diameter.  Many of the existing Tables of Scantlings and individual building contracts specify trunnel, bolt and spike size -  which varied with plank thickness or other variables.


Pencil lead sounds like a poor choice to me.  It is very brittle - has no strength - and is probably impervious to most any bonding agent - graphite is used as a lubricant.


The method I use is bamboo - skewers available in grocery stores in several lengths - 

Use  a single edge razor blade to split.

I use drill gauges to size






General 15




General 13


Use sand paper to grip - either with plyers or fingers.

It is one of the more tedious and monotonous processes to do.


I use actual dowels instead of simulations, because way back when I started, one or more of the godfathers of this craft advocated dual attachment where possible - glue and a dowel - ( It was either ; Underhill, or Longridge, or Davis - probably Underhill)


An actual draw plate is intended for use with wire, not wood or in the case of bamboo, grass.

But with a proper draw plate and a short large diameter wire, you can get just about any wire diameter yu need and the wire gets a lot longer as you go.  Ductility is one of the defining characteristics of a metal.

Edited by Jaager
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Hi Paul


I also use bamboo skewers for treenails. I did some research regarding diameter using the treenails on the deck of the Endeavour Replica as a reference. See first link below b





In addition I made a tool for splitting treenails so they were easier to fit in a drawplate. See link below.



Edited by hornet
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The danger with pencil lead is that you drag it on to the adjacent planking so you essentially get a bleeding effect. If you do try pencil lead then I suggest you do so post varnishing, this will reduce any bleeding. Personally I'd go with tree nails, trennels, or trunnels - however you want to pronounce it





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Thanks all, I just thought something like this would be easier. The newer pencil "lead" isn't actually lead at all. It's really some kind of polymer. I looked online and it comes in various colors with diameters starting at .3 MM in .1 MM increments up to 1 MM. Just a thought. Thanks for the knowledgeable replies.



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