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Building Small Scale Ships Boats by Jim Lad - Part 2

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For planking these boats I use my favourite Privet, as the planks are under 0.5MM in thickness and have to cope with a fair amount of bending.  I know that Privet isn’t available commercially; however any hard, very close grained timber that can take the bending will work.


I usually plank boats like this with the planks a little over scale width.  What we want is a good look for the boats as much as strict scale, so the over-width planks work well in this context.  The width of each plank is easily decided by measuring around the girth of the proposed boat and dividing by the number of planks you want.  In the case of these boats, I opted for a wider sheer strake so that I could fit a rubbing strake, as you’ll see later.


Each plank will need to be shaped to fit and also chamfered along its lower edge and at the ends, if the planks are to fill well. 


The garboard strake is obviously the first one to fit.  Being the first plank on, it won’t need chamfering along its length, but will need the chamfering at the ends.  The chamfering of the ends of the planks helps them to fit neatly into the rebate of the stem and stern post and also helps them to bend into the adjoining planks at the ends.  Be careful in cutting the planks to length as they need to be a really good fit in the bow and stern rebates.


The garboard strake can be made from a straight piece of timber, but it will need some pretty extreme bending at both ends, as can be seen in the photos.  I find that the garboard is usually the only strake that needs to be steamed or boiled to allow the extreme bend to be put into it.


Also, before fitting each plank, draw an overlap line along it.  You can’t see inside the boat to judge the amount of overlap on the planks, so a line drawn on the previous plank will help to position them correctly.


Once the plank is bent to shape, put a dab of glue on each frame plus along the edge of the plank and at the extreme ends and hold it carefully in place until the glue sets.  I find it helpful to glue only half of each plank on at a time.  It takes longer, but it helps to position the planks accurately.


Work back and forth on each side of the boat planking both sides evenly.  After the garboard strake, each strake will probably need to be cut to a curve to fit easily – you don’t want to force the planks into position.  On the boats for the Herzogin Cecilie, I found that the planks needs a curve cut into them of from one to three MM as the planking progressively went up the hull.  In the case of these boats, there was no ‘reverse curve’ in the planks at the turn of the bilge, which can usually be expected in clinker boats.


Remember to chamfer off the bottom edge of each plank to give a good tight fit against the preceding plank and, naturally, don’t rush – a clinker boat will only look right if the planking is even along the length of the boat on both sides.




Don’t worry too much about excess glue getting on the planks – they can easily be cleaned up later with a fine file, so long as you’re using a good, fine grained wood.  Here is one of the lifeboats with the planking completed, but showing it ‘warts and all’ before clean-up.




And this is what it looks like after just a quick, rough clean.




With the boat still on the plug (for rigidity), clean up the planks, keel, stem and stern posts and file them down to their correct thickness.  Also at this time fit any outboard features such as a rubbing strake.  On these boats, the rubbing strake (not present on the launch) helped to strengthen the bare hull, which is a little fragile.




Once the external work on the hull is complete, the boat can be removed from the plug.  Simply cut through the frames at the top of the planking; cut through the stem and stern posts just above where their final height above the gunwale will be and then down between the posts and the plug (to free the glue) and the boat should simply pop off its plug.


Here is a work boat with the planking completed and ready to come off the plug, with the second one just freed from the plug.  You can see the film still in the boat that’s just been freed.  This film will just pull out of the boat, except for any spots where glue has leaked through, in which case a clean-up with a sharp blade will soon fix it.




Once the boat is off the plug, the internal finish will vary greatly depending on the type of boat.  These boats were fitted with floor boards and thwarts together with side benches for the lifeboats.  Remember to paint as you go, as some internal parts will be impossible to reach once they’re fitted out.  In the case of these boats, I painted the inside of the hull before the floorboards were fitted so that they would be white beneath the flooring.




Another trick (not photographed) is to make the thwarts slightly thicker than scale and then chamfer any visible edges to make them appear to be scale thickness.  This will give a little more strength to the thwarts, which need to be solid enough to keep the sides of the boat in shape, as double ended boats tend to try and collapse towards the centreline.


Another point to make life a little easier is to fit way oversize pieces as the gunwale capping, not worrying about anything but having them cover the top of the gunwale and frames and fit together neatly.  Once thy have been glued down they can easily be trimmed back to their correct size – much easier than trying to cut and fit small curved pieces of the correct width in the first place.




Finally, with the other three boats having been delivered, here are the launch and the work boats complete and ready for delivery to the model of the barque.  I had held back the launch as we’re showing the barque as she was when she was just departing from Port Lincoln, South Australia, on her last voyage in 1936 and the launch will be depicted as having just been stowed on the forward skids and still with the little outboard motor attached.


By the way – a note on the grab lines around the lifeboats and work boats.  This scale is really too small to show the tiny ringbolts used on the full sized boats for becketing these lines, so what I do is to drill a series of small holes along the side of the boat under the rubbing strake and simply glue bights of the line into them.






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At such a small scale, these boats came out beautifully. Well done.



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Excellent tutorial, John. Thanks a lot!!!!

There aren't but two options: do it FAST, or do it RIGHT.


Current Project Build Log: Soleil Royal in 1/72. Kit by Artesania Latina.

Last finished projectsRoyal Ship Vasa 1628; French Vessel Royal Louis 1780. 1/90 Scale by Mamoli. 120 Cannons


Future projects already in my stash: Panart: San Felipe 1/75; OcCre: Santísima Trinidad 1/90;

Wish List: 1/64 Amati Victory, HMS Enterprise in 1/48 by CAF models.


So much to build, so little time!



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  • 4 weeks later...

Excellent job and tutorial.


When the boat is to be painted all-over, one can also use other materials than wood for planking. I used, for instance, phenolic resin impragnated paper ('hard paper', Hartpapier in German), as used in the electrical industry. It comes in thicknesses down to 0.2 mm and can be cut with scissors and files with diamond nail- or needle-files. Epoxy or CA are suitable cements. While I have my reservations over CA, a boat I built some 20 years ago with this material still looks like on the day of completion. The advantage of this material is that it has a smooth surface for painting, which may difficult achieve with wood on a clinker-hull, particularly on the inside.



panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg
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P.S., there is an old gentleman in Germany, who uses the same methods, but he works in ... brass !



Source: http://www.arbeitskreis-historischer-schiffbau.de/mitglieder/modelle/bawaria/


If I were attempting this, while soldering one strake, two would come off again :o



panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg
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