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Garboard plank placement

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I don't understand how one knows how far forward to place the garboard plank.  What I mean is the keel is bent so at what point along the curve will the garboard plank stop?  I have read three books and the tutorials on this site.  I still don't get how one can start planking at the top then stop half way and start planking from the bottom up.  Because one would need to know the exact point that the garboard plank stops. 

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I am a novice in planking but I have had the exact same problem, although I think I ve cracked it.

The way I understand this is that placement of the garboard is a compromise of many things.

1. If you place a straight strip right where the garboard should be, it will end up in the lower third of the stem

2. There is much less space for the planks at the bow compared to the stern or mid hull so the garboard needs to end as low as possible at the stem to allow space for the rest of the planks.

3. It is not possible for the gb to end mid keel, it needs to finish somewhere at the stem really 

4. Spilling needs to be reasonable, planks should not have unreasonable curves

5. When the gb is outlined on the frames, the curves should be fair and pleasing to the eye.

6. The rest of planking will be outlined after the gb is defined

7. If you are planking upside down, turn the hull right way up and have a look, makes a huge difference

Ultimately, the gb is set by eyeballing things.

Still, I might be completely wrong!

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I have been planking my ships top down ending with the gb plank.  Is this a acceptable way of doing things or is it just wrong?  I don't really get why you need to start at the top planking then stop and cum up with the planking from the bottom. I know it gives you a nice key plank at the end but wouldn't it be best to just use the gb plank as the key plank?

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In my boat, a straight strip near the keel is way off the shape of the hull, whereas near the sheer is almost right following the curve of the hull. Now probably the sheer is the most important line as it defines the shape of the boat. Also, it is non flexible in shape. So the sheer plank needs to have a certain shape no matter what the planking plan will be and at least the next few planks also will not be very flexible in shape either, as they follow the sheer and probably will be very straight with little spilling needed. Now, if the planks near the sheer are left last, maybe they will need to be squeezed into shapes that will be unpleasing to the eye so maybe this is why they need to be done first. The shape of the planks mid hull have much less of a visual impact.

I have very little experience in planking though so may be completely wrong

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Hi Brett

For what it's worth I agree largely with vaddoc. It seems to me that it is paramount to establish the sheer first (hopefully there will be an indication of this in your plans). On my build (Lynx - Panart) I have put in three strakes with no spilling to establish the bulwarks. The spilling of my planks was then calculated using a planking fan calculated from the bottom of the bulwark. If you then follow the widths given by your planking fan at the bow rabbet it should naturally show where the garboard strake will go. I imagine, however that this will be a little more difficult with a man'o' war, but there must be somewhere on the hull where the sheer can be established.


Wishing you all fair winds and a following sea.


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I reveal to you  -  "Spyglass construction secret 12" - the garboard is underneath - nobody can see it on the finished model.:)


Or the wimps way out - copper the bottom.  ( actually I take that back - coppering well is far harder than getting the Garboard right)


More seriously the big beginners mistake is to let the garboard strake and the next few planks  rise at the stem.


And it helps immensely if your have at least some sort of rabbet no matter how simple.

Additionally if you can find some wider stock for the garboard strake it often goes together better - real life practice too !


There are many guides to planking in various tutorials and books but can i give two pointers.

One I have found really useful is Chucks Cheerful build - he uses a light wood with the edges delineated so if you view his build you get an excellent visual guide



and though I hate to mention myself in a post along with Chuck  here is a pic as I practiced a garboard fit which I think shows the bit you are asking about.



Of course purists and real build would not allow the sharp  end - it should be squared off and fitted into the stem - but that is one step too far for me !

Help to know what you are building and to what scale of coirse

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I think some misconceptions on how planks are/should be running come from the fact that model-builders start from narrow straight stock. This is not what happened in real life. There are a few boundary conditions that determine the width and shape of each strake. They are partially structural and partially aesthetic:


- You want a continuous strake running along the sheer

- You want continuous wales that may or may not run more or less parallel to the sheer

- You want, if at all possible the same number of strakes all along the hull


The latter condition is not so easy to meet, particularly in full-bodied ships with sharp waterlines. Here the circumference of the hull will change a lot from bow to stern. You can accomodate this by a varying plank width, but you may not have trees wide enough and bending planks across the width is very difficult. So you may end up with lost strakes etc.


The keel may be the only straight element in the whole hull. Now in order to bring the garbord down to the keel, you will have to bend and twist it. In addition, while the lower edge may be straight, but the upper edge certainly cannot be straight, so that you can meet the last bullet point above. In essence, you may have a double curved plank that is bended and twisted in itself. Trying to fit a straight narrow plank as garbord will result in the above mentioned problem that its end will end up somewhere half up the stem or stern. You would need to develop a cardboard template for the garboard, and possibly a couple of planks above it, in order to cut a plank from a wider piece of wood.


Starting planking in sections, top-down, bottom-up and perhaps from the wales up and down is the solution to the conditions mentioned in the first two bullet points.


BTW many modellers (including myself in my earlier years) tend to think of the bulwark as part of the hull. However, from a structural point of view it is not. Structurally on ships the hull ends at the sheer plank and is closed with the deck. The bulwark normally does not have a structural function and is somewhat expendable (we have all read about bulwarks being knocked off in a gale). In (open) boats the situation is different, of course.


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I did some more work on my planking and this time I played with a batten. The batten I used was pear wood, very stiff wood, very straight strip, 2 x 5 mm. Really does not want to bend sideways. I realised I couple of things:


1. If you place the baten so that it lies flat on all frames, it will start low at the stern and end up very high at the bow, which is of no use.

2. I you bend the baten so that it touches all frames just with one edge, lifting the other edge, and mark the contact point at all frames, you get a fair graceful curve. This can be modified to start and finish at different points at the bow and stem so that it does not dive down or points up very high. Always allow the strip to lift and bend freely, making sure always it touches all frames with an edge.

3. If the first try is near the middle of the frame mid hull, we know that half the planks will need to be placed above and the others bellow, so the starting point at the stern and the finishing point at the bow can be selected so that all planks have enough space.

4. The amount of spilling needed appears proportional to the lift the edge of the baten will have

5. This way the hull can be divided to as many sections as needed, and even the width of the plank can be different for each section (This is advanced planking I think)

6. The Garboard plank will need to follow the curve and shape of the baten when general outlining and division to sections is completed, the only thing then to decide is how wide and how high up the stem it can go.


This is a photo of my hull, it was done just eyeballing it and I think is close enough. I used the baten on the other side but gave me pretty much the same result. 



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Have you looked at any planking expansion drawings?   There are several that can be found at the NMM collections site.  One of the most clear without purchasing a set is of Squirrel 1785.   You can see the scale at the bottom of the drawings and make out the garboard plank quite easily to get an idea of where it ends and compare to the profile and frame disposition drawings.


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This is my first build folks so please don't take what I say as gospel. but, for what its worth, this is what I did. This is the first skin of two. The kit is Lynx; Mantua/Panart; 1/64.


I formed the garboard strake for both port and starboard sides by gluing together two 1.5 X 5mm basswood strips, clamping them together firmly along their length. I made a paper template running the upper edge parallel to the keel and fitting to the bearding line. The template was used to cut the two garboard strakes as a pair and the edge nearest to the keel was then fared closer to fit before gluing. The strake was not fitted tight beyond the bearding line as it will be shamfered to make room in the rabbet for the outer planking.


The space left to fill isn't quite as parallel as it looks in the photo and will probably need a drop plank at about bulkhead 5, and, of course, a couple of stealers in the stern.


Incidentally, the dots are pin holes not pins.


Hope this is helpful.


Wishing you all fair winds and a following sea.


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  • 4 weeks later...

I think I should post my recent experience as it might help some first timers in planking like myself.


I realised that I probably got my GB plank wrong. I have gone as far as installing the first 5 planks (GB plank upwards). You can see the shape of the GB in the photo above.

The problem is, that as planking progresses, the spilling gets more aggressive up until the 7th plank (in my hull at least) and then it eases off. Now, my GB is already spilled so things get pretty bad with spilling as I progress. If I had taken the gb a bit higher in the stem (not much) and thinned the plank in the middle, given it a bit of a butterfly appearance, I would probably need much less spilling for the rest of the planks. This is why there is the advice of keeping the upper edge as straight as possible. 


I suspect my spilling will get a bit unrealistic and my wood wastage is huge. Lesson learned though!

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