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Plank on Solid Ship Model Hulls

By Pete Jaquith


Recent private messages have raised questions relative to the process for constructing solid ship model hulls. The following notes outline the process I used for plank on solid construction with built up bulwarks in scratch building the Maine Topsail Schooner Eagle 1847 illustrated in a build log here at MSW:


Shaping the Solid Hull:


1.0 Material – For scratch built solid hulls I prefer to work with basswood or sugar pine.

2.0 Templates – Station, deck camber, deadrise (if applicable), fore/aft deck endings, fore/aft cap rail endings, and stem & stern frame profile templates were prepared by pasting copies of the body plan and forward/aft hull lines on firm card stock or matt board.

3.0 Hull Block Fabrication – Hull laminations were fabricated using a table saw. The hull block was laminated in rectangular form in order to allow accurate layout and shaping. I glued up the laminations using brown carpenters glue as the glue lines provide useful reference lines. Where appropriate, I laminate the poop deck as a separate assembly.

4.0 Reference Lines – Hull and deck reference lines were laid out with the hull block in rectangular form as it fascinates accurate layout the centerline, station, deck shear and deck at side lines.

5.0 Transom Assembly – The transom assembly was shaped using a disk sander to shape the transom or counter.

6.0 Deck Shear and Camber – A draw knife was used to shape the deck shear and camber. As a poop deck was involved, I shaped the main deck prior to installing the poop deck assembly.

7.0 Deck at Side – After layout of the deck at side molded breadth, a band saw was used to rough out the deck at side (leaving adequate material for tumblehome). A flat chisel was then used to carve the deck edge to the molded breadth using a downward sloping cut to allow for tumblehome.

8.0 Keel, Stem, and Stern Profile – The next step was shaping the keel, stem, & stern profile. Where material needs to come off the keel line, I use a draw knife or block plane. For shaping the stem and stern profile a flat chisel, mill file, and round sanding drums were used.

9.0 Carving the Hull Surface – The hull was carved to the exterior hull lines while secured in the inverted position on a building/reference board. The deadrise was carved using a draw knife. The stations were then roughed out the stations using a sharp gouge. Fairing between stations was performed using sharp gouges to remove the majority of material followed by a #49 Pattern Making file. An alternative to the pattern making file is #80 open grit sand paper wrapped around a 1 ¼” and 1 ½” dia. hard wood dowels.

10.0 Upper Hull Recess – For vessels such as Eagle and Newsboy with copper sheathing, I recess the upper hull and plank only the upper hull above the copper line.


Constructing Built up Bulwarks:


1.0 Bulwark Timberheads – Bulwark timberheads were slotted into the solid hull. I fabricated the waterway 1st and used it as a template to cut the slots. I recommend slotting every 2nd timberhead in flat areas and every timberhead in curved areas. After installation the timberheads were faired on both the interior and exterior surfaces using sanding sticks.

2.0 Bulwark Planking – Bulwark planking was installed in the normal manor working down from the upper strake or up the plankshear. I dry fitted the plank shear and cap rails for installation after paint in order to achieve a sharp paint line. On my Topsail Schooner Eagle 1847 build, I cut the bulwarks scuppers in the lower bulwark strake prior to installation.

3.0 Cap Rails – Cap rails were built up with scarf joints and edged with double bead stock. The cap rails were dry fit for installation after paint in order to achieve a sharp paint line.


Planking and Finishing the Hull:


1.0 Hull Planking – Hull planking was installed in the normal manor working down from the plankshear. I dry fitted the plank shear for installation after paint in order to achieve a sharp paint line. For full lined vessels with flair forward such as the Topsail Schooner Eagle 1847, the expanded planks curve down at the bow and should be cut from sheet stock. The transition between the planked topside and solid lower hull was faired with wood filler.

2.0 Coppering the Hull – Copper sheathing was installed after completion of hull planking and hull painting. My notes on coppering the ship model hull are posted elsewhere at MSW.


Using the above techniques, I was able to accurately fabricate and carve the ship model hull for my Topsail Schooner Eagle 1847 build. While my Brigantine Newsboy 1854 build started as a machine carved hull, similar techniques were used.


I should note that the above approach generates a limited amount of sanding dust but a lot of wood chips (most of the material is removed by draw knife, gouges, and chisels). A good shop vacuum is a critical tool here. I have attached pictures of the Topsail Schooner Eagle 1847 (laminated solid hull, scratch) and Brigantine Newsboy 1854 (machine carved hull, kit) illustrating the process.


Pete Jaquith



Topsail Schooner "Eagle" 1847 pictures:











Edited by Pete Jaquith

Pete Jaquith


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Beautiful craftsmanship!




Current: Sergal Sovereign of the Seas

Previous builds:  AL Swift, AL King of the Mississippi, Mamoli Roter Lowe, Amati Chinese Junk, Caesar, Mamoli USS Constitution, Mantua HMS Victory, Panart San Felipe, Mantua Sergal Soleil Royal

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