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I'm trying to absorb the tutorials about planking, and having trouble wrapping my head around of couple of the concepts.


For starters - With a kit, you're probably given planking material - let's say it's a narrow width of about 1/4 inch.  If you're working a hull where almost every plank needs to be curved in order to lay flat on the bulkheads, doesn't that render much, if not all, that material useless?  I can't really believe that's the case, yet it seems to me that you'd have to cut most planks by hand out of a much wider sheet of lumber.  What am I missing?  I'm certainly not arguing with experienced builders; I'm just having a hard time understanding it.


Does anyone know of a YouTube video where these concepts are demonstrated?  I've seen a couple that "talk" about spiling, but don't show much of value.


Also - what, exactly, is the point of lining out the hull (dividing it into 4 or 5 bands to be worked).  Some authors go into, after this, a discussion of calculating the number of planks, for a given plank-width, in each band, but to what purpose?  Isn't it just going to be whatever it's going to be?  Is there a reason to have each band have the same number of planks?  There must be more to this than just divide-and-conquer, but I'm not seeing it.




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You can plank a model hull with the strip wood in the kit. It can be done and made to look quite nice. However, at some point there will be some compromises that are inherent with a kit that will deviate from how a ship's hull was actually planked. Each of us has their own idea of what will look good on a model and each of us must decide what they want out of their model. Some go for more accuracy, others are not that concerned with it and neither are really correct or incorrect.


Now, if you want to plank a hull as nearly as possible to how it was actually planked, that is where you would need to get some sheet wood and properly spile and taper planks. The hull form will dictate how many planks in the hull need spiling and how much of it will be needed. Spiling is nothing more than transferring the curve of the lower edge of one plank to the upper edge of the next plank below it. Once the upper edge of the plank is spiled and matches the lower edge of the next plank above, the spiled plank's lower edge is tapered. Tapering makes sure that you can get the same number of planks at each frame throughout the length of the hull. There are situations where a drop plank may be needed as you approach the bow or a stealer as you approach the stern, but it is quite common to be able to plank a hull with the same number of planks on each frame. 


Dividing the hull into bands does make the hull planking a bit more manageable by making it necessary to work on only a few strakes of planking at a time. Add to that, it is generally thought that you can plank the upper belt, then lower belt and that the middle belt last because the middle belt tends to be the easiest with the least amount of spiling or tapering necessary.


I hope this helps a bit.



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Hi Mark

There are actually three styles to plank a model in.Firstly,the kit route,which is dictated by the fact that you use precut strips.Second,the as the original route which will include the odd drop plank and stealer and finally the contemporary model style.This is as the original models were planked and does not follow the practice on the original.The later two,invariably require spilling as bending parallel strip into complex compound curves creates problems.

The theory behind putting thread,lining tape or whatever onto the bare hull structure to divide the area up,is to ensure the planking adopts pleasing 'lines' when viewed form different angles,if you divide the whole area up in one go,the planking will adopt some strange lines due the changes in hull form.The planking widths are not necessarily all the same width throughout the lower hull at each station line to create the 'flowing' appearance.This is a very simplified explanation on a discussion that could easily go into pages and pages.


Kind regards



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There are many good ideas here. Planking is part art, part geometry and part math. It takes practice. So try some of these techniques and,  if you screw up the first time, remember, it is only wood. So tear it off, analyze what worked and didn't work and try again! Once you get the hang of it , it is really quite satisfying but then I am a card carrying masochist! :P:rolleyes:

Having fun Planking in Jax

Jaxboat B)

Edited by Jaxboat
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Hi Mark

I have Donald Dressell's book.I agree with Brian,this is an excellent read.The tutorials on here are excellent,however the book provides the background information into the why's and wherefore's before getting 'stuck in'.I do think you will find the book will answer many of the questions you ask and probably a few you haven't thought of yet.


Kind Regards



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Good to hear Nigel, as I'm sure I haven't even scratched the surface, yet, thanks.


Aha ModelExpo, there it is!  Thank you Russ.  Seems a shame to pay a minimum shipping for just one small book, guess I'll just have to buy something else...

So many tools, so little time...

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Hi Mark   :D


I will second Nigel's response. While is is a very good read for the newbie it does not answer many of the questions you had and will have as you get into planking


 There are some excellent and very knowledgeable responses here. As a newbie or someone who has just finished planking his first hull I remember asking myself many of these same questions. My response may or may not help.


The belts not only break up the job in more manageable chunks but prevent your planking from wondering. A small error in the first plank might start a wave or other undesirable effect in all your planks. It can actually compound and grow with each plank. Better that you do groups and stop this. Not one after the other but one "to" the other. These restarts will keep your planking in check. The small corrections needed within a belt will be lost in the overall job. Yes that last plank that you will need to fit between the two belts will be one of the hardest. 


The belts also force you to taper your planks correctly. On some ships you will need to combine two planks into one (drop plank) or add a filler. The belts will help you see this early on. There is a rule for how much you should taper a plank and its not to a point so you can shoe horn it in. There is another for the width. 


This is what I used 



Well after I tried it my way and failed. I did substitute battens for the string chuck uses but the whole fan thing and marking off the width of each plank in each belt on every bulkhead is the only reason I was able to finish my hull and why I was happy with the result.


Here is a link to my instructions and the belts.  




Figure 6 page 10. There is a ton of info on planking too. Its a good "FREE" read for anyone new. 


PS: Spiling or cutting planks from a sheet is not that hard to do. You will know if you need to do it when you find yourself bending planks in both directions. 

Edited by JPett
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Hi Mark!


I was saying the exact thing you began this thread with to my wife just last night! I too have absorbed the planking tutorials here and though they are great, there are always some questions lingering.


The thing that made everything click for me (but only in conjunction with the planking tutorials, and really only just very recently) was Ron's (RLB) Oneida build log, which apart from being amazing in and of itself, contains a very useful set of photographs illustrating the spiling process. It clarified the whole thing for me. The process of lining off the hull is explained in one of the planking tutorials here and that is an essential first step - you'll also need some good calipers, a set of french curves (for tapering), a compass (for marking the curve of each strake) and some bristol paper (for making templates). It slows the planking process down quite a bit, but I have to say I'm much happier with the results than I ever was trying to get 0.6mm x 5mm strips to behave themselves on the hull. Check out RLB's log and cycle through till you hit the spiling demonstration - you won't regret the time it takes you to find it.


In any case, adopting this process has led me to scrap the strips supplied with the kit and buy some 3" x 1/32" basswood sheets to spile planks with. I've been making the planking individually using a baseline of 5 1/2" at scale (1:53). When I lined off the hull atop the first planking (which I did without caring about the look only the overall hull shape) I marked imaginary lines where frames would be on the ship. I then staggered the butts on the hull planking with some planks at the bow and stern being shorter than 5.5". 


As I said it's very time consuming making the planks individually, but the result is a set of planks that fit nicely on the hull. Well worth the $10 or so I paid for the basswood sheets....


Edited by hamilton
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These are all great ideas and I would only add--don't overthink it. Pick up the general concepts from the tutorials, but especially with the first layer of your first build don't lose sight of the big picture and work out the method and style that work best for you. Good luck!

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Thanks, all.


I now have two of those planking books (authors Dressell and Roberts) on my desk, and they look like they're going to be very useful indeed.  Next best thing to an in-person demonstration.  I especially like the look of Jim Roberts book, I think for me it's going to answer a lot.


I have a lot of studying to do...

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