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Beginner question re: building board vs. keel clamp

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Hello everyone,


I am a beginner who will be starting his first build in a few days, and I have an elementary question about how to best manage my keel while forming the bulkheads. I'm aware that a building board/clamps will yield the proper results, but in the kit I will be building (The Gjøa - Constructo) the keel appears to be totally flush with the bulkheads during fitting/forming. I've attached a photo below from a log found on another forum. Again: my concern is that I won't be able to fit the bulkheads properly while keeping the form true in a typical board/groove set up (because the groove will interfere with the bottom of the bulkheads).


I am considering a DIY keel clamp, but since everything is flush along the keel I will need to separate the clamping pressure. Will this be adequate to prevent the bulkhead former/keel from warping as I glue?


I apologize if my terminology is inaccurate, or if my dilemma is premature. I am an absolute beginner, and hoping to get some thoughts on what the best course of action likely is. Any help is appreciated.







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I have never seen this kit, so I may be off base here, but surely there's some sort of keel piece that gets glued to the bottom? And I'd guess there's a stem piece as well? Maybe they don't get glued on until after you plank the hull (that would seem unusual to me) but if that's the case, perhaps you could attach the keel piece with screws while you're gluing up the bulkhead? If there is no separate keel piece (or even if there is and you just don't want to drill holes in it), then how about making one that, again, you could temporarily attach to the bottom just long enough to glue up the bulkheads?


Hope that helps -


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Thanks for responding John. I believe the kit does include the pieces to form the keel, and admittedly I'm not totally sure where the builder whose photo I referenced was at in his/her build.


I suppose if I use lots of braces/clamps with the groove then the bulkhead form should keep the line of the keel while gluing. I am also assuming now that the planks are just going to meet underneath the bulkhead former, and that the keel piece will just cover up that line.


Thanks again for clearing this up. It was a gap in my mental preparations but I will go forward with what you've suggested.




Edit: On my first read through of your post I didn't notice that you laid it all out for me. At least I feel like I'm learning.  :piratetongueor4:

Edited by Stavrogin
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My first build was designed like that, where the keel was glued on after the planking.  I did not use a build board, or any sort of keel clamp for the build, I just used regular clamps that would hold up the model as 'feet'.  I may have had a lot of luck in keeping the keel straight, because I didn't know anything about it!


I think you should be able to do it the same way, and if there is any keel bend, straighten it out using reinforcement blocks between the bulkheads to force it back straight.


You could build a build-board, and after laying down the two strips for the keel and securing it along the entire length, cut out notches where the bulkheads go, but I'm not sure how helpful that would be since you couldn't do much work on it other than the deck with it held that way.


Good luck!

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Keep in mind that while a building board to hold the keel straight as you're gluing on the bulkheads is not a bad thing, it doesn't necessarily mean that the assembly will be straight after the glue dries. Consider this highly exaggerated illustration of a warped keel:




Note that the bulkheads (two vertical lines) are individually perpendicular to the keel but if the keel is warped, once it's out of the building board, the keel will still be warped and the bulkheads will not be parallel to one another. One way to solve this problem is, once the bulkheads are solidly glued on and dry, with the keel still in the building board (or clamps or whatever) glue pieces of material between each bulkhead. For example, I'll often use something about 1/4" square but size isn't important. It just has to be strong enough to not warp itself. You will need to cut the pieces carefully so they are exactly the same length port and starboard (although the distance between each bulkhead will likely vary).




Hope that makes sense.


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I would use the keel clamp this way.





Every build is a learning experience.


Current build:  SS_ Mariefred


Completed builds:  US Coast Guard Pequot   Friendship-sloop,  Schooner Lettie-G.-Howard,   Spray,   Grand-Banks-dory

                                                a gaff rigged yawl,  HOGA (YT-146),  Int'l Dragon Class II,   Two Edwardian Launches 


In the Gallery:   Catboat,   International-Dragon-Class,   Spray

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For stiffening the keel depending on the length of the model I use:
1. Blocks glued between the bulkheads.
2 Strips or two strips running along the keel

It help keep proper shape of hull during planking.





My models:

From kits

Vasa, HMS Victory, Le Solei Royale, Friesland

From scratch

HMS Warrior 1860, Esplanade, Grosse Yacht

Norman’s ship, HMS Speedy, La Royale

Peter von Danzig

Polacca XVII cent.

Current project:

SS Savannah 1818





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I have built a couple of models which were similar in design. On one these I glued the 'false keel' onto the bottom of the keel at the start and then clamped it. The problem I then had was that this 'false keel' broke away from the main keel because of the lateral forces which were applied during building ie - Me leaning on the thing!!! I corrected this by reglueing, predrilling and then fixing the false keel to the main keel piece with 5 or 6 small brass screws. This then became a very sturdy base which kept the keel from warping when clamped. As far as getting the bulkheads square to the keel, as has been said before on this site, Lego blocks clipped together to the appropriate size then clamped in place are very effective as they are sturdy and always a perfect right angle.



Current Build: - OcCre Shackleton’s Endurance. 


Completed Ship Builds:

                                     Caldercraft - HM Bark Endeavour. (in Gallery)

                                    Caldercraft  - HMAV Bounty (in Gallery)

                                     Caldercraft - HM Brig Supply (In Gallery)

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                                                        - Constitution

                                     Clipper Seawitch (maker unknown - too long ago to remember!)

                                     Corel - Victory

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                                                                      - Brig `Perseverance' - In Gallery

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I started building the swift, which is like your kit.  I used the same set up as captain Bob suggested. I used this same clamp.





 I also used the stiffening blocks.  I then planked on strip at a time alternating from one side to the next.  No issues with warp.  The keel is straight as an arrow.  


Here's filler blocks taken to the extreme.  It was a technique that professional Bob Evans used to use.  I used it on my Cutty Sark





Edited by keelhauled
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For a first build you are going to probably handle the ship a lot off of the clamp anyway.  If everything can start straight (no warpage of the out of box base formers) the important thing is to alternate putting planks on from one side to the other to avoid inducing a warp.


I have built a couple of ships with out any clamps.  Not saying that is great or wrong.  I really like to hold the hull in my lap as I figure out the run of the planks and while attaching them.  As the replies show, a lot of people like reinforcing the bulkheads.  For a smaller ship not super important (not counting the bow and stern where additional glue area always helps at the termination of the plank runs).


The important thing is to forge ahead and get experience - and finish it!  You will learn what works for you and what doesn't.



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Hi guys,


I actually tackled this problem today. Thank you all for the input.


Here's how I ended up doing it:



I rigged up a keel clamp using a couple of tripod ball heads, a 90 deg. angle, a 4 mm thick piece of aluminum used for offsetting camera flashes, and a few small clamps. 4mm is the thickness of the false keel so it worked out nicely.


And here are the results:



I am totally pleased, this being my first build and all. 





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Hi Simon


How about 2 strips on a base board to hold the keel with slots cut for the bulkheads as per the photos.


I glued the 2 strips down and then cut the bulkhead slots with a tenon saw. Sizing between the bulkheads was taken from the bulkhead slots in the keel board.


You can also see the reference centreline and the notches cut in the front 2 blocks for the bow filling pieces.


The whole thing is a fairly snug tight fit so nothing moves.






Edited by Mark D


Mark D

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