Another wet Saturday was put to good use, when the first plank sections went on and three of us got a nice masterclass from Richard Pierce, now returned from his adventures in the States.
Our (well, mainly my) efforts at bevelling the keelson and stems to meet the planks were reviewed and mistakes corrected. I had been over-enthusiastic in the sections between the moulds, producing a slight scalloping. It’s quite easy to do this, as one tends to lift the plane when getting near to the moulds and naturally press harder between them. This can’t happen again on Seil Skiff Number One, as there’s only one keelson per hull, but it’s a warning for when we get to our second ship. Fortunately I hadn’t done anything that couldn’t be smoothed out and Richard soon had things sorted.
At the stems I had gone the other way, being afraid of removing too much material. Richard explained how the planks will naturally take a concave curve at the ends, clearly visible in the picture of the finished job. The natural tendency when planing is to concentrate on the sides of the work piece, so that one produces a convex profile and accordingly a bad joint or, worse, an outward lengthwise bow that will produce a bulge in the plank once it’s on, with a compensating flat in the section behind, as the material for the bulge has to be borrowed from somewhere. While one is always anxious not to remove too much it’s actually a lesser sin than not taking enough off. Wood can’t be compressed, whereas an accidental void can always be filled with thickened epoxy. This may be a reason why traditionally-trained craftsmen don’t always look kindly on garage boat-builders – they spend years being trained to produce a perfect fit, then we come along, mix our chemical mud-pies and end up with a stronger boat.
Richard quickly supplied the required concavity with a few passes of one of his favourite tools, the angle-grinder, minus safety guard but with sandpaper on a soft rubber disk replacing the usual wheel. The same tool also cleaned up the edges of the moulds and sorted the angles on the frames.
These corrections done we found that both sections lay sweetly in place, requiring only light hand pressure to come in to the stems, with edges completely fair. It was then a simple matter to glue up the faces and hang both port and starboard sections, securing them with a mixture of temporary screws and clamps. The remaining planks will be progressively easier, the sections having to cope with less and less twist as we move towards the sheer.