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Planking the hull, running the planks (Part One)
Contributed by: [RG] C++  (Nico)
Average Rating : 4.6500/5.00
Published on: 06-19-2004   Views: 95184   Link to this article   »  Bookmark/Share this Article
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Planking the hull, running the planks (Part One)
Planking the hull - by [RG] CC++ (Nico)
Click on the thumbnails to view full size image)

The most tedious part of shipmodeling has got to be hull planking. I think hull planking makes many modelers mad or quit modeling all together. Most of the manuals provided with the kit state in one line "plank the hull." Right!

Some kits have photos included to guide you with the process of planking the hull, but as I found out the pictures generally show how it is not to be done. My first kit is build right out the box and also I used the photos supplied with the kit to guide me through the planking process. All went well and I was content with the result. Before I started on another ship I did some extended research and ordered some books concerning period ship construction. I also visited nautical museums and reconstructions of period ships.

Comparing the results of the research with the build of my first ship, I noticed that the planking was actually incorrect. The photo's supplied with the kit also showed the incorrect run of the planks. I think, and this is also stated in certain books, that the planks always ran from bow to stern. So the same numbers of planks are running the entire length on the ship.

So this is wrong:
So this is wrong

Now, on my second ship I want to try it the right way. There are allot of methods to determine the run of the planks but I use the following method: Before starting to take measurements on the hull, lay two planks on the model. the garboard (first plank at the keel, this plank needs to be tapered) and the first plank below the deck. When this is done a table has to be drawn showing all the bulkheads and the distance between to two planks. It is important that the curve is taken into account when measuring the distance.

Here is a picture of the starting point, notice the table with all the measurements:
Picture of the starting point

When all measurements are done, compare the distances of the left and right side of the hull, notice that they should be equal for each bulkhead. Now divide all distances with two and mark a line on the bulkhead. For example: Distance bulkhead = 100 mm, then mark a line at 50 mm.

Perform this exercise for all the bulkheads on both sides. After marking all the bulkheads, lay a test plank from bow to stern along the marks on the bulkheads. Eye test the run of the plank along the hull and pin it down. It is best that the plank follows exactly the markers, but if not then adjust the test plank and rerun the measurement table in order to compromise for the deviation between the test plank and the marker.

Here is a picture showing all the markers on each bulkhead:
Markers on each bulkhead

Write down all distances in the table, and measure the width of the planks you are going to use. Now take the largest bulkhead distance from the table and divide the numbers with the width of the plank. For example: Largest distance bulkhead = 45 mm Width plank = 5mm

So we need to run 45/5 = 9 planks, from bow to stern from keel to the middle markers or from the deck to the middle markers. Note: In total we need 2*45 mm / 5 mm = 18 planks to cover the largest bulkhead distance. Note that the largest distance can be found amidships and the smallest at the bow.

The next step is to calculate the amount of material that has to be taken of the plank at a each bulkhead. Perform this exercise by subtracting the largest distance with the distance of the other bulkheads. For example: Bulkhead A distance = 30 mm

This means that the width of the 9 planks cannot exceed 30 mm. Calculate the width of a single plank by dividing the 30 mm by the number of planks. In our example: Bulkhead A distance = 30mm / 9 planks = 3.33 mm

The width of the material to be taken of each plank can be calculated by the difference between the largest distance and the distance of the bulkhead A. Thus: Largest distance 45 mm - Bulkhead A distance 30 mm / 9 planks = 1.66 mm

Note that adding both results should show the original width of the plank, 1.66 mm + 3.33 mm = 5 mm. Write down all the results for each bulkhead in the table.
Of course, no one can measure 1.666666 mm, and that accuracy is not desired when performing the first layer of planks so a little trick can be used to speed up the process.

Make some paper lengths and perform the next exercise for each bulkhead: Mark a line on the paper strip measuring ~3.3 mm from each other and take the measurements over on the bulkhead by running the marked paper strip along it. Now not all plank have a exact equal width but this is good enough for the first layer. One benefit for this is that each single plank is marked on the bulkheads.

Numbers all the markers and the position of the bulkhead on the plank then sand it. Notice: broken planks can be repaired as can be seen here:
Broken planks can be repaired

It helps to put numbers at the markers to prevent any mistakes in lining up the plank against the wrong marker. The planks can now be put on and should follow the markers placed on each bulkhead. It is best to test run the plank first and mark the bulkhead positions on the plank. Then lookup the plank width in the measurement table at that given bulkhead and sand the plank to that width. Needless to say that the plank must be sanded to a smooth line going along all the markers.

Make sure each plank has the same width at a given bulkhead, planks run all the way from bow to stern:
Planks run all the way from bow to stern

There are some things to take into account:
a) Planks tend to creep up at the bow and fan out at the stern. It is important that all the planks must follow the markers. When this is impossible, then rerun all the measurements.
b) Planks are never tapered half their length. So if the original plank is 5 mm in width then no more than 2.5 mm can be taken of the plank at a certain point. If this is the case then use a stealer or rerun the measurement table.
c) Count the number of planks supplied with the kit and compare the count with the number of planks required.
d) Mark the location of the bulkhead on the keel because if you don't, then it is possible that your drill will meet some copper nails when trunneling the second layer.

Another picture, the first half is almost done:
First half is almost done

When planking the hull using the thick wood supplied then some problems might occur at the stern of the ship. Some planks on the hull need to be twisted to compensate for the angle at the stern. Some planks might and some do not lay perfectly flat on the stern causing ridges to appear between the planks. These ridges must be filled with either wood filler or a mixture from saw dust and white glue. After applying the filler and sanding the area the stern should be fine.

Here's a picture of such repair, before sanding:
Picture of such repair

Planking the rest of the hull
When the first half of the hull is planked from keel to the waterline, then the rest of the hull can be planked from the deck to meet the existing planking. Using this method you are assured that the top planks follow the sheer (deck) line, and the lower planks follow the (garboard keel) line. The plank in the middle will compromise between the two runnings.

The same method used for planking the lower planks can be applied to the upper planking. So again create the measurement table, take all the bulkhead measurements and determine the width of a single plank at a given bulkhead. Mark all the bulk heads and start applying the planks.

Here is a picture of the upper planking marks:
Upper planking marks

Make sure you keep following the marks you made or else there won't be any room for the remaining planks. This problem is most evident at the bow of the ship were the bulkhead circumference is smaller compared to the amidship bulkheads.

Here is a picture showing the running of the lower and upper planks:
Running of the lower and upper planks

After finishing the hull it is advised to drain (coat) the hull using white glue. This procedure ensures that all the planks become hard and are glued to each other. A hard solid hull is required before starting with the second layer. Of course you can glue the planks together during the planking phase, but once the plank is glued it's difficult to get it off when a error slips in. It is also possible to omit the nails when gluing in the planking phase, but its possible to plan the virtual frames such way that the nails can be avoided. It is also possible to drill right through the nail to using a mill. Anyway, I prefer the gluing after the planking is finished.

Gluing the hull:
Gluing the hull

When all is finished the hull can be sanded leaving a smooth hard planking job strong enough to support the second layer (if you so choose). But this is another story yet to come.

All finished!
All finished!
Click here to download the full size images

There will be a follow up, Hopefully with some tips from the other forum members

If you have any suggestions or feel that there is an other method, then say so. In the end, I'm only human. Happy building.

If you have any questions, please ask! [RG] CC++

Link to Part Two
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Author Profile: More articles by [RG] C++ Nico:
[RG] C++  Nico
Master's Mate
Join Date: 06-05-2004
Posts: 151

Planking the hull, running the planks (Part Three)

Planking the hull, running the planks (Part Two)

Planking the hull, running the planks (Part Four)

Similar articles of interest
Article TitleAuthorPublished Date
Bending Hull Strakes wirewolf 11-19-2003
[RG] C++
Master's Mate
Posted on: 05-10-2010

Hi, thanks for the nice comments. It has been a while ago when I wrote the articles.

To answer your questions:
- Adding ( mimic frames ); I did this as kind of experiment, but it has also added value. Adding the fake frames, enables me to make the planks for the second layer shorter without losing consistency over the length of the planks. Not only is planking with shorter planks more easy, also repairing the model is more easy, since only short lengths of planking have to be replaced. If the scale of the model allows for shorter planks then i will use the shorter planks from the time i wrote the articles, itís just easier.

You want to check what the ideal length of planks is, regarding the scale of model you are building. Also make sure that the layering and offset in the planking is equal on both sides of the model.

- The mistery of the nails; Well there are the ends of allot of cocktail pins, used for serving little snacks on a party. You can buy them in any supermarket, jusy cut the point ends of the cocktail pins and there you have your nails, suiteable for filling holes between 0.5 - 1.0 mm. The nails look nice ( personel oppinion ), but they also make sure the plank does not come easily from the model, in case the glue fails. When appling the pointy nail add a little wood glue, the nail will absorb the glue and the nail will expand and dry, filling the hole nicely.

- Trunneling is explained in the 4th part of this series.

- Avoiding split ends; This one is easy, use a pointed marker to mark the position where the pin must be inserted. Put some transparent table over the set of markers, then using a dremel of hand drill, drill the holes, remove the tape and put in the pin after applying a little glue ( the pin will expand in the hole ). The drilling and adding the pins is done after planking the hull.
( See also the photo's in the series 4 )

Last answer, is this all a good idea. Depends, this worked out fine for the corvette i build showing in the series. However, for bigger models it means more work, not using a power tool is not an option. Really I don't know; my current model is also made this way and it takes some more time, but the end result is more striking, however if i skipped the trunneling the hull would already have been completed.

I estimate that trunneling the planks costs you about 1.5 minutes extra pro plank. In the end i would not recommend the trunneling to novice builders ( I am a novice builder, but i make things hard on myself in general ). I would recommmend using the shorter planks, since the are far more easy to handle when they require tapering, but remember to check the scale of your model first.

Have fun, and again thanks; Btw, thanks wirewolf for saving the pictures and all ;)

Here our soldiers wait in the line, to hear the battle cry. Victory is near, my sword will drink blood and i will fight in the dawn of battle.

Posted on: 05-01-2010

Hi, I am building a wooden "HMS Endeaver Longboat" I have finished the planking but I found it hard, especialy the first planking, I wish I had read your article on planking, my task would have been easier, hopefully my next plank on frame ship will be a bit easier!
Posted on: 04-25-2010

Wow! I wish I had this info before I started my first two kits ( AL`s
Jolly Boat, & Virgina 1815 ), The planking looked pretty much like your first photo. I`m ready to start another kit, MS Constitution, but thinking of adding frames to mimic a `scratch`project. Do you think this is a good idea ??? Question - how do you use so many nails without splitting planks - especially so close to the plank ends ?? Did you get enough nails with your kit to finish the model ??The research you have done is worthy of a real ship. I dont understand the purpose of the imaginary plank lines on the finished hull - how do they help you with the second planking ?? What is trunnelling ???
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Some recommended ship modeling books:
Ship Modeling Simplified
The Ship Model Builder's Assistant
Plank On Frame Models/Scale Masting & Rigging
Ship Modeling from Scratch
Ship Modeling from Stem to Stern
Planking Techniques for Model Ship Builders
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