A Novice's Planking Rules
I was thinking about what this first planking experience has taught me, and I've
come up with my personal "Rules of Planking":
Rule #1: Enjoy the process. Focus on the goal of improving your skills with each
plank, not on hurrying to finish up the hull. Measure your progress by your
increased abilities, not how much hull remains unplanked. Relax, your hull will
Rule #2: Maintain your standards. Decide just how close to the unattainable
"perfect" you'll demand of yourself, without creating a standard so high you'd
sabotage your enjoyment of the hobby. Don't hesitate to start shaping a plank
all over again, even if you're about to reach for the glue. (You can use your
"almost but not quite" plank as a preliminary template for the next try.)
Rule #3: Rework fearlessly. This is a corollary to the above rule. When I was at
the point of final sanding of the hull just prior to applying the finish, I
realized that the fourth plank I'd laid down (out of over 100 planks) was too
high in one spot, and the final shaping had thinned part of it down to nothing.
I (carefully!) tore out that one plank, filed down the offending high spot below
it, and (carefully!) fit a replacement plank. It turned out just fine (by my
standards ... see Rule #2).
Rule #4: Bend first, shape second. It's not only easier to confirm the final
fit, but when working with a bent plank it's possible to use a flat sanding
block to give a smooth curve to a plank's concave edge.
Rule #5: Cut large, sand small. When trimming with a blade (knife or hand
plane), always leave extra width and length. Finish up by gradually sanding the
plank between frequent test fittings. Toward the end, only a couple of firm
swipes with the sanding block may be all you need to get that last, good fit.
Rule #5: One edge at a time. Finish one plank edge before starting the other.
First fit to the previous strake, then thin the plank to the correct width. Base
the width on the remaining space for that planking band at each station. This
keeps you in self-correcting mode, compensating for any error in the previous
Of course some of these rules could be applied to the whole model building
process, not just the planking, but that's where I am at the moment. Tom
Armed Virginia Sloop (before and after):
Preparing to start planking with balsa filler
Finished double planking