Planking: It’s not just a yoga position

30' long plank read for the steam box.

30′ long plank ready for the steam box.

This plank is approximately 3″ thick, 7″ wide and about 31′ long. It weighs about 290 pounds. It is one of about 50 planks the ship yard has shaped, fit and fastened onto the hull of Mayflower II. This particular plank is going to be steamed to make it pliable enough to bend around the curve of the hull in the bow.

Hauling  the steamed plank out of the steam box.

Hauling the steamed plank out of the steam box.

steam box and water circulator

steam box and water circulator

The steam box is a series of twelve foot long steel tubes that can be bolted together to make a box long enough to accommodate the various lengths of planking. Steam is produced by the steam generator, (shown next to the steam box) which is a diesel fired boiler. the piece of equipment in the back of the shot is a water circulator. Apparently it was designed and built to keep water cooled air conditions running while big yachts are in the shipyard. The crew is using it here to collect the water that has condensed at the end of the steam box, cool it and direct it back into the steam generator.

I  may have mentioned this before in this blog but each plank must steam for three hours before they will bend. Generally a piece of oak requires an hour of steaming for each inch of thickness of planking. These planks are three inches thick. Luckily shipwrights don’t have to be super good at math to steam a plank.

the nearly three hundred pound plank is raised into place with two scissor lifts.

The nearly three hundred pound plank is raised into place with two scissor lifts.

The crew works quickly to get the plank out of the steam box and into position or at least as quickly as you can move carrying three hundred pounds of hot oak. The plank will cool off after about ten minutes so it needs to be bent nearly into its final shape in a timely fashion.

The plank has been bend around the wide curve of the bow.

The plank has been bent around the wide curve of the bow.

The closer to the final shape the crew can get the plank into the better. The plank has been bent around the hull and driven up next to the plank above it. They will let it cool for a few hours so that the plank will retain its shape before removing it from the hull for final fitting and priming. Also the plank swells a bit in the steam box so it must be allowed to shrink back down to its original width before the final fit and fastening.

The spiling process, used to determine the shape of the new plank does not always pick up every bump and hollow of the old plank against which the new one must fit. There is usually some fine tuning of the fit to get the new plank to mate smoothly against the old one without any voids or gaps in the seam.

After lugging these heavy and hot planks around all day I bet the yard crew could use a little yoga to work out the kinks . (But maybe not planking, which I hear requires a great deal of torso strength.)

 

 

Planking: It’s not just a yoga position

30' long plank read for the steam box.

30′ long plank ready for the steam box.

This plank is approximately 3″ thick, 7″ wide and about 31′ long. It weighs about 290 pounds. It is one of about 50 planks the ship yard has shaped, fit and fastened onto the hull of Mayflower II. This particular plank is going to be steamed to make it pliable enough to bend around the curve of the hull in the bow.

Hauling  the steamed plank out of the steam box.

Hauling the steamed plank out of the steam box.

steam box and water circulator

steam box and water circulator

The steam box is a series of twelve foot long steel tubes that can be bolted together to make a box long enough to accommodate the various lengths of planking. Steam is produced by the steam generator, (shown next to the steam box) which is a diesel fired boiler. the piece of equipment in the back of the shot is a water circulator. Apparently it was designed and built to keep water cooled air conditions running while big yachts are in the shipyard. The crew is using it here to collect the water that has condensed at the end of the steam box, cool it and direct it back into the steam generator.

I  may have mentioned this before in this blog but each plank must steam for three hours before they will bend. Generally a piece of oak requires an hour of steaming for each inch of thickness of planking. These planks are three inches thick. Luckily shipwrights don’t have to be super good at math to steam a plank.

the nearly three hundred pound plank is raised into place with two scissor lifts.

The nearly three hundred pound plank is raised into place with two scissor lifts.

The crew works quickly to get the plank out of the steam box and into position or at least as quickly as you can move carrying three hundred pounds of hot oak. The plank will cool off after about ten minutes so it needs to be bent nearly into its final shape in a timely fashion.

The plank has been bend around the wide curve of the bow.

The plank has been bent around the wide curve of the bow.

The closer to the final shape the crew can get the plank into the better. The plank has been bent around the hull and driven up next to the plank above it. They will let it cool for a few hours so that the plank will retain its shape before removing it from the hull for final fitting and priming. Also the plank swells a bit in the steam box so it must be allowed to shrink back down to its original width before the final fit and fastening.

The spiling process, used to determine the shape of the new plank does not always pick up every bump and hollow of the old plank against which the new one must fit. There is usually some fine tuning of the fit to get the new plank to mate smoothly against the old one without any voids or gaps in the seam.

After lugging these heavy and hot planks around all day I bet the yard crew could use a little yoga to work out the kinks . (But maybe not planking, which I hear requires a great deal of torso strength.)

 

 

6 Comments

  1. George C

    Hi Peter, THANKS for making almost weekly Blog entries & keeping us informed of the work as it’s being done in Fairhaven. Your pictures of the planks being steamed reminded me of one of the scenes in the BBC film “MAYFLOWER SAILS AGAIN” where a handful of Upham shipwrights are carrying a steaming plank on their shoulders to fit it to the ship. Another aspect of the work being done that is the new rudder that is being (or has been?) made. That must be a HUGE heavyweight piece!! One question…is the bowsprit being replaced? Or has it just been unshipped to allow for the work being done in the beak?

    Keep the posts coming as your time allows!! They’re all very interesting, informative reading!! All the Best!!

    • Hi George,

      thanks for your comments and yes the bowsprit was removed to make the work on the beakhead deck possible. The spar will go back in before we relaunch the ship.

  2. Dick M

    Please send out a blog when you plan on returning to Plimouth. In particular, when you will be passing through the Canal. It would be fun to see.
    Thanks!

  3. Dan d'Heilly

    Please post as soon as you have a relaunch date – my 13 yr old nephew is coming out from California and the Mayflower is on his itinerary if possible.

    His last full day on the East Coast is Sat, July 6.

    • Dan,

      You can be sure we will post as soon as possible the date when Mayflower will be returning to Plymouth. Watch this blog, the Plimoth Plantation site, (plimoth.org) or any local or regional newspaper. I am sure we would have a hard time keeping this, much anticipated date quiet, even if we wanted to.

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