Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Gaggle of Whompers

Whomping is one of those unique boatbuilding terms that has no obvious connection to the act being described.  It sounds like it ought to involve big lunking guys with heavy hammers, but actually depends more on steam and speed and lots of clamps. Whomping is the technique you use to shape a plank to conform to the vertical curve of the hull so it will lie flat against the frames once installed.  It involves steaming the new plank and sandwiching it between curved blocks that have been precisely cut to conform to the actual curve of each frame at the point where the new plank will be fastened.  Like many steam related boat building activities, it requires lots of people working quickly (while the newly steamed plank remains supple) and working in close coordination.  Hence, this post's title, "A gaggle of whompers."  

On the Beetle whaleboat replicas, most of the planks, especially the ones at the highly curved bilges, need to be whomped in order to lie flat.  This is a time consuming, labor intensive process, but in wooden boat building, there are not many tasks that are not time consuming and labor intensive.
Gloves are a must, because this plank is hot!

With whompers standing by, Newt, Jeff, and Bruce quickly remove a newly steamed plank from the steambag.
Clamps and curved blocks are lined up on bench, ready to use.
A pair of blocks ready to be clamped tight
Jeff and Bruce working quickly as the plank takes its curve.
Lee tightens his clamp

WoW's newest volunteer, and Boatbuilding 101 grad John gets a clamp ready for the next block set.
After the wood has cooled and the curve has set, the plank is ready for fastening.  On the whaleboats this involves many, many copper nails, drilled and hammered to attach the plank to adjacent battens, and clinched on the inboard side.

Bruce, John, and Steve work on fastening the newly whomped plank.
The process of planking is ongoing.  First the white cedar board is milled to thickness, then spiled to the proper shape.  Since few sufficiently long boards are available, all planks involve scarphing and gluing lengths of wood end to end.
Steve scarphs a plank section with a hand plane.

Scarphed plank section being test fitted.
Spiled, scarphed, fitted, and whomped plank clamped in place finally ready to be fastened.
While planking continued in earnest of the second whaleboat replica, painting and sanding continued on the first one.  The last bits of equipment, the oar rests, were completed and installed by Charles and the painting crew moved in earnest.
Blocks to rest oars when not in use are affixed to the ceiling.
John sands primer prior to the next coat.
Newt applies a coat of finish paint to a thwart.
Work is proceeding on oars as well.  This mostly the purview of the SAILOR program kids, working with bandsaw, plane, and sandpaper in true assembly line fashion.  There are a LOT of oars to make.
The oar factory in full operation.
WoW staff and volunteers not only work on boats, but also on other wood projects to be used in ISM exhibits.  Charles has begun working on a replica of an historic sea chest for use in an upcoming exhibit.  The exhibit is planned to be highly interactive, and the original historic chest is too fragile to be used in it.  
Pine boards glued and clamped to make sea chest lid.
Sea chest sides and bottom glued up and ready for joinery.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Moving along and getting a head

The WoW crew is getting closer and closer to completion of our first Beetle replica whaleboat.  Interior work is nearly complete, hardware installation is finished, and the first coat of glossy gray paint is being applied. Once the interior painting is finished, all that remains is to flip the boat for caulking and exterior painting.  She will surely be ready for the water this spring.

Newt completed the grueling task of installing the second lifting rod.  He needed to work beneath the boat with a heavy ball peen hammer to mushroom the ends of the 5/8 inch bronze rod to capture a large washer that actually holds the weight of the boat when it is raised or lowered from the ship.
Lifting rod secured, and first coat of gray paint applied.
Charles spent the day working on the rudder, primarily fitting the cheeks, riveting them in place, and fitting the tiller to the tiller slot.  The rudder parts, including 5/16 inch bronze rivets, were fabricated last year, but needed to await arrival of the pintles prior to final assembly.  

Rudder cheeks get a coating of Dolphinite prior to assembly.
Cheeks in place awaiting rivets.

After a whole lot of hammering -- Done!
Meanwhile, Nick was providing the Wooden Boat Factory kids with a lesson in spiling planks.  Good progress has been made planking the second whaleboat, with two planks already in place on each side, and looking very good.  The bottom two planks are lapped, so the next bit of construction will be the first batten.

Nick spiles the next plank with Jeff at the far end.
Two planks in place, and the first batten being fitted.
Bob is continuing his work on the L.F.Herreshoff Meadow Lark, Suzy.  He has completed the new mainmast compression post, and finished the frame for the forward hatch cover.  The hatch cover frame, made of teak like the rest of the house exterior, is a tricky assembly, but came together beautifully.  Gluing  the sides together required special care, due to the difficulty of gluing teak.  First, the pieces were wiped thoroughly with acetone, then dampened with water.  Gluing was accomplished with Gorilla glue, which dries to a color close to teak and, more important, bonds well with teak -- not an easy thing to do.

Bob and Bruce glue up the teak hatch cover frame for Suzy's foredeck.
Gorilla glue is used because it will adhere well to teak.
Bob's completed compression post assembly beneath Suzy's mainmast.

Suzy's new head arrived and was installed, although it is yet to be bolted in place.  It is a composting "Nature's Head" unit.  

Suzy's new head.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hardware Day

Our bundle of whaleboat hardware arrived from Mystic Seaport and we quickly went to work installing it on whaleboat number one.  The bundle included heavy bronze lifting rods for raising and lowering the boat from the ship, oarlocks, and pintle and gudgeon sets.  
Pintles, gudgeons, and oarlocks await installation.
A lifting rod atop a very well used whaleboat plan.
 Newt and volunteers began installing the hardware this week, and got most of the work done.  Volunteer Joe got three of the oarlocks installed, and a fourth was installed by Charles.  One more remains.  Newt drilled the holes through the keel, the ceiling, and the deck to install the aft lifting rod.  Working under the keel with minimal room to swing a hammer is making it challenging to "mushroom" the lower end of the rod so it will securely capture the heavy washer that holds the lifting rod to the boat.  
Aft lifting rod is in place.
The rudder, which was built last year and set aside has finally been installed. The gudgeons were riveted to the oak aft stem with copper rivets, and the pintles were similarly riveted to the rudder.  Next, the cheeks can be mortised to fit over the pintle straps, and the cheeks can be riveted to the rudder blade.  Some additional work must then be done to rig the rudder for un-shipping.  When not in use, the whaleboat crews quickly lifted the rudder from the gudgeons and fastened it to the side of the boat.  In its place, a 22 foot long steering oar was used.

The rudder is finally in place

A closer view of the pintle and gudgeon assembly.
Centerboard pin hole drilled and ready for board installation.
A freshly installed oarlock.  The boat has five of them.
Newt's harpoon holder completed and ready for -- whatever.
Meanwhile, next door to whaleboat number one, planking has begun on number two.  Bruce and Jeff cut out and fitted the garboard plank on the port side, and then used it as a template for the starboard mate.
Bruce and John pick out a board for the starboard garboard plank.
The Herreshoff Meadow Lark is getting a new forward hatch cover.  Bob is making it out of teak, to be consistent with the rest of the house structure.  He is carefully dovetailing the joints, which will also be pinned later on. Current plans call for it to have a clear lexan top.
Bob's Meadow Lark hatch cover takes shape.  Note the perfect dovetail joint. 
The new torsion box bench, which was a tabula rasa only a week ago, is now like everything else in our busy shop, covered with "stuff."  In the present case, the "stuff" is the beginnings of whaleboat oars.  John spent the day planing, sanding, and generally refining the shape of the first of the ash oars that WoW has been commissioned to make.  Oars for other boats will be made of spruce.  Although ash it traditional, it is very heavy, and ash oars up to 19 feet long would likely be too much for a crew of kids to handle.
John planes away on an oar.  Stock for others is seen in foreground.