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.

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