Building a Traditional Wooden Boat #13: The First Plank

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Blog entry by MattD posted 02-05-2010 07:15 AM 19103 reads 8 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Lining Off - Second Attempt Part 13 of Building a Traditional Wooden Boat series no next part

The First Garboard Plank

The first plank is on! It has been the most difficult part of the build so far. I’ve gone through 4 planks to get it right. For my fellow LJers who may be wondering, I’ve put in a few hours here and there, but I’ve taken quite a bit of time away from the project since the holidays. I’m exciting to be focused again.

The challenge with this is getting the plank flush and tight into the rabbit along the keel. It’s a tough plank because it bends almost 80 degrees to fit into the stem in the front and has to be steam bent. I cracked 2 of them and the others weren’t right. To get it right, I first made a 1/8” template plank (so that it would bend easily without steaming it), so that I could trace the template onto real plank stock.

Once secured in place, I scribed the template plank using a washer and a pencil.

To make the template, I used a technique called spiling which uses a compass to transfer the basic shape of the keel rabbit to the template. I then got a better fit by scribing the template against the rabbit. Normally, you wouldn’t need to bother with templates and scribing. Long story short, my keel is not entirely a fair curve (where it meets the skeg). Fair curves are required for good spiling results. However, the TOP of the first plank IS a fair curve, so I should be able to build the remaining planks by spiling only (no templates). I’ll document spiling in my next blog.

The template was then used to trace the plank shape onto 3/8” planking stock which was cut out on the bandsaw. Then, gains were then cut into the ends of the plank. I used a Stanley #90 rabbet plane and a straight edge. The gains allow the planks to overlap and fit into each other at the ends so that they have a flush appearance at each end.

The plank has to “cool” overnight to keep it’s form. Next, I’ll screw the plank down and do the plank on the other side. From there, I have 6 more planks to go!

Materials List:

None for this step!

Project Materials Summary:

  • Plans and Book: $60
  • Lofting Supplies: $47.88
  • Mold Supplies: $36
  • Strongback Lumber: $33
  • Transom Materials: $22
  • Stem and Knee: $47
  • Keelson, Keel, Skeg and Sternpost: $97
  • Silicon Bronze Hardware: $225
  • Larch Planking and Copper Rivets: $325

- Total Project Expenses so far: $892.88

Labor Hours Summary:

  • 05/29/09 – 06/08/09: Lofting – 12 Hours
  • 06/14/09 – 06/20/09: Building Molds: 5 Hours
  • 06/25/09 – 06/27/09: Building Strongback: 7.5 Hours
  • 06/30/09 – 07/13/09: Building Transom: 6 Hours
  • 07/14/09 – 07/20/09: Stem Lofting Detail: 3 Hours
  • 07/22/09 – 07/29/09: Stem and Knee Cutout: 4 Hours
  • 07/30/09 – 08/16/09: Keel, Keelson, Skeg and Sternpost: 21 Hours
  • 08/16/09 – 09/05/09: Attaching Transom: 3 Hours
  • 09/28/09 – 09/29/09: Cutting Stem and Keel Rabbet, 9 Hours
  • 09/30/09 – 10/04/09: Stem to Keel and Lining Off, 4 Hours
  • 11/14/09 – 11/15/09: Lining Off, 6 Hours
  • 11/16/09 – 02/04/10: Garboard Plank, 20 hours

- Total Project Labor Hours so far: 100.5 Hours
- Time since starting project: 251 days (8 months, 6 days)

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

22 comments so far

View Napaman's profile


5533 posts in 4991 days

#1 posted 02-05-2010 07:26 AM

wow…that sounds really tough!!!! will the other planks be as tough???

I am going sailing saturday—-for the first time!!! (weather permitting)

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4858 days

#2 posted 02-05-2010 07:30 AM

Hey Matt!

I think the rest of the planks will be much easier. It was fitting into the rabbet which was tough. Now the planks overlap each other and the edges are smooth curves.

Have a great time sailing! It will be at least a few more months before the ice melts on the lakes here!

BTW – Looks like you’re getting set up to start your build! I’m looking forward to it!

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View Gary's profile


9416 posts in 4346 days

#3 posted 02-05-2010 07:31 AM

That’s something I’ve always dreamed about building but will likely never try

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View a1Jim's profile


118144 posts in 4491 days

#4 posted 02-05-2010 07:34 AM

Looks very interesting.


View Ecocandle's profile


1013 posts in 3980 days

#5 posted 02-05-2010 07:48 AM

That is a scary and cool project. I am a decade away from trying something like that, plus or minus 2 hours. Thanks for sharing the project with us.

-- Brian Meeks,

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4904 days

#6 posted 02-05-2010 09:29 AM

When I think of the Vikings making boats to cross oceans, I’m in awe of the skill required. When I see how difficult it is even to this day to build a boat, it just increases my respect for those that came before and those who carry on that tradition. Thanks for the glimpse Matt.


-- Jim

View hunter71's profile


3537 posts in 4100 days

#7 posted 02-05-2010 01:36 PM

Looks like fun. How big is your door leading outside?

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3998 days

#8 posted 02-05-2010 04:33 PM

That’s a mean thought Hunter, but a very important one.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View MattD's profile


150 posts in 4858 days

#9 posted 02-05-2010 04:49 PM

Hunter – Did you mean to ask how big will the door leading outside be? Thankfully.. and unusually.. it did occur to me to take some measurements before I choose my plans. Door=~34”, max height=~30”.

-- Matt - Syracuse, NY

View sras's profile


5644 posts in 4043 days

#10 posted 02-05-2010 05:16 PM

This is a fun project to follow! Thanks for sharing.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 4472 days

#11 posted 02-05-2010 06:01 PM

I’m going sailing Saturday too (weather permitting)! What a coincidence ;)

I love this blog MattD. I’m glad you’re back on track.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4822 days

#12 posted 02-05-2010 06:39 PM

I love this! You are doing great, keep it up.

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4248 days

#13 posted 02-05-2010 09:54 PM

Great blog. I’ve always wanted to build a boat, but haven’t bothered because my wife doesn’t like the water. But it is fun to watch you do it. Looking forward to the next progress report.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4029 days

#14 posted 02-05-2010 11:44 PM

keep up your head it is a toff project but you allso (i think) choose the most difficult way of building
kravelbuilding is the tuffest but allso the most beuityful boat in the sea when goes thrugh the waves

I´m looking forward to see more


View Bruce's profile


38 posts in 5132 days

#15 posted 02-28-2010 12:30 AM

Just curious if the problems you had in bending the first plank would have to do with using 3/8” planking. It seems like most of the plans I have seen use 1/4” solid planking or ply.

-- Bruce Ebling

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