AL’s Independence – First Planking of the Hull

Here’s is where the fun begins and the ship starts to actually look like a ship.

Artesania Latina kits are a bit different from most others in that the stem, keel and stern posts are added after the hull is planked. This has the advantage of keeping these parts out of the way as you plank, giving you a little more breathing room. Additionally, it keeps these parts out of harms way.

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Most kit manufacturers make these parts part of the inner keel or keelson as some call it. For those who like to add a rabbet, this is a bit of a pain as you must figure this out before you even begin constructing the model, and you generally have to figure out its location on your own. Some manufacturers, like Model Shipways, make the keel pieces separate and give you an idea where the rabbet line is. The separate pieces make the cutting process easier.

In the case of AL kits, you really don’t even have to worry about cutting a rabbet. The inner keel piece is thinner than the keel itself, and with the separate keel pieces, all that matters is that your planking at the keel edge isn’t thicker than the keel itself. Something you don’t have to worry about much until later in the build.

In any case, planking the inner hull begins with the bulwarks formers. This has been a common Artesania Latina feature for as long as I can remember. The trick in adding this piece is to get the pieces lined up evenly on both sides. The photo book that comes with the kit is a big help in seeing how the piece lines up with the deck at the bow and stern.

I used the scuppers as a guide since they need to be at deck level, or more precisely at the level of the waterways. Since the plans don’t show a raised waterways piece, I just lined up the holes at deck level. The stern was easy enough to line up so that the bulwarks pieces formed a very low lip at the deck’s edge. The bow required the most care. The plans call for an opening at the bow, 5mm wide for the bowsprit. So, I just made sure to take a lot of time to get this lined up nicely.

Rather than gluing the formers into place right away, I used brass nails included in the kit to hold them into place. I’ve generally liked using the Amati Nailer for this kind of work. The nails allow me to make adjustments to the position of the bulwarks former if necessary. I recommend measuring the height of the bulwarks from the deck on either side of the ship to make sure everything is even. Once I was happy with the position, I then used some thick CA glue applied from inside the hull around the deck edges and the bulkheads.

The planking strips in the kit work well. They are 2mm by 5mm strips of Ramin wood, which is a little fibrous and splintery when dry, but bends well when wet, at least at this thickness. There’s more than enough included in the kit to do the job. When I was done, I had about a good 16 strips left over, so lots of room for error.

Planking began right under the bulwarks former. The first three strips I added without tapering. The planks do require a little soaking in water, and then I used a heating tool to bend them. You might be tempted to bend the planks across the bulkheads right on the model, but doing that usually introduces a lot of flat spots that will take a lot of time and filler to fix later. So, bend first to get the curvature right before putting them on the model.

I used yellow carpenter’s glue for the planks with push pins holding them in place. Where necessary, I also use binder clips and small plastic clamps in strategic locations. Planks are glued to the bulkheads as well as to each other. I didn’t worry about making a mess here as the inner hull will get sanded later and will all be hidden in the end anyway. Of course, some care had to be taken to keep the deck nice.

After those first few planks, I dropped down about four plank widths below the last plank and laid a plank down naturally so that there was no need for edge bending. This plank was tapered as were all subsequent planks. Planks above this were then laid in and cut to fit in the band. Since I measure the space in terms of plank widths, all planks were full width at the midships frame. I repeated this process dropping down 4 or 5 plank widths and filling the opening.

IMG_0191Finally, I started at the keel with what was technically the garboard strake and worked upwards from there. The last plank had to be specially cut to fit the last opening. I kind of lucked out and found that a full width plank would fit with just a tiny gap remaining, which I’d take care of with a little filler later. The whole process went pretty quickly and did require the use of a couple stealers on each side.

The last bit planking was at the counter at the stern of the ship. The hull planking had to first be correctly trimmed first. Then, I added the last two pieces that make up the stern framing and planked the counter.

After all the planking was done, I carefully trimmed any plank edges that were sticking up, then sanded the whole thing down with some 60 grit sand paper. When it was mostly smoothed down, I used some Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler to deal with any gaps and sanded some more using 150 grit sand paper.

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Finally, I gave it a once over, looking for bumps and checking that the joint with the bulwarks former was even. All is well!

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