View Full Version : advice on tools

12-03-2003, 10:47 AM
I plan on recaulting the hull of my 34 foot motorsailer this spring. I have only done this once before on a single plank, never a full hull. I have read different articles on the subject but would like to know what other people are using. The boat is planked with 1 inch oak and the hull is carvnel planked. I donít own my own tools for this and would like to buy some. Any suggestions on brands would be helpful, along with advice on materials.

12-03-2003, 12:30 PM
Remember not to set the cotton to hard with one inch planking as you don't want to drive it through to the inside. (The oak will certainly help there though!)

Bob Cleek
12-03-2003, 02:39 PM
Here's the address of about as comprehensive a line of caulking supplies as I've seen of late. http://www.tradboats.com/index.html Keep in mind that they only offer a very basic selection of tools. An old time caulker's kit would contain thirty or forty different hooks and irons, each for a specific application.

Now, I do admire your ambition, BUT... as Clint sez, "A man's gotta know his limitations."

Caulking (not "caulting") a NEW hull is a lot easier than re-caulking an older one. Most of us can get away with repairing a seam here or there, but redoing a whole hull is a huge amount of work and rather tricky for the uninitiated.

You have two significant problems. First, the oak planking. I will likely splinter and tear up if you don't reef it right, resulting in seams which are difficult, if not impossible to caulk correctly. To do it right requires some experience, skill, and the RIGHT TOOLS. (See URL above...)

Second, reefing and caulking a whole hull is a balancing act. Each time you whack yer iron with the mallet, you are storing that much kinetic energy in the hull structure. Figure how many whacks it will take, in small increments, to caulk the whole boat. Now consider where all that energy is going. If you start at the garboard and work up, how much shear pressure will be applied to the sheer plank fastenings by the time you get there? And, if you start hard at the garboard and then have to ease up by the time you get to the broads, well, she's liable to leak. Again, this takes experience and skill.

BEFORE you start tearing at her seams,(please, please, please...) find a competent caulker and find out what it will cost to have the job done right. If she is planked with oak, she is likely a well built boat and she deserves to be treated right. There's nothing sadder than a hull which COULD have been properly recaulked, but has been ruined by somebody who didn't know what they were doing who ripped the seams to shreds beyond all redemption!

Good Luck!

[ 12-03-2003, 02:42 PM: Message edited by: Bob Cleek ]

12-03-2003, 03:28 PM
Well you see I thought the same thing, this is beyond my skills. But as luck you have it, a long time boat builder has agreed to teach me the fine points of this art form(as he calls it) he has been building boats in Nova Scotia for the last 35 years and has built a solid name for himself. This is why I am looking for my own tools and the beginning knowledge so I will not be completely useless to him.
And thank you for the link.

12-03-2003, 03:45 PM
Bobs advice is insightful. The kinetic energy that tightens a hull during caulking can ruin a boat if not done by an expert. The frames can break. The whole hull can literally distort, especially with oak planks. Be very very careful about what 'expert' you get to recaulk. The angle of the tool used to remove the old cotton or hemp must be the exact angle as the planking. If you hear any comments from the expert about how kinetic energy doesn't matter-----run.

Bob Cleek
12-03-2003, 09:44 PM
Ah, good man. If your expert has been building boats for 35 years, he must have gotten it close enough to right by now or he wouldn't be eating. What a great opportunity to do a whole boat with a journeyman looking over your shoulder.

Sad to say, the address I gave you, posted here by somebody else recently, is about as good a source as I've ever seen, but their offerings fall far short of a full kit. Their stuff is well made, though, or so it seems. Their prices are reasonable and about what I've seen anywhere else. There is also another outfit on the East Coast, I think, called "Genuine Forgery" or the like, which somebody talked about in here before. They also make what seem to be good irons, on a custom basis, I think.

You can get by with a funky mallet for a bit, but, sorry, irons are very expensive and there's little point in buying the junky ones that are around for less, unless you have some really minor job and no use for it ever again. Don't waste your money. (The cheapos are about all you will ever see in the larger catalogs... paint on the handles, big mistake, and only three sizes of making irons). Rarely, you trip over an old Drew iron or similar in used tool stores. Your "old salt" caulker can give you the particulars, but the "quality" in an iron and mallet comes in the "ring" of the thing. The mallet has to be "live" and the iron has to "ring." It's the same as flipping one of those new cupronickel coins... zip, nada... while back in the good old days, if you flipped an honest silver fifty cent piece, you'd get that perfect "ring." Drop a good caulking iron and you'll hear the same on the bounce. Has to do with the metal used and the forging. The point of this esoterica is that when you have a live mallet and a good iron, all that kinetic energy I mentioned above goes where you want it, into the seam, rather than into YOU. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow can't hold a candle to what you can do to yourself if you try to do any large amount of work with crappy caulking tools.

gary porter
12-04-2003, 07:00 PM
R.J, As Cleek said , Genuine Forgery is about the only place turning out the mallets.
You might give the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Towsend a call as they carry a pretty good assortment of irons., some can be seen on the website www.woodenboat.org (http://www.woodenboat.org) phone: 360-385-3628 They have reefing irons as well.
Its worth calling them after you have a look as they have a lot more than is posted on the web. Follow the links into the Chandlery and you'll probably find what you need.
Good Luck.