Some notes from the Wooden Boat Forum Part I
on a restoration project:
Interesting project you've got there Frank. She's got lots of potential.
Have you acquired the usual assortment of wood boat construction/repair
books? Sounds like you've got a very willing partner and a green light
as far as tool acquisition goes. Lucky guy. I've got a couple
questions/concerns, whose idea was it to apply a zinc primer to
"underwater" metal? that is a no-no. Above the waterline is OK, below
the waterline and you are asking for electrolysis problems. After you
launch your boat you'll want to monitor the condition of your keel and
it's coatings over time. Do you know if the keel bolts in way of the
ballast keel, horn timber, etc were previously replaced? If the forward
ones were shot and left in place (they're easy to replace) I would
suspect that the other more difficult keel bolts are equally bad. During
the survey were any of the keel bolts extracted and visually inspected?
Doesn't sound like it. X-raying them in place works well too. That way
you don't necessarily have to extract them unless necessary. You might
want to consider doing that. It also appears that the wood which was/is
in contact with the deteriorated iron bolts needs attention (nail
sickness). You may find that you become very adept at graving pieces,
doweling and re-drilling and perhaps some large scale structural
replacements. I'm sure that you've taken notice of the efforts made by
other forumites that are in the same boat as you. I don't want to sound
as though I'm trying to rain on your parade. It's just that I've seen
this countless times and I think that it's important to know what you
are dealing with right out of the starting gate. Your task is larger and
more demanding than what it appears to be. Your comment that describes
how you feel after you see some of your meaningful visual progress is
great. However, save some of those tasks to "sprinkle in" amongst those
tough ones which will leave you feeling like you're getting no where
fast or at times working backward. It will help you maintain the
necessary momentum and positive outlook that your task requires. Good
It sounds as though you have found a good source for your
material. With the current exchange rate your prices compute to
what seems to be a very good deal in US dollars. Have you or are
you going to inspect the lumber before cutting and before
shipping? It's worth doing. Or hire someone to do that for you. A
knowledgable marine surveyor in B.C. would probably do that for
you. If you would like the name and number of one I can send it
to you off-line. Is the mill on Vancouver Island or the mainland?
I would be tempted to plank with Yellow Cedar, wonderful stuff,
and use the Fir for structural members and decking. Have it rough
sawn to "working dimensions" and NOT kiln dried. Once you receive
it you can have it re-cut to suitable sizes, dimensions and grain
orientation depending upon it's intended use. Additionally, use
it air dried if possible. If kiln drying is necessary then you
can be in control of the process (once you've got your hands on
it) by working closely with a local kiln (custom kiln drying) or
build one yourself and handle the process. There's alot of info
out there on the process. If you allow someone else to kiln dry
it they may damage it by drying it too quickly. Lumber kiln
outfits are generally geared to tight production schedules,
custom kiln drying of boat lumber is a slow process that's
difficult for them to work around. Good luck.
a note from
Whilst I have worked with both Alaska YC and Doug Fir both
structurally and for planking/decking, I prefer Doug Fir for
AIR DRIED if possible for both deck and planking.
All vertical grain for planking is not necessary as there are
spots where flat grain will actually be better than vertical.
Vertical for decking is a given.
Random width with a minimum specified and the same for a mininum
length, thickness should be enough over what finish thickness is
to be to allow you to dress it down your self after determining
plank shapes ie: garboards thicker than most else.
Ideally since looking at the BC outfits site it would be sweet if
they could mill the corking seam in the decking stock.
A thought just came to mind! Oh Oh, that is dangerous for sure!
Plank with Doug Fir up to the one strake above waterline and then
AYC to sheer.
AYC moves less than DF so if you are in tropic waters less chance
of seam problems from sun and dry weather. Yeah sounds strange
dry weather but, for example, down here in San Diego it is not
unusual to have 20 to 30% percent humidity in the summer months
right at dockside!!!! And if one of those Santa Anna winds come
in off the desert it goes almost to Zero. This old tenament we
live in actually creaks for hours when one of those hits and then
creaks all over again as the humidity climbs to the more normal
range. We are about a city block from the Bay.
Caveatt: this all presupposes a complete replanking and redecking
job if not then some of my suggestions would need to be adjusted.
[ 03-15-2002, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: Dave Fleming ]
on thru hulls
a note from Bob Cleek
Dolphinite, definitely. While you are at it, be SURE you
properly wrap cotton caulking yarn around the shaft under the
lip. Bedding compound alone will not a watertight seal make!
Common mistake. Happens all the time.
and from RGM:
What steps are you taking on the inboard side of your thru hull
installation(s)? In conjunction with Cleek's suggestion of the
Dolfinite and candle wicking or cotton calking (outboard) are you
using backing blocks (shaped to your hull and bedded) to tighten
a flange nut or similar fitting against?
on deck reefing:
There is alot of info out there on this particular topic/task.
Try a search of this forum first, if not satisfied consult your
wooden boat repair library. If you don't have a wood boat
"library" then start acquiring one. Basically, remove the seam
compound (I'm figuring it's rubber) first by freeing it up from
the decking with a razor knife and peel it out. Extract the
"stringy thingies", if they remain, with a bent (about 90 degree)
file tang or screw driver which has been ground to fit the
calking seams (providing it's a vee groove) in your decking. The
ground and bent file or screw driver (needs a sharp burr on it)
can also be used to remove residual seam compound from the edges
of your decking and generally scrape things clean in advance of
the new installation. A word of caution, some deck seams are
"fake", they are shallow and flat bottomed. The reason for this
is that instead of individual narrow strakes of decking some
people/builders will install a broader piece of decking that's
been notched with a table saw length wise to resemble narrow
strakes of decking. So, take it easy with the seam compound and
calking removal until you know exactly what you've got. Sometimes
the grain of the wood will tell you if it's narrow or broad
strakes. Using power tools to accomplish this job is very risky,
and very rarily yields good results unless you're a pro and have
the right router bits or saw blades and base plate jigs/guide
pins. Again, these should be ground to the shape of your seams.
Been there, done that. You're not talking about that many linear
feet. Regarding the "material string thingies" that you mention.
These are either "bond breakers" that lay in the bottom of flat
deck seams or it's cotton calking that is driven to the bottom of
a vee shaped seam with specialized tools (preferably). Figure out
which scenario you're dealing with and report back. Good luck.
comments from Cleek
You can take an old file and heat and bend the tang into a hook,
sharpen the edges, wrap tape around the file part and use it to
reef out the seams. That kind of tool works for heavy work, but
it is tough on deck seams because it often gouges up the edges of
For "surgical" removal jobs, a Dremel tool with a CARBIDE router
bit does a good job. If the decking is teak, particularly, the
HSS bits will not last more than a couple of feet of seam before
Now, I haven't tried it yet, but the Rolls Royce of seam reefing
tools is probably the Fein Multimaster with their seam reefing
blade attached. The Multimaster with a sanding pad, a saw blade
and a scraper blade, will set you back about $179... and worth
it. I think the seam reefing blades are around $35 and come in
different widths for various seam widths. This is the only tool I
know specifically designed to do the job. For some reason, the
Fein blade and sanding attachments are, IMHO, scandalously
overpriced. I don't know why. We're talking about a bent piece of
flat stock sheet steel is all. I've taken to making my own for
special applications. I don't know why some manufacturer hasn't
come up with a line of fun stuff to hang on the end of the
Multimaster for a tenth what Fein wants for theirs. Still, while
it isn't an indispensable tool, the Fein Multimaster is sure at
the top of the "luxury" tool list when you have some mad money.
and from Fleming:
I seem to notice more CAULKERS in the Pac No West using
'corking' vs. San Francisco area folks using'caulk'. I have
this theory,totally unfounded, that the Pac. No. West folks
use is a carry over from the word used to describe the
hardened steel inserts in the soles of loggers boots aka
caulks, pronounced 'corks'. I have even seen that in signs
in logging country:" Please No Corked Boots On These
I agree with Bayboat, the material in the seams is the
caulking/corking ie: Cotton or Oakum and the material used to
cover the Cotton or Oakum is called variously seam filler, seam
compound, seam putty, deck seam compound, deck glue, tar,
Older work boats, as has been noted in other threads to this
Forum, can have some form of Cement used as seam filler below the
waterline. Usually mixed with a bit of bottom paint and troweled
on. Then almost immediately painted over with more bottom paint
to prevent premature drying and cracking.
San Francisco area yards seemed at least at my time, to favour
White Cement for the mix, whereas Pac No West yards used Portland
Now don't ask me what White Cement is or where it comes from that
was just too long ago now for me to have any recollection. I just
remember the sacks of it were kept in a very dry location. At
Anderson and Christofani, it was kept alongside the firebox for
the boiler that supplied steam to the... steam box and the winch
on the marine railway.
More on corking
& reefing etc..
If it were my boat I would break the material loose from the
planks (gently) with a crease iron, then reef the seams as
described previously. It's a calking iron that has a groove cut
down the middle (length wise) on it's business end. You set the
end of the iron straight against the hard material and gently
hammer the stem end of the iron and rock the iron along the seam
as you go. Drew made them in a few different sizes (widths),
sometimes they had more than one groove. I'm pretty sure that you
don't own one or two of these little jewels. I'm also pretty sure
that you don't know anybody that does. Perhaps I'm wrong, ask
around. With a little head scratching and scrounging around you
could probably make something that would yield the same results.
First bust it loose, then reef it. You'll stand a better chance
of not tearing up your seams. Good luck.
Bob Cleek .
posted 07-11-2002 11:03 PM
Ah, so right you are, Ed. Nothing like a thread like this to
start the BS flowing! LOL No wonder so many old boats have
destroyed seams. You could delete everything in here, save RGM
and Peter Duck's advice and not be missing a thing. Be honest,
all youse guys... how much seam work have you REALLY done?
Right you are, RGM... I have three, maybe four, crease irons, in
varying sizes in my kit and, no, they aren't for loaning. Got
three bent tang files, too. If you whack the seam compound with
the creaser and it doesn't come loose with a light swipe with the
rake, leave it there. It'll be waiting for you next time around
and maybe be a little looser then.
As one sage mentioned, this is a little sailing dink, not a
wooden walled sailing ship. Forget the power tool approach. This
is not a power tool job. The last thing you want is a square seam
anyhow. It'll spit for sure. Seams have to be beveled to hold
their caulk. Also as said, if you go to ripping and raking
against the grain (and like as not it will go one way on one
plank and the other on the one next to it!) you will raise
splinters that will make the seam near impossible to caulk
correctly, or, if you are lucky enough not to take it too deep,
it'll just look like hell.
If this boat hasn't been wet in a long, long time, you'd better
fill her full of slick seam or soft soap and let her soak and
take up. They ALL crack when they dry out. The cracking doesn't
mean diddly. Let her swell and only then worry about leaks when
they don't stop. More damage has been done to perfectly
functional seams by people trying to pack 'em when they're shrunk
than was ever repaired. You're talking about 3/8" openings? If
you still have 3/8" seams after she's swolled, you had better
think about turning the bucket into a flower planter... or start
laying in splining. A little boat like this probably only has not
more than 1/2" planking. A 3/8" opening in 1/2" plank isn't
caulkable... no way.
Get the boat wet before you worry about caulking and see how she
takes up. If she was tight to begin with, she ought to swell back
to where she's supposed to be. If you fill those big spaces full
of caulk before you swell her up, she'll bust her frames out and
be dead for sure.
posted 07-25-2002 05:08 PM
One thing to keep in mind is, if you are going to do "spot"
calking (or corking on West Coast) repairs it's important to ease
up on the amount of material you're driving into the seams and
the amount of force you're driving it with as you approach and
marry-up to the existing cotton and sometimes oakum. Over-loading
the seam or over-driving it at that juncture can open things up.
Sometimes people start more leaks than they're trying to fix by
"spot" corking. Good luck.
Member # 4675
posted 08-07-2002 08:35 PM
(If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to
collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather
teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. --
Antoine de Saint Exupery)
A heated discussion recently at the yard about where to start
driving the cotton in deck seams as well if all the old cotton
should be removed when reefing the seams. As with the forum there
were different opinions and there were heated exchanges between a
couple of the guys. All in all it was an enjoyable time with a
lot of beer and good cheer even if a couple of guys left that
evening with there rudder fouled, they will get over it soon.
Whit both of them I would have the be 200 years old to have the
experience they have.
The question was - 1. Start at the king plank forward and work
out or start at the rail and work in. Then the question of do you
start at the bow and work all the way aft one seam at time or do
it in sections? (Note: 2 Bud's will change some opinions.) Any
way just thought I would check and see what other opinions are.
. Member # 4234
posted 08-07-2002 09:12 PM
I may not have the most experience on this, but I certainly have
the most recent. Right now, I am splitting my time between bottom
planking and caulking the deck that I finished laying earlier
With caulking the deck, or any area for that matter, you want to
look at the whole area first. Invariably, there will be some
seams that are tighter than you'd like and some that might show a
little daylight. Don't freak out about this. Caulk the really
tight seams first. Sometimes this will close up some other areas
nicely. If your deck planking is narrow like mine, (2" thick X 2
1/2" wide)you can move it around noticeably when you caulk. Use
this to your advantage.
Ideally, if all your seams are perfect, caulk from the kingplank
working outboard toward the devil seam. They dont call it that
for nothing! That way, you've pushed the whole deck outboard,
hard against the covering boards. I like to work many seams at
once, in one area, instead of working one seam the whole length
of the boat. Watch what's going on a few seams away always.
Its amazing how much you can move things around. When I caulked
Sultana's bottom even it moved around alot, and she's built
massively. Good luck.
From: rockland, Maine USA | IP: Logged
Member # 5163
posted 08-07-2002 11:11 PM
Don't know enough yet about it to comment on the real topic of
this thread, but will definitely be asking the shipwight I am
apprenticing under. Quick aside, though, on "devil seam".
Apparently the origion of both, "there'll be the devil to pay",
and "between the devil and the deep blue sea" (i.e. hanging off
the side of the boat).
From: Oakland, CA | IP: Logged
Member # 1174
posted 08-07-2002 11:35 PM
Basir: You've got it right. The whole saying is "there's the
devil to pay and no tar hot."
The devil is the seam between the last outboard deck plank and
the covering board. The tar was used as seam compound.
When caulking decks I like to keep track of what's happening to
the yet uncaulked seams athwartship of where I'm caulking. If one
is particularly wide you can caulk other seams alongside it to
close it up a bit. The object is to get the seams as close as
possible to even widths. Of course this should be accomplished by
the deck layer, but it doesn't always happen. I don't see as how
it matters much whether you start at the covering board or at the
king plank, except that the devil seam is likely to be wide, in
which case you can start at the king plank and work your way
outboard, which should close up the devil a bit. On, say, a
forty-foot deck I caulk abreast for about 6 feet or so, then on
to the next 6 feet, etc.
posted 08-08-2002 10:53 PM
Couple of questions first. How well fastened is the deck to the
deck beams? Are all of the leveling pads and deck hardware
removed so that all of the seams can be addressed? If yes to both
then start either forward or aft at the king plank, work outboard
port and stbd across the deck evenly as the other guys have
described. In determining if you should start fwd or aft,
consider what future work may be freed up by starting at one end
or the other. Stuff like coamings, hatch work, toe rails,
leveling pads for winches,etc. As the others have suggested, keep
an eye on what's happening to the seams outboard and ahead of
you. Your decking is very light, it's easy to jack that stuff all
over the place. If the old cotton is not deteriorated and you can
set it well, that means harden it up in the seam without blowing
thru then consider leaving it. However, you'll need to "tie" the
new cotton to the ends of the old. You can't just butt the ends
or overlay it. If all you have are odd patches of old cotton
scattered about your deck then you should consider gently reefing
it out and going with all new. Patch work style corking usually
causes more leaks that it cures. Additionally, you'll know what
you've got if you totally replace it. There aren't that many
linear feet of deck seams on your boat, if it were mine I would
be tempted to renew all of the cotton. A good corker should be
able to cork your size of deck properly in very short order. Have
you figured out how many lineal feet of seam that you're looking
at? I would like to know. Good luck.
Member # 1908
posted 08-10-2002 10:56 AM
OK, I've waited a reasonable time; I'm now ready to toss my hat
in the ring. But please bear in mind, gentle readers, that I am
NOT anywheres near an expert in this subject, I am merely
standing on the shoulders of giants and singing their praises. I
have observed many and been told by several boatbuilders that I
respect that the proper sequence of caulking a boat is as
Deck - caulk from bow to stern and from kingplank outboard, and
all seams should be caulked at the same rate (i.e., the completed
caulking reaches from side-to-side), and furthermore, as the
caulker is working the new caulking into the plank seams, he
should alternate from side to side of the kingplank to even the
stresses across the deck. This is done so that the build-up of
pressure from the caulking is directed equally outboard to the
covering board and sheer clamp rather than building up against
the deckhouse and hatch carlins which may shift under the strain.
A case in point is when an un-named shipyard's crew caulked the
deck of the schooner "Highlander Sea" from covering board in,
they shifted the 4" x 6" decklogs of the pilothouse sides that my
buddy Kevin Wambach was building by more than a half-inch. You
start at the bow because it is easier to back out of the point
than to back in.
Hull - you should always caulk from keel up and from midships
outward to stern and bow, with the work area alternating from
either side of midships. From keel up is so that as the
progressive seams are caulked and exert outward pressure, they
will tightly compress the previous seams, making for a better
seal, and that is what you want on the underwater seams; from
midships to bow & stern allows the caulker to regularly check the
line of planks to ensure that uneven caulking pressure isn't
shifting the plank lines. An old fellow told me that it also
leaves the sticky bits at the sternpost and tuck of the horn
timber 'till last so that the greenhorns are practiced before
they get to the hard parts.
I heartily invite any and all comments & criticisms on what I've
just stated - the more opinions the better, and I'm always
looking to further my education. As I mentioned earlier, on this
subject I am merely a verbose dilettante. Have at it, friends!
[ 11-04-2003, 03:30 PM: Message edited by: gary porter ]