Sunday, June 4, 2017

Getting 16 feet Planks from 8 foot Panels...

In 2002/2003 I was becoming increasingly aware of my lack of bench space in the Wynnum workshop.

At one stage we had six boats under construction at one time, and when commencing the planking of a glued-lapstrake (clinker) sailing dinghy, I realised that I simply did not have the bench space to scarph together 8ft x 4ft sheets of plywood into 16ft x 4ft sheets, which had been my standard procedure.

The space being taken up by 16 foot-long panels had been on my mind, but on this occasion the chickens had come home to roost! Necessity being the mother of invention, I experimented with an alternative approach, and the result was highly successful. A recent call for help from a builder in America has brought the subject back to mind, and I thought the method may interest others.

Lapstrake plank patterns laid out on a 16ft x 4ft panel in my first rented workshop - that is a lot of space taken up!
In order to produce accurate planks from separate 8 foot-long sheets of plywood, I decided to capitalise on one of the by-products of my favourite method of spiling (i.e. method of determining plank shapes when laid out on the flat), and that is the production of lattice style spiling battens. You can find this method of spiling in a number of text books, but it is also shown in illustrated form in the instructions which accompany my plans. Here is a brief explanation of the method I use to produce accurate 16 foot-long planks from 8 foot-long sheets of plywood. Not only does this method save bench space in the workshop, but it also allows for more efficient utilisation of the plywood - i.e. less wastage. (click on images to see full detail)

Here is a plank pattern laid on a single 8ft x 4ft sheet of plywood in a manner which produces minimum wastage. The pattern shown uses diagonal truss-type bracing, but I often use rectangles of thin MDF hot-melt glued to achieve the same result more quickly.  See earlier photo above. Trace accurately around the pattern with a sharp pencil or a fine ball-point pen.
Where the pattern crosses the edge of the 8ft x 4ft plywood sheet, carefully and accurately mark the pattern as shown above in red.

Next, mark a line eight times the thickness of the plywood from the edge of the next 8ft x 4ft sheet. This line is drawn to allow for the amount of plywood which will be taken up by the chamferred  edge of the ply to allow for a scarph joint.  In this case, the plywood is 6mm thick, so I have shown the line 48mm from the edge (if using butt-straps or a "Payson Glass Joint", just make sure the marks are clear of the edge of the sheet).  Lay the remaining portion of the plank template on this sheet with the red marks which were added in the previous step inside the line. 
Adjacent to the marks on the pattern, and inside the line marked eight times the distance of the thickness of the ply from the edge (or from the edge itself if using a butt joint), mark the plywood accurately as shown by the black arrow-heads in this drawing. Then trace accurately around the rest of the pattern.
Remove the pattern to leave the tracing on the plywood and mark a line eight times the thickness of the ply beyond the arrow heads. In this case, with 6mm ply, the distance is 48mm (see drawing above). If the joint is a butt, disregard the last mark.
Cut the half planks from each of the 8ft x 4ft panels, and plane an 8:1 scarph on each half of the plank (disregard for butt joints).
Glue the plank halves together using the scarph or a butt-joint and before the epoxy has cured, lay the plank template over the assembly to ensure that the two halves line-up accurately with the full template (ensure that you place waxed paper or plastic sheet between the glued panels and the template to prevent gluing them together).
This procedure is more difficult to illustrate and explain that it is to carry out. I can assure you that with the application of common sense, it is a simple and practical process which will save you time, space, and plywood.

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