Sunday, January 29, 2017

Planking the Hull

I am off to Himi, Toyama where I built a boat a year ago (a project I blogged about: check posts from last winter) where I am giving a TEDx talk. From there its on to Gifu, in the mountains, where I have a meeting regarding my next project in Japan: studying with one of the last builders of cormorant fishing boats. So I am off for the next four days, but to catch up to where I have left the project, I got the planks hung on the boat and I have begun fitting the interior bench seats, etc.




Some of the company’s staff stopped by this week to see my work. They are the youngest employees except for the man in white who is the company’s senior employee; he’s been with them over forty years. I am working in a satellite building used for lumber storage, about a 2 minute bike ride from the main shop. The staff only sees me in the morning and when I pop in with some materials to mill on their machines. I have just my hand tools and hand power tools on site and occasionally I need their bandsaw or planer.

The work I am doing is very, very different from their cabinet work, so we had a good conversation about tools and techniques. They were quite taken with the label on my large bottle of Gorilla Glue. From previous projects I’ve found out its almost impossible to buy in Japan and phenomenally expensive.



I am using two types of traditional nails on this boat. The small-headed one is for edge-joining the sides and bottom. The large-headed nail is for fastening the sides to the bottom. I use the same tsubanomi (“sword hilt chisel”) to cut holes for both. I have to carefully determine how deep to chisel so the nail is not too loose and I mark the chisel with a piece of tape.




If I had a proper workshop it would not have a concrete floor. At the very least it would be wood, but one often sees in Japan dirt floors. This is to provide a grip for the props used to hold the planks in place. In my case I strengthened the trestle the boat is resting on and screwed a long scrap to the base. To that I screwed wood blocks to set my props against. You can see I also used clamps, something my teachers would not have done.


We all make mistakes: of 30 nails used to fasten the sides one missed its pilot hole and came out through the inside of the boat. I will carefully chisel a mortise around it, clench it back in and fit a plug. It just happened to come out through one of the plugs in the mortise for one of the edge nails fastening the bottom.

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