Steaming planks ~ how to steam the garboard planks on a sailing dinghy





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Published on Jan 18, 2013

Steaming planks

Fundamentally hulls shapes of any vessels are naturally curvaceous and only limited by the material properties to take on these shapes. This limitation has been greatly reduced with glass-reinforced plastics (GPR) such as fibreglass. However, traditional material like wood can be encouraged into to the extreme hulls shapes demonstrated in many of the wooden vessels seen in the Cornish waters.

These traditional 'encourage' techniques have developed overtime and in this case, steam is used to make the wood more malleable, enabling the plank to take on the required twist and bend without breaking. This is key for first few planks of any clinker dinghy, further up the stem, the change within the plank is less and so it is more than likely that it can be fitted dry.

The use of steam in traditional boat building happens across the build, from planking, framing and laying decks. How steam is applied to the wood does differ and changed over the years. The technique demonstrated in this skill is suitable for small planks on small vessels with the steam occurring on the vessel itself. However, similar approach can be used on large vessels replacing the steam box / sleeve with heavy plastic bag or tarpaulin.

Steaming frames can be seen in another section. Use technique to understand and it can then be applied to other situations.

In the accompanying video clip, the planks being steamed in are the garboards for a Fowey 14' River sailing dinghy and Marcus Lewis is demonstrating the process.

Plywood template
Plank clamps
Steam box / sleeve
Wall paper stripe steamer
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The process is demonstrated in the accompanying video clip with a step-by-step guide.
The conversation with the boat builder, in this case Marcus Lewis, is unscripted and
covers the technique from his experience.

· Introduction to planking
· Starboard garboard is prepared, then steamed and bent up into place
· Port garboard steamed

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