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THE PLANKING OF DECKS ON OLD TIME SHIP MODELS
by Walter G. Clarebrough
One of the things that really sets off a model of an old time ship is the appearance of its deck planking. Whilst there are numerous ways of achieving good results, for models built to the scales of 1/8" to the foot or 1/4" to the foot or thereabouts, the simplest and most effective method I have found is the one described below.
To begin, it assumed that the model being built has been constructed to the stage where the hull has been completed with the deck beams firmly in place. The first step will be to make templates for each of the decks. These templates will be used to make backing pieces for the deck planking and can be produced from thin card. Two pieces of card should be cut for each deck, rectangular in shape, slightly longer than the deck space and slightly wider than half its maximum width. The cards should be placed on the deck beams, one side overlapping the other and the outer edges trimmed with a scissors or a sharp knife to exactly match the outer edges of the desk space as shown in Figure 1. When finished the inside edge of one card should overlap the other as shown in Figure 2. Both sections of card should then be positioned on the deck beams and held in place as shown in Figure 3, whilst a fine line is drawn along the overlap and another crossing this at right angles. The cards should then be removed, held together as they were in place in the model and glued or stapled together in that position. The fore and aft sections may then be trimmed to size.
The next step will be to select suitable wood for the deck backings. These are to form bases for the deck planking and should be around 1/16" (3mm) thick. The wood, therefore, needs to be relatively strong yet soft enough for forming and be able to absorb glue fairly quickly. Certain types of pine would be admirably suited for the purpose. If necessary small pieces may be planed to near the required thickness, glued edge to edge to form the correct width, then sanded down to produce a smooth surface.
Using the deck templates, the backing pieces should be cut to size then formed to match the contours of the decks. Forming may be achieved by using the point of a household electric iron with the heat control turned up high. The centre line of each deck backing should then be marked as shown in Figure 4.
The next job is to prepare the planks. The timber for these must be of the right colour, strong enough to he cut into strips and, importantly, of a texture that will not readily absorb the glue. Cyprus pine is ideal for this purpose. It has an oily feel about it and is very flexible when cut into thin strips. The timber for the planks is first cut into lengths about I" (25mm) wide and a thickness equivalent to the scale width of the planks required. It is vitally important that the thickness be uniform throughout. The final step will be to cut these timber pieces into uniform planks approximately 1mm thick.
Next, one plank should be glued to each backing piece so that the edge of the plank falls exactly along the centerline previously scribed Selley's "Aquadhere" is ideal for this purpose as it dries fairly quickly which obviates clamping. Care should be taken to ensure that any surplus glue is removed from the edges of these planks. This is very important. Once the first plank is in position and the glue has set the rest of the planking can proceed.
The glue for the remaining planks is made by adding around two teaspoons of black Indian ink to 100 mls of Selley's 'Aquadhere' and mixing well. A bead of this glue should be laid along the edge of the plank already in position on the deck backing and the next plank pressed into place so that the glue is forced out between the planks all the way along. The pressure should be maintained for a minute or two until the glue takes hold. Then the procedure can be repeated until all the planks on one side of the centerline have been glued in place. The planking on the other side of the centerline should be carried out in the same manner. This gluing process is a messy job and the blackened glue will probably cover the most of the deck area, but do not attempt to remove it at this stage.
After the glue has thoroughly dried (allow at least 24 hours) the deck may be sanded. This is done until all of the surplus glue is removed. An orbital sander may be used, but with great care as the planks are only l mm thick and it takes very little extra pressure to cut through. The result should be really effective with only a fine black line showing between the planks. Plank ends may be marked with a very sharp knife or chisel (ground to plank width) and nail holes at plank ends made with a very fine drill or needle.
Any overhang of the planks should be trimmed back to the edges of the deck backing, then a line scribed along both sides of the decking about 2/3rds the width of a plank in from the edge. With a sharp knife a cut should be made along this line to the depth of the planks and the planking outside this line removed. Next, the tapered ends of the planks should be nibbed off as shown in Figure 5. A nibbling strake of deck planking size, preferably of darker wood, should be added to the outsides of the deck and notched or 'nibbed' to receive the partially squared off plank ends.
The planked decks should be given a thin coating of clear matt estapol and left to dry for at least 24 hours. The plank ends and nail holes may then be highlighted by rubbing in a little dark wood filler being careful to wipe away any surplus. Decks should then be lightly sanded and given a second coating of estapol. At least 48 hours later the surfaces should be rubbed along the line of the planks with fine steel wool soaked in Scandinavian teak oil after which the surplus should be removed and the surface finished off with a soft cloth. A very slight satin finish will result and the finished decks will then be ready to be glued into the hull. To complete the exercise a very small section quod moulding, representing the waterways, should be added between the decks and bulwarks.