The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Timbered Out

The last major stage in the building of the Ork (8ft 10in stretched Auk) was completed this week with the timbering out in larch. Larch? Why not oak? Well, of all the boats I have repaired, none timbered in larch have needed timbers replacing, but many have had broken oak frames, which I guess is due to the fact that steamed oak seems to get harder and more brittle with age. The breaks usually occur at the sharpest turn of the bilge.

But I have not as yet had to replace any cracked larch timbers, although I have had to replace those worn away by fishermen's wellies. They are softer. But if protected they appear to last as long, and larch steams beautifully. In all the steaming, none broke, and I was even able to get the third from the bow to conform to the tightest of radii, without a problem.

I have been told that Canadian rock elm was like spaghetti when steamed, but you can't get it these days.

This may be a wee boat but it still has to be built in the same way as any larger and in some senses it is harder, as tolerances are tiny. I was measuring plank width differences in millimetres to make sure both sides went up evenly. The eye sees the smallest deviation from what Tom Whitfield, my mentor, called suent, an old West Country term that is hard to translate. It means sweet to the eye, and you've either got it or you haven't. It's not in the eye of the beholder either. A boat either looks right or it doesn't. It's a tricky business but very satisfying when you get it right, or so nearly so that even you can't see any faults.

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