The Marion River Carry-Part 1

In the Adirondacks portages are called carries.  The Marion River Carry is particularly well known.  You will find out why from the next post.

If you have been following along you know that William West Durant was the author of the Great Camp Style of Adirondack architecture.  William was sent by his father Dr. Thomas C. to Raquette Lake in the early 1870’s to develop 500,000 acres of Adirondack land he acquired while serving as VP of the Union Pacific railroad.  To facilitate travel to Raquette Lake by those interested in buying land or timber from the Durants, track was laid from Saratoga Springs to North Creek, NY in 1871.  But it was still a day’s travel by stagecoach from North Creek to Blue Mountain Lake.  There a guide and boat could be hired to take you on to Raquette Lake.

Guide carrying his boat in traditional fashion.  Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Experience.

William improved upon this mode of transportation by having two steamboats built, one for Raquette Lake, the Killoquah, and the other for Blue Mountain Lake, the Toowahloondah.

Blue Mountain Lake is connected to Raquette Lake by the Ectford Chain of lakes  (Eagle and Utowandah Lakes) and the Marion River.  William dammed up the Marion River to allow the Toowahloondah to navigate passage through the Ectford Chain to the head of the Marion River.  The passengers would disembark at the dock at the head of the Marion River and walk the 2-3 miles to catch another steamboat that would take them on to their final destination on Raquette.  Presumably baggage handlers would transport their duffel across the carry.

Steamboat at dock.  Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Experience.

Here is a steamboat at dock.  This may be the dock at the Marion River side of the carry although I am not sure.

A fortunate circumstance significantly aided the Durant’s scheme to develop their vast land holdings in the Adirondacks.  William Henry Harrison Murray published his book Adventures in the Wilderness in 1879.  Murray’s book was a sportsman’s guide to the Adirondacks.  It told of a vast wilderness with fish and game just ready to be had with rod and gun.  Just a short visit to this paradise would restore one’s health.  He gave instructions on what gear to buy, where to stay, the best guide to hire, and even a railroad timetable.

Murray’s tale was centered on Raquette Lake so tourism exploded there.  Durant had just finished the first of his Great Camps, Camp Pine Knot, so he was ready to entertain those interested in buying land and timber.

Part I of this post serves to give a background on the Marion River Carry.  The next post will describe the almost unbelievable changes that came to the Marion River Carry as the eighteen hundreds came to a close.

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Moving!

Fran and I have moved a number of times in our married life, in fact, at least five times.  As the years have crept by the subject of moving to  a retirement community have kept coming up.  After all, two people living in a four bedroom home didn’t make a lot of sense.  My objection was always that I would have to give up my boat shop.  Upon visiting a retirement community about a mile away, they made an offer I couldn’t refuse.  They would convert a garage and some extra space adjacent to it into a boat shop.  It turned out that this space was about equal to the usable space in my present shop.  So we signed up and a moving date was set for May 3.

So here’s how the move of a partially completed guideboat went.  I must say the movers were very conscious about insuring that the boat moved without a scratch.  Here’s the boat waiting to be moved.

Partially completed guideboat ready to go.

Here’s a view of the movers inspecting the boat and deciding how to safely move it to the truck.  They can take it out through a sliding glass door.

Careful inspection of the hull before moving it.

Next step was to remove the hull from the strongback, and start moving it out.

Lifting it off the strongback.

Starting through the door.

Starting out the door.

Here goes the hull through the door.

Here we go!

I’m sure the movers were not sure the hull would go through the door this easily.  They probably uttered a silent sigh of relief.  Now, on to the truck…

The hull goes onto the truck.

Next comes the strongback.  It was given to me by my Uncle Donald, and it is made of Georgia yellow pine, I’m told.  He spotted it in the bottom of a burned out mill in New Hampshire, and asked if he could have it. The powers that be said “Sure, if you can get it out of there, you can have it!”  Now Uncle Don was not a man to be easily deterred, and somehow he got it out.

The strongback is enormous and very heavy.  The movers quickly realized it was going to be quite a job getting it out of the shop and up the hill to the truck.  So here we go…

Oh my…! We need more help…

So it starts moving towards the door.

Strongback on the way.

Four men and up the hill!

Meanwhile, the hull rests safely in a truck entirely devoted to it and the strongback.

Hull safely padded and waiting for its companion strongback.

The strongback arrives and then is strapped in.

Both safe in the truck.

We arrive at the new shop location and start moving in.

Hull goes into its new home.  

Hull is ready to install on the strongback.

Here’s the shop after moving power tools, benches and other equipment are moved into the new space.

Here’s the new shop!

So the move went without a hitch, although as you can imagine there is still some organization to be done.

This boat and its shop are located some four hundred miles south of the town of Long Lake, in the Adirondack mountains of New York.  The completed boat will eventually make its way north there.  Fran and I have been associated with Long Lake for nearly thirty years.  We have grown quite fond of the town and believe that it represents certain special qualities.  We have always lived near large cities, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.  Big cities swallow up their satellite towns by imparting on to them the big city’s culture, overwhelming the character of the smaller entity.  This is not so in the towns in the Adirondacks which are far away from metropolitan areas.  They have their own unique characteristics.  We have begun to realize what special characteristics they show.  So from time to time, we will highlight how Long Lake, a town of nine hundred people, exhibits its own personality.  These essays on Long Lake will be interspersed with the usual boating topics of this blog.  We hope you enjoy them.

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Guideboat Paddles

I had a note from Tom from Wisconsin.  “I have greatly enjoyed your book (Guideboat Paddles An Adirondack Treasure”) I got some time back.  While I have acquired some interesting Penobscot paddles over the years, I have always wanted an original guide paddle.  I was fortunate recently to acquire one.  It appears to be a steering paddle at 56.5″. The grip and motif appear to be A. H. Billings much like the ones in the Clark’s Camp find.  (Paddle in the Adirondack Museum’s collection from the Clark’s Camp on Blue Mountain Lake).  It is made of bird’s eye maple which really makes it a gem.  The initials E K are carved on the motif.  I feel so fortunate to get one.  It came from an auction in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Here is Tom’s paddle.

Grip and motif on Tom’s paddle.

Tom’s guideboat steering paddle-full length.

Here is the grip and motif of the Adirondack Museum’s Clark’s Camp paddle.

Clark’s Camp steering paddle from the Adirondack Museum’s collection.

There is no doubt that these two paddles were made by the same person.  Tom believes the are from the hand of A. H. Billings, a builder of guideboats in the late 1800’s.  Here is a photo of Billings.

A. H. Billings, guideboat builder.

He looks to be an impressive fellow, one I would like to meet.  I couldn’t find any further information on him except the photo below where he is attending some sort of convention promoting outdoor adventure.  I am told these sorts of events occurred yearly in New York City.

A. H. Billings attending some sort of convention promoting outdoor adventure.

Tom and I chatted about the development of the Northern Wisconsin wilderness and how it differed from the Adirondack wilderness.  Whereas rails were first constructed in Northern Wisconsin to bring out timber, the loggers in the Adirondacks used the natural watercourses to funnel their logs to the great metropolitan hubs.  Once they had exploited the timber wealth of Northern Wisconsin the railroads then decided use their rails for a another  purpose.  They enticed the super wealthy of Chicago and Milwaukee to build camps in the northern woods thereby deriving a second income from tourism.

This was opposite from the Adirondacks.  Here the rails were laid down to bring the wealthy and others from a teeming, smoggy, hot summer existence in a big cities to a virtual paradise by comparison.

The fact that the Adirondacks had two major watercourses to transport logs to market gives an interesting sidelight to Adirondack history.  The major water highways where the Raquette and the Hudson Rivers.  The Raquette was less favorable since logs went to Canada where they demanded a much lower price.  Logs bound for the Hudson wound up in Glens Falls where they were sawn into lumber.  Their ultimate destination was the great metropolitan cities of the east.

The economic incentive to get logs from the Racquette drainage to the Hudson was a major one.  Farrand Benedict, professor at the University of Vermont, spent much of his working life trying to connect the Racquette River with the Hudson.  An early  scheme would use the Fulton Chain of Lakes, and others to transport timber and mineral riches out of the Adirondacks and agricultural products into it.

When that scheme failed he decided to try to join the Raquette River at Long Lake with the Hudson at Newcomb, a distance of 14 or 15 miles.  Work was started in the 1870’s somewhere west of Newcomb to build the canal and necessary locks.  It would require damming up Long Lake just below its outlet to raise its height twenty feet!  There was great opposition from the Raquette loggers who didn’t want their logs going to the Hudson.

Obviously Benedict’s plan did not succeed (my camp in Long Lake would be under water if it had).  However his attempt to join the two mighty rivers can still be seen today by bushwacking or flying Helm’s Aero Service in Long Lake.  I suggest the latter.

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Building an Adirondack Guideboat- Rounds 4 and 5

I finally finished round 4 of planking on my latest guideboat.  This took longer than expected because we are preparing to downsize and move to a smaller home.  The good news is that I will still have a boat shop.  The bad news is that many interruptions occurred during planking because of other higher order things needing to be done.  Interruptions break up the rhythm of planking and cause much more trips back and forth between the hull and the bench.  Finally, all is ready for hanging a plank.  The bedding compound is applied, the plank is fastened with brass screws and the tacks “stuck”.  Here is what it looks like just before clinching the tacks.

Round 4 of planking ready for clinching of the tacks.

A little diversion here,  Scarf joints are necessary when planking because it is impossible to have a single plank span the width of the hull. A scarf is merely a bevel cut into each plank so that they fit smoothly together.  Here I have located the scarf over a rib.  That is a good place to locate it because the scarf is hidden from inside the hull.  Also fastening it to the rib probably gives it added strength.  I didn’t know of this custom when I built my first boat and my scarfs ended up between ribs.  After 20 years of use I see adverse effects of doing it this way.

Laying out a scarf joint.

My scarf joints are 7/8″ wide. After laying it out I use a chisel to cut away the excess to form the scarf.

Chiseling away the excess to form the scarf.

Incidentally I bought the Chinese chisel in the Long Lake hardware store for very little money.  It is a great tool.

I use my sanding board to smooth the surface of the scarf.

The scarf is smoothed using a sanding board.

Before the adjoining plank is fastened down, I make sure the fit is a good one.  Then tacks are driven and clinched along the edge of the scarf.  Here is a completed scarf.  Tacks are driven close together to seal the joint.

A completed scarf.

Despite the challenge of planking a guideboat, or perhaps because of it, I enjoy doing it.  There is great satisfaction in taking a bundle of sticks obtained from the root of a tree, fastening them to a long, tapered board and them covering the whole thing with an extraordinarily thin jacket of wood.

But even more, the guideboat hull reveals its sensuous, feminine nature as each round of planking is set in place.  It is indeed a joy to fill space with such a beautiful object that many have called a “work of art”.

Here she is so far;

She takes shape.

I learned something while planking this time around.  It is a shortcut that avoids spiling.  It uses the planks from the previous round as a template for the next round. So here is what you do.  Taking round 4 as an example, you have both sides all set to hang round 4.  Go ahead and fasten the planks on one side of round 4.  Now take one of the planks from the other, unfastened side and hold it up against the fastened down round 4 plank.  Obviously, it will not fit exactly to the previous plank but it won’t be too far off.   Now lightly mark on the “template plank” how far off it is at several points.  The deviations will come at the hood end (stem end) and around the midships.

Take the template plank and lay it down on fresh planking stock.  Mark off on the fresh stock where it deviates and where it pretty much matches.  Now you have a pretty good replication of where a round 5 plank matches the edge of round 4.  Cut off the excess with a band saw and trim it with your block plane.  Hold it up against round 4 and make corrections as necessary.  Here is what it looks like.

A new partial plank for round 5.

What about the trailing edge of the plank?  Slide the partial plank down past the tick mark denoting the end of plank 5.  Don’t shift the plank sideways. Now measure the distance from the top of the bevel on plank 4 to the tick mark on the rib for round 5 at that station.  Mark that distance on the new partial plank.  Here is what is looks like.

Measuring the width of the new plank, top of bevel to tick mark.

Recording the width of the new plank.

Now you just connect the dots using a batten.

Connecting the dots using a batten to define the other side of the new number 5 plank.

All done.

Next time I may go back into guideboat paddle lore to conquer up a story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Famous Adirondack Wooden Boat-The Sairy Gamp-Part 2

I promised to fill you in on the Sairy Gamp, a little canoe that carries so much Adirondack history.

The story of Sairy begins with two men who are legends in the North Country.  The lives of these men, John Henry Rushton and George Washington Sears, were so intertwined that without one another they could not have achieved greatness.  They fed off one another’s talents, one built amazing wooden craft of superior quality and exquisite design while the other was a remarkable adventurer and journalist.

Sears needed a very small vessel to carry him through the Adirondacks for three voyages he planned to take from 1880 to 1883.  During these voyages he intended to write of his adventures for the popular outdoor magazine Forest and Stream under the pen name Nessmuk.  He challenged Rushton to build him a canoe that was sturdy, yet light weight.  Sears was especially concerned about the weight of his craft.  He knew that many carries must be crossed during his paddles.  He was a small man weighing only 110 lbs. so every ounce counted.

Rushton built five tiny canoes for Sears but Sears favorite was the Sairy Gamp.  She weighed 10 1/2 lbs. and was 9 feet long.  She was made of white cedar with half round elm ribs, closely spaced to give her additional strength.  Rushton warned Nessmuk not to ask for a smaller boat.  “Don’t try for a smaller one” he said, “If you get tired of this as a canoe use it as a soup dish”.

Sears was a very well read man and that assures me that he named the Sairy Gamp.  She was named after a nurse in one of Dicken’s novels who loved her gin straight and never took a drop of water with it.  So it was with the Sairy Gamp canoe who never took on a drop of water.

Nessmuk said that Sairy never let him down and only once did she dump him.  Nessmuk took full credit for that capsizing (he may have tried to look over his shoulder to see something behind him as I have done in light weight canoes and flipped over).

The Sairy Gamp on loan to the Adirondack Museum from the Smithsonian. Photo courtesy of John Homer.

Sears was born in Webster, MA in 1821 to a poor family.  When he was a small boy he made friends with a Native American youngster named Nessmuk, who taught him the wood lore that would stay with him the rest of his life.  Nessmuk means wood duck or drake in the Narragansett language.  He adopted the pen name Nessmuk in gratitude for all he learned from the Native American.  When he was but eight years old he was conscripted to work in a cotton mill.  There he worked from dawn to dusk with little time for rest.  What breaks he did have were spent with Nessmuk roaming in the nearby forests and honing his woodcraft skills..

At age twelve he left home for his grandmother’s home on Cape Cod.  There he would row a whale boat out to sea almost daily to fish.  When nearly 20 years old he signed on with the Rajah, whaler out of New Bedford, MA.  He spent three years on the Rajah in the Pacific in pursuit of whales.

Nessmuk

Like Adirondack Murray, Sears felt that the common man should have access to the wilderness without having to spend beyond his means.  He published Woodcraft, a book that covered all aspects of living outdoors.  It would become a much sought after volume and was reprinted in 1963.

Title page of Nessmuk’s book Woodcraft.

In this posting I am grateful for the great treasure of information about Nessmuk found in the book Canoeing the Adirondacks with Nessmuk, The Adirondack Letters of George Washington Sears by Dan Brenan with revisions by Robert L. Lyon and Hallie E. Bond.

Now about John Henry Rushton, a North Country fellow who is renowned as a builder of wooden craft.  From 1873 until 1906 Rushton built a variety of small wooden boats; canoes, sailing canoes, rowboats and guideboats, and electric launches.  His shop was in the northern reaches of the Adirondack Park in Canton, NY,

In writing this post I am borrowing heavily from the Adirondack Museum’s exhibit on Rushton.  This means I am probably taking from the work of Hallie Bond who was the former curator of watercraft at the Museum.  I am supposing that she had much to do with planning and setting up the exhibit.

I spent a year working with Hallie at the Museum as a volunteer.  Her knowledge of boats and boating in the Adirondacks (she authored a book by that title) is extraordinary.  During my tenure we moved the Museum’s boat collection from temporary, inadequate quarters to a brand new state-of-the-art Collection Study and Storage Center in Blue Mountain Lake.  Great fun and a great learning experience.

Back to Rushton.  Here is a photo of J. H. and his wife Leah.

J. H. Rushton and his wife Leah.

J. H. was a hands on business man.  He was the earliest on the job each day where he make sure stock was milled and ready for his crew of 17 to 20 men who worked year round.  Here they are in 1920.

J. H. Rushton’s crew in 1904.

J. H. is standing on the left in vest and tie.  His workers earned anywhere from 10 to 25 cents an hour.  In 1881 they produced 250 canoes.

Rushton would custom build boats for his clientele as he did for Nessmuk.  Nessmuk persuaded him to build small, lightweight canoes, a style not a favorite of Rushton.  This line of one man craft became quite popular with “outers”, men who chose to go out into the wilderness without a guide.  Rushton named this line Nessmuk, drafting on the popularity of Nessmuk’s journals published in Forest and Stream.

One of these “outers”, William West Durant, wanted a Nessmuk canoe.  He was determined to have a Sairy Gamp canoe.  The interchange between Rushton and Durant is hilarious.  It is captured in the book acknowledged above and authored by Brenan, Lyon and Bond.  It goes like this:

“By 1886 Rushton was bothered by all sorts of unrealistic expectations of these (Nessmuk line) boats.  “The trouble is,” he wrote to Nessmuk, “every d— fool who weighs less than 300 thinks he can use such a canoe too,  I get letters asking if the Bucktail (10 1/2 feet long and weighing 22 lbs.) will carry two good -sized men and camp duffel and be steady enough to shoot out of it.  I told one fellow that I thought he’d shoot out of it mighty quick if he tried it.

One such d— fool was William West Durant , the central Adirondack land developer.  “he is near six ft. and 170# (guess) ,” wrote Rushton of Durant when Durant visited the shop during construction of the Sairy Gamp.  “I had hard work to keep him from ordering a duplicate, as it was he ordered a ‘Nessmuk.’ “.  Durant named his boat, built on the dimensions of the Susan Nipper, Wie Lassie“.

Here is Wie Lassie on display in the Adirondack Museum..

Wie Lassie on display in the Adirondack Museum.

The Wie Lassie is 10 ft. 6 inches long and weighs 20 lbs.

To my mind Rushton’s legacy is the Nessmuk line of small, lightweight canoes.  Before these boats arrived on the scene the only option for getting about in the North Country was the guideboat or a two man canoe.  These little boats were propelled by one seated on a cushion in the bottom of the boat using a double bladed paddle.  “Outers” clamored for these boats because they opened up the vast wilderness of the North Country to common folk.

The Wie Lassie hull design has been reproduced or modified innumerable times right up to our times as professional boat builders and amateurs have recognized this near perfectly designed craft.

Hats off to Rushton.

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A Famous Adirondack Boat-The Sairy Gamp

The first boat I ever built was called the Sairy Gamp.  I had no idea at the time why it was called the Sairy Gamp or any of its history.  I would learn that later on.

I happened to build Sairy quite by accident.  We had moved from Northern New Jersey to Sudbury, Mass.  That brought me closer to my Uncle Don who was living in Peterborough, NH,  Soon after we moved to Mass I decided to pay a visit to Uncle Don.  Uncle Don was a family physician but I saw him more as a Renaissance man.  He delved into all sorts of endeavors such as competitive pistol shooting and photography.  When he took up one of these activities it was never half-hearted.  He won awards for his photography and went to national pistol shooting events where he won prizes for his marksmanship.

So when I came to see him in Peterborough I didn’t know quite what to expect.  I hadn’t seen him in quite awhile.  It wasn’t long before I was intrigued with what he was up to.  First, he showed me his sugar shack where he boiled down  his own tree sap to make maple syrup.  We went inside to his workshop where I spied a row of various sized rounded boards attached in a row to what looked like a very sturdy work bench.  “What is that?” I exclaimed.  He said he was building the Sairy Gamp, a small wooden canoe.  There was little further discussion and we moved on to other things.

I returned about six months later and inquired about the canoe he was building.  He said “Oh, I haven’t done anything more on it, would you like to build it?”  “Sure,” I said whereupon he gave me a single sheet of paper with the plans for the boat, the molds for building it, the strong back, or boat builders work bench, and enough Atlantic white cedar to build it.  The sheet with the bare bones instructions for building the boat is shown below.

Sheet of instructions for building the Sairy Gamp.

The work bench, or strong back, was a massive affair.  Uncle Don said that he had seen it in the cellar of a local burned out mill.  He somehow found someone he could ask for permission to take it.  They said he could have it if he could haul it away.  Here it is below.  It has served well in building well over a dozen wooden boats.

Uncle Don’s strong back supporting an Adirondack guideboat under construction.

With the help of my son Stew we built the Sairy Gamp.  The boat is really quite small, only nine feet long.  I thought it would be a great little pack canoe for the Adirondacks.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.

One May day I decided to take it out on its maiden voyage.  The marsh adjacent to our Long Lake home was flooded from the spring runoff so it was a perfect spot for a trial spin.  Besides my wife Fran could watch from inside our home.

When I got into Sairy I was startled to see that the water rose right to the gunnels.  I gingerly paddled away expecting at any moment to be swamped.  Unknown to me, Fran was doubled over with laughter.  She said that I looked like I was paddling about in a saucer.

Something was definitely wrong.  Some inquiry revealed that Sairy had been built for a man who weighed around 110 lbs. whereas I weighed in excess of 170 lbs.

What to do with my first boat? I couldn’t use it with any assurance that I would say afloat.  It was decided that it would occupy a place of honor by hanging it from the cathedral ceiling in our Long Lake home.  Here she is.

My Sairy Gamp.

Another view of my Sairy Gamp.

The real Sairy is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution to the Adirondack Museum,  When you visit the Museum during the summer look her up.  She has a marvelous history which I will relate to you in the next post.

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Building an Adirondack Guideboat-Back to Planking

I avoided continuing to plank my latest guideboat for as long as the warm weather held.  We had a very warm, sunny fall that allowed me to spend many hours outdoors.  But we are now solidly in winter’s grasp.  The bitter cold drives me inside and down to the boat shop.

I left off boat building last Spring completing  two rounds of planking.  Here they are:

Two rounds of planking so far.

After being away from the task of planking I am rightfully hesitant to get back into it.  As John Gardner, the small craft historian and boat builder, put it so well in the Durant’s book The Adirondack Guide-Boat:

“The perfection and delicacy of guide-boat planking is something to humble a boatbuilder’s pride.  In making a guide-boat the chief skill, if not the lion’s share of the labor, was the planking.  For this the boatbuilder needed a special aptitude as well as infinite care and patience.”

As you already know the hull of a guideboat is covered by a thin, smooth skin made usually of white pine.  Planks are joined together edgewise by planing the edge of each mating plank to produce a beveled feather edge.  Adjoining planks must match almost perfectly.  To add immensely to the builder’s task, planking must accommodate the “turn of the bilge”, that is, the region where the hull goes from being nearly horizontal near the bottom board to practically vertical at the gunnels.

Builders more talented than I fit the planks snug to the ribs in this region by hollowing out the plank on the inside face and then rounding off the outward facing surface.  They use special planes to do this.  The Old Timers called this backing out.  I am greatly in awe of those modern guideboat builders who can pull off backing out.  Among them are Allison Warner, the Adirondack Museum’s boat builder, and Rob Frenette of Raquette River Outfitters.  I take the easier way out that the pros call “steaming”.  But at the end of the day no one can tell whether the planks were steamed or backed out.

Obviously there is a lot of “touch and feel” in planking a guideboat.  Matching the edge of a new plank to one already in place is a mammoth job.  When I built my first guideboat I new nothing of spiling and simply traced the edge of the existing plank onto the new planking stock that was clamped over the existing plank.  It turns out that the Old Timer boat builders did exactly that.  They had no knowledge of spiling,

There was a hierarchy in an Old Time guideboat boat builder’s shop among the men who did the planking.  The least among them lined off the new plank so that it fit snugly to the previous plank.  The new plank then went to the bench where the “planker” took over.  His ability to fit a plank to the hull was highly prized among his peers and the shop owner.  Very few had the skill to accomplish what he did.  He cut the feather edge bevels and “backed out” the inside face and rounded the outside face.  According to the Durants little is known about how a planker accomplished his art.

This time around I am using spiling to line off my planks.  I find it works very well from the midships up to the final rib but then breaks down completely.  I worked around this deficit by using spiling up to the last rib.  Then I made sure the nascent plank was extra wide at its hood, or stem, end.   This gave me enough stock to play with and produce the true plank shape at the hood ends.  This won’t be a problem after I finish hanging the third plank because I will have installed rib#12.  This will give a reference point closer to the stem and make spiling that much more accurate,

To review an earlier post, here is what spiling is all about.  A spiling batten is placed below and near the last plank and clamped to the ribs.  The spliing batten must remain totally straight and true so  I made mine of thin plywood.   Here it is clamped to the hull and adjacent to the last hung plank.


The spiling batten clamped in place next to the last hung plank.

To spile, a compass is used to draw an arc on the batten at each rib station.  The arc originates from a point at the center of the rib and at the top end of the feather lap.  Here the arc is being drawn on the batten.

Drawing an arc on the spiling batten.

The batten is then removed and clamped over stock that will become the next plank.  Using the same compass arc, an arc is drawn from each side of the original arc on the spiling batten.  These two arcs intersect at a point.  This point represents the same point as from where the original arc was drawn.  The photo below shows the compass being used to obtain the original point on the new planking stock.

Transferring the original point to the new plank stock.  The spiling batten is lying on top of the new plank stock.

If we connect the dots, so to speak, we will have a line that reproduces the edge of the previous plank.    We connect these points using a batten.

I have found that it is best to concentrate on matching the top edge of the new plank with the previous plank.  I use spiling to get a rough approximation of the other edge of the plank.  Once I get the top edge matching up, then I slide the new plank down and clamp it so that the tick marks on the ribs for the other edge are revealed.  Then I can just measure the distance between the top of the bevel on the previous plank and the tick mark and transfer that distance to the new plank. That gives me an accurate measure of the width of the plank at that point.

I find the cabinet scraper to invaluable in cutting the feather edge bevel.  I take the bevel down with a block plane until the bevel is almost complete.  Then I finish the job with the scraper.  It gives great control over removal and the bevel is always flat and not rounded.  Here it is in use.

Cabinet scraper putting finishing touches on the feather lap.

Next time I will introduce another famous Adirondack wooden boat, the Sairy Gamp.

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