Wooden Boat Restoration Methods
From documentation to the rebuilding process
- Walt Ansel —July 28–August 10
Tuition: $1200 (two-week course)
Our 2012 steam launch restoration class got off to a fantastic start last August. The intention was to take a museum restoration approach with proper documentation, careful disassembly, and thoughtful structural replacement on a lovely 24′ fantailed steam launch built around 1900. The first two days were spent removing rubrails, coamings, trim, and interior structure so that molds could be built to support the hull when it was inverted. Large-format photo documentation was carried out to preserve details and construction sequence.
The launch’s backbone members—keel, stem, horn timber, and shaftlog—were rotted beyond recovery. Their condition was so poor back aft that much information, such as basic shapes and rabbet locations, was lost. It was decided to lift the lines off the boat and loft her shape full-size onto a lofting table. This allowed Walt and students to draw the new backbone on the table and make patterns and parts with great accuracy. To record section shapes, they used a large plywood framing square mounted on a wooden beam that could be slid down the length of the hull to each station location, where a joggle stick was used to locate section points. Fairing was done with the long lines on the lofting board. This was carried to a point of completion so that a table of offsets and scale drawings could be created in this year’s session.
An entire new backbone assembly was built of white oak with a laminated mahogany stem knee. Rabbets were cut and parts were connected with handmade bronze bolts. On the final day of class, students bolted the stem and keel together, mating the original stem top to a brand-new forefoot. The perfect ending to an amazing two weeks!
Walt promises that this year’s class will be extremely interesting and educational. We’re going to pattern and create 15 floor timbers. These will be bolted to the keel and screwed to the planking. The launch will then be turned over and the steam-bent frames replaced and clench-nailed to the planking. There will be plenty of planking repairs, which should be challenging, as the boat is strip-planked with edge nails. We’ll also replace the rudder and tapered rubrails, and repair the inwales and sheerstrakes. It’s guaranteed to be another fascinating two weeks for anyone interested in an advanced restoration class with particular emphasis on wooden boat structural problem solving.