April has been another very busy month in the Longshed. We decided that the stern underloute, replaced in November 2022, had seasoned sufficiently to be worked to its finished section. For those of you that have recently joined the mailing list, this section of the keel needed to be replaced – if you link through to this update once you have finished reading the Newsletter it will explain all!

The finished ‘rabbet’ (rebate) to take the Port aft garboard plank. This is a complex ‘rolling bevel’ and requires the upper surface of the underloute to be hollowed to match.

This has enabled us to finish and fix the planking of the aft (stern) garboard planks – the lowest strakes which sit next to the keel.

The garboard strake in place and fastened up. This was shaped last year and had dried and hardened significantly, making it very difficult to complete the final shaping and the drilling of nail holes.


The inside view of the planking with both Port and Starboard planks attached.

This is a major step forward because it now enables us to work on planking all four quarters of the ship. This will speed up the process of shaping and fixing the one hundred individual pieces of planking needed to fully plank the ship. The target is to complete the planking by the end of this year. Further planking has been fastened at the bow and, for visitors in particular, it is now evident how majestic the ship will eventually look.

The inside of the hull at the bow. The rows of diamond-shaped roves align and can be seen running across the planks where a scarf joint fastens two sections of planking together.

As Shipwrights and Production Crew, we tend not to see the progress so clearly as we are in the Longshed each day but, for those who only see the ship intermittently, they report that the progress is very noticeable.

We finally managed to cleave the second log received from the National Trust at Blicking Hall in Norfolk. Earlier attempts were scuppered by wind, rain, and snow!

The two oak logs from Blicking Hall at Sutton Hoo, waiting to be cleaved with Tranmer House in the background.

The cleaving was completed as a display to show visitors to the National Trust, Sutton Hoo site the techniques which might have been practised in that very area centuries ago. The second tree is pencilled in to be cleaved on the 27 and 28 July, again as a demonstration, so if you are in the area it is a great thing to see, hear, and smell.

The cleaved halves of the longer log. This was 6m long and 1m diameter. Volunteer, John Facer is viewing his handy work with the sledgehammer.
Volunteer Simon Charlesworth with the cleaved sections. Roy Truman and our new Assistant Shipwright, Carl Moore, are discussing the finer points of the operation in the background.

Once cleaved it was then necessary to transport the converted timber to the Longshed prior to convert into more planking. For this, we were grateful for the assistance of our volunteers from the Parachute Regiment based at Rock Barracks near Woodbridge.

Whilst this was going on, at the Longshed other volunteers were continuing to make oars and fit frames to the 1:5 scale model. In the middle of the month, Emeritus Professor Martin Carver led our latest ’Witan’ – a gathering of academics and nautical specialists – to share and discuss the latest research and experimentation on various features of the ship and the proposed sea trials and expeditions which will take place once the ship is launched.

Tim Kirk, Master Shipwright