This month we have been concentrating on producing planking from the cleaved sections of timber that were brought to the Longshed last month. In order that we can fit sections to the Ship, we need to produce several pieces of planking at the same time so that we can select the right piece to fit in the correct location.

This requires the juggling of priorities and different issues. In order to adhere to the plank spacings evidenced in the original archaeology we have to take into account, amongst other factors, the length and width of the available planking, the known and unknown location of each plank scarf (where planks are joined to make each strake) and the modern desire to maintain as much strength in the build as possible by not situating scarfs in adjacent strakes too close to each other. These factors are often contradictory and conflicting. In a build where historical considerations do not matter the convention is to not site scarfs in adjacent planks closer than four feet (1.2m) to each other. This maintains strength and evens out the natural weaknesses caused by joining lengths of planking together.

However, we do have archaeological evidence of where some of the scarf joints were from the archaeology of the ship, as indicated by rows of three nails set across the planking between the longitudinal strakes. Where possible we want to adhere to this scarf layout.

This can be partly seen in the drawings of the ship produced in 1940 and confirmed and added to by both the photographs taken in 1939 and the later excavation in 1967. Unfortunately, not all of this evidence is available as the excavation in 1939 did lead to the loss of some of this data in the area of the burial chamber. Also, by the time of the later excavation, the imprint had further degraded so no greater understanding could be gained.

In modern boatbuilding practice, the location of the scarfs (or ‘butts’ where planks are butt-jointed together and strengthened by a backing piece or ‘butt-strap’) would be set out in advance in a drawing. Trying to do this given our constraints is somewhat like trying to complete a jigsaw without the picture on the box lid and not knowing if all the pieces are present so it has required several attempts to get this right.

We are now ready to start attaching the planking to the ship, although the sequence in which we do this will need to be modified somewhat for the garboard strake (the first line of planking/strake attached to the keel). Usually, planking would start at the stern of the ship so that the scarfs of subsequent planks lay on top of the plank just fitted. However, as we still need to fit the replacement underloute at the stern, we are proposing to start planking from the bow.

The good news regarding the underloute is that Jacq Barnard (Project Manager) and I visited Hainault Ancient Forest in Essex on the 8th of June, and we believe that we have found a suitable timber to replace the damaged timber. This now requires to be felled and delivered to the Longshed and to be converted and fitted into place. Great thanks go to the Woodland Trust for identifying this oak. Hopefully, there will be more news of this in my July update.

Three potential oak trees for the replacement underloute. The tree on the left appears to be the most suitable for the underloute

Other work has focused on completing the ribbanding out of the mold. This entailed fitting the remaining battens on the plank edge locations in order to check and amend any discrepancies in the Stem and Stern rabbets (where the plank ends land and are fastened to the Stem and the Sternpost) and to check the fairness of the proposed plank runs – this again needs to take account of both good boatbuilding practice and the archaeological evidence.

I would again like to thank our Production Crew volunteers for their dedication and skill in the difficult job of producing accurate, 1” thick planking using axes and our key benefactors, the donors of the trees which, together make this all possible.


Tim Kirk, Master Shipwright