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What is Strip Planking?

Strip planking is a boat-building method where narrow strips of wood are edge-glued together to form a smooth hull. This technique combines traditional craftsmanship with modern materials, creating strong, lightweight vessels. It's a dance between art and engineering, yielding beautiful, sea-worthy crafts. Curious about how strip planking could shape your nautical adventures? Dive deeper to explore the art of boat construction.
Parker Brown
Parker Brown

Strip planking is a type of boat building method where relatively thin strips of wood are fastened to an inner framework or molding. The strips are usually relatively thin and narrow, resulting in a building material that is very easy to use. This makes the strip planking-shaping process a relatively easy and simple method, as very little special cutting is required. Typically, the strips are at least half an inch (0.01 m) in thickness and one and a half times the thickness in width at the absolute most. One of the more unique features about strip plank construction is that the hull does not need to be held together by fasteners; instead, it is held together with an epoxy or glue.

Much like other types of boat building, strip planking construction starts by creating a frame or mold. With strip planking, however, one can go either way. Some larger vessels will require a permanent frame and bulkheads, where the wood strips are permanently fastened to the framing through the use of a fastener, such as epoxy, nails, or both. In most constructions, lighter boats of a strip plank construction will not require a permanent frame. In this case, the frame—also known as the mold—is coated in polyethylene for easy removal after the gluing process.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

When it comes to fastening the stripping to the frame or mold, a variety of methods can be used depending on the size and design of the boat. Strip planking usually uses either epoxy or nails for fastening and, occasionally, a combination of both. Typically, nails are only useful on larger vessels, where they are needed for adequate re-enforcement. Not only that, but nails can also provide an excellent alternative to clamps during the fastening process. Yet in most applications, nails and similar fasteners are only used to hold the stripping in place while the glue dries.

On smaller vessels, nail-like fasteners are not nearly as necessary. This is because the thickness and width of the stripping is small enough so that glue and clamps can be used exclusively in the construction process. Nails are especially uncommon in thin or softwood strip planks, as they have a tendency to not hold well.

Planking can start from either the front, back, or middle of the boat. After the strip planking process is complete, the hull undergoes fairing. This is a sanding process that takes away any bumps or imperfections along the hull, resulting in a well-blended finish. After the fairing is completed, the hull receives a final coat of epoxy or fiberglass. This varies with the design of the boat or the preference of the builder.

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