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Steam Box Art


Unlike fiberglass boats, which get their shapes from a highly polished mold, wooden boats rely on hundreds of unique, handcrafted frames to get their curvaceous good looks. Much like a skeleton, a wooden boat’s internal frames give the boat its shape and structural integrity.

Cutting and fitting these frames is easy enough — generally speaking — but fabricating and installing the planks that cover them can be challenging, especially in larger vessels. To get the job done, shipwrights first measure and then cut the planks to size using saws, chisels, hand planes, adzes and axes — or whatever they can get their hands on that works.

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Though the planks are shaped with extreme accuracy, they are too dry and stiff to conform to the shape of the hull. To make it more pliable, shipwrights load the plank into a steam box to soften it up. After a couple of hours, the plank can be removed and then coaxed into place using sledgehammers, wedges, clamps and screws. This video shows the process.

The boat in the video is Fremad II, a 130-year-old fishing vessel being restored at the Hardanger Ship Preservation Center in Vågå, Norway.


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VIDEO: A Tight Fit

Building a wooden boat is a little bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Watch as a shipwright uses traditional techniques to install deck planking on the 130-year-old fishing vessel Fremad II. WATCH


VIDEO: Shipwrights: The Next Generation

Luke Powell is leading a team of boatbuilders who are crafting a recreation of a 68-foot Falmouth Pilot Cutter named Vincent, which was originally launched in 1852. The goal of the project is to train up aspiring young shipwrights in the traditional methods required to build these graceful wooden sailboats.


129-Year-Old Chesapeake Bugeye Sails Again

Edna E. Lockwood, a 129-year-old Chesapeake Bay bugeye, will relaunch in St. Michaels, Maryland, Saturday after a multi-year restoration effort.


Handcrafting Pellew

Working Sail is a British organization that is working to keep the art and craftsmanship of traditional wooden boatbuilding alive. Their latest project is Pellew, a recreation of a 68-foot Falmouth Pilot Cutter named Vincent, which was launched in 1852. This video shows some of the methods and materials being used to build her.


Building Arabella By Hand

Plenty of people might call friends Stephen Denette and Alix Kreder crazy. The two are building a 38-foot Atkins ketch in their backyard — from the keel up, using trees they felled and milled themselves.


Is Your Boat's Engine Ready for Winter?

While it isn’t winter yet, it’s certainly the right time to devise a game plan for putting your boat’s engine(s) away for the winter… the right way.


Head: VIDEO: The Home Stretch

Launched on Oct. 5, 1889 at Tilghman Island, Maryland, the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood is undergoing a complete restoration at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. Among the work completed to date was the total removal and replacement of her nine-log bottom. This video has an update about the wrap-up work being done before Edna is relaunched later this year.


A Shocking New All-Electric Pilot Boat

Robert Allan Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, has released the design for a 52-foot, all-electric, aluminum pilot boat with a top speed of 20 knots and a range of 5 nautical miles. The boat is powered by twin 720-volt, 500-kW electric motors.