Planking the Deck of a Model Ship

The first stage to planking the deck is to fit the false deck to the frame. The false deck is usually made from 1mm plywood and will need to be slightly adjusted for the various bulkhead notches if supplied with your kit. Mark the centre line on the deck from bow to stern ensuring that it is lined up squarely with the false keel and that the bulkheads fit through the notches on the false deck. This fit should be neither snug nor loose. The false deck will allow the deck planking to fit easier and lie flatter and more evenly.

The false deck is cambered from the midline to both the starboard and port sides. The amount of camber is usually shown on the waterline drawing that comes with the kit the dimensions of which should be marked by the builder on the bulkheads as a guide. If the plans do not indicate the camber, the general rule is ¼” rise to every foot. Thus in our 1:48 example from the last article where the breadth (beam) is 56 feet, the rise would be 13/32″ or 10mm from the centre line to the edge of either the port side or starboard side. Make sure that the sheer plan (length) matches the body plan (depth) and remember that deck curvatures do not always follow the same curvature of the hull sheer exactly. This is because the stern of the ship sits lower in the water than the bow. The level mid point between the stern and the bow is about ¾ of the length of the ship between the stern and the bow. If the plans do not match make adjustments or else fittings like cannons will not sit properly on the deck (cannons should be pointing slightly down). You should also measure the distance from the waterline to the top of the false deck to ensure accuracy with the hull. If need be you can soak the false deck in warm water or warm water with ammonia in order to get the rough curvature that you need. Remember when soaking wood, you should only use warm water and leave the piece in the water for no more than 15 minutes. This way the cells of the wood will be pliable but not broken down.

Once you are happy with the camber of the false deck, make sure that it fits snuggly up to the false keel adjacent to the sternpost or rudder post. Using wood glue and pins adhere the false deck to the bulkheads. Once the false deck is firmly in place, mark and cut out the openings previously marked for the masts, hatches, gratings and companion ways. It is better to do this after the false deck is in place because of the camber of the deck.

Now you are ready to apply planking to the false deck. The decks were usually light coloured. The width of the plank for our 18th Century model is between 8 …