Bottom Replanking Revisited

(or Other Things You Need To Know)
by Sherwood Heggen

As promised, this is an article regarding the planking of the bottom of a typical wooden Chris Craft, Century, etc. It is an addendum to the previously published article on planking described in the December 2000 Gadgets and Kinks in the Boathouse, This is being done to done give a better understanding of what is required for this process before beginning the job. If you don’t have hard copy back issues of the Boathouse, the previous Gadgets and Kinks articles are available on the BSLOL website at

If you are considering replacing the bottom of your boat yourself, first consider your physical ability, your skills, and the equipment you have on hand.

First, let’s talk about physical ability requirements. Even though you will use power tools in the process, a lot of strenuous physical effort is still required. Boards that are 10 – 12 feet long, or longer, are heavy and awkward to move around. Be sure you can tolerate heavy lifting. Not all bottom parts will be in front of you and accessible when you are working on them nor will they always come loose or fall in place with a simple application of a screw gun or wrench. Many times acrobatic ability is an asset as you will be crawling around under or on top of open framework to remove and install parts. Removing stubborn bolts and screws can tax the muscles of the strongest hands and arms. Standing for long hours and reaching/leaning over the bottom during construction can be very tiring on the legs and back. Keep in mind the work environment is dirty and noisy and the effects of chemicals such as paint stripper, epoxy, varnish and thinners may have an effect on your physical well being. Know what you are sensitive to and protect yourself accordingly. It sounds like a horrible price to pay physically just to make a boat seaworthy, but these are real issues to consider. Woodworking skills are highly important. Knowledge of the correct selection and use of woodworking tools is not only important for the proper outcome of the project but also for your own personal safety. An accident in the shop can drastically change your life.

Equipment to replace a bottom can be quite extensive if you want to work independently. Minimally, power equipment should include a high quality saber saw, router, cordless drill, and circular saw. To make life easier, a band saw, table saw, routers of various sizes, a thickness planer, a jointer, a sanding disc, a drill press, an electric hand plane, various sanding tools and other such motorized woodworking conveniences should be available. In addition, hand tools, such as, screw drivers of various sizes, wrenches, hammers, chisels, hand planes, and many of clamps of various sizes are a necessity. A large, flat workbench is important for doing various related tasks. One more important part of replacing a bottom is adequate room to do it. An inside workshop is ideal, but even a covered area outside would work for working during fair weather. Regardless of the location, it must be an area that can be dedicated to that project for an extended period of time, typically, weeks or months.
As you work on a project you will need to invent or make equipment and tools to get unusual tasks done. As an example, a steamer is necessary to get the planks to lay down snug to the frames. Fitting planks that have not been steamed to shape is possible but results are poor to disastrous. Making a steamer has been also been previously discussed in the February 1999 Gadgets and Kinks of the Boathouse. Check it out and the picture below. Give me a call if you have any questions. It doesn’t need to be pretty, it just needs to be functional. Steaming is actually a lot of fun.

Also, it is vital to have a holding jig to assist in holding planks during steaming and fitting that can be temporarily attached to the hull framework. With this jig, wedges can be installed to hold the planks in place after steaming or installing screws. Use oak for the “arms” as the wedges apply a lot of force. Even with this tool, you will want a helper to hold and position the plank while you screw and wedge the plank into position after steaming. Check out the picture below for an example of the jig. Yours may differ according to the need.

This information certainly doesn’t tell all that is necessary to replace bottom planks but hopefully it has given you food for thought to decide whether or not you should attack the bottom replacement yourself. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest, this would rate a 4 because of the awkward standing or working positions that you must endure for long periods of time and the woodworking skills and tool knowledge required to be successful. If you feel comfortable with the above items, select your lumber, plane it to the proper thickness, and have at it!

You might have questions regarding restoration of your boat. Gadgets and Kinks is intended to be an educational service of the BSLOL Chapter to any reader and your inquiries are invited. Your question will be answered by myself or other BSLOL members who have knowledge related to the subject. You may submit your question to me by e-mail at  or by telephone at 715-294-2415 and an answer will come from a knowledgeable source. Really!
In the meantime, don’t destroy it; restore it.

There must be other pros and cons, but these are the obvious ones. You would have to make a decision on which one you want.

There is one more method that is a mix of the above two methods if you can’t decide on one or the other. Prior to assembling any parts, each pre-fit piece is coated with a couple of coats of penetrating epoxy. This seals the wood to keep water from saturating the wood. Assembly is done with planks bedded in caulking adhesive. This allows the boat to flex more to allow the more traditional “soft” ride. The world is full of choices and it doesn’t stop with boat restoration. This hopefully will get you thinking of how best to preserve your woodie.

O.K. – what do we keep in mind when we own one of these old wooden boats?

All together now…….. Don’t destroy it; restore it!