Nick Smith planks up Louise – and uses a novel steaming technique

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Planking Louise: Nick uses an on-the-spot steaming
device for the garboards

Hampshire-based boatbuilder Nick Smith is currently planking up a new project, Louise. She’s  a 16ft loa, 6ft beam and will draw about 14in, and built with khaya mahogany planking.

She’s destined for customers in Newton Ferrers,  and won’t be kept on a mooring but will be dry sailed on estuaries and rivers. Her internal layout will be identical to  Nick’s last project Lisa but compared with that boat she will be smaller and more lightly built for ease of launching and recovery, and with finer ends and a flatter sheer.

She’ll have an 11hp Vetus twin diesel installed.

Nick has kindly sent us these photos illustrating his method of steaming garboards and often the first couple of planks in situ using a piece of old inner tube.

The arrangement here looks a bit Heath Robinson – it uses an old thinners tin with an old style kettle element in it – but Nick says it’s very effective and he also uses it to steam frames.

My suggestion, gentle reader, is that it might be a bit scary for most of us to try at home, unless you happen to have the skills of an electical engineer! I’d guess that a big, stable two-ring camping stove would be safer.

However, steaming on the spot is obviously a very neat trick. Nick says: ‘I can’t think who invented this method but I’ve not seen anyone else do it. It’s very effective, however: in the old days the boy would run with the hot plank from the steam box to the boat, but by the time he got there the board was almost cold. But this way the plank is in place already: you just slide the inner tube off, and cramp the hood end up in place.’

Click here for posts mentioning Nick’s previous project, Lisa. If you don’t already know him, Nick comes from Devon and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. He can be contacted by email at and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.

5 thoughts on “Nick Smith planks up Louise – and uses a novel steaming technique”

  1. I have also used a kettle element in an old milk churn. The element is isolated from the metal and the hole f or the element was sealed with epoxy putty. Works a treat and very useful for work indoors. No fumes smoke and gets the steam where you want it. As always enjoy reading the blog.

  2. A wallpaper stripper and a piece of plastic pipe works a treat, or even a flat plywood box to go over the end of the plank being steamed, as the pipe can droop after a bit of heat.

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