Caulking video with East Anglian Brian Upson

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What can I say? This time our hero Dylan Winter is fascinated as boatyard owner Brian Upson of the River Alde caulks a hull that probably needs a new plank or two.

Click here too for a moment of peace as Dylan fearlessly sails his fixed-keel boat up the narrow channel towards Snape. I really should tell him about the Blaxhall Ship before he moves on…

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4 thoughts on “Caulking video with East Anglian Brian Upson”

  1. Interesting to see that caulking demo.

    I was taught during my apprenticeship to caulk the other way, from left to right.

    You loop the caulking into the seam with a sharp iron, holding the iron in your left hand and scraping up an inch or so of the cotton to the seam, against the planking. You adjust the size of the loop depending on the width of the seam. Working left to right everything is in front of you and you can see what you are doing – for a right hander. I have never met a left handed caulker.

    Then you take the crease iron that suits the seam, and working from left to right again you firm the cotton into the seam. By working from the left you can rock the iron in the seam, smoothly walking it along the seam and striking it with the mallet as you go. You tip the leading edge of the iron off the caulking and shift it forwards, striking it with the mallet as it rocks back into full contact with the cotton. That way the firming of the cotton is a continuous process, not one of stop and start. You build up a working rhythm which is quite cathartic.

    We always had a wooden block with a pad of cotton fixed to it and soaked in linseed oil close at hand. When the iron got sticky and pulled the cotton you wiped it on the pad to free it up.

    Also, both in caulking new work and re-caulking, you would prime the faces of the seam – usually metallic pink primer – so there would be a proper bind with the red or white lead and linseed oil putty stopping and so the oil wouldn't be leached into the bare wod too fast, making the stopping dry and liable to crack and fall out.

    When I started I used a carpenter's mallet as in the video – though a bigger one – but then I was given a proper caulking mallet by a retiring boatbuilder.

    The caulking mallet took a lot of learning and brought into play some new muscles in your wrist and forearm, but it was so much better to use as it did most of the work for you and you didn't have to put nearly as much force into the swing as you did with the carpenter's mallet.

    But then, there are probably as many ways to caulk as there are caulkers.

    Best wishes


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