Header photo (detail) courtesy Michael Eudenbach

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Building Molds for the Whaleboats Project

Here we see molds 1 and 2 labeled RtB

Gina here is joining a two piece half mold

and here

Mold # 1 for the ISM boat. These are long and narrow boats. 28' feet long and as Gina measured from the lofting board today, just under 6' beam. They are quick, maneuverable and responsive, and will have gaff rigs.

Mold parts awaiting assembly

More of that (those)

And yet more

Gina Pickton assembling parts into a complete mold

Laying them down onto the lofted lines to check for accuracy

putting it together

You can't really see it, but Gina has in hand a small template for drawing, then cutting, a keel rabbet before joining the mold halves

Keel rabbet

This is a model whaleboat from the museums collection, dusted off and installed in the visitors
section of the workshop so folks can see what the finished boats will look like. Gina says this little exhibit has been very successful.

Amistad, Gina worked aboard Amistad in 2007

courtesy Gina Pickton

Crewing aboard Gazela

courtesy Gina Pickton

Replanking schooner Dolphin

courtesy Gina Pickton

All photos Thomas Armstrong, unless otherwise attributed

Willets Ansel, author of The Whaleboat, defines molds as: 'Temporary forms used in whaleboat construction , around which the boat is planked'. Apparently the term is so ubiquitous I found no other definition in about two hours of searching the internet and boatbuilding texts including Chapelle. So let me attempt to expand on Willets' definition. Molds are built to conform to the inside form of a boat drawing, taken in regular vertical sections and serve as a framework around which the actual boat is built. Most common practice today in traditional construction of small boats have the molds set upside down and the boat is only turned right side up after planking is finished. The whaleboats are built right side up, like Norwegian small boats and most larger boats and ships.
The lines of a boat are drawn full size and laid down on a lofting board. The molds are cut to conform to these lines. Once built, the molds are secured to a 'strongback' or support frame or 'table' to allow the building of the boat.

I visited the boatshop today to see what progress had been made on the building of the molds for the two whaleboats. I found Gina Pickton, an employee of the workshop, busy putting together precut peices of the molds. The mold halves are joined after cutting rabbets for the keel to fit into. After they are joined more rabbets will be cut for battens or ribbands, horizontal strips running the length of the boat to tie the molds together. With molds and ribbands in place and the keel laid, all is secured to the strongback and planking can commence. These boats are unusual as the garboard, (gar·board/ˈgärˌbôrd/
Noun: The first range of planks or plates laid on a ship's bottom next to the keel.) and the next strake (1st strake) and the top two strakes (gunwale and sheer strake) are built lapstrake, while all other planking is carvel.
Gina and co. are building two sets of molds, one for the ISM boat and one for Rocking the Boat in NY.
When I visited, Gina was quite accommodating, answering my questions and allowing me to document her work. She also showed me a portion of a 6 hour (3)DVD set from Mystic Seaport which follows the construction of a whaleboat there. The team at WoW are using this as a guide to sequence their build and to answer many of the questions that come up along the way.

A quick note about Gina Pickton. She has been an employee of the boatshop for about 1.5 yrs. and has been involved with boats for over a decade, mostly larger boats, tall ships. All the work she has done prior to the whaleboat project has been repair/reconstruction maintenance type work. She allowed that she is very excited to participate in a ground up new build project.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Whaleboat molds were cut from the lofted plan last week. Two sets were made; one to send up to Rocking the Boat in NYC. The students there will be building a boat with Geoff Mc. while his cohort Tony A. is rowing another one of the boats built by the students to Maine and back as a fund raiser for the program.

The other set of molds will be erected at the Workshop on the Water. They will form the shape of things to come. Really they will shape the form of the whaleboat.

We will be following up soon with more on the molds and their setup, hopefully, watch this space. (ed)