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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Boat as Sculpture

Scuplture is the art of the hole and the lump.
-- August Rodin

Architecture is inhabited sculpture.
-- Constantin Branscusi

Boat as Sculpture

I prefer boat as sculpture, as opposed to an assemblage of parts and pieces.

Both ways have advantages. An assemblage can be fully or partially disassembled for repair or extension. Each piece is a small bite, easily chewed. Maybe rebedding is all that's called for. Then again, maybe you're removing it because the bedding has worked and failed?

A sculpture, on the other hand, is all of a piece, bonded together as one.

Should some area go amiss - rot set in, say, or blunt trauma damage - the affected region is destructively excised. Maybe cut, chiseled or planed away. Then a repair is fit and bonded in, resculpting the boat.

A big advantage is that water intrusion behind mounted pieces (as opposed to bonded pieces) is much reduced. 

Another is that boat bonded as sculpture is essentially monocoque, like the shell of an egg. Forces are distributed far and wide, and the whole structure works together to provide strength.

In contrast, boat as assemblage is multicoque, like a picket fence. In a carvel hull (plank on frame construction), relatively heavy, criss-crossed grids are fastened at their intersections (relatively fragile) and corked (relatively fragile) along their edges. The nearest weak point is only half a plank away.

Modern resins, glues and sheet materials make the sculptural approach more attractive.

A sheet of plywood is so large, there's little advantage in treating it like a traditional plank. Fillets and tape 'n' glue joins are not easily to take apart. Removal destroys piece or damages it to the point that repair is more work than replacement.

So... once started, why stop?

Corner posts, rub rails, tabernacles and the like take a few minutes to cut away if, when and where necessary, with that certain schadenfreude of demolition. We get a little taste of the ecstasy of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction/transformation/creation.

Most times a partial repair (graving or patch) is all that's necessary, and even full replacement of a bonded component is usually a minor project, limited in scope. We're aided by not having to dismount much before beginning a repair... just whack on and replace what you carved away.

To be sure, we still mount plenty of pieces onto our sculpture. Handrails, hatch coamings, cleats, pad eyes, mounts, deck flanges and a slew of other items get bedded down and fastened to our boat. These can be removed and moved without destruction.

Hmm... boat as Mr. Potato Head?

Doesn't ring the same, somehow.

Stanley FUBAR
My favorite sculpting tool...
Not bad for zombies, either.


Tips and Tricks for Removal / Resculpting
  • When cutting away, it often helps to carefully delimit the perimeter of the affected area with full depth cuts. Then go hog wild with the rest, splitting away in long strokes. Longitudinally splitting material stops at your cuts.
  • Be aware of grain run-out which can dive deeper than you intend. Remove material working from the deep end of the grain (splits don't dive below control depth).
  • Full strength, glued scarf joints should taper at about 12:1. Consider that full strength is only necessary here and there... check the context. Much easier alternatives include butt plates, straps and variations on Payson Butt Joints.
  • Consider sealing the components of the sculpture before bonding together, and then again as a whole, both initially and in repair.
  • A arrival on the scene is the oscillating multi-tool. This is most useful as a plunge cutter in limited space (for example, the back cut of a notch). Also tight radius curve cutting. It's very useful for surgery in repair.
You can just SEE the possibilities!

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