Constructing a Wooden Whaler
Wooden ships like this 8-m (26-ft) whaler are built in stages. Because the timber must be steamed into the properly curved shapes, a fairly complex skeleton and bracing system is needed. Here, workers place horizontal planks called strakes to form the smooth curve of the hull on the starboard side of the ship.
The smooth-planked, or carvel-built, boat was developed in the Mediterranean region and was probably a natural evolution of the craft constructed of short planks bolted edge to edge used by the ancient Egyptians. Plank and frame construction was probably fully developed before ancient Greece rose to maritime prominence. As in lapstrake construction, the use of pegs probably preceded the use of metal fastenings between plank and framing.
A framing system made of almost equally spaced transverse frames fastened to a continuous keel and strengthened by a pair of gunwales running from bow to stern was a logical step in the development of smooth-planked boats. The problem of seam leakage was solved by using wood tar and caulking material, as in earlier lapstrake craft.
In so-called smooth-lap construction, developed in the 19th century, plank edges are rabbeted, or shaped, so that they lap and still remain smooth at the seams; the rabbeted laps are nailed in the usual lapstrake manner. See Woodworking: Carpentry.
In the early 20th century the use of lapstrake construction decreased, while carvel construction became more popular. The shift was caused largely by the need for extreme structural strength necessitated by the use of motors in small boats. Carvel construction also better met the demand for fast sailing craft used for racing.