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Bending a plank for the P.S Melbourne

This week Captains and Shipwright, Chris Pointon and Andrew Cook undertook the monumental task of bending planks for the bow of the Paddle Steamer Melbourne. This is a difficult task, as if you look very closely at this section of the Melbourne, it is a very tight bend, and difficult to shape without snapping the timber.















The first step was to measure the angle required, as previously, this section was shaped directly onto the boat, so not requiring external shaping equipment. It was much safer and more efficient this time around, for Andrew and Chris to construct a metal frame, in the correct shape of the bow of the Melbourne, to bend the timber over, externally from the boat itself.

Once the metal frame was created, it was time to select the right piece of timber, free of as many imperfections as possible, and place it into the steamer and boiler to soften it, for manipulation into shape.

This piece is 6 metres in length, 125cm x 75cm.

It was then steamed for 3 hours.








The plank was then carefully placed onto the bending frame Andrew and Chris had created and secured into place, at the tightest section of the bend. A block and tackle were fastened to the opposite end of the plank and the frame directly beneath it, so it could slowly and gradually pull the plank down over the frame.

The tractor was used merely to keep the plank centred over the frame itself.

Gradually, as the plank wrapped around the metal frame, Chris would use a clamp to hold it in place. Andrew would then pull slightly more on the block and tackle and this process essentially went on for another half an hour, pulling down, clamping the next section and so on.

Finally, the tractor was removed, so the plank could be pulled down the last little section. For this final bit to occur, a “come-along” was also attached to the end of the plank for the final pull.

The last of the clamps we added to hold the plank in place, where it remained overnight.

What are the guys doing now!? Preparing this process all over again today, for the next plank!

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Thanks for the story and photographs. Could you add a photograph of the bent plank after it is removed from the metal frame ?

I am looking for any information about, or showing the manner of use of, the custom made mechanical plank bender in the following photographs. I bought it at a Coffs Harbour weekend market, second hand. I can think of a couple of methods of using it.

I have a wooden ship in Europe, which now needs three or four planks (35mm x 200mm x 3000+mm) replaced (larch planks damaged by hitting a metal ladder that was part of a dock in a harbour during a storm in October 2023). The ship was parallel to the dock,…



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