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From a Bare Hull:  Deck Beams


Main Foredeck Beams
foredeckbeamdrawing.jpg (25754 bytes)
Because of the very simple and open design of the deck on this boat, nearly all of the deck beams were to be short pieces, with only a few full-width beams used in the design.  Full width beams were in fact limited to the foredeck area (forward of the cabin trunk) and the extreme after part of the boat, aft of the cockpit.  Since the cockpit and cabin sizes and shapes were largely to be determined visually as I went along (with some reference from my basic construction drawing), I decided to begin by building and installing the foredeck beams, the longest beams in the boat.  Daily, for seven days, I laminated up a beam a day (the first one being my beam mold).


foredeckbeams1.jpg (47315 bytes)With the necessary deck beams laminated and planed smooth, I arranged the six beams in the proper locations along the sheerline, sitting on top of the edge of the hull.  (I did the beam layout during the sheer clamp placement.)  Even though the beams looked a little funny sitting on top of the hull, it did give an impression of what the finished deck would look like.

Now all I had to do was trim the ends of each beam to fit in the space between the hull sides, supported at the proper height by the sheer clamp.  In theory, this seemed simple enough, but I soon found that it was far more complex than anticipated--a fact that was further complicated by the fact that I had to learn as I went.


deckbeamfit1.jpg (54996 bytes)It took me several hours, all told, to mark and fit the first deck beam--the smallest one all the way forward.  I chose this one to start since it was the smallest one, so if I made an irreversible mistake it would be easier (and less wasteful) to relaminate a replacement.  However, I learned a great deal from my first foray into beam fitting, and in about another hour's time I managed to mark and fit two additional beams, so I was obviously getting the hang of it.

Rather than digress into a detailed description of the fitting process, I would choose to refer you to the myriad texts on the subject.  The book I have that has been of great use during several portions of this project is How to Build a Wooden Boat, by David C. (Bud) McIntosh.  Suffice it to say that each beam, particularly those near the more dramatic curves of the bow, required a number of cuts in order to fit properly:  angle cuts on each end, to match both the curvature of the sheer towards the stem as well as the flare of the hull, and birds' mouth cuts on the undersides of the beams so that the beams rest flush on the sheer clamp and at the appropriate height--which, in this case, meant about 3/4" below the height of the sheer to account for the 2-layer plywood decking.


deckbeamfit3.jpg (43861 bytes)Getting the first beam to fit was a challenge for several reasons.  First, I made the mistake of cutting the miter cuts at the end before marking the rest of the cuts on the beam, so I ran into trouble holding the beam in the proper position on the highly-angled (in two directions) sheer clamp at that location.  And getting the cuts just right took many trips up and down off the staging for fine-tuning, partly because I marked the beam in a less-than-ideal manner in the first place.  After an hour or so of this frustration, I consulted McIntosh (which, dumbly, I had neglected to do beforehand) and discovered a much easier and more accurate method of marking the beams for cutting.  Coupled with my experience on fitting the first beam, the new technique made all the difference in the world, and I managed to cut the next two beams in a greatly reduced time.

Note that a more extreme amount of the first two beams had to be removed in order to fit at the proper height around the sheer clamp.  Because of the difficulty in bending the clamp down to the proper marks at the most forward extreme, it ended up slightly higher than ideal.  Had the beams featured a longer span, where the full strength of the laminations would be needed, I would have modified the clamp accordingly, or taken whatever steps were necessary in order to ensure that it bent to the proper line, but in this case I didn't worry about it.  Starting with the third beam from the bow, the clamp was located at its proper marks, so each additional beam would have only a small amount cut from the bottom in order to fit properly.


foredeckbeams1.jpg (42304 bytes)Later, I finished fitting the full-width beams that support the foredeck.  The aftermost of these beams corresponds with the forward edge of the carlin that will define and support the cabin trunk (see the drawing at the top of this page); the curved carlin will be tangent to this final deck beam once it is installed.  With the exception of one or two full-width beams at the stern of the boat, aft of the cockpit, all remaining beams were to be shorter lengths, spanning the distance between the hull and the yet-to-be-installed carlines.


foredeckbeams3.jpg (40445 bytes)Once I got the hang of the measuring and marking process, fitting the beams proceeded smoothly.  I made a measuring error on the third beam from the bow and ended up cutting it short by about an inch on each end, so I was forced to laminate a new blank and start over.  I found myself staring at the marks on the beam that I had made six days earlier, the last time I had been at the boat, and things simply didn't click for me, which led to the error in cutting.  Once I realized what the mistake I made had been, I marked and cut the remaining three beams without further incident or problem.


foredeckbeams4.jpg (41069 bytes)With the first six deck beams roughed in, the ultimate appearance of the deck began to become more clear.  There were a number of small jobs that I needed to complete before installing the beams permanently, so I left them loosely in place while I began other tasks.  Before final installation, the exposed beams will require additional detailing, including sanding and a bead or roundover detail on the bottom edges.

Before anyone writes, please note that in the photo to the right, you will see what appear to be huge gaps between the beams and the sheer clamp.  While there is some play, the reason the gaps look big is because I marked around the edges of all the beams with a black marker to help locate them later, during final installation, and the marker also left marks on the beams themselves, creating the photographic illusion of a gaping opening.

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All photos and text on this site 2002-2009 by Timothy C. Lackey and Lackey Sailing, LLC
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