Caulking and Splining


Hey guys,

Apologies for the silence, due to a nasty bug I was a little under the weather and so was not able to pay Saoirse any attention for a few weeks. Made up for this recently by spending a day working on her caulking and splining.

de-caulking-5

Some of Saoirse’s splines, kept safe to use as templates for replacements

As she is a carvel built hull she had been both caulked and splined previously, but due to sitting up for the last few years her timbers had dried out and shrunk and the gaps between the planks had opened up. This had lead to the splines coming out in large areas along her sides and also the splines getting very wet and soft. Luckily this softness hadn’t yet affected the planks in the hull but rather than wait for that to happen I decided to make a start on getting them all removed and letting the hull fully dry out.

The gaps between the planks after the loose splines were removed, brown paint is above the water line, blue is below.

The gaps between the planks after the loose splines were removed, brown paint is above the water line, blue is below.

See the biggest issue with a wooden boat being out of the water for this long is that fresh water (rain water) will cause softness and eventually rot in the wood, saltwater doesn’t have this effect on wood, while saltwater will swell a boat out, it does not cause rot in wood.

Getting the splines out was not too bad, as I mentioned above, they were mostly falling out by themselves due to the planks opening up. The caulking was another matter however, and it needed to come out as it was soaking! Some of the gaps that had opened up were sufficiently wide that I could pull the caulking out with a flat head screwdriver. Other bits were still well bedded in and either took a bit more persuading or are still in there pending me making up a hooked tool to help me pull it out.

Some of the larger gaps, you can just see the caulking bedded into the back

Some of the larger gaps, you can just see the caulking bedded into the back

I think my most disheartening moment thus far came when I was removing the caulking from the bottom planks, in front of the keel, and the small amount of water in her bilge started dripping out. Up to this she had been beautifully water tight below the waterline. But considering the amount of water her caulking was holding (it was dripping) I was very glad to get it out.

Link to Video of water dripping out of her: https://www.facebook.com/SaoirseTheFolkBoat/videos/185558458635742/

I have the caulking removed from almost half the boat (the starboard side). The biggest hold up I’ve had thus far is someone along the way needed to replace some splines and instead of getting new splines made up, used filler instead. I know it is a much easier job, but my goodness it is some pain to remove. As they had left the caulking in behind it I needed to get it out.

One of my attempts to remove the caulking filler used below the waterline (not a very successful attempt)

One of my attempts to remove the caulking filler used below the waterline (not a very successful attempt)

The filler is very chalky and is falling apart as I was trying to dig it out. If anyone has any ideas on removing it, it would be much appreciated as my hands are very sore from trying to dig it out. No to mention I am trying to be very careful not to gouge the wood around it.

To anyone looking at restoring a wooden boat, I know it is painstaking and difficult to remove and recaulk a boat (that is the barrel I am staring down at the moment) but it is really worth it. You learn a lot about your boat by getting this up close and personal with it. You start to see where edges of planks are starting to go soft, you really get to know the boat. And while it has been a painful job (which I am no where near finished), it is helping me assess what I need to do to get Saoirse on the water and make sure she can stay there.

The worst thing I can image right now would be getting her on the water only to find out a year or two later that I hadn’t found some softness in her hull and it had turned to rot and I was right back to square one, stripping her and replacing things again.

So while it is tough, I am finding it very worth it (please don’t remind me I said this when I’m being driven mad by trying to re-caulk her!!)

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