Bending Matter

Last week I shot this time-lapse video (above) that shows the beginning process of installing a wooden plank for the hull of the row boat (yawl) we are building in the Small Boat Shop at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The board has been sitting in a metal box getting steamed so it will be pliable. The basic formula is that you steam a board an hour for every inch of its thickness–in this case we had a one inch board being steamed for an hour. After the board comes out of the steamer it’s flexible. I like to tell park visitors that it’s like “cooking pasta,” except it only lasts a few minutes before the board hardens back so we have to plan it all out and be coordinated. As the video shows, as soon as the board comes out it’s a rush to get it placed on the frame and then clamped so it can take shape, but also taking care not to bend or stress the board too much so as not to snap it. After it hardens, the process of fastening the board down with rivets and further shaping it to get it the right thickness will commence. A couple of other things I’m glad this video shows is the platform that park visitors can step up on to watch the process. For the most part they want to know whats going on and to ask questions, which is great and I really like doing engaging with them and talking about what we are doing. This allows for an educational aspect of engaging the public that I find really appealing, and I feel like visitors will take home more after these types of encounters. And as a Latino Heritage Intern, I also try to talk to visitors who I hear speaking Spanish. The other part of this video that I really like is that in the background one of the park’s ships, C.A. Thayer, is bobbing up and down. The boat we are building is a replica of the yawl that used to hang off the stern (back) of the Thayer. It’s a connection I like to point out to visitors so they can visualize what we are ultimately aiming for. So not only are we building a boat and rebuilding history, but also creating an ongoing educational tool.

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