Repairs to USS Constitution‘s exterior and interior stern planking at the spar deck level began in late 2015. Below is a photo gallery of the stern work executed over the last four months by the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston ship restorers.

Exterior Planking

NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorers removed rotten planks from the exterior of Constitution‘s stern and exposed the live oak framing that was installed in 1927. New laminated white oak planks were mounted just above the captain’s cabin windows.

[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
In this photo from December 2015, two NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorers stand on the scaffolding that surrounds USS Constitution in dry dock and discuss the next step in replacing the ship’s stern planking at the spar deck level. One laminated white oak plank has already been installed. The thin, brown lines across the new plank denote the hot glue laminated scarf joints. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
The live oak framing that makes up Constitution‘s stern was installed in the 1927-1931 restoration. The entire stern, except for the framing, was replaced in 1970. Portions of the stern planking were selectively replaced during the 1992-1996 restoration. As seen in this photo, the frames are pock-marked by holes that have been drilled over time. These holes are from the galvanized pins that secure the planks. Most of the holes are filled with oak dowels, thereby helping to maintain the strength of the frames. To the left of the red mallet is a live oak filler piece that was installed to replace a rotted section of a frame. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorers Bruce Comeau (left) and Jeremy Hafley install a new live oak sill for one of the spar deck stern windows. The three windows at the spar deck level are holdovers from Constitution‘s retrofit in the late 1850s, when a poop cabin was built over her quarterdeck. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

Interior Planking

Upon the completion of the exterior stern planking in January 2016, NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorers began work on the interior spar deck level stern planking. This work is scheduled to be completed by early March 2016.

[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
As seen in this February 1, 2016 photo, ship restorers have removed the stern’s rotten interior planks, installed new interior sills for the three windows, and filled the holes in the frames. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorer Greg Weisman chips away at interior planking to prepare for the installation of a new white oak piece. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorers fit the first layer of the new interior plank. The completed plank will be comprised of two layers of oak cut from the white oak trees felled in Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) in Crane, Indiana. Using manual hydraulic jacks, wedges, and oak strongbacks, ship restorers secure the plank prior to pinning it in place. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
NHHC Detachment Boston ship restorer Bruce Comeau uses a handheld circular saw to trim a piece that will become the second layer of the stern planking at the spar deck level. This plank must be trimmed to match the first plank layer already installed on the interior of the stern. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
Wedges are used to hold the cut open as Comeau saws through the white oak plank. Later on, the wedges will be driven through to split off the trimmed section. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
Comeau trims a laminated white oak piece that will be fitted into the after corner of the ship’s stern. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
[Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]
As seen in this photo from late February 2016, the spar deck level stern planking is nearly complete. Several smaller pieces have yet to be fitted between the 27 foot by 14 inch solid white oak planks. The new pieces will then be primed and painted dark green, which is an accurate representation of Constitution‘s paint scheme during the War of 1812. [Courtesy Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston]

– M. M. Desy & K. Monea

The Author(s)

USS Constitution Museum
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