The work of rebuilding and restoring USS Constitution requires skilled ship restorers and riggers. They couldn’t accomplish their tasks, however, without a production facility to support the unique work of restoring America’s largest wooden historic vessel. The three videos below, that have been filmed over the past 18 months, focus on the equipment, facility, and ship restorers that help to keep “Old Ironsides” afloat.

The Charlestown Navy Yard’s Dry Dock 1, part of the National Park Service’s Boston National Historical Park, is maintained for the use of just two historic vessels: USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young. In fact, Constitution was the first naval vessel ever to enter Dry Dock 1, on June 24, 1833. Cassin Young was overhauled in Dry Dock 1 between 1978 and 1981, after she arrived in Boston to become a museum ship.

The greater part of the work performed on Constitution for the 2015-2017 restoration has been hull planking. As of November 2016, 96 planks, both above and below the waterline, have been removed and replaced with either laminated or solid white oak. Bow and stern planks must be bent into the appropriate curves and for every one-inch thickness of oak, the plank must be steamed for approximately one hour. Constitution‘s hull planks vary in thickness from four inches to nearly seven inches.

Nearly 50 permanent and term ship restorers and riggers of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston have been working on Constitution‘s 2015-2017 restoration. The scaffolding, installed by Zampell, permits the NHHC Detachment Boston staff to access both above and below the waterline on Constitution. As work on the ship has progressed, the placement of the scaffolding has been altered to match the work areas on the hull.

Constitution Cam, which takes a photograph of the ship ever 20 minutes, is a great way to keep up-to-date with daily work on “Old Ironsides.”


The activity that is the subject of this blog article has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage Grant program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, Chairman. However, the contents and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The Author(s)

Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command

Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Phaedra Scott
Content Developer, USS Constitution Museum

Phaedra Scott was the Content Developer at the USS Constitution Museum from 2016 to 2017.

Kate Monea
Manager of Curatorial Affairs, USS Constitution Museum

Kate Monea is the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the USS Constitution Museum.