Removing planking


Unrepentant Canoeist
I'm trying to remove the planking at the stem of my OT HW, so I can remove the deck, and strip the paint in the stem area. Both the rails and the stem are holding the nails very well -- I fear I'm doing more damage to the planking than I should be doing. I'm trying to lift the nails out by sliding a putty knife under the planking by the nails, and forcing the nails out, but so far I'm getting less than 50% successful nail removal, and the rest end up tearing the nail head through the plank. Needless to say, this doesn't look good for the planking. I'm not finding any tips in Stelmok & Thurlow... Any hints would be appreciated!

There is also some damage (splitting, a little rot) on the stem and rail ends), so I need to remove the planking so I can address that as well.

Thank you in advance,
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Planking removal with minimal damage

I use a pair of micro dykes or side cutters that have approximately a 30 degree angled cutting ends unlike the normal sidecutter that are essentially straight.. This enables me to work under the tack head, cut it off and then push the rest of the iack thru towards the interior of the canoe. There is often no or at worst, minimal damage to the planking surface in this process of getting under the tack head to cut it off.. Also pushing the cut tack thru towards the ribs or interior of the canoe also results in much less wood fiber tear out in the ribs that normally occurs when you pull a clenched tack thru the rib from the planking side. These micro sidecutters are available from EREM, a Swiss company that has a web site if you google it. I was fortunate to find mine at a yard sale for less than a dollar. They are quite pricey from EREM.

Pesky steel nails, oh, yeah

Well, not really much of a problem if one has a Dremel tool with a little rounded grinding shaft. Just carefully grind off the heads and use a putty knife to lift up/off the plank ends. Then find your little wire snips and grab the nail shaft with just holding pressure close to the stem surface and roll the captured shank out of the stem. You may want to re-grab the shank as it withdraws so as not to loose it if you are pinching it too tightly or it is brittle.

This technique is really an assist if one is going to laminate a stem , to preserve the original stem and reface for canvasing. Also helpful for attending to rib tips that need attention.

Good luck and .TAKE YOUR TIME !! Dave DeVivo
Well, thank you! Little details are huge...

The tack heads are recessed into the planking surface (a little detail I forgot to mention... my apologies!), so the nipper won't work, but the Dremel Tool & grinder should work well. The tacks seem pretty soft, so I'm guessing they're copper, and the heads should grind off easily.

Then, if I drill a small hole through the putty knife, and hold it down over the tack shaft, it should reduce splitting out of the stem/rails as I pull the tack shaft out... Definitely worth a try.

Thanks again!
Nippers work very well and sometimes even better if ground a bit. You push them in under the tack head and roll bit to find which way the tack will curl out. A grinder of any sort digs into the wood to grind down or cut off the head of the tack. Having tried both ways on the Yankee I did last summer I found that preferred the nippers and have several different kinds, all a bit different.
I use the same technique as Jan in the preceding post, only with a little blue crowbar shaped tack puller I bought from North Woods. I ground the tip thinner taking care not to widen the interior gap where the tack head goes. I find that with a little care the planking is hardly disturbed.
For really stubborn nails,

take a fresh bare hack saw blade, wrap an end with enough duct tape to make a hand grip.

use your putty knife to pry open a bit of a gap between the planking and stem or inwale, slide the blade into the gap and saw away.

If you can keep your putty knife between the blade and the inwale, you can avoid scars.
Going v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y... All the nails into the stem & inwales are steel, not copper. Even some of the nails that only go into the ribs are steel. What's working best for me is a 5/64" drill for hard steel, drill the head until it comes off as a washer... but keeping the drill from skating off is a problem. Can't find a centerpoint drill in that small size, so will look into McMaster & Grainger.

An abrasive wheel on the Dremel cut a small slot into the end of a putty knife, which is used to keep the wood from pulling apart when pulling the nail shaft out with pliers. But it's s-l-o-w...

Meanwhile, I'm looking at the ends of the cant ribs, thinking some of these are toast, maybe beyond repair; see attached. They taper down to nothing, so they're pretty fragile. At what point do you decide to replace, rather than repair?


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GWhat's working best for me is a 5/64" drill for hard steel, drill the head until it comes off as a washer... but keeping the drill from skating off is a problem. Can't find a centerpoint drill in that small size,

The trick when you are drilling into the center of a small object (like a nail or tack head) is to use a center punch to create a small divet to guide your drill tip. The best way to do that is to use an automatic center punch. Here is a link to one that I pulled from Google just to offer as an example for you. You should be able to get one of these at Lowes... It's a great tool to have around and handy for something like this.

I'll be suffering along with you soon. I need to expose the stems on the IG I am working on.
I'd thought about using a center punch (& mallet), but thought the impact might not be a good thing... didn't think of these! Thanks!
Steel nails

And they are wicked hard ! So, Paul, I'll give this another try... Get a dremel grinding shaft that is rounded on the business end. Approach the center of the head slowly with a firm grip and at a slight angle. Control the movement with your thumb on the free hand first to put a well in the center and then to grind off the head as you rotate the grind path around the head. When you have done a couple of these you will know when you have taken off sufficient metal to have the head almost gone or so weak that it will pop off. This grind should take about two minutes max, and not touch the wood at all. ( Oh, and don't slip ).
If the nail heats up too much, then go to the second one and return to it.When the required nail heads are ground sufficiently, slip a putty knife under the plank front edge and the heads should pop off, if not they can be ground a little more.
The remaining shanks can be rolled out carefully with a little snips. Sometimes rotating the rusted shank with a needle-nosed pliers will free it up for the roll, and easy withdrawal.
I may have to get into the U-tube thingy...Good luck and be careful with the center punch. I think you need three hands, or a clincher strapped to your knee. BTW, copper-coated steel weatherstrip nails are good replacements here. Have fun, Dave DeVivo
I was working with the Dremel, much as you describe. I was hoping there was a less time-consuming way! Also seems the grinding burrs get dull very quickly on these nails, so I'm hoping there's a better grinder for hard steel out there somewhere...

Many thanks! I do get the impression I'm on the right track, which is a good thing. :)
Dremel grinder

Paul, interesting you are having an issue with the durability of the above. I think I have bought maybe, three in over 10 years of restoration work. I'll have to check on them soon. I recently opened both stems on a 1922 old town to laminate the faces of both. The process worked fine for me. Maybe, given that I am retired, I don't look at the clock when I restore.
I wish I were of more assistance on the nail issue, but you will find a way, I'm sure. Dave D.
I am trying to remove three broken ribs. To do so, I started by removing the tacks that go from outside the planking into the rib- to free the rib. In doing this, I have created "divet"s and small "gouges" to the outside of the planking-. It looks unsightly. I am concernd that these "gouges" will show up under the canvas when I get to that point. My questions are: l. How can these "gouges" be removed or filled. 2. Best way to remove ribs.
Since the rib is trashed anyway, you could use a nail set to whack the crimped end of the tack back through the rib. By doing this you raise the head of the tack above the plank for easy pulling. You won't have to dig for them to get an edge to pry on.