Vietnam Wooden Boats

Sewn Plank Boat Building Project

March-April 2004, Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province 

Page 1 (go to page 2 showing the completed construction)

The "sewn plank" boat was built in central Vietnam up through the 60's and early 70's. As with all traditional boats built in Vietnam, the boat builders had no boat drawings to build the boats with, rather a knowledge and skill handed down from generation to generation. This boat type was a high maintenance boat, could not tolerate the vibrations of engines and therefore was used primarily in inland waterways for people and cargo transport. Depending on the size and use, these boats were sometimes fitted with a sail.  The boat shown below and on a following page is the only known replica of this boat in existence.    (Click on the pictures below to enlarge picture)  (Click here to see pictures of old sewn plank boats)

bb1.jpg (76121 bytes)Plank shape is drawn. There were no boat drawings, it was based on passed-down skill. bb3.jpg (82570 bytes)Planks are hand sawed.  bb2.jpg (84511 bytes)Plank edges are then beveled.
bb4.jpg (78278 bytes)This is 1/2 of the boat's bottom plank being heated in order to bend it. bb5.jpg (77999 bytes)The bottom and side planks are in two parts joined in a tightly fitted joint. bb6.jpg (101293 bytes)All tools used were hand tools with one exception: an electric drill was used for drilling of holes.
bb7.JPG (102229 bytes)The joints were sealed with a soft bark which swells when exposed to the water. bb8.jpg (80428 bytes)One of the heated ends is prepared for bending. bb9.jpg (81070 bytes)The elderly boatbuilders have not seen a camcorder.
bb10.jpg (84467 bytes)Both ends of the bottom plank are under stress to form a gentle curve. bb11.jpg (64077 bytes)Mr. Quang Le hand sharpens his saw. bb12.jpg (77422 bytes)Bottom and first saide planks are laid out and drilled with matching holes for sewing.
bb13.jpg (77558 bytes)Checking the line-up. bb14.jpg (94966 bytes)Side planks are held in place for sewing by a system of twisted cable. bb15.jpg (94625 bytes)Bundles of soft bark are covered with bamboo strips and then sewn together with rattan strips.
bb16.jpg (75978 bytes)Each pairing of holes are used to join planks with a multiple-looped rattan strip. bb17.jpg (74242 bytes)The rattan loops are wrapped with a thinner rattan strip. bb18.jpg (91674 bytes)
bb19.jpg (79873 bytes)Mr. Quang Le enjoys this boat building venture. bb20.jpg (85211 bytes)As the sewing progresses the twisted cables are moved along to hold the planks tightly together. bb21.jpg (83000 bytes)Bottom and first side planks are progressing.
bb22.jpg (97070 bytes) bb23.jpg (79581 bytes)Shim pieces are placed in the joint-line to tighten up the sewing. bb24.jpg (86418 bytes)The shim pieces will also provide some protection to the joint structure.
bb25.jpg (91425 bytes) bb26.jpg (85528 bytes)Work starts on securing the top plank. bb27a.jpg (40897 bytes)Getting ready to sew on the fifth and last major plank.

Go to page 2 showing the completed construction.

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