Flatten Ship Plans

by David

What is the best way to flatten large paper plans?

If the plans are vintage or antique, and potentially valuable, find an archivist for advise how to best preserve the plan.

Assuming the plan has limited intrinsic value, there are a few things that affect which would be the best method. In general though, paper may be fragile and the gentler you proceed, the better.

Here are some circumstances that will effect what method to use:

Type of Print

There are several different types of print used for ship plans. Some of the more common are:
  • Ink

    In the last 20 years inkjet printers has become the most frequently used printing method for large format printing. The downside is that the ink is water-soluble.

  • Toner-Based Print

    Toner is a powder made up of carbon dust and a heat sensitive resin as a bonding agent. The toner is transferred to paper in an electrostatic process and bonded to the paper with heat and pressure.

  • Whiteprint

    The process is also called Diazo printing process. These prints are copied from a master typically of vellum or Mylar film. A tell-tale sign is that the text of the plan has a blue hue to it and generally fuzzier than the previous methods. UV light has a negative effect on both print and paper: The print fades and the paper yellows and become brittle. The print is waterproof.

Folded or Rolled

Plans you purchase as hard copies can be folded or rolled. Mailing rolled plans are generally more expensive and is sometimes avoided for that reason. I generally advise against folding because wrinkles are a lot more difficult to contend with than curled sheets.

Flattening Methods

Rolled Plans

The best way to deal with rolled plans that won't stay flat, is also the most obvious. lay them on a flat surface with weights along the edges. You may need to leave the plan like that for a few days or weeks to let them acclimatize, but it's the absolutely best way. There is virtually no stress put on the paper and distortion is minimized.

If you want to speed it up, you may be able to enclose the plans in this state and raise the humidity level with a humidifier or a wet rag in a bowl. Be careful though, if the vapor condenses the ink may run or mold/mildew may start to grow.

Leave it like that for a few hours. If you have the space, you can hang the plans to dry in free air, lightly weighted in one end. Otherwise weigh it down flat, preferably on a surface that can breathe. By the way, when drying, always separate if there are more than one sheet.

Folded Plans

Most plans I have that were purchased as folded, I've since stored rolled up. Generally, after a while the creases seems to diminish.

If the plan has been stored folded for a while, try the method described above with rolled plans. Leave it in a humidified state for a few hours, after which the plan can be rolled up on the outside of a paper mailing tube or rolled up brown-paper (the larger diameter the better, generally). Use paper, not plastic, since it will permit the plan to breathe and dry out. The plan needs to be held on the tube. Avoid rubber bands as they will wrinkle the plans. A better way is to use paper strips or sheets wrapped on the outside and taped.

Nether of the methods so far may be enough for the Whiteprinted copies (as described above). The last option is to spritz the wrinkles lightly with water and go over it with an iron. Experiment with the temperature, but you want the water to just barely evaporate. Please note, if the print is inkjet printed or toner based, the water/iron may ruin the plan.

I hope this will help.


Comments for Flatten Ship Plans

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Thanks for the help
by: David

My plans were rolled clockwise and then counterclockwise for the first 3-4" of the plan at the title block. Not sure why they would do that. These plans were purchased through the Dossin Great Lakes museum. Looks like all I can do is weight them as you suggested. They are very difficult to lay flat with this "double roll".

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