Friday, January 2, 2009

Ribs Down on the Jig

photo by Sean Antonioli

In this shot, you can see all of the frames or "ribs" laid out in sequence.

Sean took this a few years back at Squero Canaletto.
It shows so much about the gondola building process.

Each frame is not only different from the others, but asymmetric as well.

Once the frames have been created, they are laid out as you see here, on a long curved beam called a "cantier".
Also known as a "jig" in some parts of the english-speaking world, the cantier is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in a squero.
Each squero has at least one proprietary cantier.
The distance between the frames is determined by the cantier.
Some cantieri carry marks and measurements that make their gondole unique.
The curvature of each gondola comes from the cantier it was built on.

Experienced gondoliers can sense differences between boats built in different squeri; often times these difference are the result of differences between the cantieri they are built on.

Click and enlarge the image and you can see all sorts of interesting details, including the tail of another gondola in the background.

Thanks to Sean Antonioli for a most rare and educational photo.

1 comment:

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

Supposedly you can tell the age of gondolas by looking at the ribs. Where each rib is composed of two parts, that gondola is very old, while three-part ribs are signs of a modern age gondola (or maybe I mixed it up and it's vica versa)?

I am also not sure if ribs are ALWAYS asymmetric. One source says there are two ways to build "bendy" gondolas:
- design and build in asymmetry from the start
*or*
- make a symmetric gondola and then bend it using fire and water.

Supposedly the forced-bent gondolas are more valueable, because such method requires greater skill. Those boats also have a habit of suddenly self-destroying themselves after years of use, due to hidden stresses left in the construction. Is that an urban myth or reality?