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Framing British Ships circa 1706

In studying a ship built in 1706 I read the framing description and looked at the sketch for ships built between 1650 and 1710 in Goodwin's Construction and Fitting British Man of Way. He states, and shows in the sketch, the floors rested on the hog,  but the first futtocks were fayed and bolted to the adjacent side of a floor and  terminated at a position about 18 inches to 24 inches away form the keel.  


This is the first time I have really looked at pre-1715 Establishment construction so  is a new area for me.  So far I cannot find another source that describes the first futtocks not resting on the keel.  If anyone has more details they can share, I would appreciate it very much.



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Hmm. I think that The Restoration Warship by Richard Ensor will have what you need, Allan. It covers the construction of Lenox, 70 guns of 1677-8, and is well researched, in amazing detail.

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Not surprising that first futtock doesn't contact the keel, Allen.  Somewhat earlier, it wouldn't even contact the floors.  Some traditions (Dutch and earlier English) set up the floored frames, then plank, then come back and scribe/fit the first futtock frames, spacing them between the floors.  You (and Lenox) are in a transition between the 'no contact' period and the double sawn and bolted frames of the later 18th century.

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This outline may well be a novel, but this is how I organize the
progression of framing.  
It is a progression over a long time period, but the introduction
of trade with the East added a profit factor and an incentive to
develop larger and faster vessels.

I will start with the Dutch about 1600.  As per Hoving,  the hull
started with the keel, stem, and stern post and with or without a
few intermittent molds - the bottom planking came first and the
timbers - floors and futtocks were then added.  The design was
tradition based and followed "rules".  The timbers were a bit
irregular in length and probably width.  As late as 1669 the
framing that Dik shows for the 7P has the floor and its follow on
timbers as a continuous unit to the rail.  The first futtock half
laps it and starts well up from the keel.

The English probably wanted a more scientific or at least more
predictable method.  Whole molding was the method to develop
the molds mounted on the keel - there were probably more of them than the
Dutch used and ribbands (rib bands) were fixed to the molds to
define the shape.  The floors and futtocks were cut to fit inside the
ribbands and then the planks were fitted.  The timbers were probably
not artful to look at and the first futtock started well above the keel
and scarped (sided jointed) to a floor and second futtock.  I suspect
that there an air gap on the other side - with or without clamps in the gap.
The models have continuous joins and the timber lengths were regular.
This looks better and is easier to do.  Fox describes evidence that the
open spaces were cut from what was essentially  a solid hull.

The points I see are about 1670 the models have Admiralty style
framing.  By 1719 the models have free standing paired frames
with or without continuous butting filler frames.

I imagine it was a time of generational conflict and tradition vs.

At the end of the 17th C. the first futtocks probably progressed to
the keel and the air gaps became narrower and vertically continuous.
The paired alternate futtock full frame became favored.  The hull
shapes outgrew the limits of whole molding and the timbers were
shaped on the ground using portable molds rather than a mold
mounted on the keel.  What was probably a confusion of methods
was probably ended with the Establishment of 1719.

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The other consideration of discontinuous framing without fillers between the frames up to the floorheads was drainage of bilgewater. To pump the ship reasonably dry, holes would need to be cut though the underside of the floors to allow a continuous passage to the bilge pumps. The later system of a passage above the frames would - theoretically, at least - keep the bilge much drier.

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While I am certainly not at a definitive set of references, here are a couple which may be of some use covering 16th through early 18th century ship building (note some are contemporary, and others modern archeological or academic research). 


This first discusses some of the 16th century Iberian ships. 


Oertling, Thomas. 2001. “The Concept of the Atlantic Vessel.” In Proceedings. International Symposium on Archaeology of Medieval and Modern Ships, 233–40.


This next, while not concerning British shipbuilding, has some wonderful comparative photos and descriptions from less studied traditions.


Green, Jeremy. 2001. “The Archaeological Contribute to the Knowledge of the Extra-European Shipbuilding at the Time of the Medieval and Modern Iberian-Atlantic Tradition.” In Proceedings. International Symposium on Archaeology of Medieval and Modern Ships, 63–102.


For a very detailed description of Whole Moulding, Richard Barker has several publications, including the following:


Barker, Richard. 2001. “Whole-Moulding: A Preliminary Study of Early English and Other Sources.” In Shipbuilding Practice and Ship Design Methods from the Renaissance to the 18th Century: A Workshop Report, edited by H Nowacki and Matteo Valleriani, Preprint 245, 33–65. [berlin]: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.


Realizing that the Mary Rose is about 200 years earlier than the period of interest, I still offer you the following:


Barker, Richard, Brad Loewen, and Christopher Dobbs. 2009. “Hull Design of the Mary Rose.” In Your Noblest Shippe. Anatomy of a Tudor Warship Archaeology of the Mary Rose, edited by Peter Marsden, 2:34–65. Portsmouth: The Mary Rose Trust.


Very brief, yet well researched, analysis of shell first/frame first and ship design, along with hull analysis information.


Olaberria, Juan Pablo. 2013. “Hull-Shape Design in Antiquity: How Do Archaeological Ship Remains Enhance Our Understanding of Hull-Shape Design in Antiquity?” A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in Maritime Archaeology by taught course., University of Southampton.


For those seeking much more detail concerning current trends concerning the historical ship building processes:


Nowacki, H, and Matteo Valleriani, eds. 2003. Shipbuilding Practice and Ship Design Methods from the Renaissance to the 18th Century: A Workshop Report. Preprint 245. [berlin]: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte.


Bellabarba, Sergio. 1996. “The Origins of the Ancient Methods of Designing Hulls: A Hypothesis.” The Mariner’s Mirror 82 (3): 259–68. doi:10.1080/00253359.1996.10656602



The Dartmouth is a very pertinent shipwreck -

Martin, Colin J. M. 1978. “The Dartmouth, a British Frigate Wrecked off Mull, 1690 5. The Ship.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 7 (1): 29–58. doi:10.1111/j.1095-9270.1978.tb01044.x


Which features in the reconstruction of a ship based on Sutherland's early 18th century treatise.


Kenchington, Trevor John. 1993. “The Structures of English Wooden Ships: William Sutherland’s Ship, circa 1710.” The Northern Mariner 3 (1): 1–43.


Whew.   Those ought to keep you occupied for a bit.  Each offers a glimpse into either evolution of traditional methods or the identification of methods from field analysis of contemporary wrecks.  Ultimately, when assessing the value of information (items) for understanding how things were done, there are many things which can be studied.  Each type of item brings with it caveats concerning the validity of the information for drawing broader conclusions.  In general, written treatises from the period are relatively reliable, if not always particularly illuminating (and clearly written).  Anecdotal accounts (diaries, logs, letters &.c.) are less reliable but often can aid in ferreting out details.  Contemporary models, while helpful, do not always reach the level of accuracy desired to understand how some particular aspect was accomplished, and also may not always show the accurate as built vessel.  Drawn ships plans are perhaps more reliable, although rarely is the detail of deck features and arrangements included.  Likewise, there is the as-designed and as-built dichotomy to consider.


Perhaps the best resource, when it can be found, is the remains of a given ship.  With all the caveats concerning the changes in a ship over time (See the American Frigates Constitution and Constellation, as well as HMS Victory for obvious examples of well studied there to see ships which still spark amazing discourse over what was there in some prior century), a wreck analyzed and documented in situ allows a glimpse into how a ship was actually built which can surpass any of the other information sources for accuracy and detail, yet at the same time can leave so many questions due to the decay and loss of material.


At any rate, please let me know if any of these prove useful.


Kind Regards -


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Many thanks Wayne.


These are all very interesting and I see a lot of reading ahead of me.    Of particular note in Kenchington's piece is the comment regarding the sketch on page 10 about the lack of contact between most futtocks.   There is an obvious gap between at each end of each floor and each futtock on the sketch.   Goodwin shows scarphs, not gaps.  Ensor's drawing in the Restoration Warship of the Lenox 70, (1678) shows chocks.  (Thanks Druxey, I did have this book and forgot all about it - getting old I guess)  Is this a pick your poison or would there be variations between shipyards?   I have no idea which is right or if all three methods were used.   The first futtocks end before reaching the keel in both this sketch and the drawing in Goodwin so I am of the opinion that the frames with floors were first raised and ribbands and or planking put in place, then the frames between floor frames were installed and did not reach the keel.   A big difference for Lenox before her first rebuild in 1704 and other ships before 1706  is that the ornamentation was drastically reduced starting about 1706.   The galleries by 1706 for example are much closer in appearance to the galleries for the entire 18th century than those of the late 17th century.  


I took a photo of the cross section of the Lenox (1678) as shown in  Restoration Warship and inserted it into my initial drawing  that has as the body plan of the Elizabeth from the NMM Collections.  The Lenox is 27.75" less in breadth than Elizabeth (1706) but scaling it up it is a near perfect match in shape to the Elizabeth.  Next is checking deck framing and planking details between the sources to see if they are at least similar.    


Progress is being made thanks to all your help.



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Wayne mentions Dartmouth of 1655, wrecked in 1690.  What we have left of her is a section of framing and plank near the keel toward the stern.  The original keel is not included, as it was replaced earlier, in 1678, and there is a t-shaped timber taking its place.  We don't know which of the frames are floors and which are futtocks, because they all end short of the center line at this timber.  They all have a two inch or thereabouts gap between them, no distinction there, either.  During the repairs, the floors, which would have ended in this area, and the futtocks, which were cut off to allow this timber to be inserted, wound up being indistinguishable.

In those times 'scarph' meant that a joint in one timber would be placed alternately with joints in adjacent timbers, without any contact, just that the joints were staggered and the joints were said to 'give scarph' to each other.

By the time Dartmouth was repaired, 1678, or at least wrecked, 1690, supposing another large amount of work being done to her, chocks were used to reinforce the joints between floor and 2nd futtock and first and third futtock, but since we have only the repaired area, it cannot be said they were used in original construction, only that they were in use.

Ensor, in 'Restoration Warship' has Lenox built with chocks at the heads of floors and futtocks, but also connecting the heels of the first futtocks across the keel.  This was in 1677, the year before Dartmouth's repair, and Ensor thoroughly researched and had contracts available, so can probably be relied upon.

Models of the time were built in a stylized version of actual framing and do not resemble actual practice, with only very rare exceptions where the purpose of the model was to demonstrate actual practice.

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There are one or two minor items I'd debate Mr. Ensor over. One is his illustration of nibbed deck planking forward.


I suspect that chocked joints rather than scarphs were adopted once really good first growth compass timber was becoming scarce.

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In "The Bends of a Ship" by Thomas Fagge Circa 1700, the bends (frames) are assembled with chocks and scarphs. The scarphs being on all the top timbers, the fashion piece Bend 31, and on one of the stern half floors, Bend 28.

All the others are chocks.

Bends illustrated are Flatt, L, O, R, 1, 4. 16, 28, 31, and a half frame of a central bend used to illustrate repairs.



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Greetings gentlemen;


I agree with Allan above:  this thread has thrown up a lot of potential items to track down and read. 


One more source of interest is Franklin's 'Navy Board Models,  1650 - 1750'  in which he discusses the methods of framing used for models,  and concludes that some of them,  despite seeming rather odd by later standards,  actually represent contemporary methods of construction. 


All the best,


Mark P

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Maybe I should define some of my terms:


Floor- hull frame timber that crosses the keel, equal on each side P&S.

First Futtock- hull frame timber that does not cross the keel, and in early times did not even contact the keel.

Scarph- Two meanings, 'giving scarph to', where joints of adjacent timbers are staggered so not to line up along the hull,

              A joint between two timbers involving hooks, tapers, coaks, etc., where one continues the line of the other.

Chock- a triangular-shaped piece of wood bolted to and inset into the join between two timbers, in lieu of 'scarph' definition 2, reinforcing what otherwise would be a simple butt joint.

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