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In order for me to understand better the rigging practices for cutters of the 18th Century, I wrote to the National Maritime Museum asking if I could see some of the cutter models they have in storage, now that they no longer have a model display at the Museum in Greenwich.

 

Nick Ball, the Assistant Curator of Ship Models, wrote back very quickly saying that I would be welcome to visit and could see all of the models I had requested which are now stored at the Royal Historic Dockyard in Chatham -- except for one which was stored in another location less accessible to the occasional visitor.

 

He, together with Dave Lindridge the Store Manager, gave me a very generous amount of time to look at and photograph the models that they had taken out for inspection – during which they provided a lively discussion about their jobs and the models they were showing. In fact Nick said he was pleased to show visitors the models because it gave him more of an opportunity to review models in their vast collection.

 

I asked Nick about permission to post my pictures and he told me it was fine as long as I made it clear the pictures were from the NMM collection. He also asked to be provided to the links of the photos as he himself (as a trained naval archaeologist) was very keen on the details and would enjoy any discussion that ensued.

 

I will post the photos of the individual models under different messages, this post deals only with the first of the models.

 

I just need to add that I am enormously grateful to Nick and Dave for their patience and generosity with their time for this visit, which for me was invaluable.

 

1763 cutter NMM ID SLR0510

 

First off is their cutter referenced in the NMM as Object ID SLR0510. It is described there as “a full hull model of a cutter (circa 1763) Scale: 1:48. The vessel measures 53 feet on the main deck by 20 feet in the beam and is armed with twelve 3-pounders. The model was donated unfinished and was completed in the Museum in 1960”.

 

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For me there were four main points of interest, apart from the fact that it is dated the same year as my Sherbourne.

 

The first is that the fore belaying pins are arranged fore-aft beside the bowsprit. Gregor, Dirk, Kester and I have been trying to figure out how the belaying pins would be set given that the kit of the Sherbourne provides no plans for such a belaying rack. Each of us have provided our own particular possibility – with Dirk going for an arrangement such as that on the AOTS book of the Alert, and Gregor going for a rack right on the stem. I had made a rack that was parallel to the windlass.

 

However, now I have seen the arrangement on the NMM cutter SLR0510, and, as you will see, the 12-gun cutter I saw had the same arrangement, I have changed my own rack accordingly.

 

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The second is that the topmast is fore of the main mast. I had understood that earlier in the century the practice was to place the topmast aft of the main mast. In fact the cutter Hawke (which I also saw at Chatham and whose pictures follow in a subsequent post) was the only one of these models to place the topmast aft of the main mast.

 

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The third point of interest was the windlass. The original NMM plans for the Sherbourne showed this type of windlass, and Gregor has already made one in the same style, and I followed his example – rather than following the type of windlass provided for in the Sherbourne kit.

 

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The fourth point of interest is that, like the Trial that you'll see in a subsequent post, the lower hull is painted up to the wales, and not to a waterline.

 

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The following were the other pictures I took of the1763 cutter, all of which will have details which will be picked up by those more knowledgeable than I am!

 

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Tony

Edited by tkay11

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Cutter Hawke 1777, NMM Object ID SLR0314

Next of the models I saw is the model referenced by Goodwin in the AOTS book on the cutter Alert. Unfortunately, when the model was taken out Dave Lindridge noticed that someone had damaged the topsail and had put it back in position totally out of place. This is something they will fix, but as the details are so interesting I am still posting the pics for those who have a particular interest in the Alert. As I mentioned previously, this was the only cutter with the topmast aft of the main mast.

 

It is interesting that there are many details quite at variance with the Alert shown by Goodwin. See, for example, the shrouds.

 

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Tony

Edited by tkay11

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Trial 1790, Object ID SLR0150

Next was a model I had previously seen on display at the NMM in Greenwich. Its name probably refers to the fact that it had an experimental sliding keel. It is really beautifully constructed, but Nick said that it might have had some re-working at the museum.

Its original caption at the NMM stated:

 

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The other photos really just show the beauty and detail of the construction

 

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Tony

 

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Smokey Joe, Object ID SLR2631

 

The next one I saw is an unarmed cutter, probably acting as a pilot cutter. Its standard of construction is not as good as the others, but there are interesting details. Its name, Smokey Joe, is thought by the Museum to be fictitious, although very appropriate given the appearance of the model.

 

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Tony

Edited by tkay11

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Cutter; 12 Guns. Object ID SLR0704.

 

The description provided on the NMM web site is: "Scale: probably 1:72. A contemporary (?) plank on frame full hull model of a 12-gun cutter. The fact that the hull is planked in carvel fashion, (edge to edge planking), and that a square topsail is rigged would suggest a date of about 1820. Also the decoration on the stern indicates the name ‘Pelican’ although a cutter of this name cannot be traced either as a man-of-war or a revenue cruiser".

 

The interesting thing here (for me, at least!) is that again the belaying rack at the bow is running fore-aft by the bowsprit.

 

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Tony

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Jack, in addition to the dates provided for the models of the 1763 cutter, the 1777 Hawke and the 1790 Trial, the other two models are also said to be contemporary. The 12-gun cutter, as stated above, is thought to have been made as a model around 1820. Smokey Joe was thought to be around 1820 as well.

 

Tony

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Yes, indeed, Druxey. The feeling was mutual. I really admired their enthusiasm and knowledge, as well as their friendliness. Nick already sent me a reply correcting a previous version of my post about Smokey Joe. I had thought the museum named it, but he told me that it came to them with that name.

 

Further, as they were accompanying me from the museum, they took me round their store to see some of the enormous contemporary models (not of cutters) that they have in storage and then led me to some models they thought highly of in the museum proper -- including two very fine ships made from bone.

 

Tony

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Thanks, Tony. What prompted my question was the level of detail, especially in the rope and blocks on each of the models. It's amazing what they could produce 200-300 some years ago without the aid of all the "power" tools we have today. I have not seen blocks or rope like that from any of the current kit manufacturers with the exception of Chuck's Syren products.

 

Even the scalloped edging on the plank ends on the foredeck of the 1790 Trial is amazing detail.

 

Thanks for posting !

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Have a look at Dan Vad's blocks, Jack. He does these in the traditional way by hand after cutting lengths on a saw. Saw, scalpels, files, sanding. I am pretty determined to keep practising since it is clear some people can do it!

 

Tony

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I have seen Dan's model HMS Vulture and started to follow his build log recently. Have to go back to the beginning and read thru to play catch up. Have not (yet) seen his technique for making blocks but will certainly look carefully for it in his log(s).

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Beautiful.  Thank you for sharing.  I had a less intense but equally positive experience with the NMM folks a few years ago, refuting the horror stories I had heard.

I seem to see a few yards set on horses, but some not.  Are any of these vessels set up with sliding bowsprits?

I take particular note of the stay coming down to a deadeye in a loop, with the lower 'dead' sheaves drilled through the stem head.  I've never seen that, but it might come in handy.

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The only ones that don't have obvious fids/holes for the fid are the Trial and the 12-gun cutter. However it looks as though they, like the class, are set up to have sliding bowsprits.

 

I'd also noticed the loop on the stay and agree it might be something I do!

 

Tony

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Thanks for the suggestion, Chuck. I've uploaded all the photos to the gallery of contemporary models as requested. When doing this, I didn't understand the box beside each photo which said 'Follow Image'. Could someone explain?

 

Tony

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Great photos, I can never get enough detail shots of cutters and their rigs. All that canvas on such a small hull. If they had a coffee table book of these photos I would snap it up.

A cutter rig issue I often wonder about is the braces on the yards for the squares. Trial has her braces run forward and this makes the most sense to me although clearly most cutters take the braces all the way to the rail aft. The problem with that lead is that the for and aft mainsail is now constrained from being boomed out any farther than the rail. Another problem is that the lead of the braces is more up and down than fore and aft. It IS an aft lead, but the forces involved are mostly pulling the yardarms down rather than aft. When Running before the wind the most effective use of the big for and aft mainsail is to present as much of its surface area as possible perpendicular to the wind, but you can't do it with the braces for the squares in the way.  Sure Running is why they have the square sails in the first place, but all that square canvas is high up in the rig which makes for a lot of healing over and stress on the mast. The Fore and aft mainsail is nice and big, with a center of effort nice and low.

many three masters and brigs have the braces led to the peak of the gaff and this would allow you to have your cake and eat it too.

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Almost all cutters of the period I have seen or even the the primary source documentation have two pair of braces.   They use  forward and aft braces as can be clearly seen on this model.

 

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Thanks for the suggestion, Chuck. I've uploaded all the photos to the gallery of contemporary models as requested. When doing this, I didn't understand the box beside each photo which said 'Follow Image'. Could someone explain?

 

Tony

 

Tony,

 

What that means is that if someone puts up a comment, you'll be notified.  The original poster (you in this case) will automatically receive notifications. If I clicked it, I'd see any notifications of comments.   It's much like the "Follow this Topic" button on the forums.

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Wow Tony, thank you and NMM for accessing and photo documenting these wonderful models. The pic from the museums gallery have been the base concepts in my altering the USRC Ranger kit by Corel. This model being not based on an actual ship, I've taken the liberty of making this one even more different.

 

I'm pretty new at this and have so many questions when it comes to altering a model but still make one that could have actually sailed. These photos are a great help with that.

 

The main alterations, being equipped for battle. I'm left with a lot of guess work. My main question that I wanted to find out was can the boom be raised while leaving the sails "functional"? The original position scales around 6ft 6in from the deck. I'm replacing the stanchions and handrails with a solid wall with gun ports somewhat like the SLR0510 model. I've also extended the aft/stern deck considerably. This will cause me to need to raise the boom. So my two part question: Would raising the boom still make the ship "sail", and if so how much can it be raised?

 

Thanks to you and the museum for making these photos possible.

 

Matt

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Matt, I'm a real novice and have never sailed, so I can't answer your questions. But I'm sure the more learned here will soon be chipping in!

Tony

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Tony,

 

Thanks for posting these great photos. I thought you would have good time there, especially with two of the staff to answer your questions.

 

Like you, I was rather interested in the belaying pin solution in the bow, although I think I will have to stick with mine now! Braces, both fore and aft, I will have to give some thought to but it does make sense, since the ones running aft might be hampered by the square sails – particularly in Shebourne's case, that on the square sail yard. I was somewhat surprised when you say that only the Hawke had her topmast abaft the lower masthead, as this is not what I've read about early cutters. I'm not sure this mean that Sherbourne's mast is incorrect, though.

 

Anyway, much food for thought there. Thanks once again.

Edited by Stockholm tar

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Thanks, Kester. Nice comments. I agree that the Sherbourne's mast is not incorrect. It's just that I think that even at that time there was a choice (as evidenced by the model).

 

As I've explained in the recent update on my Sherbourne build, I've gone with the Petersson version where the topmast is fore because his rigging is easier for me to do (I think), as well as because I think it gives better positioning for the peak and throat halliards.

 

However, because I have never sailed, and am unclear about the mechanics, I simply don't know the advantages and disadvantages of the different possible positions of the topmast.

 

As to the braces running aft, I'll wait to hear the other comments as again I simply don't know the ins and outs!

 

Tony

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However, because I have never sailed, and am unclear about the mechanics, I simply don't know the advantages and disadvantages of the different possible positions of the topmast.

 

As to the braces running aft, I'll wait to hear the other comments as again I simply don't know the ins and outs!

 

Tony,

 

As far as I understand it the topmast, or topgallant mast, was on the after side of the lower masthead on the early cutters, due to it being self supporting. It obviated the need for backstays, hence there is little rigging, apart from the topgallant forestay. This changed to the rig we know today, when it became more complicated.

 

Like you, I'm mot sure about the braces yet!

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Thanks, Kester. I'd noted that you'd said that before in your build log (I think), but I don't understand why the position of the topmast fore or aft would change its need for a backstay since it seems firmly embedded at the cross-tree and the top either way. This is simply my lack of understanding so it would be great if you could explain more.

 

Sorry for the ignorance but I'll benefit from an understanding!

 

Tony

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