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Most of our builds have at least a few grates to cover openings in the deck. The landlubber in me got to wondering about them in real life.

 

Are they a permanent fixture?

 

That seems a little limiting. If they are permanent what happened during inclement weather or rough seas? Battening the hatches? How would you get large items below deck?

 

If not permanent, were they pulled off sometimes? Did they slide? Sometimes replaced with a cover of some type?

 

What about other deck openings, companionways for instance. There are some theories that 18th/19th century warships did not have elaborate structures over them - or any at all. So what would that look like? A framed opening with a ladder ?

 

Just wonderin'

 

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I'll try to help.. hopefully I get right...  

 

Permanent?   No, they were removable by lifting up.  At "clear for action", etc. they were lowered into the hold.   During storms, canvas would be placed over them and nailed to the coaming.   They were also removed for loading or unloading items to the lower decks or hold.

 

Covered companionways..  There's two problems the cover on warships....  cost, and flying splinters if they get hit.  In some countries, the only companionway covered was the one on the quarterdeck for officer use only.  If no covering, then just a coaming around the opening and the ladder.

 

I hope that helps.

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That does Mark. Thanks.   What I am beginning to hear (or finally get thru this thick noggin) is as little deck structure as possible on a warship.

 

To your knowledge, the grates were just set inside the coaming? Were they fastened there somehow?

 

Regarding the companionway - the top of the ladder just comes to the coaming? Angle of the ladder - still have to climb with hands and feet or less steep, more like a stair? Ladder width?

 

If you can't tell, I'm at that point in my build. :)   Joel pretty much convinced me to replace deck structures with grates.

 

The splinter thing makes perfect sense. On a side note, in review of the reading I have been doing, 18th and 19th century naval warfare has to be some of the most brutal combat in man's history.

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The grates just sat there... 

 

Ladders... what Henry said.  

 

If you consider that they were up close and personal in an artillery duel.. you're right about brutal.  But casualties, percentage wise were relatively minor compared to land battles.  When you get into the American Civil War, it was even worse.

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I would like to add a ladder to the companionway. However, there is the matter of the bulkhead that crosses thru and the keel. Was thinking of taking a chunk out of each at that point. Not hard to do since my deck is still not installed on top. I'm trying to think of how to make that spot under the companionway dark so the ladder goes down into darkness. You know it seems like an open hole in the deck is a safety issue. Maybe that's why the coamings are painted red?

 

I suppose I have the same issue with the grates. If you look into them you will see the keel and bulkhead frame pieces underneath. How do people handle that?

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If you postulate the picture Keith posted, but with the two gratings running fore 'n aft, you can blacken the center plate, remove one grating and have a ladder running next to the plate, running F&A.  If you choose to show your vessel in a peaceful configuration, you could use canvas 'hoods' to help keep the rain off a 'ladderway'.  I prefer that term as 'companionway' is so inclusive.

On Niagara, there was a cabin aft, probably a lobby area, where one would enter from the deck, and, forward, a larger space, a saloon or common area.  This is where the wounded were brought during the battle.  Some of the companions/gratings used on the replica and shown on the model I suspect were not on the original, particularly those surrounding the capstan.  Also, a 'skylight' would likely have been merely a grating left without its canvas covering.  This was the case with Bounty, that had all those plants in the cabin.

The options only expand the more you look into some of these things.

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Mike,

I have seen and done a couple of different solutions to bulkheads crossing hatches depending on whether or not the lower deck is detailed out or if it is just a "dummy" deck.

 

The easiest is if it is just a "dummy" deck with no details. Simply remove anything that would be visible to create an opening for the ladder and then blacken everything in so that you gain the appearance of descending into a dark hold. This is very useful for the lowest decks that are often covered up with more decks or in solid hull construction.

 

The harder way happens when the deck you wish to descend to is to be detailed. Now you have to modify the framing to accommodate the hatch. The details on how to do this vary from ship to ship as the building process varies. Also this can depend upon how visible that deck is. If you cannot see the framing below the deck then just build the opening and frame it in to appear as though the correct framing is in place. If you intend on the lower deck to be visible than researching framing plans for that ship or similar construction is a must. I would start looking at cross section models as they often times have a ladder going down and should provide a good start as to how they were framed.

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Henry - the pic is helpful although it confirms my fear about the coamings I am making. The height in the pic looks maybe ankle high - 4"-5" inches. I'm using 1/8" square strips which would make them closer to 8" at scale.

 

Joel - I like your ladderway idea, although the aft deck opening may not be wide enough for side by side grates. However, it is a good direction to head for.

 

If you are referring to the lower deck being at water level, I can confirm that Eagle was that way. There were comments made that the Surgeon was in as much danger working below deck as the gunners on the top deck, due to this fact. On larger boats that area was below the water line which made the area a little more protected from a direct hit to the hull.

 

E.J. - good suggestions for "darkening" below deck. This kit has nothing below the main deck so that leaves options.

 

Does anyone think I would do harm to the structural integrity of the model if I removed some of the bulkhead that crosses under the ladderway? I believe this is the only opening that I would have to do this. The others should be fine with something black covering the bulkhead under the grates.

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I think the deck will be OK Mark. It was built outside the hull and has it's own frame which includes frame around the cutouts. I was more concerned with the hull framing - bulkhead and keel pieces. It did just occur to me that if I cut a small section out of one of those pieces I could add so reinforcement right under the cut.

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Mike, if you are interested, the Niagara Museum has plans from the 1987 restoration. While the original restoration was considered a sham, the 1987 one is not. In fact the Nautical Archeologist that documented the Brig Eagle, used those plans as examples for rigging.

 

The plans show many details of how the deck furniture was located as well as ship's boats, rigging etc. I highly recommend if you are building the Niagara, to get these supplementary plans. The link to the plans is http://www.flagshipniagara.org/erie-maritime-museum/visit-the-gift-shop/gift-shop/.

 

Bill

Edited by robnbill
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... Well I bet Dr. Parsons didn't have a light problem. :)   Just curious, if there had been time to cure the proper wood if the situation would have been any better?

No, they probably used widely spaced frames of not so thick timbers, and only thick enough plank to keep the water out.  Had they used large enough timbers, etc. to defend against 24 pdrs., the brigs would have been more deep of draft and poor sailers as well.  The British had up to 24 pdr. guns and carronades on Detroit and Queen Charlotte, which were the main opponents Lawrence (where Dr. Parsons was stationed) faced.  When Niagara engaged those two closely, her 32 pdr. carronades made quick work of them, presuming a similar lightness of frame and plank.  32 pdrs. would be the main armament of anything 74 guns and up.

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That's a good point Joel. I had not considered the British big boats to have been similarly constructed. I figured the lesser grade materials was due mainly to the hurried construction. No time to find nice big oaks and more time to dry the wood. But as you point out, had they done so, they may have never got out of the harbor.

 

It's all so interesting!

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A good read regarding the hurry and the resultant shortcuts they took can be found on the Texas A&M site. It is Dr. Kevin Cirsman's thesis on the Brig Eagle. She was also built by the Brown Brothers. THe site also has a plethora of great period information available for free from the various published Nautical Archeology dissertations. The dissertation link is http://nautarch.tamu.edu/Theses/abstracts/crisman.htm

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I've seen that link Bill, although I haven't read it yet. It appears that A&M has a model shop at some level. What a great class!  I did just recently buy Crisman's book on Eagle. I'm about half way thru it. He is a good historical writer IMO. I have found the book interesting and easy to read. A good part of it describes a reconstruction, which should help me out some.

 

To change the topic slightly, I'm struggling with the coamings right now. There needs to be a bit of a lip that keeps the coaming at the edge of the cutout and also a notch that runs lengthwise to set the grating into. For the notch to work best, the coaming pieces should have the ends mitered which I have done. While this looks very nice from a woodworking perspective, I'm having doubts as to the historical accuracy.

 

Keith's pic (see above) shows what looks like squared ends with overlapping notches (sorry, I don't know the correct term for this) cut into the ends.

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There are a few books I would recommend. Since you liked Dr Crisman's "The Eagle", you would find "Coffins of the Brave" antertaining and enlightening book. This is a follow on book edited by Dr Crisman that focuses on the Lake Shipwrecks from the war of 1812, including the Niagara.

 

"Historic Ship Models" by Wolfram zu Mondfeld is a great book for seeing what various period assemblies would look like as well as potential modeling techniques. I find it a great starting point reference.

 

Both of these are available through Amazon.

 

I know the Niagara is your first build. However your questions lead me to think you are leaning toward scratch building, or at least bashing your kit extensively to be more accurate. To really learn how master modelers tackle the practical aspects of modeling such as your questions on coamings as well as a host of other more historical build techniques you should look at practicums. There are many practicums available from those that are free to very expensive book series.

 

I have found two series of books absolutely invaluable in my modeling. The first is the David Antscherl and Greg Herbert's four volume "The Fully Framed Model, HMN Swam Class". The second would be Ed Tosti's two volume set on building the HMS Naiad. All of these are available through Seawatch Books. While you may have no interest in scratch building these ships (yet!), they offer detailed methods for addressing modeling while remaining as historically accurate as desired.

 

I say "as desired" because there are always compromises the modeler makes on the accuracy based on the scale, skills, talent and time he or she currently has to dedicate tot he task. Knowing how these masters accomplish the tasks allows you to make an informed decision.

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The joint at the corners of the coamings is a half lap joint.

There is a lip inside the coamings onto which the gratings seat.  This serves equally well if solid covers or a series of planks are used, for stormy weather for example.  The coamings seat onto beams and carlins of the deck structure.  Here's a sketch of my take on this.

 

post-17589-0-02989100-1459966143.jpg

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Helpful as always Joel. Your drawing made me realize I have been looking at this with the deck on my workbench. I haven't really taken into account the beams (bulwarks) directly under the cutout - except I know some will be visible.

 

Bill, I will look into your recommendations. The books sound helpful. A few pictures or sketches can go a long way. While I am not planning a scratch build in the near future, I don't have a problem with adding "my take" to the build. Especially with the wealth of knowledge here at MSW.  That said, I do have the "semi-kit" Lexington on the shelf. A step in that direction.

 

I did finally get a repeatable process for making the coaming pieces with a half lap joint. Sometimes I just struggle with the table saw. I like to think I'm a smart guy, but it can be very humbling some times.

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Speaking of grates. I have buggered up the ones with the kit - not sure they were that great anyway. I have a few of Chuck P's gate kits but am really struggling with them. I have seen some on the web but am not overly impressed. Can anyone recommend a source for grates? Or tell me a good way to make them.

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Just to set the record straight, Chuck and I exchanged a few emails today and I understand now the difficulty I was having with the Syren grate kits.  I was having problems both getting the grate strips into the jig and getting the battens into the grate strips. I guess I was expecting everything to just drop into place and when it didn't I resort to the brute force solution - which didn't work either.

 

Chuck explained that you just have to sand some of those strips to shave off enough to get them in the jig. Same deal with the battens. Doing that this afternoon, everything fit nicely.

 

Thanks Chuck!

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