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I realize that this will seem like a stupid question to many of you, but it's one that I haven't been able to discover the answer to on my own. I'll soon be starting the hammock netting on my Constitution. In the Bob Hunt practicum he shows the netting as two separate pieces, each one running along one side of the double stanchions. However in some pictures in various build logs, it appears as though the netting might in fact be one continuous piece, running along one row of stanchions, then across the bottom (just above the rail) and then up along the other row of stanchions. But I haven't been able to find a definitive picture one way or the other. It's not clear to me from the kit's plans either. Can anyone shed some light on this for me?

Many thanks,


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Previous Builds - Armed Virginia Sloop, Model Shipways; Constitution, Model Shipways; Rattlesnake, Mamoli; Virginia Privateer, Marine Model Co, restoration; Prince de Neufchatel, Model Shipways; Charles W. Morgan, Model Shipways; Pride of Baltimore II, Model Shipways, Bluenose, Model Shipways (x2); Niagara, Model Shipways; Mayfower, Model Shipways; Shamrock V, Amati


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If you think about it, the purpose of the hammock netting is to keep them clean and dry.  Netting alone won't do this.  If you use the netting for support and put a canvas 'bag' inside, the hammocks will be nicely covered.  'Netting' could be net, a lattice of rope or even housed in with wood panels.  I got the method of containment from a period painting.  I need a couple more lines to exactly match the painting, and I think possibly lashings at each crossing of the lines.



Edited by jbshan
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Have a look here.


A interesting topic this one.


Regards Antony.

Best advice ever given to me."If you don't know ..Just ask.

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Sometime between 1815 and 1861 the USN "suits" directed that the inner and outer surfaces of the hammock rails be wooden panels. They looked better because they could be painted. etc.   It seems that the crews of ships did not favor this.   This was a source of dangerous splinters when struck with a projectile.  When the situation tended to the possibility of sure combat (an actual war), it seems that some captains replaced the wood with webbing and canvas.  I am betting that "It is better to do and ask for forgiveness later, that ask for permission." is a Navy tradition that goes back far farther than we know.

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While I was doing research into the same topic for my Syren I found this picture showing what the current netting looks like on the Constitution. It appears to be two pieces.   I am far from being an expert on this subject so I don't know if it's 'historically' correct or not.  If you use Google Map and type in 'Constitution' you can 'walk' around the ship for better details.




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A observation. Hammocks and their contents are cotton, their contents are wool and cotton, 'blankets, clothing with some hemp and personal items mixed in'. All subject to rot and mold. Probably those hammock bundles were ordered into the the rails only when battle was expected or a few other special occasions. Those bundles contained the only personal possessions of the seamen they were issued to and keeping them dry and out of the sun would be expected as the norm, we all should know what moisture and ultra violate light does to cotton and wool, especially when rolled tight, the exposed will break down in the sun and the insides will rot, ever here the expression, 'Rolled tight and put away wet'?. We are told that the hammocks were in the cranes to absorb wood splinters, don't think so, anything that would create splinters would force them inboard past the netting's, there is little outboard of those hammocks to create splinters. Wool and cotton is good at stopping projectiles and would work well protecting exposed gun crews from incoming small arms fire, but would be useless against cannon fire hitting the bulwarks. Another thing, those hammock bundles if not wetted down would be a good place for sparks to get caught in and build into a fire, smoldering at first then flame when enough heat was built up. Suspect the hammock cranes were empty except for drills, combat, inspections or some dress ship evolution. When we still were using cotton mattress and wool blankets in the Navy, we Aired Bedding once a week, conditions permitting. We took our bedding topside and threaded it through the life lines and rails, they were allowed to air there, not stored.


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Jud, please read this:




The first para or so is all from the literature, some of it from regulations of the day.

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OK, I read it. don't think it makes a bit of sense to issue two hammocks to each sailor. Two men to each hammock and hot bunk it would make more sense, except the hammock did double duty as a storage place for each seaman. It is the accepted idea that the hammocks were kept in the hammock cranes except when in use, that's fine. I don't think that was the norm, have pointed that out and everyone is free to make up their own minds.


So I don't come across as a complete jerk, I did look at your work, was impressed with the quality.

Have painted canvas to water proof it and it works well as long as there is very limited movement, doesn't take much for the paint to crack and chip. Where canvas was used on some of the ships I was aboard for awnings or other decorative trim, unlaced and retied into knot patterns, it was kept washed, not painted.


Edited by jud
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I'm with Joel.  The contemporary evidence points to what he said.  Hammocks were washed on a regular basis along with clothing.  Stowed in the netting after undergoing an "inspection" involving a hoop to ensure they were rolled tight enough.   Foul weather and (depending on the captain and the ship) either moved to the hold or berthing deck or covered with canvas in the cranes.  


The reason for two was the watch system which you're familiar with... 4 on, 4 off, dog watch, etc.  On washing day, the hammock would be washed and dried on deck.  The extra hammock was for the sailor to use until it was dry.  Most, if not all, captains were pretty strict about keeping things clean... 

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Mark, that is the accepted norm, glad to see you introducing some exceptions. 8 bells was the length of the watch as it is today, but it was a Port and Starboard system, anyone who has stood Port and Starboard for long sure grows fond of the 3 watch system.


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At 'bedtime' the starboard (or port) watch would each take two hammocks from storage, one for each man and one for his neighbor.  He would take them below and hang them from adjoining hooks, leaving his buddy's lashed up and his own deployed for sleep.  When the watch changed, each man on deck had his hammock already in place and ready to unlash and get into.  The dog watches would even this out.  The hammocks were numbered as was the stowage in the hammock cranes and the hooks from the deck beams below.  Two hammocks issued to each allowed for better cleanliness.  How to find yours?  Yours was the hammock that didn't stink.

Some of this process is in Cmdr. Martin's 'Most Fortunate Ship'.

We are of course talking about the sailing ship era.  I was surprised to find a drying room surrounding a funnel on (Massachusetts?) covered in one of the magazines.  I presume possibly for the bridge watch.

Edited by jbshan
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Could that be where the issue of two was misinterpreted? Ran some numbers based on the 800 man crew mentioned, each hammock, I will quick guess, without looking it up, as being 6' X 3' for a total of 18 square feet per, without considering lashings rings or hooks, etc.. Each man washing a hammock and using a dry one would be looking for his 18 square feet of the needed14,400 sq feet of drying space on deck to lay his hammock while drying, that is 120 feet square, or 30' X 480' of space, 30' X160 feet on 3 decks, really? Was stepping on someones freshly washed hammock accepted by those owners being stepped on by those looking for their own space or were there some confrontations?

Don't know the truth of the tale, but 2 X 2 seems to be coming out 5? Hammock cranes did exist and were used to hold hammocks, no question in that, But something is not quite right in modern mans understanding on how they were used, expect it to be a lonely group of us wondering about this and it really does not matter much anyway.


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Yah, the numbers are a bit staggering.  For drying they could have rigged lines, I suppose, but two each you'd have up to 1600 to stow during the daytime.  That part I haven't figured out yet.

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Here is the way hammocks are depicted on a (large) ship model in the Central Naval Museum in Saint Petersburg Russia:




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I always understood there to be one hammock per man, but they were hung two hammocks per set of hooks from the deck beams.  That way there were two men sharing the same space, watch on and watch off.  Each man would spread his own hammock between the two hooks.


Stowage of personal items was not in the hammock , but in a ditty bag.





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