Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I need some help with a term - harpin -- that I came across and it is now annoying me that I can find very little about it. It is stuck in my mind and won't go away ! References are made to its temporary use to support cant frames during construction and I understand that use. But also, Steel and Mungo both make reference to it as that part of the wale that curves around the bow. In this form, it is thicker than the wale and gives extra support to that part of the ship which is subject to additional stress in rough seas. If it is a continuance of the wale, then how far aft does it extend ? No matter how I search, there are no diagrams/ drawings to be found. Is the harpin considered a component piece of the ALL wales or just one or two ?

 

I would really appreciate anybody giving me/ us a clear description of this piece and maybe locate a drawing as well.

 

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Danny,

Thanks for replying so quickly. The links you provided show the harpins (and ribbands) in their important role of temporarily holding the frames in position. My understanding is that after planking the exterior of the frames, these are removed. However, I found a reference to the harpins also in the role of being part of the wale as it curved around the bow and hence a permanent structure.

 

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bit of a mystery Dan. Nope, I know the cheeks. But I did find, from 'An Universal Dictionary of the Marine' by William Faulkner, the following .... a little bit of Old English but readable ....

 

From that, it would appear to be an old nautical term for the forward section of the wales ?

Pete

Screenshot (80).png

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pat - yes I am but that is slow going as I am writing construction manuals as well. I just find it intriguing that we all build ships but do not necessarily know a great deal about some of the individual parts of a ship. That's the burden I carry having been an academic in the field of chemistry. In my previous post, why did the letter 'f' suffice for the letter 's' ? Guess I need to research that as well.

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your best wishes Pat. That style vanished from printing around 1780 - the 'f" being simply an elongated version of the handwriting style for 's' but did not have the traditional cross-bar. The 'f' was used at the start of a word or within a word but never at the end of a word. So the word compass would have been written as 'compafs'.

 

Thanks Pat and Henry for your replies.

 

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Druxey - thanks for your comment. Yes, the ribband and harpin were certainly used during the construction of ships to support frames and that point I was well aware of when posting this query. What has intrigued me was the very old reference (above) to the forward section of the wales wrapping around the bows also being referred to as 'harpins', not so much in the name itself but the fact that here is a reference to the wales around the bow (i.e. the harpins) being thicker than the wales along the side of the hull. I am looking for some comment regarding this thickening since in all of our builds I have seen on MSW, the wales are of the same thickness all the way.

 

So the term 'harpin' seems to have two different meanings - one for the temporary holding of frames and the other for giving permanent greater strength to the bow region.

 

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Pete;

 

Thank you for raising an interesting point.  This may relate to the difference between ribbands and harpins as temporary supports.  This is that the ribbands were bent,  but the harpins were sawn to the correct curvature.

 

Due to the curvature required at the bows,  it is possible that the planking of the wales was sawn out (from compass timber) rather than steamed and bent. 

 

I am not aware of what the limits of steaming were in practical usage,  but as the wales were often of a considerable thickness,  it is possible that steaming would not make them pliable enough,  and sawing became the best option.  However,  this is only speculation on my part.  It would,  though,  make sense of William Falconer's paragraph quoted above.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark - so many thanks for your reply. Your speculation is sensible so if I take that one step further, the work put into creating the sawn harpins (as a temporary measure to hold the cant frames in position during construction) meant that they would logically then be retained in a permanent position forming the forward part of the wales. Being sawn, they would then tend to be rather thick to maintain the integrity and strength of the curved timber (and most likely thicker than the remainder of the wales.

 

As you say, speculation ... but my comment would then tend to make sense in seeing the dual purpose for the curved harpins.

 

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Pete;

 

I was thinking more of the temporary harpins being replaced by solid planking.  The temporary ones are described and shown too often on models for there to be any doubt that they were much smaller than the wale timbers.

 

All the best,

 

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I understand it, the thicker planks, such as the wales, were tapered in thickness as they bent around to the bow rabbet. This would have assisted in any steam bending required. It would be unlikely that the pieces were sawn to shape for a number of reasons. First, reduction in strength with cross-grained areas. Second, exposed end grain that would be more susceptible to rot. Third, wastage of valuable wood in processing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On ‎31‎/‎05‎/‎2017 at 5:31 AM, piratepete007 said:

 

Screenshot (80).png

Greetings Druxey;

 

I too believe that the wale timbers tapered in thickness towards the stem,  so that by the time they reached the rabbet,  they were the same thickness as the planking above and below the wales. 

 

I agree with you also that any cross-grained timber would have been avoided at all costs. 

 

However,  I cannot think of a different reason why the planks of the wale at the bows should be called 'harpins',  unless they bear some resemblance to the temporary harpins,  which all sources I have ever read agree were sawn to the necessary curve.  The use of compass timber (ie timber which had grown in a curve,  and so avoided cross-grain) was presumably necessary for the temporary harpins,  and so may well have been available for the wale planking also,  although obviously in thicker pieces. 

 

One counter to this is that compass timber was not available in long lengths,  so there would be a necessity for a joint reasonably close to the stem.  This would then introduce a weakness,  and so I imagine would have been avoided.

 

Another interesting point is that the excerpt from Falconer,  quoted above,  actually states that the wale timbers,  or 'harpins' in this area are thicker  than the rest.

 

I wonder if he is referring,  rather anachronistically,  to the practice of building the wales as two large planks,  with a space between them filled with thinner planking,  which was largely obsolete from around 1715 onwards.  I can imagine that the ends of these wale timbers would be thickened to form a small knee (as indeed the temporary harpins were formed) which rested against the stem.

 

The only other explanation I can think of is that the planking in this area,  being harder to fit/make,  was distinguished from the other planking by giving it a name;  and that the name adopted was derived from the timbers,  the temporary harpins,  which the wale planking replaced.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark - that all makes good sense to me. This obviously is not a common subject for discussion but for me with a limited depth of knowledge, I just totally appreciate your above comments. I had a fixation on the wale being a continuous form of planking along the ship but of course it would/ should taper like the rest of the normal planking above and below. Your last remark - to me - says it all ... "The only other explanation I can think of is that the planking in this area,  being harder to fit/make,  was distinguished from the other planking by giving it a name;  and that the name adopted was derived from the timbers,  the temporary harpins,  which the wale planking replaced."

 

Thanks,

Pete

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steel (Naval Architecture, Directions for the actual building, p.379) says: "Harpins are sawed to the moulds' (italics mine). 

 

I cannot locate my reference for the plank tapering at the bow at present, but examination of contemporary models show these planks hooding into the bow rabbet in a smooth line continuous with the bottom planking. There is no change in thickness at the rabbet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jean Boudriot (JB) in his 4 volume tome shows the wales at full thickness at the stem, V1 pages 123, 149 and Plate IV after page 133.  Harold Hahn (HH) shows a full thickness wale on his plans for HMS Roebuck.  (Longridge and Goodwin are unclear.)  Since the bow had to sustain heavy pounding in a seaway, maximum strength was needed so I think the wales were full thickness right up to the stem.  

 

The ship builders were very clever and knowledgeable so they would know how to fit such wales at the bow (and stern).   For us folks, we are trying to relearn and understand what and how they built these beautiful ships.  So, these discussions are most valuable in furthering our education.   Perhaps others can shed more light on this subject.        Duff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi folks, just to confuse the situation more ;)  the following is an extract from the Contract for the building of the HMCSS Victoria (for the Colony of Victoria, Australia) built 1855:

 

"Wales, Sheerstrake and Topside. -  Mahogany, thick 3 inches, to taper forward and aft to 2 inches."

 

cheers

 

Pat

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, Duff, but I beg to differ. Under that planking was an incredibly strong set of bow timbers and cant frames, backed by the inner planking. Compound curved surfaces are much stronger than relatively flat sides (think of an eggshell). And now Pat (Banyan) has provided a contemporary example of this taper.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Druxey, no apologies needed and no umbrage felt on my part.  These discussions are fascinating and informative.

 

You are quite right about the bow timbers, cants, planking (and breast hooks and stemsons too).  And Pat has documentation that is solid evidence for that ship.  (I wonder where the fore and aft tapers started).

 

This is leading me to think that there were variations depending on the country, time period and class of ship.  Without solid evidence (like the contract), we then must make educated guesses.  These can be comparisons to other ships by the same builder for the same class of ship, comparisons to other ships in that class for the same country.  It gets very iffy beyond that but then we would not be having this discussion.       All  the best.                        Duff     

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, Duff, for taking my comments in the spirit that they were intended. One of the joys of this forum is the courteous manner in which we usually exchange ideas.

 

I still have not run down my reference for this tapering, but a distance of 8' 0" to 10' 0" sticks in my mind. Still hunting!

 

I agree with you that there would be geographical, temporal and national variations in construction. Oh, for that time machine!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

This forum is a real gem, and much appreciated-thank you Chuck.  And thanks also to all who contribute~!

 

Ah, the time machine - that would be a real thrill~!   We may not be able to bend time that way so I am holding out for a star gate.  I just hope my electrons get reassembled in the original arrangement.........Duff

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After starting this topic on harpins, I decided to do some further research and came across what I believe is a fascinating essay by Trevor Kenchington. The following text represents an extract of ideas from his work titled 'The Structures of English Wooden Ships: William Sutherland's Ship, Circa 1710'. I just found the whole article so exciting and felt moved to reproduce some of it here on MSW.

After some introductory comments – which are a distillation of what Kenchington has written -  this post then looks at wales, harpins (harpings) and tapering.

 

Introduction

Early in the sixteenth century, plank-on-frame techniques were introduced into English shipbuilding replacing the strake-overlapping (clinker) method. The next fundamental change occurred three and one half centuries later when iron replaced timber as the primary building material in ship construction. There was an assumption in literature that this was a period of great stability in ship structures but that was not the case.

It is suggested that during this time there was a general disinterest in technical detail and indeed the many paintings and drawings that exist today show a bias towards the ship as a finished object and not with the means by which the ships were built. Shipwrights were either illiterate or prone to keep their skills secret. There were some senior shipwrights who produced private manuscripts  showing the methods used to lay down the lines of their ships without detailing complex structural accounts.

 

Historians of this post-Medieval period have therefore largely limited themselves to such aspects as hull shape, general external appearance and rigging. Hull structure and internal details have had to be extrapolated from construction contracts and unfortunately many assumptions about structures became accepted 'facts'. Even examination of some post 1600 wrecks by naval archaeologists saw attention given to smaller artifacts with which they were more familiar rather than a close examination of ship timbers where there were very few authoratative historical records that could serve as a basis for comparisons.

 

The first published work on ship structure appeared in 1644 but it was not until 1711 that a truely authoritative book was published on the structure of English ships. The book, The Ship-Builder’s Assistant; or Marine Architecture by William Sutherland was produced after a career in the Royal Dockyards at Potsmouth and Deptford. Comprehensive in nature, it is a very useful basis for any re-examination of ship structures [the book is available as a reprint on eBay and from a number of book sellers].

 

Wales & Harpings (or Harpins)

These were the thick strakes that extended the full length of the ship contributing to its longitudinal strength. In his description, Sutherland referred to the lower wales, consisting of two major strakes each being 14 x 8.5 inches in cross-section with a thinner strake in-between but of similar width (he also clouded the issue by referring to the same two thicker strakes as the ‘upper’ and ‘lower main wales). The after ends of these lower wales were bolted to the knees supporting the wing transom. At the bows where the curvature prevented the bending of such thick timber, the wales were made from compass timbers (naturally or artificially curved trees) or of fire-bent pieces, both of which were called ‘harpings’ or ‘harpins’... confirmation of my original question.

 

The thick wale strakes were made up of a number of shorter pieces scarphed/ scarfed end to end with horizontal inclined joints whilst the thinner strake in-between used butt joints or perhaps vertical scarph joints.

 

Kenchington (p. 20) makes the following comment ... ‘The horizontal joint orientation suggests that the builder expected the wales to resist primarily lateral, rather than vertical, stresses; that is, his concern apopears to have been with the sides of the ship bulging outwards (perhaps when rolling) rather than with the bow and stern drooping or “hogging’. This is rather surprising, given the obsession that most shipwrights had with the latter problem’. There is further comment made in this article regarding this point that can be followed up.

 

Tapering

Whilst not referring directly to the wale strakes themselves, Sutherland does point out the obvious difficulty of straight pieces of uniform width and thickness around the bow curvature and making reference to ‘snying’ (or shaping pieces from thicker timber) where each piece curved across its width. They could then be fire-bent across their thickness to fit the frames. He saw this as a wasteful use of compass timber (quite rightly so !) and recommended that it be avoided by the use of tapering of the strakes as they passed around the bow.

 

The full essay is easily found on the internet and is well worth a good read.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Pete;

 

Thanks for adding to the information already here. 

 

An interesting article,  but I am a bit dubious about one of Kenchington's conclusions:  that the horizontal joint was used to prevent the spreading of the frames.  The keelson was one of the best placed timbers in a ship to resist hogging,  and this had horizontal joints. 

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...