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Venetian round ship 13th century by woodrat - 1:32 scale - fully framed - COMPLETED

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Thanks Steven and Carl and all others for the likes. I have largely completed the running rigging and all that now remains is to decide on the sails. Should I leave it with bare yards or bend sails which may obscure a lot of detail in the rigging or maybe not. I have a cunning plan to do the sails in Silkspan to reproduce the bellying of the sails ( see my carrack build for a similar technique).











Edited by woodrat
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What a beautiful model, Dick! 


Regarding the sails, perhaps if you have the wind abeam with bellying sails off to one side - you'd get the beauty of the sails without obscuring much at all of that wonderful rigging.


It's been a while since your last update, but it's certainly been worth the wait! 




PS: I see you've got the yards supported off-centre. This has been an issue I've been thinking about for quite a while for my own model. Do you have any reason for doing it this way - and do you think this would affect the performance and distribution of forces around the masts?

Edited by Louie da fly
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4 hours ago, mtaylor said:

Sails will also hide a lot of the detail of the interior.  Maybe reefed or partially reefed so the interior is visable?

Mark, there were no reef points in these vessels. It was either furled or unfurled



1 hour ago, Louie da fly said:

I see you've got the yards supported off-centre. This has been an issue I've been thinking about for quite a while for my own model. Do you have any reason for doing it this way - and do you think this would affect the performance and distribution of forces around the masts?

I have thought a lot on this, the yard (peciae antennarum) consists of two parts the upper portion or penna and the lower or carra.  From my reading, the carra is always shorter than the penna. This is, I believe, to facilitate tacking or wearing during which the end of the carra must pass in FRONT of the mast base and so, if the carra is too long (equal in length to the penna), this manoeuvre becomes impossible. Hence, it appears that the yard is slung off-centre. The extension to the penna that I have put on to enlarge the sail exaggerates this. The forward mainsail is signicantly larger than the aft mizzen sail.

In regard to the sails, I think a quartering breeze would be OK. 



3 hours ago, Mark Pearse said:

Do you have an idea how heavy the rigging blocks would be?

I dont know about the weight. It would vary according to the size of the vessel but mediaeval blocks tended to be large. Especially the upper halliard blocks. Double blocks were in-line and so look much heavier than they are.



Edited by woodrat
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  • 4 weeks later...

A really lovely build Dick. You have out done yourself again. I like it without the sails, gives a good impression of the ship as it is, no sails obstructing the general view.


P.s. I love the background of the photograph, as if she belongs, always been there

Edited by cog
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13 hours ago, cog said:

I like it without the sails, gives a good impression of the ship as it is, no sails obstructing the general view.


P.s. I love the background of the photograph, as if she belongs, always been there

Thanks Carl. Unfortunately she will have to go live in a glasshouse and graciously make way for her replacement.


Thanks, Steven and Druxey for following along as I slowly go back through time.

3 hours ago, Mark Pearse said:



 Is that a reproduction of Durer on the left?

Yes, Mark, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Fall of Satan. Appropriate for the times.


Cheers, all


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Reconstruction of a Venetian round ship of the 13th century


Richard J Beaver 



During the mediaeval period, Venice was a trading hub which dominated the Mediterranean and, despite numerous battles with its rivals Genoa and Pisa, Venice traded widely through the Mediterranean basin, up into the Black Sea and even sent trading vessels into the Atlantic as far as Flanders and the British Isles.


At the period we are dealing with most of its trade was conveyed in either merchant long-range galleys (long ships) for longer distancesimage.png.6ee91d685b2bf20bbd9617c13ec629e3.png

or, for shorter hops, the round ship. It is this latter vessel that I wish to represent with a 1/32 scale model, built, as well as can be ascertained from the limited evidence, according to the original techniques used by Venetian shipwrights. Evidence was derived from rare manuscripts, contemporary paintings and illustrations and from the few wrecks of these ships that have been found.

The craft of the ship-builder was secret and passed on to family or trusted individuals. Woe betide anyone who stole or revealed the secrets of this craft! No plans were drawn up. The constructions and measurements were made using geometrical and arithmetic formulae. These were transferred to templates which were often no more than dozens of marked sticks which were stored in case a further vessel was required. For instance, the distance from the top of the bulwark to the main wale would be one marked stick and the width of a deck beam would be another.

The Round Ship or Nave Tonda was built skeleton-first and carvel-planked. It was lateen rigged on one or two pole masts. image.png.bec86b3aefb898ee219beddc607de35d.png

The stem and stern posts were drawn using simple Euclidean geometry and attached to the keel by simple scarfs. The keel lengths, beam width and depth of hold were also established using geometric techniques adjusted according to the owners special requirements.

Each frame of the “skeleton” was modelled on a “Master-Frame” and consisted of a flat floor timber, two futtocks and two top-timbers fastened with iron bolts.image.png.d3fbfca80435ec37a3f9668329ea56c2.png

No trenails were used in the construction. Having established the length of the vessel, the number of needed frames was calculated. Having determined how much the frames would narrow fore and aft, a geometric technique such as the “Mezza Luna” (there were others) was used to produce a smooth narrowing between the Master Frame and the two Tail-Frames (the last frames with a true floor, one at the fore and one aft). image.png.9da45b1f9d379e380b4e65c565f845b7.pngEach frame was then constructed with progressive narrowing of the floor. Every fifth frame was bolted to the keel and trued up.image.png.84d7e9214b11ce873b587761fb5f0aec.png

At this point, the frames were connected by longitudinal ribbands. The remaining intermediate frames were then installed. Ribbands were extended to the stem and stern posts. By direct measurement the bow and stern framing was constructed. After completion of framing, planking proceeded (by the Guild of Caulkers) using carvel planking, well caulked. External wales, internal longitudinal stringers, keelson  and ceiling were installed. Lastly, deck beams were installed.

In order to construct the model, I used the framing plans of the Contarina 1 shipwreck discovered in 1898 and fully measured. image.png.1c2e59fba06a37fc010899e4659ec4d9.png

The overall dimensions were those given in a contemporary manuscript by Michael of Rhodes which has been fully published and translated. Lastly the superstructure was based on a painting by Veneziano in the St Mark’s Basilica ( the Pala d’oro).  1752484334_venezianostmark03.jpg.512a3e36f21162b240894019a9bcadc4.jpg




Summary of theConstruction of the model

to follow in next post



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Summary of the Construction of the Hull

On a  building board with the plan of the ship glued, the keel was erected.


Stem and stern posts were scarfed onto the keel.

At this stage the shape of the master frame was determined by geometric technique of the manuscript Libro de Navigar.


The master frame is fixed to the keel



A special jig was made to allow assemblages of frames with different amounts of floor narrowing


Tail-frames and every fifth frame attached to the keel.


Intermediate frames are inserted to complete the main hull framing.



Ribbands between the hull, stem and sternposts are used to fashion the bow and stern frames.

                               image.png.c6ebfe0114e370e1c11c0b859eb77f7c.png  image.png.ca63fddb7bb6e8fe6995a7d9f66a5658.png

Internal stringers and deck clamps are installed and longitudinal wales.

This completes summary of the framing of the hull









The Quarter Rudders

Mediterranean vessels of the 13th century followed the ancient practice of having two rudders on each of the vessel’s quarters. The shape of these rudders is well known from contemporary pictures and recent discoveries in the Black Sea and elsewhere have confirmed the accuracy of these pictures. In essence, the quarter rudders need to have a mechanism to allow raising and lowering of the rudder. For instance, when heeled over under sail it was a common practice to raise the weather rudder and to steer by the lee rudder. A tiller was slotted into the upper end of the rudder. In addition, because there is considerable lateral force on the rudder, this must be resisted. In order to allow raising and lowering and resist lateral force, a system of curved rudder guides was built into the quarter of the ship and rigging designed to achieve this. The rigging is shown diagrammatically and the rudder guides as constructed on the model::

                      image.png.430ccc9b9febdf6301eb570043fddf5c.png  image.png.7e8d566fac8fcf7da78dc1360ee08740.png


The rudder in raised position:image.png.4fedc2299510e4726d084eb3cae884f8.png

The timoneer’s position is  in front of the sterncastle

The Deck furniture


The Pumps

These ships were probably fitted with log pumps. So called because the longitudinal element was made from a single log hollowed out by large augers . The pump mechanism was and expanding leather cone lifted by hand and predating  chain pumps by centuries.

This example was found in the Newport ship image.png.60577265bdfa91893ed0dba58e6ab4b6.png

These are the pumps in the model

image.png.1d6fa7f07ebdec634d408bf0ee774f06.png  image.png.4ce0c18215c085c3df3b111ee02467c5.png








The Windlass

The use of simple windlasses is well attested but probably not capstans. I doubt that pawls were installed at this early stage.






Masting and Rigging of the Round Ship will be summarised in the next post




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