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A Dutch 17th century pleasure vessel by Ab Hoving - Card

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A Dutch 17th century pleasure vessel2040260602_Afb1.jpg.3dec0d736fc30785136e09cd7f145792.jpg

Pleasure vessels’ penpainting by Willem van de Velde. 

 

Sailing with no other purpose than pleasure is probably of all ages. But it is a remarkable fact that the Dutch were the first people to design ship types especially for that single activity. Early in the 17th century in certain circles wealth grew so high that pleasure yachts appeared on the Dutch waters. Vessels especially designed for fun! The Amsterdam lord mayor Nicolaes Witsen presents a drawing in his book Aeloude en Hedendaegse Scheepsbouw en Bestier (Old and Modern Shipbuilding and Managing) from 1671, together with a simple specification contract.

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Witsen’s text

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Witsen’s drawing

 

Over thirty years ago I was very interested in methods of shipbuilding and reading the old literature it gave me the conviction that the data in the contract for this relatively simple vessel were enough to do an experiment. There are no frames on Witsen’s drawing, but my theory was, that for building a ship shell-first, which was the method used in Holland at that time, a body plan was not necessary. In that system the builder starts with the hull planking before adding frame parts.

I was quite confident that I could do that trick in model-scale and I wanted to record what I did to compare the results with another building method, partly frame-first, which was described by a second contemporary Dutch author, Cornelis van Yk in his book De Nederlandsche Scheepsbouwkonst Open Gestelt (Dutch Shipbuilding Unveiled) from 1697. Here the builder starts with some frames before planking. Nobody ever noticed that both writers described different methods of how to build a ship. For historians the texts are too technical, for professional shipbuilders they are too historical and no longer interesting within nowadays construction systems. I wanted not only to test both methods, I also wanted to show the difference for scientific purposes.

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Shell-first building method. Planking before frames.

 

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Another stage in shell-first building

 

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Frame-first building. Frames before planking. 

 

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Splines help the builder to find the shape of the futtocks

 

It took me several efforts to produce a model that could reasonably withstand the comparison with the few sources I had. Due to the fact that my camera repeatedly let me down I even had to go through the process three times, which taught me a precious lesson: building shell-first without plans, needs experience. The third time I built my model I did it in far less time and the shape of the model improved a lot.

I ended up with giving a presentation about the two ways of construction at the International Symposium for Ship and Boat Archaeology in Amsterdam in 1988 and the immediate result was that I was offered a job in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam as head of the Restoration Department of Dutch History.

This little pleasure vessel had changed my life forever.

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The finished model, built in 1988.

 

Looking back at the impact of this model on my life I am surprized that I never cared to make a lines plan of this little yacht. As I am planning to give it a new try, this time in paper, I can finally correct this deficiency. Of course Rene Hendrickx, my faithful Belgian help in 3D constructions did me the favour of helping me out with his magical command of the free shipbuilding program Delftship.

It all started with a free hand sketch, which I based on the specifications in Witsen’s book.

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Freehand sketch based on the specifications in Witsens book.

 

Soon enough it became clear that working drawings of this vessel might bring a lot of pleasure to many ship model builders. Therefore we executed every part of the vessel in 3D, making it possible to make any kind of model, be it static, big, small, or even (with some improvisation by the builder) as a working radio-controlled variant. The rig is extremely easy to handle, with only sheets to control the sails and halliards for the leeboards, so it won’t cause any technical problem. But building radio-controlled vessels is not my trade. I am happy when I come off with a good-looking paper craft nowadays. Anyone interested in the draughts in pdf. or in dxf. can send me a PM and I will send the plans over for free as soon as they are ready.

 

The scale I use for all my models is 1/77. For a 42-feet long vessel (11.89 m) that gives an overall length of 15,5 cm., which is a bit small for me and I chose a 1/44 scale for this project. These scales might look odd for anyone who does not know that the Amsterdam feet (28,3 cm) consisted of 11 inches (2,6 cm), so a 1/44 scale means that every inch at the model stands for 4 feet in real life, which gives a total length of 27 cm for the model.

The old well known system of building (see my previous threads) has to be adapted in this case, because the deck in the middle of the vessel is extremely low, leaving a big part of the hull without sufficient support during building. So we have to think a bit more in advance and prepare both the longitudinal spine and some of the frames.

 

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Elevation view in Delftship, drawn by Rene Hendrickx

 

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Bodyplan in Delftship, drawn by Rene Hendrickx

 

I did not make too many pictures. Partly because I forgot, partly because I have become a bit shy presenting the various stages of my efforts. Too many people show their progress here with unfinished models that look like a million bucks. Mine always look sloppy, with fluffy edges, stains and overlapping parts. I know that in the end they mostly show up quite well, but during construction I have the impression that the main reason why I go over to a next stage in building is to hide the mistakes I made in the previous ones. But anyone who is interested in my methods can find them in my tutorial about building with card in: https://modelshipworld.com/topic/19467-fish-hooker-after-chapman-by-ab-hoving-finished-how-to-scratch-build-from-paper-card/ and threads like http://www.papermodelers.com/forum/ships-watercraft/35441-17th-century-dutch-fluit.html, http://www.papermodelers.com/forum/ships-watercraft/36353-another-17th-century-dutch-workhorse.htmland more on the Papermodelers forum.

I have built in wood for most of my life and now I am getting old I go for the easy stuff, building in card. Once the hull has its shape I cover the outside with self-adhesive plastic foil. If a hair-dryer is used the strips can be bent in every possible shape. The rest is painting. 

Ill keep you informed about my progress.

 

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First stage in building in card. The parts outside the compartments have been doubled. 

 

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Ready to be covered with plastic strips

 

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The hull below the upper wale is covered and painted for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a delightful subject, Ab! I remember your earlier articles which were very educational for me and thank you - belatedly -  for those.

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You are welcome Druxey, those articles were not much of a burden to me, as I have liked what I was doing all my life. Original literature has always been my main inspiration, together with all the beautiful maritime paintings we have from that period. So it gives a good feeling that other people liked what I was doing. Very comforting for an old man like me....:-). So thank YOU in return.

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Hi Ab,


Big fan of you and your work of historic Dutch shipbuilding. 

Planking method of a 17th century Dutch vessels hull differs a lot for instance with a English, French or Spanish vessel of that timeperiod. Do you know the reason why the Dutch choose a different way of planking? May also the "vlakbouw" method be of importance in this instance?

Also the hull shape is smaller / sleeker and at the bow much more flatter. This is also good to be seen at your yacht.

These differences has alway's intrigued me, but the answers are not clear to me.

 

Following your build with great interest! :)

 

regards,
Peter

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Hi Peter,

 

In my opinion the best way to understand the shape of Dutch ships and the way they are planked is to study the method of construction. In many southern countries, including England, people used a way of building with pre-defined frames. Use of the mezzaluna was custom. Shipbuilders applied moulds and other ways of deciding the shape of the frames before planking their ships. In Holland that method never landed. Up to the end of wooden shipbuilding we built ships shell-first, laying the planks of the hull first and filling in the frames later. That method reaches back to the Scandinavian method of how for instance drakars were built.

That and the obvious shallow waters in our region caused the flat-bottomed shape of our ships and I am always surprised to see how our shipbuilders succeeded in giving their vessels such a beautiful and flamboyant shape. That is something that will always intrigue me and my aim has always been to show that to other people, hoping they will see the same beauty.

Hope this explains a bit of your question.

Ab

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10 hours ago, Ab Hoving said:

Hi Peter,

 

In my opinion the best way to understand the shape of Dutch ships and the way they are planked is to study the method of construction. In many southern countries, including England, people used a way of building with pre-defined frames. Use of the mezzaluna was custom. Shipbuilders applied moulds and other ways of deciding the shape of the frames before planking their ships. In Holland that method never landed. Up to the end of wooden shipbuilding we built ships shell-first, laying the planks of the hull first and filling in the frames later. That method reaches back to the Scandinavian method of how for instance drakars were built.

That and the obvious shallow waters in our region caused the flat-bottomed shape of our ships and I am always surprised to see how our shipbuilders succeeded in giving their vessels such a beautiful and flamboyant shape. That is something that will always intrigue me and my aim has always been to show that to other people, hoping they will see the same beauty.

Hope this explains a bit of your question.

Ab

Thank you for your answer Ab! The shell first method so...I mean at that timeperiod the biggest ships were build in Rotterdam and Amsterdam at the “admiraliteit”. Someone on the Bataviawerf told me that the shell first method was  a common method used in Rotterdam but not always in Amsterdam. By that they followed the Amsterdam way by placing the frames first for the 7 provincien replica. Your answer tells me that this was probably not true at all and it was the custom to build shell first on all the “big” shipyards in the Netherlands, they just forgotten how to build it that way and tried and failed to use the frames first method.

 

I love the shape and ingenuity of the Dutch ships...makes me proud to be a Dutchman. 😉

 

thanks again,

Peter

 

 

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Well, I happened to be one of the three people (together with Herbert Tomesen and the late Cor Emke) who were responsible for the present design of the 7 Provincien, the ship on the stocks of the Batavia wharf. Regrettably the built was stopped a few years later as a result of a lack of funds. It was decided than and there not to apply the shell-first method, but to use a more modern way for safety. This was because the first effort to build the ship shell-first failed as a result of a lack of experience with the method. No criticism about the volunteers on the ship-yard, but they are not always as well informed as could be hoped for.

 

As a rule ships in the 17th century were built shell-first in Holland, although there are indications in literature of a different method of construction for the Rotterdam area. However no archaeological find has confirmed this so far, so about some aspects of this matter we are not quite certain. In the eighties, when I discovered the different methods described in contemporary literature, I tested both methods in model scale and both appeared to be successful. Maybe one day we are lucky enough to find indications of this deviating method somewhere on the sea bed.

Like you I am proud to see the beautiful ships that were made in Holland, in spite of the simple tools and the tough materials that were used. Modelbuilding is one way to spread the word...

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19 minutes ago, Ab Hoving said:

Well, I happened to be one of the three people (together with Herbert Tomesen and the late Cor Emke) who were responsible for the present design of the 7 Provincien, the ship on the stocks of the Batavia wharf. Regrettably the built was stopped a few years later as a result of a lack of funds. It was decided than and there not to apply the shell-first method, but to use a more modern way for safety. This was because the first effort to build the ship shell-first failed as a result of a lack of experience with the method. No criticism about the volunteers on the ship-yard, but they are not always as well informed as could be hoped for.

 

As a rule ships in the 17th century were built shell-first in Holland, although there are indications in literature of a different method of construction for the Rotterdam area. However no archaeological find has confirmed this so far, so about some aspects of this matter we are not quite certain. In the eighties, when I discovered the different methods described in contemporary literature, I tested both methods in model scale and both appeared to be successful. Maybe one day we are lucky enough to find indications of this deviating method somewhere on the sea bed.

Like you I am proud to see the beautiful ships that were made in Holland, in spite of the simple tools and the tough materials that were used. Modelbuilding is one way to spread the word...

Well spoken, thank you I can talk for hours on this subject! 🙂Time to get back to your model! 😉

 

Peter

 

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Good day, Mr. Hoving - 

 

Like Druxey, I have been a fan of yours for decades.  Your techniques have informed my work, and although I have not been called on to build a Dutch sailing ship, all your books are in my library if needed.    If I ever get away from the people who pay me to build models, a Dutch 17th century warship is on the short list for a personal project.   

 

I am also eagerly following along.  Seeing how you improve, replace, or minimize your "mistakes" will be the icing on the cake.

 

Dan

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Hi Dan,

Thank you for your comments. In order not to disappoint you, here are the latest pictures I took. As you see there is some progress, but there is also a lot to improve, replace and minimize 🙂. Trust me, it will all fall in place once I do the final round.

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The work on the drawings also progresses. Outside planking is done (of course) and most of the framing too. In the end every part of the vessel will be 3D.

 

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It has been hot here lately, so I spent too much time being lazy...

 

Best,

Ab

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Hi there!

 

Thank you for the informative lessons (of the Dutch as well as your ship building career)! The model comes along nicely! A very interesting design, too. Reminds me of an oversized rowing boat. Looking forward to see more.

But until then stay save with that heat scorching the lands in Europe! Here in Helsinki we have enjoyable "Finnish summer temperatures" of around 20 degrees which feel even colder due to the sea wind - just ideal to work on my thesis (and unfortunately not on my Mayflower...).

 

Rgds,

Radek

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Hi Radek,

I envy you in Helsinki with such moderate temperatures. On top of the unbearable heat lately, we have another problem here. Momentarily there is a plague of a caterpillar (we call them procession caterpillars) on oak trees, spreading very little invisible hairs in the air, which cause itching swellings all over the body. You can get invected by simply riding your bike in the vicinity of oak trees.

I prefer spring, winter and fall as periods that are most productive for me.

It was nice meeting you and your wife in Amsterdam.

Best,

Ab

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Hallo Ab, so good seeing you here and showing us how to build a typical Dutch pleasure ship - - witj all the history behind it.  I  also have most of your books and am a great lover of Dutch ships.

I have a project on my wish list to build a mini model of a VOC or Staten jacht in a 6 inch globe of a lamp.  I will try to follow your build to learn.

 

Cheers,

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Hello Piet, (that sounds very Dutch, how come?)

I couldn’t help seeing your birthdate.  You must have very good eyes and a steady hand to build in a lightbulb. Many people Me amongst them) will envy you for that.

Ab

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Sorry to read about the heat and the caterpillars (the latter have even hit the news over this side of the Atlantic!).

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If it wasn't so irritating it is quite an interesting event. They sometimes cover quite an area of the tree. Each caterpillar had millions of tiny hairs, which spread with the wind and only passing by on your bicycle is enough to get covered with itching swellings. I had it just on ly left arm, but my wife was covered with it. And the predictions are that it will only get worse with the warming climate. Other variants with a reference for other trees will follow soon.

Good alibi not to go out anymore and stay in to build... 🙂

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In the mean time work piles up on my work bench.

An old project, a 160 foot VOC East India man waits for a long time to get finished, a late 16th century vessel, a vlieboot, has temporarily run aground as a result of my ignorance how to install a gratings deck all over the hull, another project, a 'wad-konvooier' ( a small armed ship to escort unarmed freighters over the inland seas in the north) got stuck because of doubts about the decorations and finally the pleasure vessel, for which I am making decorations and crew at the moment. Very little speed in it all, which makes me impatient.

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Hi Ab,

 

nice ships! Well worth finishing (some time in the future).

I never came across 'wad konvooiers'. It does look like a 'statenjacht-like hull, but it is two-masted. How will itbe rigged? Squeare, like a two-masted hoeker, or...?

 

Jan

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Hi Jan,

 

Yrs, this one seems to be a variant of the statenjacht, but they also appear on etchings looking like s small fluit. It is not so much a type as a function I guess.

This one is from Van de Velde on vellum, the other one is by Reinier Nooms.

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Ab, 

It is good you are showing the plans from the Speel jacht (Pleasure Yacht). 

The learning curve in reading the contract from Witsen (and your latest book) has been steep. 

I will take the information you have on this thread and compare it to my notes of building the jacht. 

I have made many mistakes just by understanding the length, width and height of the ship. I will master this exercise,......... eventually. 

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Posted (edited)

Hi Marcus,

 

The plans for the 'speeljacht' are progressing, but the model itself is a bit stuck, due to failures from my side and the sudden urge to build another hull, a 143 feet long man-of-war with 60 guns, which took me two weeks. I guess I could finish the yacht within a day, but several things withhold me. Private ones on one side (worries about my youngest daughter who had to go through some serious surgery), but also technical ones. One of them is the 1/44 scale. I have to make the 'crew' for this little ship from scratch and making a 17th century family is almost as complicated as keeping my real family healthy. 🙂

The man-of-war is about to be planked, after I make all the necessary parts for the decks. A lot of repetitive work and my head is looking for something to stay busy to keep the worries away. Too much of the same allows the mind to go astray...

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Good luck with your efforts.

Edited by Ab Hoving

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Posted (edited)

I start with a wire skeleton. 

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Next is shaping a rough body without the limbs from a two component stuff called Magic Sculpt (Google that).

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After the body has hardened it can be handled and I add the arms, legs and head. Hands and feet are added once the crew is seated, to get a good connection with the floor and the oars. Here is a picture of the crew of a sloop I could not find commercial models for.

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I needed a sloop in the fore ground of a 'photoshop painting' by my son about an Anglo-Dutch war scene we were making. Hardly visible on this tiny picture, but necessary...

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Edited by Ab Hoving

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Sorry to read of your family concerns and hope the outcome is favorable, Ab. 

 

Lovely evocative work yet again; those figures on the jacht are delightful, especially the gentleman smoking a clay pipe!

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Thank you gentlemen. The prospects are good, tissues were clean. We are optimistic again. But this shook me more that my own cancer adventure last year. It does not feel fair for a 42 years young women.

Back to modelbuilding.

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Ab, 

Thanks for the encouragement on building the yacht. When I need a break from working on the Fluit, the Zeehaen, I work on understanding contracts. 

What is the name of the 60 gun man-of-War you are building? 

Marcus 

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It's a funny story. I was working together with a historian who found a specification contract in the archives for eight men-of-war which were built on private shipyards in Amsterdam in 1680 for the Spanish king. We did an article about that fact and part of it was the reconstruction of such a ship. We don't know the name, just that it was one of a series of eight.

In those days it must have been quite normal that we built ships for a potential hostile nation. French ships built a few years earlier in Amsterdam and were fighting with our ships near Tobago. One of the Dutch-built French ships was captured, brought to Holland, repaired and... sold to France, even for a higher price than the first sale.

History can be very funny sometimes.

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