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USS Constitution by tmj - Original 1794 Hull Design

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“Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!”
(Unknown sailor, USS Constitution, 19 August 1812, battle with HMS Guerriere)

 

"Building a new Navy for the 'new' United States"

                                                                     The American Revolution ended in 1783, and the new United States sent its merchant fleet afar to trade in spices, fish,
                                                                   leather, etc. to rebuild its economy. However. The last Continental Navy warship was effectively sold in 1785, and US
                                                                   merchant vessels thereafter sailed unprotected. This lack of protection soon became a problem, especially when sailing

                                                                   off of North Africa in the 1790's, and finally Congress authorized a new navy, in 1794, to protect the fleet. Between 1797

                                                                   and 1800, 6 frigates were launched: United States, Constellation, Constitution, Chesapeake, Congress, and President.

                                                                   USS Constitution, launched 21 October 1797, is the sole survivor (USS Constellation, in Baltimore Harbor, is the 1854 warship

                                                                   of the same name). Joshua Humphreys designed theses frigates to be the strongest, fastest, and most heavily armed warships

                                                                   of the era. Constitution’s hull is 3-layers of wood: exterior & interior oak planking and dense live oak framing (ribs) spaced 'close
                                                                   together'
as the middle layer. At the waterline, the ship is over 22” thick... and this thick, strong and dense hull makes up her
                                                                  “iron” sides. When hit with enemy fire, Constitution’s hull either repelled the cannon shot's, and/or effectively absorbed them, due

                                                                   to her massive hull, thus helping to prevent serious damage to the ship while also minimizing casualties to her crew. Between

                                                                  1798 and 1854, Constitution was victorious in 33 engagements and a great deal of her fame rests in her 3 stunning victories over

                                                                  Royal Navy vessels in the War of 1812. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship on the U.S. Navy roster. Still seaworthy

                                                                  and served by Navel officers and crew to this very day! 

 

                                                                                                                            _______________________________________________________

 

... and so the build begins!

 

  I've acquired a copy of Joshua Humphreys original hull design from 1794, courtesy of the 'Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment, Boston'. This will make for a proper start to this historic project. 

My goal is to reconstruct an accurate depiction, in scale, of the USS Constitution as she was originally designed, by Joshua Humphreys in 1794. This build will begin with my restoration and clarification of the original hull drawing, via Autocad, as there are portions of this original drawing that have obviously lost a bit of needful detail via the ages. Mid-ship frame details, via the body plan, will likely be difficult to accurately recreate, therefore, I'll likely make those frames a bit proud both internally 'and' externally, for safety... and simply fair them down to their proper forms once it's time to fair the hull's frames to shape.
 I've not yet decided as to the true scale that I'll actually be building her to, however. I'm currently 'thinking' somewhere around 1/75'ish. Larger, maybe, but definitely no smaller than 1/75. I'll also likely build a rather lengthy mid-section 'prototype' prior to going for the full length build. I can see a lot of potential 'difficulties' to be encountered in such a complex build. A prototype, whether I finish it, or not, should prove to be a good 'test-bed' from which I can figure out just how in the h*ll I'm going to pull this off to personally 'acceptable' standards. It's going to be very interesting and time consuming, for sure! 

 

This is what I'm starting with. It's Humphreys original draft of the constitution's original hull as designed in 1794. Sorry for all of the edits to this post. I was trying to post the hull drawing that I received, in .pdf format, from the Naval History & Heritage Command, but no joy. You'll have to settle for this much smaller 'jpeg', instead of the actual 5' foot long drawing... 

  Joshua Humphreys 1794 design.jpg

 

 

 

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I've made a bit of progress on the CAD based restoration and clarification of the 'sheer' plan view, however. Nothing worth showing, yet. I still have a long ways to go. I probably 'should' have started my CAD work with the body plan, first... but I've always believed in tackling the 'worst problems first'! I prefer for things to progressively get easier as they go along, whenever actually able to do so. There are a lot of curious areas, as viewed via my copy of the sheer plan, depicting obvious faded/missing details, smudges in blank spots that 'could be' an indication of something, or maybe just a 'smudge' and nothing more. I'm also seeing shapes of certain structural components/features that don't really make any sense from an engineering perspective, nor worth the extra effort and time required to physically produce those curious shapes. I'm 'thinking' that these curiously shaped areas, and timbers, may be nothing more than Joshua Humphreys origin draft depicting an 'artistic conception' of something that was later refined, once actual construction of the ship began. Hard to say. More research will be required, in these areas, before I cast my final drawings in stone. The Body plan will be next up for bat. I see a few issues there, too. Issues that will also need a bit more clarification, research, etc. Once I get to the 'line' drawing... I'll be going 'feet wet' and relaxing while on the home stretch! The line drawing looks to be in rather good shape and should be rather easy to work with... provided its details do not conflict with any 'other' details depicted via the sheer, or body plans. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed on 'that' one!"          

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Tmj,

 

A worthy endeavor, I commend you for your desire to show CONNY as she started her wonderful career!!!

 

Although my preferred CAD program is Bentley MicroStation v8i, I'll let you slide on using AutoCAD here!!! LOL!!! I use v8i for all my modeling drawings (CAD). 

 

Years ago someone else built a CONSTITUTION in her 1794 appearance and I've always thought that this was how she should have been modeled. My only suggestion to you would be to use a common scale (1:72 comes to mind) as the overall size probably drives your decision on this. Good luck with CAD drafting of the plans. If you need a really clear copy of the original configuration of CONNY, send me a PM and I'll scan in Plate IV (CONSTITUTION Class Frigate) - 1945 copy from the Knox book Barbary Wars, Personnel & Ship's Data 1801-1807.

 

It will be interesting to see how this project develops!

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23 hours ago, Hank said:

A worthy endeavor, I commend you for your desire to show CONNY as she started her wonderful career!!!

 

Although my preferred CAD program is Bentley MicroStation v8i, I'll let you slide on using AutoCAD here!!! LOL!!! I use v8i for all my modeling drawings (CAD). 

 

Years ago someone else built a CONSTITUTION in her 1794 appearance and I've always thought that this was how she should have been modeled. My only suggestion to you would be to use a common scale (1:72 comes to mind) as the overall size probably drives your decision on this. Good luck with CAD drafting of the plans. If you need a really clear copy of the original configuration of CONNY, send me a PM and I'll scan in Plate IV (CONSTITUTION Class Frigate) - 1945 copy from the Knox book Barbary Wars, Personnel & Ship's Data 1801-1807.

 LOL on the CAD thing. I started using Acad way back when, when DOS was not only cool... but also the only operating system available! If I'm not mistaking, I believe that I also had a top of the line DX40 system to run my Acad on! I'm sure that I just 'dated' myself, seriously, and there are likely folks on this forum who don't even know 'exactly' what DOS, or DX40 truly means, ("Whatever, Boomer!") "What can I say?" Old habits die hard and I've just gone with the familiar flow throughout the years. "Please, don't hold it against me!" 😎

 As for the scale size that I am seeking, you are 'spot-on' correct. Size 'has' indeed been a major consideration in my desires, however. The larger scale size mentioned will be for a sectional prototype, only. An experimental 'Lab-Rat' and test bed, per se. The real deal will need to be of a more realistic scale, as I don't wish to custom fabricate hundreds of oddball sized fittings, etc. for such a bastard scale. Length would also be a problem at larger scale. Too long and tall for comfortable display anywhere other than a museum! I'm hoping that my sectional test-bed will prove worthy as a sectional display, once all is said and done, but I'm not counting on it. It's main purpose is going to be for the development and refinement of curious techniques, precise methods, and aesthetically appealing results that will be eventually utilized and applied to the actual build intended for display. Whether my lab-rat passes muster for display, or not, doesn't matter. It will serve a valuable purpose, either way...       

 

 I'm gonna take you up on that offer for a copy of your Plate IV drawing. I'm interested to see what it shows! Many thanks for the offer! I'll shoot you a PM in a day or so!              

 

 

   

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Tom,

 

I'm PMing you on your msg. etc. but thought I'd reply to your above commentary. I do know about DOS - My first computer was a Wyse 286 running MS-DOS (1986), the version I can't recall. I took a class in 1985 in Wilmington NC at Cape Fear Tech on ACAD rel. 2 and as I was using Intergraph IGDS CAD at DuPont, couldn't get past the awkwardness of ACAD and having to take 3-4 steps to the 1-2 steps in Intergraph. Hence, when MicroStation came along (1987) I took that path and although spending the last 3 working years doing .dwg files, all were done using MicroStation. As you say, if it works (Better😁!) don't fix it!!!

 

Size & Scale - Ah, Yes - when I started my PEACOCK project in 2006, I chose 1:48 scale and ended up 6 years later with a huge model ship & display case (6' lg x 2' wide x 42" tall) sitting under wraps in the garage - at least until my model workshop is up and running and I'll move it there. If BOSTON ever gets underway, it will also be 1:48 scale, but only the lower masts/top - no upper works. It would approx. be the length of PEACOCK, I haven't run the numbers yet.

 

See my PM.

 

Hank

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6 hours ago, michaelpsutton2 said:

Will you hang gunport lids or will you go with the idea that they were removable?

As per my drawings, I believe that they will be hinged and hung. Now that you ask... I'll need to revisit the gun port drawings and give them a closer study. I just haven't gotten to that point yet. From what I remember, from my quick glance at 'that' drawing, they were to be hinged and pulled open. I could easily be wrong, however. In thought... I'd suspect that hinges would be much more of a viable and secure action/operation than the total 'removal' of such components. Removal would likely prove to be a bit awkward, so I think. I can see 'removed' lids accidentally being 'deep-sixed', on a regular basis, due to human nature and clumsy hands... unless affixed to the ship via 'Ah-Sh*t proof' lanyards! I'll certainly look into this! If it's original design dictates removable gun port hatches, that's what she'll get! If not, she'll get what was originally prescribed as per designed. 😊      

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I have always though hinged and hung, but many early portraits show no lids or maybe only one forward on the bridle port and two or three aft where the officers quarters were. I don't think I have ever seen a definitive answer.

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I'm no expert, but I've never seen any documentation at all that would indicate there were no gun port lids. Most accounts I've read shows them as hinged from the top (one piece) not the upper/lower lids as the ship has currently in place.

 

Hope this helps,

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There are two well known examples of sailing vessels capsizing and sinking where downflooding occurred through open gun ports.

 

Constitution was built as a deepwater vessel intended to sail in any kind of weather.  It makes no sense to not provide her with gunport lids that could prevent downflooding in the event of a knockdown.

 

Roger

 

 

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I can't speak to American ships  of this era, but the French frigate (for the most part... there were exceptions) used "bucklers" on all ports except for the most forward ones which used a lid.   Perhaps Constitution used bucklers?  Now that I've stirred the pot a bit, I'll exit stage-left.

 

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From everything I've read the 1797 configuration would of had gun port lids that were hinged or pinned and removed before battle so if you are building it with the guns run out there shouldn't be any lids showing.  Check the Bass book "Super frigate of many faces" and TGM's Constitution Close up.

 

Jim

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I've not posted any updated progress on this build, but bear with me. "It's coming!"

Just because I've not posted anything doesn't mean that I'm not actively working on it! As soon as I have something truly worth sharing... you folks will certainly be the first to see it! 😊 

I've so far encountered numerous 'technical difficulties' in my reconstruction of the original 1794 images, of the USS Constitution's lines, via the .PDF files that I am forced to work with. I first have to convert those .PDF's into something that CAD can actually read. It's an easy process, however. PDF's aren't very precise, therefor... certain details, features, etc. tend to get lost and sometimes confused/truncated in the conversion process of such drawings. In reconstructing the drawings, for accuracy, I need to effectively reconstruct portions of my 're-constructions', due to those curious/lost details... if 'that' makes any sense! The mid ship section of the 'Body Plan', required for the accurate forming/modeling of the shapes required for those mid ship frames has so far proven to be the worst offenders, via the loss of detail, via the conversion process... forcing me to also have to reconstruct the shear and half-breadth lines/plans for better proof and accuracy. That being said. I'm also running into the same issues of lost details and curious truncation with the shear and half-breadth views. "Aarghhh!" I'm now wondering if I will actually be able to pull this off, with the level of accuracy that I seek! "Damn the torpedo's... Full Speed Ahead!" I'm still gonna "Get 'er Done", albeit. It's obviously going to take quite a bit longer, on the ol' drawing board, than I initially expected the design stage of this build to take. I could cheat, but I won't. "That would be 'cheating!" I'm not going to cheat and take the easy way out, just to 'bang something out' and settle for hand-grenade, 'horseshoe', or commercial marketing accuracy. I'm going to split them curious hairs, scratch my head, do some math, drink a beer or few... and do my best to do 'er right! 

Stay tuned... "The show will begin... shortly!"              

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I posted a question about some curious drawing features, shown in Humphrey's original drawing, in a another venue of this forum dealing with plans, etc.. I'm asking the same question, here, to double my odds of getting a good answer. I've noted, in red, two curious features/lines on the half-breadth section of this drawing that leave me scratching my head. There's actually a few more similar lines shown on the original drawing, once I zoom in on things, but if these two obvious features can be explained... I'll know how to interpret the rest. What do the lines that run well 'outside' of the hull's actual design represent? Also, what is that 'curious' looking geometric feature that resembles the cross-section of an extremely high lift/low speed glider airfoil? I'm doubting that these things are truly necessary for my accurate reconstruction of the hull, for this model ship, however. I'd really like to know just what they represent and why they were important enough to be included on Humphrey's 1794 drawing. Someone will know what these lines/things represent. If you are that person, please chime in and enlighten me!     

 

446394740_JoshuaHumphreys1794designwithcuriouslineitems.jpg.a7393ed2cbf8d6a4a315cf659d007fb5.jpg

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I believe that the curve from bow to stern and extending outside of the half breadths is one of the two diagonals shown on the body plan.  These diagonals are drawn by Naval Architects by measuring diagonal dimensions along the line plotted on the body plan and then plotting them on the half breadths to prove the fairness of the hull.  You do not need these to draw the hull lines but should plot your own diagonals to ensure that the hull that you have drawn is fair.

 

I would suggest that the other line is a true view expansion of one of the head rails.

 

Roger

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 I've successfully cleaned up some of the .PDF file lines, and reconstructed enough of the smudged details, on that drawing, to finally begin lofting some extremely accurate frames. Due to my desired scale vs. readily available materials... this design will actually have 5 additional frame locations as compared to the original count. This won't affect anything other than adding a tad bit more work. 79 frame locations (original) vs. my 84 frame configuration... "hmm?" With that many frames to loft and fabricate, "who cares about five more frames?" To stick with my desired scale, the frames would have needed to be .3989" thick, for original design. That's too oddball a dimension, so I opted for .375" which works out great! Standard thickness of materials can be used to construct the frames without a lot of waste via thickness planing of much heavier material. It's an acceptable compromise. 

 Getting to this point has been a slower 'go' than I had anticipated, and also an exercise in frustration, to say the least... but it's also a very 'necessary evil' in my strife for historically accurate lines. Had I better drawings to work with, I'd surely be well beyond this stage by now. Working from a .PDF photocopy of a 'not so pristine' drawing that is 225 years old adds a whole new level of difficulty to the project! That's okay. The end result will be well worth the preliminary efforts required!      

  Next up will be the individual frames, one at a time. While I will know the exterior shape of those frames, I now need to come up with the 'internal' geometry and thickness(s) of those frames. More research will be involved, of course, but I can do that 'after' lofting the exterior geometry of the frames.      

 

1414599272_ReadytoLoftFrames.jpg.86909c907ac5213c8a13b59c8d287548.jpg

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21 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

I believe that the curve from bow to stern and extending outside of the half breadths is one of the two diagonals shown on the body plan.

"I concur!" I'm just not used to seeing outboard diagonals take such a curious form. Makes me wonder if I am looking at something totally unfamiliar to me (which still might be the case). I say this because that drastic curve blends in quite well with the aft most form of the stern, but not so well/smooth towards the bow. Curious curves. Perhaps I'm just having a bit of difficulty in mentally visualizing those lines in a 3D frame of mind. You'll notice that I'm laying out my drawing templates in a rather curious manner. There's a method behind my madness. I'm separating the typical body plan from the diagonal plan. I'll be drawing these two separate plans in different layers so that I can lay these drawing layers atop one anther... and also compare them to the 'diagonal' lines depicted, for proof. I'll obviously need to start with the 'Cant' frames, as this is where the proof will be revealed in the greatest of detail. I'm hoping that my process of drawing layers, in this manner, will open up a third 'eye' in my currently lacking 2D mind... thus giving me a better view/understanding of what I'm truly looking at.         

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Sorry I can’t be of more help.  My Naval Architecture education was in the days before PC computers and the only CAD program that I ever learned was Generic CAD and I much prefer the more tactile experience of drawing lines with splines and ships curves.  The real point is, that you do not need this “diagonal” to construct your lines drawing.  You should draw one or more diagonals check the fairness of your hull shape.

 

Roger

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I thought that I was "good to go" and ready to start lofting frames, however. That turned out to be a premature statement. I've been having way too much trouble trying to pull out accurate/usable details from the .PDF photocopy of Humphreys drawing. Forward section "G" through aft section "15" are basically nothing but one big blur. I can't accurately loft any frame lines within this region. It would be a guessing game. Luckily, frames "16" through "39" are clear and doable. This is also a great location for an interesting sectional build. That being said... This is officially going to become a 9" long, 1/67 'sectional' build of the Connie. I'm tired of chasing my tail to no avail. I want to finally make some good progress!😒

The lines, in blue, with the 9" dimension is my targeted section. 

 

  

Sectional Build Detail.jpg

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Has anyone reading this actually seen Humphreys original draft, in person? I'm wondering if 'time' and mishandling of the original drawing is the culprit behind the blurred and lackluster details... or is the problem simply due to simple photographs being turned into .PDF files? I've always hated working with .PDF's when true accuracy is needed. This bugs me. I could do the full build, however. I'd have to make quite a few 'generic' mid-ship frames, over-sized, and later fair them out, by eyeball, in accordance with the lines created via the known frame shapes. Would it look good? Sure it would, albeit. It would also be an artists conception. I doubt that anyone would know the difference, should I do such a thing, but 'I' would know!        

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As this Is being written there is a used copy of Barbary Wars, Personnel and Ships’ Data available from Amazon for $9.55.  This book includes a fold out drawing titled Plate IV- Lines of the United States Frigate of Constitution Class (Hank offered to send you a scan of this drawing on November 22).

 

This book was published by the US Navy’s History Command in 1945, prior to CAD, PDF, JPEG, etc.  The drawing in my copy of the book is clear, EXCEPT some of area from frame 34 to 40 did not print well.  The body plan is quite clear as well as the waterlines and buttocks in the area in question.  What did not print well are the straight “grid” lines in the sheer and plan views.  You should have no problem lofting Constitution’s hull from this drawing.

 

If it were me, I would buy the book, and use this drawing printed in 1945 as a starting point.

 

Roger

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15 hours ago, Roger Pellett said:

As this Is being written there is a used copy of Barbary Wars, Personnel and Ships’ Data available from Amazon for $9.55

Amazon now has one 'less' copy available for sale. I went ahead and bought a copy. I've been meaning to compare the lines on the plate that Hank sent me with those on Humphreys drawing, but haven't done so, yet. I've read that basically every drawing of the connie's hull is a little different, depending on who and when the drawings were made. Because of that, I've been trying to stick with the original. Guess it's time for me to be less exacting and get to work! Thanks for the heads up on the book! 

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Please remember that the original plans of the Constitution do not exist.

The British took care of that when they burned the Washington Navy Yard.

The closest plans that you have of the original USS Constitution are the take

off that the British did of HMS President, the captured USS President.

Take a look at the RNM and their study of the Ship.

This may help you on your study.

 Tim 

 

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