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Question on Shipyard Fixtures circa 1774


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In the attached photos there is a furnace like device in the center of the shipyard (Deptford circa 1774)


Could they be steamers?


There are several in the yard and some quite close to the slips. This could indicate the need to get heated timbers to the ships rapidly.







I would like to know what they are.


There does not seem to be a way to insert long timbers, but all the covers could be raised and timber lowered into the center for soaking / steaming.


Was steaming done in the 1700's?


Could it be a 'stove' where tar pots were heated for calking. Does anyone have another opinion?




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Those look like the steamers I've seen illustrated in several books.  The timber/planks was inserted at the ends.  The "hatches" were for man-handling the wood in side the steamer box.  There was a long metal pan that held the water under the timber.  Yes, they steamed planks in the 1700's possibly earlier.

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mtaylor - Thanx I did not see an opening at the ends, but looking again it does seem like there is one in one of the photos. It must have taken a long time to steam since they had to let out the steam and heat as they opened the top. WackoWolf - Thanx

Yep that is a traditional setup with a boiler and a box. I just was not sure of the thing in my pictures.



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Get a copy of "Building the Wooden Fighting Ships" by Dobbs and Moore.  


The answer is "yes".  The planks would have been spiled before going in the steamer. They pulled it from the steamer and put it in place on the hull using various clamping devices.  If there was problem in getting it right, it went back in the steamer.  Steamers were located around the yard near the building slips/drydocks according the maps in the book. 

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Many years ago when my hair was still red a bunch of us made a group trip up to Milwaukee WI to see the build of the Donald Simmons.  While there we saw the workers take a plank  from a steam box and place it on the frames.  They moved fast the plank was very flexiblle.  Once in place they would clamp it down until it dried.  I wish I had a video camera to take a video.

David B

Edited by dgbot
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