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Size of planks on a 18th century ship

Captain Al

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I'm wondering what the maximum width of hull planking might have been back in say 1783-1800 or thereabouts.  I'm working on a 1:48 scale model of HMS Bounty and the material provided for the hull is 5mm wide.  This would work out to only 9 1/2 inch wide planking on the real ship.  As I work with it I am finding that if these planks were 6 or even 7 mm wide they would be much easier to shape.  A 7 mm wide plank at 1:48 would be 13 1/4 inch wide plank in reality.  Would this be too large to be authentic?  Perhaps its for aesthetics that 5mm is used? Maybe 6 or 7 would not look right despite it being historically accurate?

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Hi captain al

As far as I know planks generally were between 10 and 12 inches in widthfor the hull and 8 and 10 inches for deck planking during the 18 century. This would applyto parallel planking and not anchor stock or top and butt for royal naval vessels. Not entirely sure for bounty as she was an ex merchantman but I wouldguess the same rules would apply. The anatomy of the ship book may give more info.

6.25mm as a max would be acceptable down to say 5.5mm as a minimum. You may get more info from wiser heads in due course!!

Hope this helps


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Thanks Mick.  I was pretty sure they'd go larger than 9 so I could work with slightly larger than 5 mm.  I have McKay's book; maybe I need to take a magnifying glass to some of the drawings.  So far I haven't been able to locate that dimension.  This is really an academic question for the time being since I will finish Bounty with the 5s they provided.  In the future though I may choose to either mill my own or try to buy a wider plank if the scale will allow for it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is how Humphreys proposed the external planking for the 44 gun frigates (almost identical for the 36 gun frigates) -


Main Wales Six strakes on each side 7 inch thick and 10 inches wide

Black Strakes 5 in number the first and second 5 ½ inches thick, 3rd 5 ¼ inches, 4th 5 inch and the 5th 4 ½ inch by 10 inch wide. The upper edge of the black streak to be mitered down to a level in order to carry the water out of the seam. Plank between the black streak and the string to be 3 ½ inch thick.

Thick stuff under the wale. First streak 6 inch thick, 2nd 5 ½ inch, 3rd 5 inch and 4th 4 ½ inch running plank in the bottom 4 inch thick to be not less than 6 feet scarph nor less than 4 strakes between every two bolts on the same timber. The seams to be made all a little outgauged.

Running plank on the bottom Great care must be taken to run to a bevel both edges of the plank that comes together alike for if one edge is hewn standing the other must be under which makes bad work. The plank with the under bevelling will caulk off.

Bilge strakes outside 1 of 6 inch thick, 2 of 5 ½ inch thick, 2 of 4 ½ inch thick. On each side the middle streak to cover the butts of the timbers equally inside and out to be reduced fore and after ends the same as the running planks.

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