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Planking -1490-1545 English warships-How even were they?

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Hi and Merry Christmas to ALL- I am building the Jotika Mary Rose. Wanted to know on the deck planking,how even was the surfaces from plank to plank? Where they made to be a tiotal flat surface from plank to plank?


Or were they uneven ,say a little like 1/4" between them randomly?


I know from the Trust books on the Mary Rose and their plans that are based on the wreck itself, that  the planks for decking that were recovered that they were in areas made in random shapes,but that the majority were straight planks,but of different widths and lenghts.


But I was in question as to the thicknesses of the individual planks to each other.




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I do not think you could replicate the slight variations on the surface in a small scale from an adze... If you can ever get the chance at looking at say the mouseman furniture, you can feel the variation  and see it in the right light, but it still surprises me how flat a finish you can get with these hand tools!

Its an interesting point, (made me think about my MR decking!),but I am guessing if there was a plank standing proud above the rest, it would have been levelled to match to get rid of the trip hazard...

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  • 2 weeks later...

My guess would be that the shipwrights then would have been quite capable of producing a smooth hull and deck all over. It is a question of strategy and method. The photograph below shows how this is done with an adze (then and today the main tool for this purpose) at the beaches of Sansibar:




One should also consider that a model probably needs to look a tad neater than the prototype, or these intended unevenesses are likely to be mistaken for shoddy workmanship. 

Edited by wefalck
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Greetings Bear,


You ask a good question, but one none of us on this forum is able to answer with authority since we weren't around to see to the actual subjects of our modelling efforts. I am surprised at people's perception of how well real ships were finished. Go to a marina or municipal dock where working boats tie up, such as fishing boats, tugs, ferry boats, etc. and you will be fascinated to see what passes for finish work. This applies to military vessels as well as cruise ships. I doubt anything was "dubbed fair" on any naval vessel. Ships were/are built strong, but hardly fair. In general, ships are purpose built and meant for hard use with minimum maintenance. I was surprised to see that even cruise ships, of which I am quite familiar, have many rough areas areas and other than smooth welds. Don't take my word - go and see for yourself. All ships are built for a price, and that price does not always include a quality finish and perfect workmanship. I doubt very much that 15th-16th century ships were built anywhere now how we envision them. My point: don't worry if your decks are not furniture perfect.



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wq3296 makes an excellent point and I agree with him/her.


Wasa was mentioned in a prior post, which got me thinking about her, so I pulled out my copy of "Wasa I: The Archaeology of a Swedish Warship of 1628" to look at the plans for the decks.  BTW, Wasa is 98% complete (except for the rigging).  Her decks are asymetrical, planks are seldom straight, they differ in width and length, the hook scarfs in the waterways differ port to starboard, and there are some 'planks' that are almost square, eg small.  There are steelers, jogs and all manner of sizes.  This tells me that the builders would use what ever wood they could get their hands on and then shape it to the spacing. 


One item that does not appear is a plank with a sharp end.  Many are spiled but the ends are never cut to a point.



Marine archaeology can dispel myths and provide answers, when we can get such artifacts.    Duff  

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You are certainly correct concerning the shape of the planks, they were irregular, economising the available wood. I think, however, the original question concerned the third dimension, that is the thickness. Reconstructing the original thickness is quite problematic, as the wood shrinks in different ways, depending on the species of wood and how it was cut from the tree. I am inclined to think that the surface was quite even, no steps between planks. Otherwise, it would have been rather difficult to caulk the hull and the deck. Steps would also be very exposed to erosion and weathering, increase the drag of the hull and constitute a tripping hazard. These were factors people even 400 years ago were aware off (to some degree).


The absence of pointed pieces has good reason: it is almost impossible to caulk such parts permanently. The part would always bend and move. 

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