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Merchant Ship Plank Fastening

Jim Lad

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As I'm about to start treenailing my 'Francis Pritt', I thought I'd better check up the correct method for plank fastening.


For those interested in wooden merchant ships the following illustration may be of interest.  It's from the 1890 edition of Lloyds Register's 'Rules and Regulations' and shows the correct distribution of hull plank fastenings for planks of various widths.





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  • 1 year later...

Not sure where this comment will finish up ..... I am reading an article by William Layman 'Precursor to an Expose on Forest Trees' [January 1, 1813] and archived by Google. The article deals with the strengths and weaknesses of timbers and how so much of it was sourced from a number of European and Asian countries including Russia, Germany and India. Fascinating enlightenment to me. There are some amazing references there from the 16C - 18C and beyond. William Layman was a Fleet Admiral and he is addressing his concerns about supporting the Navy ship-building industry to his Royal Highness William Duke of Clarence. Sort of a 'straight from the horse's mouth' commentary.


What caught my eye was a short paragraph (on page 19) about treenails ' Tree Nails'.


To quote verbatim ....


'The use of tree nails in the ship-building not only consumes the very best oak in the making, - but very much diminishes the strength of the timbers transversely cutting the ligneous fibres in boring; and they are, after all, fastenings. On the same principle, any fastenings which require the timbers to be so perforated are objectionable.'


Anybody like to make a comment about this ? I thought treenailing was the common method of fixing ? Is he just making a point about the obvious ?




PS An article worth reading

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From the sources (unfortunately all secondary) this seems (operative word:  seems) to be true.  The English sourced a lot of their shipbuilding materials from other places, such as tar, turpentine, various wood varieties, etc.  


As for the treenails, I can see the point.  Once source did question it but they also looked at other ways of fastening the planks.  The staggered timbering and only one treenail (depending on plank width) per frame contact seems to make sense in light of what you've read.   Treenails were supposedly superior although I've never found out why the French used a combination of iron nails and wooden treenails....  puzzling to say the least.

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This I'd well done you two for finding this stuff. The later do or could post dyrect link for dippy like me robin thank you


Robin -


Here is the link to the Layman pamphlet


Layman, William. 1813. Precursor to an Exposé on Forest Trees and Timber ... as Connected with the Maritime Strength ... of the United Kingdom. https://books.google.com/books?id=KNxbAAAAQAAJ.


The Naval Chronicle for 1818 has an interesting little addenda to the Biographical memoir for Captain Layman as well (which mentions the pamphlet).  See


Gold, Joyce, ed. 1818. “Addenda to the Biographical Memoir of Captain William Layman of the Royal Navy.” The Naval Chronicle, Containing a General and Biographical History of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, with a Variety of Original Papers on Nautical Subjects 39 (January to June, 1818): 177–85. https://books.google.com/books?id=4AFdAAAAcAAJ.


Edited by trippwj
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So now I am wondering if the treenailing I see on some models is overdone - says he who has never done treenailing. That's not a criticism, just trying to rationalize things.



Boudriot describes the outer appearance as being 'peppered' with trunnels and other fasteners.  You have the plank fasteners, and far more of those than most modelers show, the knees, assorted throughbolts for eyebolts, ringbolts, belaying points, etc., and all of those somewhat smaller in diameter than most modelers depict.  Most certainly there would not be lines of 3 or 4 inch diameter fasteners running up the hull at 8 or 12 foot intervals and nothing else, which is what you sometimes see.

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