USS Constitution – Hull part 2

The starboard side of the hull is being completed above the wales, to about the point it might have looked at launch.  No masts or spars, save the bowsprit, and not much equipment.  Other than pumps, of course.

The port side is left unfinished.  Framed but not fully planked.  The plan is to have this side surrounded by scaffolding with many shipyard carpenters working on planking and final finish work.

This idea has a few glitches as it is necessary to complete some things in different order than might have been done for the real ship.  The transom, for example, is completely finished, carved and gilded in the model, as it just was easier to do the entire thing rather than just half.  In another case, since I wanted to show the framing of the spar deck, I had to install the supporting clamp on both sides even though the ceiling had been installed only on the starboard side, and would, I think, have been completed before the clamp installed.  Or maybe not.  Also, I will build the diagonal hanging knees on the starboard side only but put the lodging knees and half timbers on both sides, since the hanging knees would be after the ceiling.  Since the intent of the project is a diorama to show the various tasks and skills that made up an old shipyard as well as to show how different the Constitution looked originally from how she appears today, I decided that strict attention to details of the how and when of the order of assembly of a ship was of secondary concern.  And any errors will give the observant perfectionist plenty to see and comment upon.

Here’s a shot of the portside quarter gallery framing.  When the hull is on the base and the shipyard diorama started, the plan is to have this part surrounded by scaffolding with carpenters at work completing the framing and planking of the gallery.



This is the starboard gallery completed and painted.  Once I am further along with the building, I will paint the planking on this side also.  Probably it will be black with a white strip along one of more of the trim strips.  According to some accounts, Constitution originally wore a yellow ochre “Nelson checker” stripe between the open gun ports.  Not sure about that, yet.

Trailboards also carved, painted and gilded.  The decoration will later be extended back slightly toward the hawse holes.









The rudder box.  Note the ceiling and the clamp on the starboard side.



Starting the spar deck framing.  Riding bits added to the gun deck.  I will not model the stove/galley as I would not think that would be installed at launch, but after.







Another shot of the gun deck planking.  You can see the ceiling on the starboard side, and also the first of the diagonal hanging knees supporting every other deck beam, straddling the gun ports on the gun deck.  The openings in the spar deck railing for the guns on that deck are directly over the beam between these braced beams, between the gun ports of the main battery.

You can see the notches in the beams to receive the carlins.  The notches are cut with a blade and filed to final shape with a square file.  The ends of the carlins are cut to fit between the beams with “ears” extending from the upper end to fit in the triangular notch.



This is a shot of the deck beams/carlings being installed, working from stem to stern.  There are lodging knees and hanging knees also being placed.  To the right of the model is a copy of a blue print from the national archives dated 1926, which gives the layout of the beams and knees for the spar deck and gun deck.  The drawing was a presentation to some dignitary around the time of the restoration of 1927, and it is not clear whether it shows the beaming as found or as reconstructed.  But either way, it is a very different layout from that shown elsewhere, as in the Marquardt book “Anatomy of the Ship”.  The location of the main beams, the pattern of bracing with carlings, lodging knees, and hanging knees differs in the two sources, so I am making a best guess as to what the original might have looked like.  One additional difference is the number of full sized beams crossing the hull in the opening in the waist of the ship.  In the 1927 version, there are only two beams fully crossing the hull out of a total of eight.  In the Marquardt version, a conjectural reconstruction of what might have been in 1812, there are nine beams, all of which cross the hull, one of which has a removable portion to allow access to the main hatch.  I compromised on 7 beams crossing the hull out of a total of nine, the two beams left out being over the fore and main hatches.  In addition, I made the center carling over each hatch “removable”, a feature shown on the Marquardt reconstruction.  I figure my guess is as good as any other.

Here are some shots of the hanging knees in process and in place.  The blanks are cut on the band saw, then sanded to rough shape, and final fitted with a square file to make the notch fitting over the clamp.


Ultimately, I decided on the hanging knee configuration that made the most sense to me.  I used the Doughty draft to lay out the locations of the guns on the upper deck spaced evenly between the gun ports on the gun deck, then concluded that the simplest arrangement, two knees on alternating beams, would be the easiest way to clear the gun ports and still make the upper deck sturdy enough to carry the guns.





USS Constitution – 1797

The plan I used to construct the hull was obtained from the National Archives, and is the “Doughty copy” of the original 1795 draft plan, probably reflecting the Joshua Humphrey design most closely, as William Doughty was his yard clerk and draftsman at the time.  This plan probably was the plan used to construct all three of the three heavy (44 gun) frigates, of the total of six frigates authorized by congress in 1794.  Although this plan survives, the frigates were built at different shipyards, and plans at that time may have been more guidelines than prescriptions.  However, it probably pretty closely reflects Humphrey/ Fox/ Doughty design and intentions.  It really is a revolutionary hull, as shown in the lines.  Further, the construction is massive.  Ribs are on average 22 inches wide with about 2 inches space between them.  They are 12 to 18 inches thick, and with 4 inches of timber inside and out, the ship had walls of about 24 inches of timber.  There were also other innovations in timbering as well as the shape of the hull.  The model shows the rather extreme “make and space” of the original, and makes a good contrast to other vessels of the era, such as 12 pounder frigates like Raleigh and Essex.

Here is a shot of the hull on the work bench.  The smaller hull on the right is the Benjamin Latham, a mackerel seiner in the same scale.   Another work in progress, the Latham is planned for use in a diorama of the boat at work catching fish.

In this photo also, there is a small bag on the left containing some previously done sub assembly work.  I had fabricated a transom for the model a couple of years ago, using various sources of conjectural reconstruction of what the original transom might have looked like.  I chose one from the Marquart “Anatomy of the Ship” series based on contemporary descriptions and a painting by Corne.  Since the Doughty draft showed very decorative quarter galleries, this conjectural reconstruction seemed consistent with that draft.  More on the stern and quarter galleries later.

The first steps included finish sanding of the inside of the ribs on one side for the ceiling planking.  Once the ceiling was done, the next step was installing the clamp to hold the deck beams for the spar deck.

The clamps are being glued in place.  Using lots of clamps.




The clamps are in place, and now details are added to the gun deck.  Hatch coamings, riding bitts, and bowsprit are being installed.


Next steps are to add the cap rail, then the cathead, and then start on the head details.


A shot of the head rails under construction.  The trailboard is installed, but the hawse holes not yet drilled.  The figure head will be discussed and modeled later.

Then to the stern.  Here is a shot of the transom installed.  It is carved into boxwood, then the windows fabricated and installed and the assembly installed on transom framing to give a nice curve.

I chose to gild the decorative carving on the transom.  It is not known what the original looked like, but the elaborate decorations described in contemporary accounts, and knowledge of practices of the time, suggest this is an appropriate way to proceed.

Quarter galleries are the next step.  The starboard side is the finished side, and will be completed first.  The port side will be framed only as described later.

The decorative portions of the quarter gallery are carved from boxwood.


The upper portion of the quarter gallery with gilded decoration.