Boat Building History

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by graywolf, Aug 12, 2017 at 5:59 PM.

  1. graywolf
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    graywolf Junior Member

    I see so much stuff reported as fact that seems is not true.

    An article I was just reading on the web said, "Carvel came first about 1000BCE..."

    While archeologists claim that Lapstrake started by fastening a board above the dugout log canoe to increase the capacity, and remains of lapstrake build boats date back to 4000BCE. Those extended log canoes apparently go back more than 10,000 years.

    I doubt anyone would argue that logs tied together in a raft go back to about the first men who needed to cross a river.

    The most interesting thing I get from this kind of stuff is how long ago people were inventing things to solve problems. A lot farther back than most people think.

    Why am I writing this here? Because of the suggestion of some folks that something that has worked well for, apparently, six thousand years does not work properly.
     
  2. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Building history isn't difficult to find, though it usually needs to be qualified (footnotes, documentation, etc.). The interweb is notorious for misinformation about stuff, so look at your sources, the site address is the first clue. In other words, what was the address for the "Carvel came first about 1000BCE..." declaration? Was it "backed up" with appropriate references, etc. This is the hallmark for all research. Carvel has been around a long time, though has worked progressively better as methods and tools improved, always has been difficult to live with. In recent times, say since the golden age of sail in the late 19th century, carvel has become increasingly more difficult to live with. I don't think this is the method so much as the owners. As other methods improved and modern materials and adhesives came to be, you didn't have to have a leaky boat any more.

    All this said about carvel, they don't have to be leaky. I own a 37' carvel, built in 1960. It still has its original planking and has had loving ownership since built. I've caulked twice in my tenure and the bilge is dusty, not wet, nor leaking. Of course, it has leaked over the years. It sprang a butt block about 10 years ago and she nearly sank at her berth, but a trusted yard manager was able to get a 5 HP pump aboard and kept her up, until I could get there. Later that week, I had her hauled and repaired the split butt block and also considered doing her garboards, which have some oil fouling from a leaking diesel that was replaced several years prior. In the end I just recaulked and splashed her again.

    The point I'm trying to make is, modern owners are much less accepting, of the effort it takes to care for a traditionally built wooden boat. They allow neglect to creep into the maintenance schedule and generally, don't do what is necessary to keep the boat in good shape, which on a traditionally built wooden boat is mandatory, for durability. A good example is what Columbus had to tolerate to cross the Atlantic. Pumps were manned every 45 minutes as they started out and after two months at sea, the pumps were in near continuous operation. This was just to stay afloat and was considered normal operations for craft, of their age and general condition. No modern owner would accept this as a boat's SOP.

    There are many other instances of these differences, for example a fine yacht would have had its hull scraped from end to end, before it was primed and painted. Now, a DA is employed, which leaves a much less desirable surface to paint and doesn't produce nearly as nice an end product. Another example would be wiping the morning dew off the bright work every AM, so the water spots don't damage the finish. This was common place when I was growing up. I used to watch my neighbor do this every morning on his boat, as he walked around with a rag in one hand and his coffee in the other. It was just what was necessary and expected, if you owned much bright work. Now, modern owners would prefer the bright work was a vinyl applique or printed veil product, employed under the clear coat. It's not that the traditional methods are bad, so much as the modern owners are less skilled and/or tolerant of what is actually required.
     
  3. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    On the other hand, even though it's been done that way for 6,000 years doesn't mean it's the best way to do it. Everything evolves.
     
  4. graywolf
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    graywolf Junior Member

    Funny thing about the sea, it destroys everything it touches.

    Everything needs maintenance even displays in a museum. Even those GRP boats. Isn't it funny how you see multi-million dollar yachts sitting at the dock slowly becoming worthless scrap? But then, I guess, out of 100 boats, maybe 10 of them are owned by someone who actually likes boats, the rest are there to impress their neighbors.
     
  5. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Do you have any real data to back up your smug attitude? All that shows in this thread is your poor attempt at being superior. How many boats have you owned, maintained, built or repaired? Seems like all your posts are on the same vein.
     
  6. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    I'm not sure who is supposed to be declaring wooden boat construction as " not working properly ", but it can hardly be denied that it is a relatively high maintenance proposition by comparison to modern alternatives, In historical time scales, wood was the only boat building material available, for most of the time boats have existed, so sure it "worked".
     
  7. Waterwitch
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    Waterwitch Junior Member

    Two blog entries previous to the one you linked on this forum you titled it wasting your time looking at boats on the internet, since you had no large bodies of water near by; nor a place to work on a boat. Has your life situation changed or is all this just a mental exercise?

     
  8. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    When one goes to primary and secondary sources it becomes apparent that the vast majority of carvel yachts had a very short lifespan in earlier times. For many years there was also a great disparity between the incomes of the wealthy who could afford many carvel boats, and the workers who would maintain them. In old documents one can find sailors bemoaning the iniquitous fact that after about WW1, boatbuilders started to want to be able to earn enough to own cars and all sorts of uppity stuff instead of being satisfied with low wages. It is apparent that these boats were normally scrapped very quickly and required lots of maintenance - hardly a great recommendation.

    Population growth and longer working hours may also mean that people live further away from their boats and have less time to work on them. I'm about to start a multi-year restoration project and it's hard to justify. Most of us would rather go sailing than scrape and sand.

    For many years most people walked most places and everyone did minor (and sometimes quite major) surgery without anaesthetics or sterilisation, but that doesn't mean that they were the best ways to do such things.
     
  9. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Epoxy sheathing e.g., and other "new fangled" methods and materials have addressed some of the shortcomings of traditional construction, but of course may be abhorrent to the purist. Most people are more practical, and will drop old ways like a hot potato, once the new is seen to offer significant advantages.
     
  10. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    I suppose it might be worthwhile to point out that , in the day that plank on frame construction was dominate, they had wood of a quality we would kill for. It was nice first growth, straight, tight grain stuff. Now we have the crappy second growth, loose grained warp wood, but also have materials and techniques they would kill for.
     
  11. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    Good point, access to high quality timber is not what it was, or if available, costs a bomb.
     
  12. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Good quality materials always cost a lot, though in the "good old days" it was more readily available. Yachts have always been costly if built to a reasonable standard. In fact, yachts are relatively new thing, because most couldn't dream of affording one. With the advent of the middle class in the 1920's, more and more wanted a boat, so things were geared for smaller, more simplistic designs. This is when the Rudder Magazine and others cropped up with DIY plans. They had them previously, but disposable income didn't come to be, until mass production brought the cost of everyday items down drastically. Now, you could afford a refrigerator, instead of an icebox, a car instead of a horse and you could travel farther to work and also could live on the outskirts of a metropolitan area in the suburbs, instead of in factory housing or the big cities, where the factories were.

    Prior to the early 20th century, most walked to work, the better off rode a horse or maybe took a ferry or commuter. The rapid growth of the middle class in the early part of the 20th century is what gave rise to yachts. Previously, only the likes of the Kennedys and Rockefellers could own a mahogany hulled anything. Blue bloods where the folks I raced sailboats against as a kid and when I got into powerboats, everyone's dad made a lot more than mine, except mine was a really good mechanic. Social and economic changes (in this country at least) made pleasure boating possible. Before the 1920's, making a living wage was a joke, as employers were whores about taking care and paying for their employees. Then came along a few innovators, like Ford who introduced the $5 work day (probably close to $200 now), which was nearly double the average pay for 8 hours of work. A living wage boosted the purchasing power of the common man, so factories could sell more goods.

    Most boats before this era where working class something or others. A leisurely sail in a cat boat with your family, was likely a refitted old fishing sloop that still smelled like its former occupation. These boats weren't built well, nor to a high standard as they got used up in a few years and sold, so it wasn't cost effective or necessary to make the construction of this, more costly than necessary for its role. Some got converted and this trend continued for some decades, especially after WWII, as surplus came on the market cheap. My dad made a cabin cruiser out of a WWII surplus lifeboat. My first memories were of the smells of that boat (oakum, tar, oil paint and rotting canvas). Common man discretionary funds really exploded after WWII in the USA, so the 1950's boat building frenzy was on in full swing.
     
  13. mick_allen
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    mick_allen Junior Member

    Carvel requires framing to be carvel.
    As framing came on the scene some 2,000 years later, your very first sentence is correct.
     
  14. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I'm not sure what "carvel framing" is, but there's more than one way to frame a carvel and it's not planking type specific.
     

  15. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    I took that to mean that even if a boat has planking that looks or is exactly like carvel planking, if there are no frames, it is not carvel planking.
     
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