Reading ship plans/blueprints

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Able Seaman
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:33 pm

Reading ship plans/blueprints

Post by Beck » Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:12 pm

Hi all,

I've always been interesting in building a 3D computer model of a warship from the age of sail. I love the era and would potentially like to make an educational game or interactive book kind of about the life aboard these ships.

Now, I can create 3D models pretty well and I create video games for a living but my only stumbling block is trying to read the old ship blueprints. I obviously want to accurately recreate a ship but to do so I need to understand the plans.

For example, I'm currently working through the Aubrey-Maturin series of books and HMS Surprise is one of the key ships in the book. It's a smaller vessel so I thought it might be a good place to start.

I believe these are the plans (or at least a mock up) for her:

Does anyone have any advice or guides on how to read these? I take it each line on one perspective corresponds to a line on another perspective? How would ship builders back in the day translate these to ensure they've got the correct shape?

This is obviously just the outer hull. The interior, masts, rigging and cannons would also need modelling but I'll tackle those if I can manage to get the hull done.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Ships Boy
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:08 am

Re: Reading ship plans/blueprints

Post by carlbrechler » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:38 am


You probably know this already, but Aubry’s Surprise is loosely based on the ship on the draught. The Unite was a French ship captured by the RN and renamed Surprise. They diverge from this point. The Surprise in the movie was built as a (sort of) replica of HMS Rose of 20 guns of the American Revolution. She was purchased for the movie, modified to match the frigate in the book (though not necessarily the frigate in the draught). When the movie was complete, she was donated to the San Diego Maritime Museum and was licensed (? Not sure of the correct term, was able to sail.) by the Coast Guard for a while, though last I heard she no longer was. Google Earth shows here still there.

For descriptions of what is going on in a draught, a good source is any of several of Howard Chapelle’s books: The History of the American Sailing Navy or The History of American Sailing Ships. Probably also Yacht Designing and Planning or The Search for Speed Under Sail, though I haven’t verified that in the last two books. Brian Lavery edited a facsimile book Doctrine of Naval Architecture, 1670. It explains how a ship was designed and in doing so explains what everything means in the draught, or at least those portions that existed in the mid seventeenth century. There was another in a similar vein, though earlier, the name of which currently escapes me. Southerland perhaps? Oh, and Lavery has a book on Aubry's Surprise, also.

I have no idea which CADD program you use, but I’ve found that the best way to do the hull is to trace the sections in the end view and loft them. You will probably have to use the waterlines (lines parallel to the waterline) to model the ends (bow and stern). After that, fairly standard modeling.

Hope this helps,

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