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Old 02-23-2016, 01:34 AM
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abhovi abhovi is offline
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A 17th century Dutch fluit

The fluit was developed in Holland in the last decades of the 16th century, when the growing international trading contacts of the Dutch merchants caused the need for bigger cargo ships with more loading capacity. It was a total success story: within a few years the fluit was the most important freighter in Europe. The creation of the vessel caused surprise and mockery amongst shipbuilders and sailors. It was extremely narrow for its time (length-beam ratio was 4 to 1) and had an upper deck that was significantly narrower than the bulbous hull itself. Story has it that this was the Dutch way to dodge the Sound tolls the Danes demanded from every passing ship. These tolls were mainly calculated with the width of the upper deck as a starting point.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-1.-rietschoof.jpg
Sailing fluit by Jan Claeszn Rietschoof

There are no original plans of any fluits of those days. Dutch shipbuilders did not need plans to build their ships. The process of construction was devided into several stages, each of which had its own rules-of-thumb. These rules were traditionally established and went back a long time. Strange enough the building of the hull started with the outer planking, which was followed by the insertion of the frame parts, giving strength to the construction.

This will not be the first fluit I ever built. By using both the original shipbuilding rules and specification contracts (written agreements between commissioners and shipwrights) I was able to reconstruct some reasonably trustworthy fluits, together with my recently deceased friend Cor Emke. This time I will use a drawing Nicolaes Witsen (1641-1717) presents in his book on Dutch shipbuilding: Old and Modern Shipbuilding and Management (Amsterdam, 1671). Witsen, an Amsterdam lord mayor, was the first to write a book on shipbuilding in Holland.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-2.-witsen-plate-lxi.jpg
Illustration from Witsenís book Aeloude en hedendaegse Scheepsbouw en Bestier, 1671, showing fluits (the three vessels on the right).

A 17th century Dutch fluit-3.-witsen-plate-lx.jpg
Witsenís drawing served as the basis of this reconstruction. Plate LX from his book Aeloude en Hedendaegse Scheepsbouw en Bestier (1671).

Plate LX is not a technical drawing that can be compared to the complicated draughts modern shipbuilders use to define the shape of a ship. In fact Witsen only presents it to compare the ungainly shape of the fluit (drawn lines) to other vessels of his days (dotted lines). The difference between the two frame shapes can be seen in the two small drawings here. The fluitís loading capacity must have been considerably more than the avarage ship.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-4.-frame-plan-normal-ship.png A 17th century Dutch fluit-5.-frame-plan-fluit.png
`normal ship` fluit

The plan only shows three frames. (Actually it shows four, but one, the main frame is depicted in the section on the left of the drawing). Together they are enough material to shape this shipís hull.

It may look questionable to base the shape of a ship on something that looks like a loosely hand-made sketch. Still, having worked with Witsenís book for over 30 years I have come to the conclusion over and over again that basically he was extremely trustworthy in whatever he wrote or drew. The pinas I showed in a previous thread on this forum (Dutch pinas 1671) was mainly reconstructed from written data from his book. This fluit-drawing appears to be surprisingly adequate. The sparse data derived from it are sufficient to get a fair image of the shape of the depicted ship. There was even a real surprise. In contradiction to what I always thought, the midship frame was not the widest part of the ship. It appeared that that point was located at the captainís cabin in the back of the ship. The vertical dotted line to the left in the section clearly shows how the width of the ship exceeds the beam in the midship.
A 17th century Dutch fluit-6.-section-widest-point.png

In our days modern techniques come to our rescue. My good Belgium friend Rene Hendrickx, working in good co-operation with me for several years, helped me establishing the lines of the hull by using a wonderful and free downloadable 3D shipbuilding program, called DELFTship ( Modern techniques can both be a curse and a blessing. In this case the program constructed perfect lines, but they were far too fair for the rude lines of this workhorse. In bow and stern we had to do a bit of pushing and pulling to produce the lines we know as being charcteristic for a fluit.
There was however one mistake in Witsenís draught: The foremost frame is always located on the butt between stem and keel. Indeed both frames are drawn there. But for the fluit a longer keel and another stem and a more upright stem was chosen. The location of the forward frame of the fluit needed to be adjusted to the new location of the butt between stem and keel, 10 feet forward. This adaptation produced the true lines of the fluitís bow.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-7.-run-planking.jpg
3D preview of the planking of the fluit, also showing the extreme shape of the stern section. (Made by Rene Hendrickx in DELFTship)

The Dutch were not known for their elegant planking. Planks of different sizes, sometimes considerately wider at one end, were part of the daily practice of shipbuilding, as can be seen in many archaeological finds. No wonder that a ship like this took the incredible construction time of only about 4 months, performed by no more than 20 or 22 men.
The DELFTship program not only produced the (corrected) lines of the hull. It also allowed us to reconstruct the run of the outer planking in advance.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-8.-shape-planking-stern.jpg

Furthermore we were able to establish the location of the decks and the internal arrangement.
A 17th century Dutch fluit-9.-internal-arrangement.png
Inside the fluit:1. Hold. 2. Orlop deck. 3 upper deck. 4. Fore castle. 5. Cable tier. 6. Captainís cabin. 7. Steering stand. 8. Officerís cabin. 9. Storage for bread and cheese. 10. More storage (for instance for gunpowder)

The fluit was build to have a large hold (1), capable of containing a lot of (mostly bulk) cargo. Different from other ships of that era the lower deck in the fluit (2) was not a compartment accessible for the crew. It was a low-decked storage, in which goods were stored that were supposed to stay dry en therefore could not be kent in the hold.
Between the roof of the captainís cabin (6) and the floor of the officerís cabin (8) there is a narrow space in which the tiller entered the ship. It precisely coincides with the aquard narrowing of the shipís sides, in a way that left the walls of both the captainís and the officerís cabins almost entirely rectangular in spite of the difference in width. The tiller ended in the steering stand (7), right in front of the captainís cabin.
We slightly changed the arrangement of the deck here: different from Witsenís drawing we extended the floor of the captainís cabin to create a flat floor for the steering stand. If made a little longer ordnance was placed here.
These two draughts will be sufficient to build my fluit.

A 17th century Dutch fluit-10.-lines-plan-witsens-fluit.jpg
Linesplan of the fluit, based on Witsenís drawing.

Sorry for this long and theoretical introduction, but it is necessary to show how I choose and interpret my sources.

Next time I will show some pictures of the start of the building process, although I doubt if that will bring the members of this forum any news in paper building techniques.

Hope to see you next time.
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Old 02-23-2016, 09:54 AM
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frigate 264 frigate 264 is offline
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Un proyecto muy interesante, atrevido que me encanta. Estarť muy atento.
A very interesting project, daring, I love it. I'll be very careful.
Un cordial saludo,
Frigate 264
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Old 02-23-2016, 11:01 AM
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Michael Mash Michael Mash is offline
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I like the appearance of the old Dutch traders.
Along with the Portuguese Caravels, they are my favorites.
Looking forward to your project.
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Old 02-23-2016, 12:33 PM
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Yale Yale is offline
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Abhovi, you brought to mind the comments of popular historian James Burke, in his book "Connections." He explained how other nations of the time carried cargo in galleon warships, which were not efficient for the task. The Netherlands was the exception:

"The Dutch had their warships built by the navy and their merchant ships designed by traders. These traders designed the fluyt, and in doing so they built the last word in bulk carriage for two hundred years. The first one was launched at Hoorn, and in almost every way she was unique. The fluyt was unusually long, the length being up to six times the width -- twice as long as the standard. The deck area was clear save for a small deckhouse aft, leaving most of the space for cargo. The ship's bottom was almost flat, which permitted a large, almost square hold, easier to fill efficiently. The modified hull design enabled its post structures to be nearly vertical. The sails on the ship were smaller, and the masts shorter than usual, and blocks and pulleys were extensively used to make it easier to handle the sails and to cut down on the size of the crew. As a result of all this, the centre of gravity of the fluyt was lower than normal, and this gave the ship extra stability in rough weather.

"Many of the fluyt's features were the results of decades of gradual improvements in the boats that sailed the shallow Dutch inland waters, and they created a ship that was rarely above 500 tons in weight. Though technically the Dutch could have built up to 2000 tons, the fluyt's weight was optimal for the cargoes she carried and the distance she travelled. And with a small crew, and the use of pine instead of oak in the upper works, construction and running costs were much cheaper than other ships of the time, which encouraged more frequent sailing times. The fluyt built the Dutch commercial empire, ploughing mundanely around the European coasts, carrying grain, timber, iron, fish and furs from the Baltic, salt and wine from Spain, Portugal and southern France, woolens from England. Amsterdam became the richest city in Europe."

So, best wishes for your new project -- which really does reflect an extremely important ship design of history.
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Old 02-23-2016, 02:23 PM
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scon10 scon10 is offline
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I think a flat bottom also contributes to more stability and bouyancy when rolling in half wind and seas. That would also make it more manouvrable. All this lead to more cargo and less ships lost in storms, and still quite fast. A profit-maker!
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Old 02-24-2016, 10:03 AM
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Don Boose Don Boose is offline
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This is a fascinating thread. I very much enjoyed the history and technical discussion and look forward to the construction of the model.

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Old 02-24-2016, 01:50 PM
kndeckhand kndeckhand is offline
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Can't wait to see this project come to life.

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Old 02-26-2016, 03:21 AM
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abhovi abhovi is offline
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Thank you all for your interest, especially Yale with his valuable addition about the historical importance of the fluit.
Working on the model has started. I printed the lines plan 1 : 77 and pasted the parts on 1 mm cardboard. The central longitudinal section was doubled to obtain 2 mm and another layer of cardboard was added on both sides of the keel, stem and stern to create a rabbet for the planking.
Next the decks were chosen. I decided not to model the lower deck, because it will not be visible when the ship is finished. This fluit is a very humble ship without guns, beak-head and elaborate carvings. De hatch to the lower deck will be closed, as in real life, but the entrance to the forecastle and the steering stand will be open to allow a (limited) view inside, so the decks of these compartments will be modelled.
The location of the masts was calculated with the formula Witsen gives us: the length is divided into 5, the mizzen mast was on one fifth from aft,the fore mast was on half one fifth from the stem and the main mast was in the middle or a little bit further aft.
The frames were cut to the height of the top of the bulwarks. The line of the decks is perforated, to allow easy removal after the ship's sides will be finished.
So far the shape of the hull looks good compared to the pinas, but it is striking to see how narrow the ship was, in relation to it's length (5 : 1, quite different to the pinas, which was close to 4 : 1). The frames are all in line as a result of the cardboard waterline which was added for additional strength and lining.

So far no revolutionary news, as I predicted.
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A 17th century Dutch fluit-dsc01689-large-.jpg   A 17th century Dutch fluit-dsc01685-large-.jpg  
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Old 02-26-2016, 07:29 AM
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Don Boose Don Boose is offline
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Off to a good start with these frames.

It is now much easier to visualize the hull shape.

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Old 02-26-2016, 12:35 PM
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Seascape Seascape is offline
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Really going to enjoy this thread. Actually have Witsen's book and some of your works. Saw the Vasa back in the 60s just after she came out of the water in a temporary museum. Started my interests in 17th/18th Century wooden ships. Over the years have built up quite a library of related books.

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fluit, ship, lines, cabin, captainís, time, deck, witsenís, book, frame, shipbuilding, shape, drawing, dutch, hull, planking, stem, modern, storage, techniques, keel, steering, witsen, fluits, officerís

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