Warship plans and models

During the 19th century scale models of ships were made less frequently, replaced with more detailed ship plans.

Official models of ships continued to be made in the 19th century but they were never as fine as those made during the 18th century. This was partly because ships themselves were less ornate and partly because ships’ plans became more detailed and the practical use of models lessened.

The plans and models were usually at the same scale ¼ inch to 1 foot (1:48), although it is not uncommon to find some differences between the two.

The lines plan

Plans are always drawn with the bow of the ship to the right. The shape of the vessel is given in the lines plan. It contains three sets of lines:

  • The profile (side view): as well as showing some of the outboard appearance, some inboard details are also included.
  • The half-breadth plan: the shape of the hull at a number of waterlines (shown as horizontal lines on the profile). As all these ships were symmetrical, only half the hull is drawn.
  • The body plan: the shape of one half of the hull at a number of equally spaced points along the ship's length.

Other plans

As the 18th century progressed other types of plan became common: the profile of inboard works and the deck plan showing the position of cabins and supporting beams. More rare are framing plans showing the assembly of the frames as well as their position. Ships' rigging was fairly standard, changing only slowly, and plans are extremely rare.

The Admiralty Collection of ship plans from the early 18th century onwards is kept in the National Maritime Museum. It contains about 8000 plans representing around 10,000 ships.

Entry to the National Maritime Museum is free, open daily from 10am. 

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