The Elements of Wood Ship Construction
By William Henry Curtis
An important source of information to ship model builders
There’s nothing like going back to the source material to learn about a subject, and TheModelShipwright.com is offering a free PDF download of The Elements of Wood Ship Construction, by William Henry Curtis, published in 1919 for the Education and Training Section of the Emergency Fleet Corporation.
“It is intended for the use of carpenters and others, who, though skilled in their work, lack the detail knowledge of ships necessary for the efficient performance of their work in the yard,” according to the preface.
Beginning with Keels, stems and stern posts, the book moves through frames, inboard hull details, deck details, and explains planking, erections and joiner work with copious illustration.
When the U.S. entered World War I, the United States Shipping Board’s Emergency Fleet Corporation realized the need for a quickly-built supply of cargo ships that could combat the Germans’ uboat fleet predations on shipping by simply building them faster than they could sink them.
With a large number of shipyards along the East Coast still building wooden boats, the EFC came up with a series of designs that could take advantage of the available technology to crank out wooden steamships. But there were not a sufficient number of trained shipwrights, so the EFC also developed a number of books to acclimate non-nautical carpenters, plumbers, and pipe-fitters to the specific needs of the shipbuilding industry.
The original books are long out of print, and usually can only be found in academic libraries, but Google and archive.org have digitized some of them so the knowledge they contain can still be available. They are an invaluable resource to the model shipwright who wants to understand not only how prototype wooden ships were built, but why they were built that way.