HMS Victory from Scratch

HMS Victory

     from Scratch

updated March 20, 2014 10:35 AM

(Jump to latest update at end of page)
Jump to method I used to create the 1:48 scaled plans


using the plans in:

bullet John McKay's The 100-Gun Ship Victory,
bullet C. Nepean Longridge's The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships,
bullet Alan McGowan's HMS Victory, drawings by McKay.
bullet Peter Goodwin's English Man of War 1650~1850.
The intent of this construction project is to replicate the HMS Victory as nearly as possible to its condition found at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  I also have the plans from Nexus Plans Service to cross-check the accuracy of the three mentioned above.  There have already been differences in the various plans, but there has been no difficulty so far in settling upon the proper choice, as three at least have always agreed.  We'll see how closely they agree as we get to the details of construction.

It is also my intention to fashion every piece of timber used in the original construction.  Tree nails will be used in the fabrication instead of iron and copper nails until we get to the copper plating of the bottom.  Because of the myriad of timbers used in constructing the frames, this project will probably take several years, and may well end up with just the frame, including beams, knees, carlins, et al. 

The scale I have selected is 1:48, or 1/4" = 1 foot.  This makes a rather large vessel, but allows adding the copious detail that is included in McKay's drawings.  I started at 1:75, got through the stern and stem including all the deadwood, but quickly got the idea of how difficult it would be to work with the detailed timbers at that scale.  I'm much more comfortable at the larger scale, even though it meant starting over.

I find that I already have the equipment to enlarge all of the plans to the 1/4" scale. My scanner, Adobe PS Elements software and my Compaq printer provide an exact 1/4" scale set of plans from the McKay drawings, which were published at 1:192.  My first effort is to recreate the stern post and deadwood, a partial keel and the stem and deadwood.  The rest of the keel will be left until a few frames have been built and must be installed on the keel.  The first and last flat frames will be installed first.  The stem and stern will be shored up to the proper vertical position on the construction board, with the stern about a scale foot below the stem keel, and the rest of the keel timbers will be installed. 

Since this is a model that will end up being almost five feet long, I am going to build the stern and stem framing completely before attacking the center of the hull.  That way, I can work with sections that are more manageable instead of swinging around the whole thing.


These images will serve to show the size of the stern post, relative to the six inch rule shown.
The left image shows the stern post, inner post and the rear-most timber of the keel already constructed and assembled, complete with rabbets and that portion of the area above the bearding line that lies on the inner post.  The patterns for the deadwood are cut ready to cut out the timbers.
The right image just illustrates the scraps of cherry wood that I will be using to construct the Victory frame.  I'll be able to get all of the deadwood, both stern and stem out of this amount of scrap, for which I paid $1/pound.


These images show the assembled stern post, first segment of keel and all the deadwood for the stern, including the first segment of keelson.To the right, a somewhat blurred image of the individual segments of the deadwood, each timber cut to match the McKay drawing shown in other images.

This image shows the stem blown up to the proper 1/4" scale, ready to be cut into pattern pieces, as done for the stern above. 
My intention is to recreate the Victory as faithfully as I can, and the most challenging task will be to do the frames, one futtock at a time, with each station pair faired together for strength.


Next comes the task of installing the Transoms.  There is some conflict between the Water Lines of McGowan's book and the Transoms pictured in McKay's own book.  You may notice that I opted to go with the images of the Transoms, except for number 4, which is not compatible with all the rest.  Number 4 will have to be created by averaging between 3 and 5.
The left image shows the first three Transoms installed using trunnels (tree-nails).  Each Transom is made up of three pieces of timber, better seen in the close-up image to the right.
Note that the Transoms have not been beveled.  That is to be accomplished after installation and after the first Fashion pieces have been installed.


So, we have the first set of Transoms installed, and now we move to the first of the Fashion pieces that must provide the proper hull curvature from the stern deadwood to the transoms.  Using station 31 and 32 as guides, the profile of the Fashion piece 141, from McKays book, is roughly determined.  This first cut is rough in the sense that any corrections that most probably will be found necessary will be performed and the piece re-cut.  This Fashion piece 141 intersects all three of these first Transoms and will provide the hull template for the succeeding pieces.
The left image shows some of the extensive work that must be done to determine the shape of the fashion piece, if it is to duplicate the timbers used in the original ship.  On the right, the blank is ready to saw out to provide the complex curvature of the Fashion piece 141.

  After cutting out the piece, it is trial fitted to the Transoms 1 through 3, the lower end being fitted to the deadwood.  The initial fit is better than I expected, but much has to be done to cause the outer surface to be in line with the Water Lines 1 through 3.  I'll use this first cut to act as a base and add to it with built up pieces of timber to get it to be just what is required.  Then, I'll use it as a template to cut an exact replica of the original timber used in the initial construction of the Victory.
Doing the Victory from scratch is an interesting project, but doing it so as to replicate the original construction is very much more a task. 

I finally decided that I MUST prepare all the templates for Water Lines and Body Plans, along with the last square frame set before I could get the proper contour into the Fashion Pieces that I had started.  So, here is the lower half of the Station 21 pair of frames.  I don't want to go on up higher right now, but I cut the futtocks and have them set aside.
The pair of frames, each 15 inches wide at the keel, make quite a distinguished set of timbers.  Naturally, each member of the pair has to have offset scarphs at the futtock joints, and here comes the importance of some of the other books in my library.  McGowan's is particularly useful in this regard, as it shows several of the often used methods of futtock construction in those days.







Now, the template is ready to help design the curvature of the fashion pieces, as I add them to fill in as I add Transoms.

Here, I've added the lower three water lines by cementing some left over planking from another ship to the edges of the cardboard template pieces. 
Seems to work just fine as can be seen in the image to the right, where the stern piece of the Victory is up against the template.  The first fashion piece can be seen. and the template allows me to finish the fashion pieces to the exact water lines.
The rest of the Transoms have now been constructed using various hardwoods.  This image shows numbers 6 through 11, the Wing Transom.

And this is what they look like after being mounted to the Inner Stern Post.  They still require beveling and it appears that one or two may have to be slightly modified in order to allow the cant frames to make proper contact.


Now, let's look at the Cant Frames and some of the Fashion Pieces done on the starboard side of the stern post.  From here on forward to the first square frame, station 21, the cant frames will still be secured to the deadwood and become less angled to the keel.
These first cant frames are at 45 degree and will gradually change to 90 degrees when they meet station 21 full frame.


Needless to say, I got into a lot of trouble when attempting to determine the shape of cant frames above the waterlines provided in the plans. I decided that I again would have to back off of the cant frames and install the counter timbers and stern timbers so that I could put in the various decks enough to determine the shape of the frames aft of station 21.

This image shows the counter timbers mounted upon the top of the wing transom, otherwise known as transom number 11!

Another view, looking straight down at the counter timbers. I have installed these exactly to the dimensions and angles shown in McKay's drawings of the stern of the ship. I was amazed at the accuracy of these drawings, as the reproduction in real wood (cherry) brought the dimensions of the stern into direct alignment with the rest of the plans.  
  I went ahead and shaped and installed all of the stern timbers, except for those of the side galleries. In order to properly space and mount the timbers, I was again forced into creating the complex deck transoms for each of the decks at the stern. Here, I have installed the Upper deck and Poop transoms, giving a firm base for the stern timbers.
Not only were the deck transoms required, but in the case of the Poop deck, I completed three of the deck beams, and the side beams so as to create the shape template needed to continue with the cant frames. Note that this has created a firm structure of the aft end of the Victory, and a good beginning for the various timbers that will now have to be added. I believe it best now to continue with the rest of the aft end deck structures, as it will be much easier to reach everything prior to covering it all up with cant frames.  
It looks like this project will be numbered in decades instead of years, as the detail is amazing and the research into each and every timber is extraordinary! Most of the timbers now being created have a three-dimensional aspect, so that they must be made up from laminated cherry wood sheets. Of course, this is to be expected, since the real Victory had timbers much larger than offered by any oak tree that ever lived.
  In keeping with the idea of creating all the decks in the stern section, prior to going on with the cant frames, I have built up all the decks below the poop. The orlop, lower, middle, upper and quarter decks have all been made up of their deck beams, mounted on the deck shelves. Each beam is laminated from at least two pieces, just as shown in the McKay drawings. No carlins have been installed yet, but the beams are in proper position to accept all the carlins next.
These snaps are of the middle deck, with the close up showing the laminations, using alternately, cherry and walnut. Most beams consist of two pieces, scarphed together at the overlapping center, approximately one-third the total length. Each deck has slightly different sized beams, getting smaller on the upper decks. The orlop and lower decks are massive, as they have to hold enormous weights.  

This 'head-on' view shows all six decks in place, pinned with trunnels to the station 21 sister frames and in the aft to the transoms and counter timbers as necessary.

All but the poop deck are removable, as they must be equipped with the zillion carlins yet to be created. I could now go ahead and do the cant frames, or I could continue with decking frame-up. I'm not yet sure which I will do.

This view from the larboard shows all the decks in place, and show the deck shelves extending on past station 21 for scarphing to the mid-section shelves when I get to that part.

The aft end from station 21 has worked out quite well, as it contains all of the poop deck and all the carlins surrounding the mizzen mast, together with it's step on the keelson. That will come soon.


These detail shots just show the trunnels used to secure the beams to the shelving. Lots of woodwork used in these tall ships!
Now that all of the decks have primary beams installed, except all the poop deck beams, I'm applying the cant frames from station 21 aft. I've gotten through the frames up to station 27. The stations 23 and 25 are sister frames, with two single frames between each station.
This view is inside looking down into the hold where the cant frames are tied into the deadwood above the keel and below the keelson. Note that the cant frames are snuggled together at this junction, each one being slightly beveled to cause the cant frames to increase angle as they are added in the aft direction.
Here is a detailed view of the frames, showing the sister frames with the single frames between stations. This view is taken just above the middle deck. All frames are constructed of a series of futtocks, no two adjacent frames with scarphs at the same level. I use bamboo trunnels to secure all joints. There is no iron in this model. A thorough sanding is to be applied after all the cant frames are installed. The spacers will be removed after the deck shelves are installed permanently.

This view shows the lowest futtock of each frame snugged together at the keel. None of the smoothing and sanding has yet been done, so everything looks like a work in progress.

I have installed the waterway for the middle deck permanently even though the deck shelf and beams are removable. This was done to provide an intermediate secure fastening of each frame to lock each one in place.

After a couple of months, the cant frames on the port stern quarter are done! The most time-consuming task so far. Each successive cant frame from station 21 aft, assumes a greater angle to the keel, until the fashion pieces are reached. At that point the frames are at a 45 degree angle. This image shows the complete set of cant frames, with just a few of the upper futtocks missing at station 31 and immediately adjacent to it. I am having some difficulty transitioning from cant frames to the upper extensions of the fashion pieces. Another task ahead of me. The very first strakes are also shown. The gar strake and its immediate neighbor are 6" thick and 15" wide. The width drops to 12" and gradually reduces in thickness to 4" way up above the water line.
This image shows the inner surfaces of the cant frames. The increasing angle toward the aft end can be easily seen here. In fact, the gap between the last cant frame and the first fashion piece can be seen at this angle, demonstrating the 45 degree angle of the cant frames at that point. These futtocks have not yet been sanded down and I'm not yet sure how much of the lower hold was finished with internal planking. McKay will be my reference as always.
Another image more clearly showing the strakes applied from the keel upward. I am going to add certain finishes in unspecified places in this project. The starboard side will be left mostly frame-less, so that the intricate detail of each of the deck members can be clearly seen. Some decking will be applied, but not so much as to obscure the beam and carlin details. In like fashion, some planking will be installed, but no so much as to hide the frame construction, since each and every futtock has been assembled from separate wood stock.
The futtocks of the cant frames are all joined by 3" diameter trunnels, dipped in glue and pounded into place. Remember, there is NO iron in this model, even though the Victory was reinforced throughout with wrought iron bands and braces. Probably why it still exists! This image is a close up of the unfinished strakes, showing the first 'stealer' required to maintain a 'fair' lay of the strakes. Each strake is fastened to the futtocks with 1-1/2" diameter trunnels, two at each butt joint and at intervals along each plank. So far, only enough have been installed to hold things in place. More will be added later.
Finally, all of the full and cant frames, including the fashion pieces on the port stern from Station 21 aft are in place. Only the one gun port is in, with many more to go, but now that all the frames are secure and roughly sanded to a fair surface, the rest of the ports can be cut and lined. Prior to cutting in the ports, the waterways will be installed for each of the decks on the port and starboard sides. The waterways fully define the level of the finished deck planking and are installed on the inside of the frames.

This image showing the inside of all the frames on the port side of the stern also shows the one waterway that was installed to act as a mid-frame support for all the cant frames. This waterway is for the Middle Deck and is fashioned from walnut to add a measure of stiffness to the curve of the hull while the frames were all installed. Each frame is trunneled to the waterway. Note that all the decks have been removed for these images.

The frames have been cut off at the top to match the line of the 1805 Victory, where the poop deck actually rises above the bulwarks at the forward end of the deck.

So that we can be absolutely sure we have a fair line for the hull at this point, I am going to add another frame station for'ard of the station 21 that is currently the most fo'ard of the frames. This will be station 19, and I thought I would include a little glimpse into the making of a station frame. First, the station drawing by McKay is scanned and enlarged by a factor of X4 to get it to the proper 1/4" scale. This is then checked in several ways to make sure that the scan and image processing, including printing has given the correct scale. It is absolutely imperative to cross check and then check again.
The cherry wood futtocks are all cut to over-size and then disc sanded to the exact outline. Note that the drawing is used to create the first sister frame, including the futtock scarph locations and shapes. The other sister frame is made almost identical except that the scarph joints are staggered to lie between the first sister joints. The first sister is assembled on the drawing, adjusting the scarph fits until it overlays the drawing exactly. The loose parts shown are the second sister futtocks and will be assembled in a similar fashion, except they will also have to fit the first sister.

Updated January 21, 2007

A long period of time has expired since updating this page, so there will be some new features included.

  The largest amount of new work consists of adding all of the deck beams for the Poop deck. The carlins for that deck have also been added to support the skylight and the upper collar for the Mizzen mast.  A shortened Mizzen mast is included as described below.
fully populated poop deck

mizzen mast step or base

  The Mizzen mast is set into a foot mounted astride the keelson just astern of station 25.  A full size mizzen is 24 inches in diameter, here scaled to 1/2" rod.  I have included it in this model so as to properly position the foot and all carlins on the five decks through which the mast rises.  
  The Mizzen mast collar on the Poop deck is composed of a split ring so positioned as to fit flush between the carlins, so that when decking is applied, it will fall over the ring or collar without any interruption. The Mizzen mast has been determined to slope to the stern at an angle of seven degrees to the vertical.  So far, only the foot and the Poop deck collar have been fitted, but the Mizzen mast appears to penetrate the other lower decks at the appropriate places.  poop deck mizzen mast carlin and cap
cannon port holes on the quarter deck   Prior to installing the lodging and hanging knees at the beam ends of the deck beams, I realized that the cannon port holes would require cutting and framing first.  This due to the fact that some of the hanging knees will have to be installed at angles to the vertical to miss the cut out port holes.  McKay's drawings show this anomoly clearly, so the port side holes are cut and framed.
  The carlins for the skylight on the Poop deck have been installed and I built a solid walled skylight framework.  I believe it will ultimately be replaced with one built up from boards of a size available for the task when the Victory was built.  Right now, it is a convenient 'place holder' while I continue to work on the Poop deck..  skylight into captain's dining area
sister frame at station 27 on starboard side
  I have said earlier on this page, that my model is to be one in which all the timbers used in the construction of the Victory, are to be replicated.  I have built all the frames on the port side, up to station 21, which coincides with the forward end of the Poop deck.  Leaving the starboard side open allows me to get at all the inner recesses to install the various timbers on each of the decks.  Upon completing the Poop deck beams, I found that there was a need for some structural stiffening on the starboard side, so I have built station 25 sister frames and installed them, fixing them to the beam ledges of the variou decks. 

  Note that the Captain's convenience door to access the side closets in his living quarters has been added to the starboard side.

I believe that I will apply some decking to the Poop deck, perhaps along the starboard side and under the taffrail so as to allow installation of the transom knees supporting the taffrail and flag lockers.

port side of stern

Updated February 1, 2007

However, prior to that, I have installed three of the Hanging Knees on the Poop deck beams. Two are shown to the left, at the Station 21 site.  The Quarterdeck has been removed in this image, to allow free access to the area for mounting the knees.

Now, I am putting in all the carlins required to support the Upper Deck with its load of 12 pounder long guns.  Lodging knees go in first, followed by the heavy carlins immediately under the gun sites.  Lighter carlins are then added.

upper deck carlins
carlins on lodge knees

These carlins are cut so as to overlap the lodging knee in this space.  It is not clear from the McKay drawings whether or not this really occurs.  They may just terminate at the knee, but I can always cut them shorter.

This image shows the entire aft end of the Upper gun deck, from the Mizzen mast back.  The carlins on either side of the mast are in and complete, the heavier carlins on the port side are in and the carlins under the guns are started.  No hanging knees are in place yet, but they will be added after the deck is otherwise complete.  I have to be careful about hanging knees, as the deck must be 'portable', and removable to work on.

The upper deck well along

Updated February 12, 2007

all decks looking down at them

Here is a view of all the decks looking down from the upper deck.  Note that all of them now have the collar around the Mizzen mast.  I have also located hanging knees on each level so as to afix the vertical location of each deck.  This eliminates the need for nails to fix each of the decks in location.

Now, a view of the same decks looking upwards toward the poop deck.  Note the addition of carlins on the upper gun deck, leading to enough to support the 12 pounders on that deck. same decks looking upwards

To allow a slight digression from working solely with wood, I have built up the rudder, following the plans as shown in this image. One sheet shows how the wood is built up, while the other sheet shows placement of the pintles and gudgeons.

The pintles and gudgeons are made of brass, with the selection of tubing and rod to allow smooth insertion of the one into the other. Ordinary low-temperature solder is used to attach the tubing and rods to the brass strips which have been shaped from wider brass strip purchased at the local hardware.

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The McKay plans blown up to a scale of 1:48 provide a very nice pattern for the bending of the brass strips to fit the rudder and stern post. Since brass of the proper width was not available in the thickness required, I purchased wider strips and reduced the width easily by using a 6" disk sander which handily cuts down the soft brass without difficulty.

Of course, since I am not planking the ship on the exterior, the gudgeons will be applied to the ribs and transoms. I think I will just temporarily fit them so that they may be removed easily.

Here is the fitting of the rudder's pintle and the stern post's gudgeon.  The Keel has been routed out cylindrically to allow the rudder to rotate about the pintle line.  I will have to obtain brass nails of sufficiently small size to retain the brass strips to the wood.  Also, a patina must be added to darken the brass as though it had been in the sea water for some time.

Updated March 20, 2014


Continuing to fill out the several deck timbers, this image of the Upper Gun Deck shows the latest timbers installed. Note that the new pieces appear much lighter in color than the older cherry wood. That is what aging does to cherry wood.

I have decided to lay on the decking on this Upper Gun Deck, just the port side, enough to demonstrate how it would look. This image shows the jig that I constructed to drill the tree-nail holes at both ends of each timber.

I have found that it is not easy to determine the width of the actual decking on the Victory, so by making measurements of actual images of the decking I have determined that this deck had timbers a full foot in width. The length is much esier, as virtually everyone agrees that timbers varied in length with the longest being about 20 feet.
The aft end of the deck is virtually square cut as it transects the inside of the transom at that vertical position. Note that I have made all of these decks 'removable' so that various features, as in this case, planking can be provided from time to time.

Showing the planking as it appears from beneath the beams of the Upper Deck.

I have not yet added the trunnels to secure the planking on each of the beams. The length of the planks is determined by the location of each beam underlying the planking, as all trunnels need to be firmly bedded in a beam. The spacing of the beams is determined by the plans, and is not necessarily uniform.

You may want to refer back to this web site as the construction of the HMS Victory evolves.
I will certainly make every effort to keep this page up to date, but such a project takes years of work, and probably will never actually be completed by me. 

Thanks for you consideration and I welcome  your comments via email to:

The Plans

The plans are for sale by the author, John McKay in BC, Canada, I don’t remember his address, but you can find him on the internet.
However, I found another method of getting the exact same plans in a convenient way:

  1. Purchase John McKay’s book ‘The 100-gun Ship Victory’ complete with 1/192 scale fold-out plans (ISBN 1-55750-418-0).
  2. Scan the pages you wish to have as plans, 1:1.
  3. Using Photoshop CS3 or equivalent software, enlarge by a factor of 4 (for 1/48) or whatever scale you want.
  4. Print out in black and white.

Voila’, you have the plans that I have been following!
This has worked out to be an exact 1/48 scale process and has been checked many times to be sure.
With modern scanners/printers, the conversion is exact and can’t be improved upon. 
Of course, I have often cropped images to get just the parts I want at the time.


Good Luck,
Don Evans
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