The two-dimensional representation of the ship has been known since the 16th
century. It is, however, important to distinguish between ships drawings, the
primary purpose of which were to give the viewer, or the builder, an idea about
the proportions of the ship, the number of guns and the ornamentation, and the
constructional drawing, which was a legitimate working drawing.
In the Danish National Archives we find a number of ships drawings dating back to the early 17th century. In all likelihood they are produced by the king’s chief naval architect, David Balfour, who worked in Denmark from 1597 and until the mid-1620´s. Even though these are two-dimensional representations of the ship, they are not actual constructional drawings.
|Actual constructional drawings were first introduced in France during the second half
of the 17th century. The primary reasons for this initiative were
that the shipbuilders wanted to build a more uniform fleet consisting of ships
with identical qualities, that they wanted to secure better management of the
shipbuilding process and reduce the waste of expensive oak wood. In addition,
the constructional drawing provided a tool that would make it easier to find
out whether the final product was in accordance with the given specifications
In 1692 Ole Judichæer, who had a gift for theory and good knowledge of mathematics, was given the position as Chief constructor to the Navy at Holmen. In the same year his first construction was launched at Nyholm. The constructional drawing for this ship still exists. The drawing consists of a body-plan and a sheer-plan. It is provided with a scale and carries the king’s signature, which means that the majesty has given his highest approval, or as it was called at the time 'approbated', the ship. From this time and until the present the shipbuilders of the Danish Navy have all used constructional drawings.
In the 19th century a complete set of drawings consisted of six elements; a list of the main dimensions of the ship, a body plan in section and in plane, a transverse section drawing, a sheer-plan and plans of the decks as well as drawings of the mouldings and ornamentation of the ship. Drawings of the sails and rigging were added later. The king, however, approbated only the body plan and the sheer plan. This approbation meant that not only were the drawings officially approved, they were in fact to be considered as a legally binding document.
What was the purpose of the constructional drawings? What were the advantages? Some of the reasons for introducing the constructional drawings have already been mentioned. Furthermore, it should also be noted that it was in the interest of the Crown to establish a sharp distinction between the constructor and the shipbuilder. By giving the shipbuilder the rank of an officer a higher degree of loyalty could be expected from him just as he could be expected to continue to use his skills in the service of the Danish Crown. Last but not least the constructional drawings made it possible to gather and store experience gained in the work process.