In general, most plans for wooden sailing ships contained only the very basic information such as the pincipal dimensions of the hull - length, width and depth of the hold. Added to the principal dimensions are the deck layout and the hull lines which give the builder the shape of the hull. The rest of the needed information is left up to the knowledge, skill and imagination of the shipwright.
In order to draw up a set of working plans and to reconstruct a historically correct model of the Oneida, we will have to rely on other sources besides the original plans. A primary source of information on the construction of a naval vessel such as the Oneida is the Navy's "establishments" or specifications for the building of naval ships. The establishments list every part that goes into a ship's construction and the size of the piece knows as the scantlings. We will also use the archaeology information gained from the wrecks of the Eagle, Jefferson and the wreck found at Misery Bay, alleged to be the Niagara.
The first thing to accomplish is to digitize the original plans using a CAD program. With that done, we now move on to drawing #1.
What we are looking at here is called the disposition of frame. Simply put, it is the location of all the whole frames in the body of the ship and their sided dimension. This information was found in the establishments under the term "room and space", which means the distance taken up by one frame and the space between the frames. In modern terms it means the frames were set at 24 inch on center. The width of the frame can also be found in the establishments under the sided dimensions of the floors and first futtocks, this totals 16 inches. When 16-inch frames on 24-inch centers are drawn on the original plans of the Oneida, the frame locations match up to the locations of the gun ports. This is as close as we can get to being historically correct without finding the wreck of the Oneida and measuring the framing. The Eagle, a larger ship, had an average of 20-inch frames on 24-inch centers. The Jefferson was also built by Henry Eckford and had 17-inch frames set on 22-inch centers. With the location of the frames set, we now move on to drawing #2.
This is the half-breadth plan, which gives the shape of the hull. The half-breadth plan was digitized from the original Oneida plan. The green lines are the center of each frame. The blue lines at the bow are the cant frames. The purple line, black line, magenta line and the second black line are the waterlines. These lines are set on the original drawing ½ inch apart. The red line is the deck and the blue line is the sheer at the caprail. These two lines float, or move up or down according to the location of the frame being lofted. The half-breadth drawing will be used to generate the shape of all the frames. The red line is the location of frame number 9. Snipping out a section of the half-breadth drawing at the red line we can demonstrate how a frame shape is lofted in drawing #3.
The first illustration in this drawing is a "snip" out of the sheer plan. The first thing we did was draw a line from the centerline up to each of the waterlines, deck line and the sheer line. In CAD, the lines are rotated and the four waterlines are placed ½ inch up from a base line and ½ inch apart. The deck and sheer lines are placed at the proper height that is taken from the profile drawing. Draw a line starting where the centerline and the base line meet and continue untill the end of each waterline. This gives a general shape of the hull at frame location 9. In the third illustration the line just drawn is faired to a smooth curve. Each frame is lofted in this manner and placed in the body plan. With all the frame shapes in the body plan, each line has to be adjusted so that they don't cross or touch the line next to it. A final faired body plan is shown in drawing 4. A frame is drawn by taking the outside shape from the body plan and the inside shape from the molded dimensions found in the establishments. Looking at the illustration of a frame, you can see small lines located along the frame shape. These lines are the molded locations for the frame. Starting at center, the establishments give the first molded dimension as 11 inches. The next line is located at the floor head and its molded dimension is 9 inches. Moving up the frame, the molded dimensions are 11, 9. 7, 5 and 4. Finally the frame shape is mirrored, the deck line drawn in, and the knees added.
In this drawing the inside profile and the body plan are shown. In this drawing are the shapes of the keelson, keel, stem, apron and deadwood. These make up the backbone of the ship. Also included in the drawing are the location of the deck beams, capstan, skylight and hatchways. The body plan has been placed in front of the profile and sits on the base line so the deck line and sheer line can be moved to match its proper height along the hull.
After hours and hours of lofting frames it is now time to spend hours breaking the frames down into their component parts called futtocks.
Here is the deck layout with its deck beams drawn in black and the smaller beams called ledges drawn in green. Carlings are the beams running from bow to stern. These are used to support beams and ledges where they break to form a hatchway. From archaeological information it was found that neither the Eagle nor the Jefferson had deck knees. Deck beams were held to the sides of the ship by sandwiching their ends between a heavy deck clamp and a heavy waterway timber. If this was the case for the above two ships, then why were deck knees shown in the deck layout of the Oneida? The Eagle and Jefferson were built during the war when speed in construction was an issue and the Navy dept. would tend to overlook short cuts to get the ships out on the lakes. Jefferson's deck broke away from the sides of the ship during a storm. She was repaired and sent back out on the lake. Both the Eagle and the Jefferson, as well as other brigs built on lake Erie, fell apart soon after the war ended. The Oneida was built unrushed, three years before the war and was still sailing twenty years after the war. No doubt she was built strong and as Woolsey said, "only the best white oak was used", so you know the Oneida was built to the high standards of the Naval specifications of the Establishments.