At first glance, La Belle's framing timbers do appear to have a large number of extra treenail holes on their outboard faces that cannot be accounted for by the regular fastening pattern for the planking—of two crisscrossed nails and two treenails per frame with extra bolts and nails at the scarfs. What is especially peculiar is that these extra treenail holes often occur in batches. The explanation for these holes is not timber reuse or vessel repair. They are a direct result of the prolific use in French shipbuilding of iron bolts versus treenails for fastening together the frames (Ollivier 1737:65–67).
Documentary evidence indicates that the French attached all or at least multiple strakes of the internal ceiling and external hull planking with nails prior to further securing them with treenails (Ollivier 1737:52). As a result, the shipwright boring holes for the treenails could not see the locations of the fore-and-aft framing bolts. With surprising frequency, sometimes multiple times in one location, La Belle's shipwrights had to abandon and plug auger holes after encountering a fore-and-aft bolt or sometimes even the tip of a nail driven from the opposite side.
There are unused shallow auger holes and nail holes on the lateral surfaces of the framing timbers as well as extra nail holes on the outboard faces. Similarly, on the sides of the keel there are some nail holes that were filled with wooden plugs. Such extra "minor" fastenings and holes are not unusual in the construction of a vessel, and they are likely related to the squaring and shaping of timbers and/or the fastening on of temporary supports during construction such as ribbands, chocks, braces, and cross-spalls.
There are no anomalous centerline fastenings in the keel, the floor timbers, or the keelson that would indicate that any of these timbers were independently replaced during a repair or rebuilding prior to 1684. The after section of the keel is one of four timbers that have 1683 as the proposed felling date (Carrell 2003:219, 295–297). Since this is one of the main timbers of the keel, it can be safely concluded that this timber is fundamental to the construction of the vessel. It is possible to replace the keel in an older vessel; however, if this part of La Belle's keel was a replacement timber on an older hull, the shipwrights would not have needed to carve frame numbers on its port side (Figure 8). Furthermore, this after part of the keel is scarfed to the forefoot, and IIIA is carved across the seam of the scarf. This suggests that both pieces were scarfed together at the time this label was carved. Thus the labeling of the complete keel and the assembly of the centerline timbers was almost certainly a onetime event that occurred no earlier than in 1683.
All the labels on the frames are sequential forward and aft along the entire vessel. Each and every label is in its correct location and on the appropriate timber conforming to the overall labeling logic. NEXT
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