The arms of VIA's floor timber extend slightly less beyond the lower surmark than those of the other surmarked floor timbers, and this may have left insufficient room for the third bolt. Frame VIIIID has only two through fastenings joining its first and second futtocks, but it has a third blind fastening that only partly enters the first futtock. All the frames without design marks have only two bolts joining the first and second futtocks, and fewer than half of them have three bolts joining the floor timbers and first futtocks. Thus the extra number of fastenings in the frames with design marks already begins to distinguish them. What definitively proves that the surmarked frames were erected prior to the intervening frames is the angles at which the bolts are driven.
On the surmarked frames the bolts are driven essentially perpendicular to the vertical faces of the timbers; viewed from the side of the vessel, they would appear to run horizontally (Figures 11, 12). Given the existing frame spacing, these fastenings are too long to have been practically driven with the adjacent frames in place. Thus at the very least each sequential component timber of the frames with the design marks had to be raised and secured in place prior to the erection of the intervening timbers of the adjacent frames. The bolts in the intervening frames are driven at angles that clear at least one of the adjoining frames (Figures 11, 12). Thus the pieces of these frames could be assembled with the surmarked frames already raised. The fastenings on the frames without surmarks generally have the same orientation but a greater inclination than the curvature of the hull at a given frame location. In the upper hull some of the fastenings have the opposite orientation but still clear at least one of the adjacent frames.
Additional evidence that the pieces of the un-surmarked frames were fastened in place sequentially is furnished by several mistakes made by the shipwrights. They had to cut a notch in the floor timber of VIIIID, one of the surmarked frames, because they needed additional clearance for one of the fastenings for frame VIIID (Figure 13a, b). The fact that the floor timber of frame VIIID also has such a notch in it is an indication that all the floor timbers of the intervening frames may have been in place prior to the insertion of their first futtocks.
The pattern distinguishing every third frame revealed by the surmarks and fore-and-aft fastening angles holds true for all La Belle's frames with sufficient preservation for analysis. Initially frame VIIIIA presented a problem because it has two almost complete sets of fore-and-aft fastenings—one set perpendicular and the other angled (Figure 14). Unlike the rest of the frames with surmarks, frame VIIIIA's horizontal fastenings are wooden treenails and not iron bolts. Its other set of fastenings is angled bolts. The explanation for this double set of fastenings highlights several important issues in the interrelationship of design and construction. NEXT
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