It is a structural reality that frames have a width, the sided dimension, and a thickness, the moulded dimension. Since the sides of the hull curve inward before and abaft the midship frame, to conform to the shape of the hull, the inboard and most critically the outboard faces of the frame timbers have to be angled or beveled. Due to beveling, the shipwrights had to carefully determine the placement and inclination of fore-and-aft frame fastenings in such a way that their ends did not exit on the outboard face instead of on the opposite forward or after transverse face of the frame. Protruding ends of iron bolts would greatly interfere with planking a hull.
To accurately determine bevels becomes increasingly difficult toward the ends of the vessel, where the change in curvature becomes more pronounced. Unlike in some other shipbuilding traditions, the French did not adjust the orientation of the frames, or canting, in the bow to reduce the amount of beveling required (Ollivier 1737:67). Un-canted frame VIIIIA is located far forward in La Belle's hull, and its bevel angles are large. The shipwrights did not risk using iron bolts that would interfere with cutting the bevels on VIIIIA. Instead they used treenails for the initial fastening of its components. Like the bolts in the other surmarked frames, VIIIIA's treenails are perpendicular to the forward and after faces of the timbers.
These treenails in VIIIIA were cut through in the process of finishing the beveling of the assembled frame. In fact, on the starboard first futtock they are almost completely exposed on the outboard face (Figure 14). Once the beveling was completed, holes for additional bolts were bored at angles that avoided exiting on the outboard face. For the floor timber to first futtock joint only one additional bolt was added because the treenails were less compromised. For the first to second futtock joint the shipwrights added an additional three bolts.
While the evidence that every third frame on La Belle was raised first is unequivocal, how these frames were initially secured in place on the keel is uncertain. The pattern of bolting the floor timbers to the keel does not conform to the "every third" surmarked frame pattern, and there is no evidence for the use of temporary fastenings such as nails or spikes to hold the floor timbers in place prior to boring for the centerline bolts.
La Belle's floor timbers are fastened to the centerline timbers with round bolts that either go through only the floor timber and keel or through the keelson, floor timber, and keel. Frames VIA, IA, ID, IIID, VD, VIID and VIIIID are just bolted to the keel. Thus between IA and VIIIID, every second floor timber was independently fastened to the keel. The midship frame is notably not one of these frames. Although the floor timber of frame IIIA has two bored holes, its bolt extends from the top of the keelson to the bottom of the keel and thus breaks the pattern of independently fastening every second floor timber. NEXT
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