P. Barry – Dockyard Economy and Naval Power
The National Company for Boatbuilding by Machinery was foremost among the shipbuilding fraternity innovations of the time: that of boat building by machinery. The application is most successful, and in its success there is obviously a strong argument against the maintenance of all the dockyard manufacturing establishments, because improvements in boat building imply the possibility of improvements in all other directions-nay, the certainty such improvements, were the Admiralty entering- the market in a straightforward business manner for the supply of all their minor wants, in ropes, sails, blocks, &c. Mr. Nathan Thompson, the inventor of the improved boat building machinery, luckily for himself and the public, did not share the fate of most inventors, but under the auspices of such men as Colonel Sykes, Mr. Graham, and John Dillon, succeeded first in demonstrating the utility of his “tools,” and afterwards establishing a company, which, enjoying the entire confidence of the mercantile marine, which is barely able to keep pace with the increasing demand for boats. The company has had, and may still expect to meet, many difficulties, and to overcome many prejudices; — doubts -on the quality and durability of the boats turned out them—ignorance, and in many cases worse than that ignorance, on the part of the men employ machines—the interests of competing boat builders and opposition to everything that is new. T threatened strikes and many other difficulties, one by one overcome, and, under the guidance of the directors and of its manager, there can now be no doubt as to the future which is before this company. The quality of every description of work turned out by this company is now so universally admitted to be better than everything previously seen, that from boat the mercantile marine the directors have been able to enter upon the erection of barges, canal vessels of large size. To accomplish this the enlarging their premises to an extent that two ago even Mr. Thompson perhaps did not think probable. Boat building in point of time is not from a matter of weeks to a matter of hours, regards expense in the matter of labour, from pounds to shillings; the cost of material, being the same whether boats are built by machine or manual labour. The company is presently situated at East Greenwich, about half as mile from Greenwich Hospital, and cover an area of acres of ground. Every possible appliance to aid the cost of production has been provided—wharves cranes, tramways, &c. The number of men- under the able superintendence of the Messrs.- formerly of Limehouse, and temporarily of Nathan Thompson and John C. Thompson number four hundred, and there is perhaps no neighbourhood of London more worthy of • ill the works of the company. Orders to arties are readily given on application to the company’s secretary, at the London office mb street. When the scheme of Mr. Nathan Thompson -was first submitted to the public the -writer sorted it in the following terms – When New England ingeniously unscrupulously began the manufacture of wooden ships it was apparent that there was no conceivable means to the application of machinery and steam. To counterfeit the genuine article which housewives use so often b by giving an irregular oval form to little knobs. New. England mahogany was to let daylight into the economy of trade, and to suggest no end of refined cheats. Wooden cheese and butter for the windows of provision shops, and wooden sugar-loaves for grocers’, if not for their drawers and hogsheads, were no doubt among the earlier imitative efforts; and of the development of the science we of course cannot speak. But if the manufacture of nutmegs was suggested of objectionable imitations, we have only to turn -to the working of the patents of that eminent scientific American, Mr. Nathan Thompson, jun., to be assured that if inventive genius is stimulated in a bad direction, it is sure speedily to be stimulated in a way that is not only unobjectionable, but useful. We do not mean say that machine boat building is the offset to any mention that has preceded it, or that it has been suggested by any previous invention, but what we are sincerely anxious about is that our readers should be ((pressed with the fact that a revolution is impending the boat building business; that Mr. Thompson’s machinery is eminently practical and singularly expeditious and economical. that the work it turns out is
[Article furnished by the writer and published in the Steam Shipping Chronicle, June, 1861.]
More exact and perfect, and, as a- matter of fact stronger than the boats built hitherto-by-M Mr. Thompson’s boat building by steam may not be thought of in connection with the manufacture of nutmegs or with the many spurious inventions which by some means or other in England; but it is an intelligent fashioning of the timbers and parts of boats in an expeditious manner, and so fashioned. The vessels so constructed may be taken and fitted up at pleasure with little or no trouble. “The advantages of. The pieces are obvious. Why and troop, and other ships have usually a number of boats to carry all hands is owing to the space taken up by boats on deck, which interference with the health and comfort of everyone on board. For the want, therefore, of. Before such-boats as Mr. Thompson’s the number of boats has generally been inadequate, while no provisions has existed for the loss of boats from swamping, being stove in. On an emergency, when boat -a has been got over the ship’s side; and almost immediately afterwards turned over, with the unhappy people in it who hoped for safety, no boat whatever frequently, remained for the great majority of crew and passengers. By the use of Mr. Thompson’s reserve of boats may be kept below, not only able to take off all hands, but to provide against the accidents of launching. Then it is well known that boats hanging from the davits, or otherwise exposed on deck greatly suffer from exposure, particularly in the tropics will, therefore, be found economical in many and most of our southern-going ships boats are stowed away. Lastly, duplicates of any part of a boat may be plied, and instead of boat builders’ accounts for the duplicate can be inserted without any difficulty by anyone. Thompson’s boats, in short, go together like a bedstead, and it is only necessary to know where the different parts should go, to rig out anything, up to a pleasure yacht of one hundred tons. The Navy. To the Navy the invention can hardly prove more invaluable. Boats sufficient to land an may now be stowed away in a single transport point, as heretofore, inconveniently encumbering the decks of the- transports or the ships of the covering fleet; and boats which may be taken down and packed will be- available for interior transport when ordinary boats would be of no use whatever. Africa, India; and even North America (Mr. Thompson’s own country) are suggestive fields for the employment of boats, which might be carried overland before being launched upon their proper element. And rifled cannon it is scarcely necessary to observe, threaten to be most destructive to the old-fashioned boats of our ships of far.’ An action, now a days, at close quarters, will, if not lead to the annihilation of the ships engaged. Under every old-fashioned boat that is exposed entirely useless while Mr. Thompson’s boats would come out of this all but scathless. Half a dozen round shot passing through them would only lead to the unshipping of tiny shattered fragments and to the fitting-in of duplicate, or to the repairing of one boat in an hour or two with the vestiges of another. So long as we were without an invention of this kind, the seamen in our ships of war were, in fact, unsafe; and we trust that Mr. Thompson is treated by the Admiralty as Mr. Trotman has been and hope to see the new machinery in operation in all dockyards before the year is out, that the profit by increased efficiency, and the votes for money be reduced by the economy which is sure to follow the Success predicted. Whether it is the intention of Thompson to grant licences for the worldwide patents we, of course, cannot tell, but at the matter is in contemplation to establish a joint-stock company with sufficient capital to supply a fourth of the boats wanted in the United Kingdom annually. Such a company will be formed we cannot for a moment doubt, and that it will succeed is a matter up in scientific circles, no doubt whatever is entertained. The ‘innovation’ is looked upon ass forming much the same recommendations for boat building, as the improved frame does for -the pigau yarn, and the improved loom for the weaving of fabrics. It is a shorter and cheaper and -better arriving at a given result, as railway or steam travelling is the shortest, cheapest, and. best way of getting to a journey’s end. It is, in fact the mechanical step forward, and those who know accept it as -such. Boat building by manual labour is about to be numbered among the things that small boats will be produced cheaper than, they had been will be wanted for purposes to which they have not been applied; and although a-considerable present displacement of labour will unfortunately be occasioned, all experience shows that just now. For one who made a living a few years ago by the spinning wheel, ten thousand, no -ten times ten thousand, are now constantly and remuneratively employed, finely employed. We cannot, perhaps, do better than end these remarks with an account of the number and sort of the machines employed by Mr. Thompson in manufacture of a boat thirty feet long in a few hours. The first machine is called the ‘assembling form, which is for holding the gunwales, risings, floor timbers, cants, keels, stem, stern-post and board in their live positions, as designed in the finished boat. The Mad is the combination saw, for all kinds and dimensions of stuff, either square, bevelling, or angling, that pit sawed with a circular saw, and to any desired thickness or taper without measuring. The third is the form for spiling, or giving the plank edge the bevel throughout its entire length. The fourth giving the proper bevel to the stern-board, thwarting, transom-knees, breast-hooks, risings, forward; stern-ribs, cants, stern-sheets, gratings, toggles, &c fifth is for bearding and rebating keels at a single motion, and in the most perfect manner. The sixth is for tenoning toggles. The seventh, for mark- and slotting gunwales to receive their toggles Rowlocks. The eighth for grooving, grating, &c. A ninth for giving the ribs their required bevel. The tenth for planing a plank on both sides at one operation, the same time giving its interior and exterior curve the most perfect manner, and uniform in thickness throughout its entire length. The eleventh is a machine planing perfectly plane surfaces. The twelfth is for. moulding toggles, bottom boards, gunwale and it cuts any bevel or irregular mould, or planes three flat surfaces at a single move, the thirteenth and last machine is for bending any form or size required in boatbuilding.