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Book Review
Before the Ironclad
Before the Ironclad – Warship Design and Development 1815-1860
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by: Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

Before the Ironclad – Warship Design and Development 1815-1860

By David K Brown

Published by Seaforth Publishing 2015

ISBN 978 1 84832 258 5

Copyright © DK Brown 1990

MSRP - £32.00 / $47.65

Prominent warship designer for the Royal Corps and consummate author, David K Brown, takes his readers into the history behind wooden ship design again with the re-release of his book, Before the Ironclad – Warship Design and Development 1815-1860. This 224 page hard cover manuscript wherein Mr. Brown gives us an incredibly in depth look into the wooden warships during the 19th century leading up to their inevitable demise into the wake of the more modern ironclad ships of the late 1800’s.

The author pays special attention in this book to Sir Robert Seppings, designer of Seppings Blocks which cut manpower in ship repairs tremendously, who revolutionized ship building designs in the early 1800’s with iron cross–bracing which had the largest impact in naval shipping at that time. This cross-bracing would improve anchor points for the sails as well lessening the shear forces that impact the hull.


Victory 1793-1815
• Science, Seppings and the School
• Resources, Money and Men
• Swansong
• Steam
• Paddle Fighting Ships
• Iron Ships
• Condemnation of Iron Ships
• Screw Propulsion
• HMS Rattler and Other Early Screw Ships
• The Screw Fleet: The Build-up to War
• The War with Russia 1854-1856
• The Last Wooden Ships
• Warrior
• Appendices

1. Horse Power
2. The Work of Colonel Beaufoy
3. Cost
4. Building Programme, Sailing Ships
5. The Design of the Wooden Warships
6. A Note on the Strength of the Nemesis
7. Fouling and Corrosion
8. Notes on Dupuy De Lôme
9. Strength of Wood and Iron
10. A Technical Note on the Rattler and Alecto Trials
11. The Battle of Eckenfjorde 1849
12. The Gun Boat Builders
13. The Attack on Kronstadt
14. Note on Individual Dockyards

With this book, the author’s concentration on the ships preceding the Ironclad age is a complex analysis of the wooden warships covering technical design, the science, labor and manpower costs of ship building as well as draught specifications, armor, armament, etc. is unparalleled. This is a highly comprehensive breakdown that covers every aspect of 19th century shipbuilding including a look into the mindset of the designers and builders of the time. At that time, there was a heavy resistance to change throughout in regards to ship building; a major reluctance towards newer techniques and designs which hampered developments and could have brought the Royal Navy to its knees. The book is filled with etchings, diagrams and tables and pictures that help support the immense statistical information the author provides. I would certainly recommend Before the Ironclad – Warship Design and Development 1815-1860 by David K Brown to any enthusiast of 19th century ships and the building practices of the times. This is a virtual encyclopedia of information covering the twilight years of the wooden warships of the Royal Navy.

Highly Recommended

Pen & Sword

Highs: An amazing collection of information on wooden warship design and construction spanning the 19th century leading up to the dawning of the Ironclad age of ships.
Lows: None
Verdict: An Encyclopedia of technical information delving into the time when the decline of the wooden warship was coming and every chance to resist this change was taken.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978 1 84832 258 5
  Suggested Retail: £32.00 / $47.65
  Related Link: Pen and Sword Books Ltd.
  PUBLISHED: Dec 21, 2015
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Todd Michalak (TRM5150)

I am building what I like, when I like and how I like it; having fun doing it. I have been building and finishing models on and off my whole life but the past ten years things really exploded. Just about anything goes when it comes to hitting the bench, but wrecked armor, rusted hulks, ships or ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Todd Michalak [ TRM5150 ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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