The Loftsman
Leith Shipyards

A history of the Ships built at the Henry Robb Shipyard in Leith, Scotland. Also a testimony to the men who built the Ships and to all who sailed in them.
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Leith Shipyards

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Up until the 1950' and 1960 the ships lines would be run out full size on the loft floor, then with the advent of 1/10th scale lofting this would be done on very long tables and was considered to be a bit more accurate than drawing out lines full size on the floor of the loft, even with the 1/10th scale lofting all the template making of the structural steelwork still had to be laid out full size on the floor and of course full size scrieve boards were still done to enable the ships frames to be formed to the required shape, the laying out and fairing along with the marking up of the scrieve board was an art in itself. The frame lines of the body plan would be laid down once the lofted and faired offsets had been lifted from the completed body plan, and written up in the finished offset book, this offset book would be sent over to the drawing office so they could start to produce working drawings. A half-block model would also be produced prior to this from the same scantling offsets that the loft would start there lines with, at this time from which a shell expansion drawing could be created.


Picture of a Scrieve knife which was used to mark the ships frame lines into the wooden boards of the body plan full size, (Note the scrieve knifes used in the loft at Henry Robb were slightly different than that shown, but the same results were achieved) The scrieve knife was run along the side of a pinned wooden batten that had been meticulously faired through as many offset points as possible.

 The loft would work in different ways depending on which shipyard and there use of lofting, the Leith Shipyards of Henry Robb would take the scantling lines from the naval architect and they would then run and fair the lines through the three views used to reach a fair surface, using the stations provided by the naval architect usually about 12 stations were used, from each station the frames would be drawn out and faired, and using horizontals called "Waterlines" and verticals called "Buttocks" through each view until a perfectly fair ships form was reached, the three views used to achieve the fair form would be the Sheer (profile/ side) view and the half breadth view (plan) working between these two views would produce the beginnings of the body plan which was the view looking aft from the forward end back to the mid-ship section and on the other side and upside down would be the aft view looking forward to the mid-ship section. So in effect one view would be laid on top of the other view to cut down on the amount of space required.

A simplified lines plan with just the scantling sections (in French) shown is seen below, this would then have all the ships frame lines drawn in and faired between all three views.





Above is another old American Loft note the templates behind the Loftsman who looks like he is working on heavy template paper.





Above we see the Mould Loft from the Hawthorn Leslie Shipyard and the Loftsmen and helpers are out in force for this photograph, looks like even the foreman is out on the floor (with bowler hat)
Note - Lots of light and space with many templates on-top of the Loft Floor. (photo copyright unknown-for now)


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0 #8 George Lamb 2017-04-20 18:13
I visited this web site many years ago. It has certainly been added to since then.
I served my apprenticeship at Charles Connell of Scotstoun, Glasgow.
I started there in 1950 and left in 1961.
I went to Vickers Armstrong Aircraft in Weybridge, Surrey as a loftsman to work on the design for the "TSR2" fighter then on to the "VC10" and "Concord".
I went to Germany to work on the "Airbus A300B".
I went to Canada to work on the "de Havilland Dash 7".
+2 #7 Peter Wallace 2014-03-14 22:17
Have just discovered this excellent site! I have a special interest since my grandfather was the William Wallace mentioned in Gerry Finlay's blog#6. Look forward to the expansion of the site. Good luck!
+2 #6 Gerald Finlay. Gerry 2013-12-20 02:02
I served my apprenticeship in Henry Robbs from April 1949 until February 1955, my first year was a Loft helper to a journyman, The Foreman was William Wallace, the assistant Foreman was George Ewing, the jourmyman was James Love, Joe Alexander, George Powrie, William Tweedie, Robert Wise, 5th year apprentice was Douglas Hogg, 4th year apprentice was Peter Rennie, 2nd year Apprentice was James Foulis, 1st year Apprentice was Hugh Anderson, this was all the loft staff in 1949. at the moment I am writing out my experiences as a Loftsman and what my speciality was in the trade.
+2 #5 Kirk Bready 2013-03-29 15:55
My Dad, a third generation shipbuilder, was a mold loftsman starting in 1940 at the Bethlehem Steel Ship Repair yard in Baltimore, MD. I was always mystified by the problem of producing a precisely formed hull that curved continuously in every dimension. My curiosity was not helped by the fact that when I was a youngster his explanations went right over my head. Therefore, it was a joy to find this terrific article which has enabled me to more fully understand and appreciate what he and his peers accomplished.

As U.S. shipbuilding declined, my Dad wound up at a company in Memphis, TN that fabricated large industrial vessels but had limited capability with complex structure. There he introduced & set up a mold loft department that enabled them to expand their capability and market. They were very generous in expressing their appreciation. Thanks to this article, I can now understand why.
+4 #4 peter rennie 2012-08-09 19:16
My father was a loftsman in robbs spent all his working days at the yard.

Peter Rennie jnr.
0 #3 Gordon Sanstad 2011-03-23 18:15
Dear Sirs/Mdms:

I am looking for a history of lofting. Anyone know when and where it was first used or developed (in the construction of boats, I assume the first use)?

Thank you,
Gordon Sanstad
0 #2 MOHAMMAD ALI Asgar 2011-03-04 20:45
I am specilized on lofting works from small scale drawing to Lrgae scale full drawing 1:1 , making body plan, templaes for fabrication, bending, plates cutting and ships block making erection dhechking etc all fro lofting to Hull erection and superdtructure works also.
i have done one Rig ship selfpropelled in AHI, Ajman for Bibby shipping line, name Trident Bibby [1 working in Qatar Oil field.This is great website,thank you.
+2 #1 Billy Blair 2011-02-15 14:19
Fantastic find, I was an apprentice loftsman at Henry Robb 1980-1984. I look forward to any updates.

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