Observations and Instructions


Remarks on Painting a Ship.

If a ship is alongside a hulk in a harbour, painting her should be deferred till the last thing, and then and cicumstances will permit, she should be hawled off to moorings, and ship keepers only left on board. If application be made, painters [1] will be sent from the dock-yard to paint her, but as it may be performed equally as well by the ship's painters, it is better to demand the paint, and have it done by persons on board. Great pains should be taken in mixing the paint, which should be tried on a clean board previous to laying it on, recollecting that the colour will always appear two or three shades darker than when dry. If the paint is mixed too thick it soon dries, but peals off, and does not go so far as it would if mixed thinly. If, however, it has not a proper consistence, it will neither make a good appearance nor last long, and, from the quantity of oil, is a long time drying; a painter, or man of sufficient judgment [sic] is, therefore, required to mix the paint. Spirit of turpentine is frequently put in to make it dry [p 28] soon, but the sun always extracts the spirit, and makes the work blister.

The following is a simple, easy, and approved, method, of mixing paint. Take the proportions of yellow and white paint, oil, and litharge, that will make it of the intended colour and consistence; put them all together into one of the boatswain's fish kettles, stir them well up, and boil the composition; then pour it off, strain it through a bread bag, and lay it on warm; the warmer it is laid on the better. Care should be taken to mark the lines before commencing, [2] that no mistake may occur. If a streak is painted, it should be done first with the upper works; the sides should be well scraped, and where any grease may have lodged, it should be scrubbed with warm lime water, and not a particle of dirt or dust suffered to remain.

Various modes are pursued in painting ship's sides; but the following appears the most general and approved. A yellow streak, from the ribbands of the channels forward and aft, cutting a line through the ports; another streak on the moulding above it. The broad yellow from the lower part of the upper deck port holes to the lower part of the quarter gallery; the lower part of the yellow to be painted in a straight line; the upper part with a small sheer, carried entirely forward to the cut water. Frigates are generally painted with a bright yellow side, and black upper works; the yellow about two inches above the upper part of the ports, and carried down to the line of the lower part of the quarter gallery. The muzzels of the guns and port-cells black. Tomkins in the waist white, and those belonging to the guns on the quarter-deck black, to prevent the height and irregularity of the carronades from being observed. The bends blacked with varnish and oil, mized and boiled; otherwise, with varnish and tar. The first mixture carries the best appearance, but is not so durable, or servicable, as the latter: but the three different compositions are frequently united together, and this, perhaps, forms the best.

This general rule may always be observed. -- If it is desired to make a ship look long and low, the yellow part should be carried low down and painted narrow; if, on the contrary, it is wished to make her look lofty and short, the yellow part should be broad and carried high up. (p 29)

  1. Ships are painted by contract, and unless the captain of a private ship will pay the painters for additional white to be mixed with the yellow, it is so very dark a colour that it makes the ship look very dirty and dismal. [Back]
  2. Small battens, or sinnet, is generally nailed on, to point out the lines as a guidance to paint by. [Back]

anon.: Observations and instructions for the use of the commissioned, the junior and other officers of the Royal Navy, on all the material Points of Professional Duty. Including also, forms of general and particular orders for the better government and discipline of His Majesty's Ships: Together with a variety of new and useful tables; among which are, General Tables for Watching Ship's Companies in all Rates; -- For shewing the Stations of the different Officers at Quarters; -- For the General Appropriation of Men at Quarters, in Ships of every Class; -- For Furling Sails; -- Mooring and Unmooring; -- Making and Shortening Sail; -- Tacking Ship, &c. &c. With an Appendix; being a complete set of forms for watch, station, and quarter bills for ships of war. By a Captain in the Royal Navy.
P. Steel, London, 1804 (1st). 8vo, 17.5x9 cm, (2), iv, (2), 80 pp, 7 fold. plates.
The second edition in 1807 and the third in 1841.
Ref.: MaB*; Witt 111;
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.