Reply To: The painting of blocks in the Royal Navy.

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Malcolm Lewis

A wooden ship of the line over the centuries used up to 2000 blocks and dead eyes. They were essential for many purposes including rigging, securing the guns and anchor work. They ranged in size from 5 to 26 inches and were made from elm which was strong and resistant to rot. Elm was used for the keel and its endurance was enhanced when permanently immersed in sea water. I cannot find reference to blocks being either oiled or painted and with so many in use aboard this must have been an important labour saving,
The sheaves inside the blocks were made from lignum vitae which again was resistant to corrosion.
A million blocks were in use by the Navy every year and each ship kept spares on board. The ship’s carpenter was responsible for maintenance. The Brunel blockmaking machinery installed in 1803/4 greatly reduced the manufacturing costs of wooden blocks.
The article in the MM archive “The Blockmills at Portsmouth Dockyard in 18th-20th centuries: Mike Baker and others MM88:1” is most interesting.
Malcolm Lewis