Among the most beautiful mechanical drawings in the world, the nautical design works of Nathanael Herreshoff and William Hand, Jr. have spent the last few decades existing only in two dimensions.
John B. Herreshoff and his brother, Nathanael (MIT class of 1870), were the founders and lynchpins of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. Their firm, begun in Bristol, RI in 1878, became the most famous yacht design and construction yard in American history.
Nathanael Herreshoff was a true genius who turned ocean science and engineering into an art form with his radical approach to design, a willingness to incorporated new materials and techniques and a precise focus on efficiency.
When HMCo. eventually closed in the late 1940s, more than 14,000 plans and related design records from the company were loaned to MIT by then General Manager of HMCo., Rudolph F. Haffenreffer. Then in 1961, the Haffenreffer Family donated the entire collection to MIT for permanent inclusion, and it's these designs which from the bulk of the Herreshoff Legacy Project is derived.
William Hand, Jr. began his career in 1898 and eventually became the most prolific yacht designer of the 20th century.
Born in Portland, Maine in 1875, the son of Captain William H. Hand, a Civil War naval officer, graduated from Brown University and began designing yachts for his Buzzards Bay Yacht Agency. The resulting vessels like the schooner Bowdoin, the flagship of Cmdr. Donald MacMillan's arctic expeditions, and the arctic vessels Ariel and Zodiac cemented his reputation as an innovator and craftsman.
The Bowdoin is now the official Maine state Vessel and another of his magnificent works, the schooner Nathaniel Bowditch, won the Bermuda Cup races in 1927. Both schooners are still afloat and in service.
Hand made his mark with his designs and development work on the 'H' and 'V' bottom boats. Working from his offices in Buzzards Bay, Hand was responsible for boats which sailed through the challenging oceanic conditions of South America, New Zealand and the arctic, and during World War I, he assisted in developing a regional ship building program in New England and served as a naval architect at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, designing sea planes.
Hand's V-bottom power boats and motorsailers are among the most coveted vessels in the world.
Through a series of associations, George I. Hodgdon, Jr. of Hodgdon Boat Works in East Boothbay Harbor, Maine eventually donated some 2,000 original Hand plans to MIT in 1973.
Now pieces from this treasured pair of nautical collections will be brought back into three-dimensional form with the use of Deezmaker 3D printers.
On April 24, Joan Horvath and Diego Porqueras of Deezmaker will be visiting the Cambridge Science Festival to display 3D printed pieces of a ship designed in the 1800s by William Hand, Jr., and a cleat designed by Herreshoff.
"We want people to see what we're doing and see how the models help people visualize these historical objects," Horvath says.
To make the parts, Porqueras used SolidWorks to create 3D models from the original schematic drawings. He then printed half of a boat designed by Hand and a prototype cleat designed by Herreschoff on a Deezmaker Bukobot. The cleat was then handed off to Peter Dippell who used traditional sand casting techniques to cast the cleat in aluminum.
Horvath, Porqueras and Dippell worked with Kurt Hasselbalch, the Curator of the Hart Nautical Collections at the MIT Museum, to essentially 'decode' the information in the drawings used to re-create the pieces.
"The items are significant because they were innovations in design at the time, and 3D printing them will bring them to life for visitors and historians after a long stint existing only in two dimensions," Horvath said. "Building from the page was challenging because plans in those days were meant for master shipbuilders, not to be followed literally. Some discussion with the curator was required to understand how to interpret the drawings."
The Hart Nautical Collections, established as part of MIT's Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 1922 and merged with the MIT Museum in 1981, are the most heavily accessed collection at the MIT Museum.
Documenting hull designs for some 2,600 rowing, sailing and power vessels from 1869 to 1945, the collections include detailed pattern drawings for thousands of castings, 30 different sizes of steam engines and related boilers. The plans also document tools and site plans, and this vast collection will form a 3,500 sq. ft. exhibition which will open at the MIT Museum in 2015 and be available to selected venues during 2016.