Letters from Armorica- Stress and Strain (23 April 35 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

I write quickly, for it is late—but I must not lose this thought. Cousin Jack is here, in fact he is snoring in the next room as I write, and during the evening he told us of his time with the Army. At one moment he spoke of trying to sleep on a troop transport during a storm, the void winds buffeting it and—and here is the point, Dear Journal—every sinew of the vessel straining and creaking. Even in calm, he said, there were always many small creaks and groans, but in a storm!

This past summer I often had cause to reflect on the hardened portions of the sloops we captured during the war: the keel and a framework around the gunwhales. Why so little, when you could harden more and give the ship a good measure of armor? But now I see, and it has all to do with the formed elements that keep the sloop in the air, and why the elements that move the sloop around the harbor can only move the sloop ever so slowly.

The hardened elements are like my hardened plates: as the ship works in the wind, groaning and creaking, they keep it whole—and collect the effort required to do so. And the lifting elements, for so I shall call them, make use of the effort so collected. The two are in a kind of balance! The movement elements are puny for fear that they will use too much effort—for fear that they will degrade the hardened structure, and eventually cause the sloop to fall from the sky.

If one were to harden the entire hull and support members of the sloop, what effect would that have? I had assumed it was a matter of cost only: that formers couldn't be spared for that. Hardening a wagon or sky-chair is no great difficulty, but a sloop is much, much larger. But perhaps such a hull would be too stable, would work too little, would collect too little too little effort (for which I need a better name).

How does one achieve this balance? There is nothing about this in my father's grimoire; but perhaps my father comes from a long line of incurious and unskilled formers. (It would explain his focus on guild politics.) Do the other masters in Yorke know more? What of the shipwrights? Someone must have recorded how it is to be done, even if not why it is to be done that way. But my grimoire records none of that: it is simply, "do this, and that will follow". And rarely, "My master tried that, and now he is gone."

But someone knows, or at least knew how to balance these things: how to assemble them together so that they will work safely. I will find out; and I will record my findings so that Luc and my future apprentices need not repeat my mistakes. And just perhaps I will find out how to safely do more than my father has ever dreamed of!

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photo credit: The British Library Image taken from page 168 of ‘Otto of the Silver Hand. Written and illustrated by H. Pyle’ via photopin (license)