Shipwrights built Exploration and Discovery era ships without lines drawings, half models, or architectural plans. They determined frame size and shape using a technique called Mediterranean whole moulding.
The technique uses three patterns called graminhos. One pattern represents the narrowing board (the floor), another the futtock, and the third the rising board. The patterns are made of thin wood on a 1:1 scale. Each has a series of parallel lines used as guides to fit the three patterns together in various configurations. The resulting shapes are traced directly on the timber to be cut.
Once shipwrights developed the means to build models and draw plans from which to construct the desired ship, whole moulding disappeared. Or so we thought. While working in Brazil in 1980, the late John Sarsfield
discovered the Mediterranean whole-moulding technique still in daily use in the shipyards of Valença on the coast of Bahía. John's curiosity soon became an obsession and finally culminated in an amazing experiment.