An Explanation of the Principal Terms Used in this Treatise.

Altho' there are several Writers who profess to explain the Terms peculiar to most Arts and Sciences, yet I could never meet with any but was greatly defective in those used by Shipwrights and Mariners. Therefore to make every thing as plain and useful as possible in this Treatise, I shall here briefly shew the Signification of several Words mentioned in it, many of which I have never observed to be taken notice of in any of our Dictionaries.


Aft; the after or hinder Part of the Ship, from the Midships to the Stern.

Apron of the Stem; a part brought on upon it to fasten the Buts ends to; or, a false Stem.


Back; the middle Part of crooked Timber, bending outward.

Back-stay; that which stops the aft Part of the Mast.

Bearding; the working of one part of a Plank or Piece of Timber thinner than the other.

To Belay; to fasten, so as may be easily loosed again, if requisite.

Belly, the opposite to the Back, or the inside of the middle Part.

Bend of Moulds, or a whole Suit; one of every sort.

Bend of Riders; one of a sort of each side.

Best Bower Anchor; the biggest Anchor that hangs at the Bow.

Bevelling; when any Piece of Plank or Timber is not to be wrought square, but in the Nature of a Rhombus.

Bills; the Ends of such crooked Timber.

Birthing; the working up a Ship-side, or Bulk-head, &c.

Bit-pins; Pieces of Timber, to which the Ship's Cables are fasten'd.

Blocks; sometimes hard knotty Timber to lay under a Ship; otherwise the Timbers into which the Ropes are reev'd, as Pulleys. We call it Block and Block, where two Blocks are hal'd together, and the Power or Purchace discontinued.

Blussness; blunt, or full-bodied.

Bollow; the Opposite to hollow. The Chip is taken at the Edges, as if it was to be laid, or said, in a hollow.

Bolts; the iron Pins, which fasten one part of a Ship to another.

Bolt Rope; a Bar for the Canvas in every Sail.

Bow; the round part of a Ship forward without-board, so called from Bowse Ho; a Watch-word for all the Men haling at a Rope to hale together.

Its Figure. That within is termed the Breast.

Brackets; generally carved Figures for Ornament.

Breast-hooks; large Knees fitted to the foremost Part within.

Breast Back-stay; that which is placed at the side of the Mast, stopping the fore part as well as the aft.

Breast of a Ship. See Bow.

Breech; the outward Bending of Knee Timber.

Bulge; the outermost and lowest part of a Ship, that which she bears upon when she lies on the Ground.

Bulge-way; a Piece of Timber placed on each side upon the Bulge, to Side a Ship into the Water.

Bulk-heads; the Partitions in a Ship.

Butt; both ends of every Plank; but in the strictest sense, the Ground End, or the biggest End of all Timber.

Buttock; the after or hinder Part of a Ship from the Water to the Gun-room Port [sic].


Camber. See Snying.

Canting; the turning of Plank or Timber from one side to another, in order to see the Defects, or for any other purpose.

Catting the Anchor; is haling the Stock up to the Cat-head.

To Chamfer; to take off the sharp Edge from any square Piece.

Channels; Pieces of Plank fixed Edge-ways against the Ship's side, making very near a Right Angle with it.

Chine; that part of the Water-way, or any thing that is channel'd, which is thicker than the other part.

Chok; a small piece of Timber fitted to a larger to make out the Substance required.

Clamps; Pieces or Strakes of thick Plank on the Inside, as the Wales are on the Outside of the Ship.

Cock-pit; two Places under the lower Deck, leading to the Store-rooms.

Counter; a part projecting the Stern from the Buttock.

Cross-pal'd: Pieces nail'd athwart the Ship to every Frame-Timber.

Cross-pieces; fitted a-cross the Bit-pins, to which the Cables are belayed.

Crutches or Clutches; large Knees fitted in the aft part of the Ship in Hold, to bind the Parts together.


Dagger Knees; such as are placed at some certain Angle between a Perpendicular and the Horizon; the lodging Knees lying near horizontal, and the hanging Knees perpendicular.

Dead-eyes; Pieces having three Holes thro', in which the Lanyards of the Shrowds are reeved.

Dead Wood; The Part lying upon the Keel abaft and afore, which being covered both within and without, lie hid as if they were buried.

Decks; the Plans or Platforms in a Ship, as Stories or Floors in a House.

Deep Load-mark; the horizontal Parallel of the Surface of the Water, when the Ship has every thing on board that she is to carry.

Dove-tail; a score or notch cut bigger within than without, for holding fast.

Draught; the Model or Figure of a Ship, or any of her Parts, described upon Paper.

Draught of Water; the perpendicular Feet which the Ship has under the Water.

Drifts; Parts projecting upwards, as far as certain Heights are thought proper to be continued.

Druxy; Plank or Timber decayed and spungy.

To Dub; to work with and Addice.


To Eek; to fit a part for the fashioning out another more material, as in the Supporter of the Cathead, and the Cheeks of the Head, where the Eeking is only applied to continue the Shape and Fashion of the Part, and for litte other Service.

Edging of Plank; Hewing them narrower, according to the Use required.


False Keel; a sort of Covering for the the principal Keel.

Fashion-pieces; two Pieces made exactly alike, and placed one on each side of the Buttock of the Ship, to make both sides equal and alike.

To Fay; to join Pieces of Timber close together.

Firs; smaller Pieces than Choks, but to answer the same Design, in supplying the Wants that may happen in some parts of the Ship.

Fishing the Anchor; haling the Flooks out of the Water.

Flairing; over-hanging upwards.

Floor-timbers; the Timbers in the bottom of the Ship.

Fore; the fore part of the Ship from the middle forward.

Fore-castle; a Place fitted for a close Fight on the upper Deck forward.


Gaskets; Rope-yarn weaved to make the Sail fast when it's furl'd, or bundled up to the Yards.

Ground-ways; large Pieces of Timber lying a-thwart the bottom of a Dock or Launch, to make the Foundation firm and substantial.


Hal'd home; when the Top-sail Sheets are hal'd to their Places as far as they can be.

Hanging; the opposite to Snying, when the middle of the Plank appears lower than the Ends, but circular.

Harpings; the foremost Walepieces.

Head of a Ship; that Part which is fasten'd to the Bow or foremost part of the Ship without-board.

To Heave; to hale or pull by turning round the Capstan.

Hold of a Ship; the part under the lower Deck.

To Hollow; is slenderly to gutter a Plank, or any part, that the Edges may fay well.

Hoodings-ends; the But-ends in the Rabbits of the Stem and Stern-post, which are more hid by the Rabbits than the other But-ends are.

Hooking; the hitching one Plank into another for stopping them.

Horses for the Yard; Ropes made fast for the Men to stand upon in furling the Sails.


Jury-Masts; such as can be got for hoisting the Sails on, when the principal Masts are lost.


Kedge-Anchor; is the smallest of all, and generally used to warp or hale a Ship from one Place to another.

Kevels; small pieces of Wood for belaying the Braces and Ropes of a smaller Denomination than the Sheets. And as the Ranges are made in one large Piece, so the Kevels are made in three Pieces.

Knee; a crooked Piece of Timber, that has one Branch cut off at the Bending, and the other remaining makes the Bend or Knee-timber.


Lanyard; a small Rope, which fastens a great one, for the Conveniency of being reev'd in Holes and hal'd taught.

Lap-sided; when a Ship swims to one Side more than the other, and her Decks are not level to the Horizon.

To Launch; to lower or side a Ship off from the Land into the Water; likewise to leave off pulling. haling, or heaving.

Lazeretto; a Place on board of a Merchant Ship for the Conveniency of the Commander, as Store-rooms are on board of Men of War, to lay up the Provisions and Necessaries for the Voyage.

To let fly; to let go, cast off, or loose any Rope at once, without stopping. And when a Rope is so loosened it is said to be flown.

To Line; to cover one Piece with another; also to mark out the Work with a small Line chalked.

Load-mark Line; the horizontal Line at the Surface of the Water.

Loof; the aft Part of the Bow of a Ship between the Stem and the Midships.


Midships; 'tis generally meant of all the Ships from the Main-mast to the largest part of the Ship, where the Midship Flat or Midship Floor-timber lies.


Nog; a Trenel drove in at the Foot of each Shore, or the Props that support the Ship in the Nature of Trigging the Shores.


Overlaunching; splicing or scarfing one Piece of Timber to another, to make firm Work.


Partners; Pieces fix'd to steddy the Masts and Capstans, having an Hole through each to receive the same.

Paunch; thrum'd Mats, much for the same Purpose as Puddening.

Plansheers; the finishing part at the Top of the Ship-side, which ought to lie direct and level.

To plum; to hew any Piece downright, or perpendicular.

Plummet; a Weight hanging by a Line to prove the Plumming.

Poop; the uppermost Deck abaft.

Preventers; Ropes that have Wale Knots as each End, chiefly used in Sea-fights. For when the Rigging is in part shot, such Ropes are applied to prevent the damaged Ropes being quite broke off.

Project; any thing that juts out in the Building; as of the Counter, Wales, &c.

To Pudden the Yards; to nail Pieces of old Rope round them, to preserve them from galling.


Quarter; the upper after part of the Ship on the Outside, and may be reckoned to commence from the middle of the Ship.

Quarter-pieces; large carved Pieces fixed to terminate the Quarter with the Stern.

To Quicken the Sheer; to shorten the Radius that strikes out the Curve. Its Opposite is Straightning the Sheer.

Quick Work; that part of a Ship's Sides both within and without Board above the Channel-wales and Decks. 'Tis commonly performed with Fir-Deal, which don't require the fastening, nor the Time to work it, as the other parts, but is quicker done.


Rake of the Stem and Sternpost; that part of the Ship's Hull that is extended fore and aft from the straight or horizontal Line of the Keel.

Ram-line; a Line made fast at the Stem and Stern-post, hanging crooked by being weighted in the middle.

Ranges; Pieces fitted to the Ship to belay or fasten the Main and Fore Sheets.

To Reconcile; to make one Piece of Work answer to the Uniformity of the other next to it, and more particularly in reverting of Curves.

Ribbons, or Rib-bands; so call'd from binding the Ribs or Ship's Timber together.

Riders; Pieces fixed on the Inside of the Ship on the In-board Plank, something imitating the Ships Timbers or Ribs.

Rough Timber; that which is only cut down, and the Boughs lop'd off. Being hew'd into Squares, 'tis said to be Rough-squar'd, according to the different Species.

Round-stern'd; to have sharp or pointed Sterns, as Square Sterns are blunt and flat.

Runner; a single Rope that runs or is hal'd in a Block.


Scantling; the Length, Breadth, Depth, or Thickness of any Part of the Ship.

Seams; the Chinks into which the Oakam is drove between the Strakes of Planks.

To set Sail; to loose the Sails and manage them to the Wind.

To shorten Sail; is to hale some up in order to furl them.

Season'd Plank or Timber; such as is throughly dry, and will not be apt to shrink.

Sheet-Anchor; bigger than either of the Bow-Anchors.

Shaken Plank, or Timber; such as is full of Clefts, and will neither bear calking nor fastening.

Shank-Painter; a Chain or a large Rope to secure the Anchor, and passed about the Shank of the Anchor.

Shifting Planks; the putting one But-end clear of another.

Sholes; Pieces of Slabs put under each Shore for the better securing the Weight.

Shivering; when the Sail shakes, and is not fill'd with the Wind, and bunted out.

Shrowds; Covering, Roofing, or Doubling the Masts.

Sir-mark; a particular Mark made to guide the Workman in placing the Parts.

Sleepers; thick Strakes of Plank lying fixed in the Bottom of a Ship.

Snying; an arching upwards, where the Middle of a Plank appears higher than the Ends.

Sole of Planks; the flat Side of them.

Spirkit-rising; the Plank fixed between the Decks and the Ports, for raising up the Side within-board.

Standers; Knees fitted upon any of the Decks; also Pieces placed to raise Stages or Scaffolds.

To Steal; in planking, is to have more strakes in the Middle of the Ship, than at the Stem or Stern-post.

Steaving; when a Part rises from an horizontal Position, as in the Cat-head, Bow-sprit, and Knee of the Head.

Stem; the intire foremost part of a Ship.

Steps for the Masts; large Pieces of Timber fitted at the Bottom of the Ship to steddy and secure the lower part of each Mast, which is also called a Step.

Stern-post; the hinder part of a Ship.

Strake of Plank; one Breadth of such Materials wrought either within-board or without, from one End of the Ship to the other.

Stream Anchor; which stops the Ship in tiding up a River.

To Strike; to draw a Line, or delineate a Circle.

Strings; Parts used to strengthen; and what are called Clamps in the lower parts, are termed Strings upwards.

To Sweep; to describe or mark out a Circle with any Instrument; and the Circle so marked out is generally called a Sweep.


Tack-piece; that to which the Fore-sail is tack'd down.

Tasting of Plank or Timber; chipping of it with an Addice, to try the Defects.

Tackle-Fall; the Rope that being reev'd in Blocks or Pullies, is handed down to the Deck to be hal'd.

Taught or Tight; the stretching a Rope, that it may not hang slack or loose.

Term-pieces; the finishing Pieces, or those which terminate the Drifts.

Thick Stuff; all Plank (as it may be termed) which is thicker than 4 Inches.

Throat; the inward bending of Knee-timber.

Top-sail a-trip; when 'tis hoisted as high as it can.

Top-timbers; the uppermost Timbers in a Ship.

To trim a Ship; to load and equip her, and put her into a Condition for Sailing; also to calk, clean, and dress a Ship, and do any small matter in repairing her, or to fine-draw the Plank or Timber.

Tumbling home; when the Ship-side declines from a Perpendicular upwards, or, as some call it, houses in.


Viol; a large Hawser used to heave in the Cable.


Wake, or Way; the bringing one part of a Ship too near another.

Wales; Pieces, or rather Strakes of thick Plank, by which the Ship is regularly sheered or curved, and which also projects without the other Plank several Inches.

Wall-sided; when the Ship's Side upward is built upright or perpendicular.

Waste; that part of a Ship upon the upper Gun-deck between the Bulk-head of the Steerage and Forecastle.

Water-ways; thick Plank channel'd or gutter'd, and fixed on the Decks next to the Ship's Side.

Within-board; within-side of the Ship; as Without-board on the out-side.

Winding; when the Plank or Timber's Side or Edge is not upon a direct Plan, but seemingly twists.

Wood and Wood; when a Trenel is drove through, that the Point of it is directly with the Plain of the Plank through which 'tis drove.

Woulding; the binding about a Mast, or the like, with Ropes.

Wrung-heads; that part between the Floor-timber Head and second Foot-hook Heel, which, if a Ship lies on the Ground, bears the greatest Strain.

William Sutherland: The Ship-Builders Assistant; or, Some Essays Towards Compleating the Art of Marine Architecture ….
Mount & Page, London, 1740. First edition published in 1711.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.