Item NA16 - Ship Builder’s Bevel. Single Brass Blade. Dated 1843.
Surely the most spectacular ship’s bevel that I’ve ever encountered,
this one has an awful lot going for it. The bevel, closed, is 12 ¼ inches long,
and being quite narrow, is just 3/8 inches wide and ¼ inch thick. The single
brass blade is graduated in inches (more about this later) on both sides to 1/8
inch increments. The wooden body of the handle is made of ebony (or dark
rosewood—but I think it is ebony, and this is enclosed between end ferrules of
brass, each about 1 inch long. The blade is pinned at one end with a pin that
has raised square nuts on both sides. The handle is graduated, on both sides,
in three manners.
First, there are hand stamped numbers (2 – 11, plus graduation marks in
the brass ferrules) on one side; and (2 – 12 stamps, plus graduation marks on
the ferrules) on the other side. Second, the ebony handle on both sides is
marked with small brass pins, inserted into the wood, that include 5 pins at the
inch marks, 3 pins at the ½ marks, 2 pins at the ¼ inch marks, and 1 pin at the
1/8 inch marks. Finally, at the 3, 6, and 9 inch marks, the indicator five pins
on one side are embellished with a zig zag row of 5 additional pins. On the
other side, the 3, 6, and 9 inch marks are also embellished with additional pins
(6 in number) in a square design. I don’t understand the significance of these
marks at the 3, 6, and 9 inch levels.
The brass ferrule at the base (0 point) of the bevel handle is capped
with a steel plate, otherwise the entire bevel is constructed of brass and wood.
With the brass blade fully extended, the length of the bevel is 22 5/8
inches (measured with my modern (Stanley) steel tape measure. However, the
graduations on that side of the blade tip end at 24 inches (this is the side
with the square embellished 3, 6, 9 inch increments. The reverse side’s
gradations end on the brass at 22 1/8”. Clearly there are two”inch” sizes at
work here. One of these inches amounts to 22.625/24 = 1.06 of our inches. The
other side (with zigzag ornamentation) has inches that (by our standards) equal
22 1/8 / 22 5/8.= 0.98 inch. These values are within the range of historical
variances of European “inches”, including examples such as the French “pouce” at
1.07 inches, the German “zoll” at 0.95 inches, etc.
A final unique feature of this bevel, is that it is signed and dated.
On the open (steel plug) end brass ferrule (on each side) are stipple engraved,
on each side, the initials and dates, “H.
F..1843” (in script) and “H.F..1843 (in block letters).
In researching this bevel, the closest example that I can find is a
bevel, distantly photographed, on page 24 of Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s “The Art of
Fine Tools.” This is described as a “long user-made brass and rosewood
shipbuilder’s bevel. Small brass form the numbers and increments” (from the
collection of Don Rosebrook. Yet, the embellishments, date, and inch conundrum
on the bevel described here, are not reached by Don’s bevel. Almost surely
European in origin, my guess is that it is either French or Swiss. Fine
Price - $500.00
RETURN to forsale list.