I have just acquired an old 2-foot, 2-fold carpenter's rule.
It has some really odd tables punched in it - with headings like 'sqr
scantlins to a load',' treenils' and 'ash load'.
The 'ash load' table mentions things like plow beams and car fells.
I have put a bunch of pictures of the rule up at
Can anyone please explain some of these terms for me?
Or point me at a reference where they are explained?
The table lists 'square scantlins' up to 12 inchs width.
I believe my rule to date back to about 1850.
Some one else has brought a rule with similar tables to my attantion,
possible date 1775. So this is pretty old English usage.
Scantling: give or take the same meaning as a stud, a vertical
framing member. Often references shipbuilding.
Treenail: wooden spikes/pins for joining timbers:
No help on ash load
This on plow beam:
Plow is a term for a type of anchor:
There are nautical implications in all the wording so far.
Keep the whole world singing . . . .
It is my belief that a plow beam is the central frame of an agricultural
plow, to which the handles, landside, mouldboard, shank, coulter, and
tree are attached (the share is attached to the mouldboard, and the
share is attached to the shank). Dictionary.com says that a plow beam is
the part of the frame of the plow to which the draft is applied - so the
yoke of oxen are hitched to the beam of the plow. There is no part of
a nautical anchor called a beam as far as I know. I strongly suspect
that, given the items in the 'ash load' table, that 'ash load' refers to
loads of wooden bits made of ash wood - plow beams, spokes, etc. Now, I
thought ;car fells' referred to a specific part of a wagon frame, but
more or less diligent search (looked at the OED) fails to support that
idea - unless it actually means felloes, which are the parts of the
'rim' of a wooden wheel and were often made of ash, I believe.
Thank you Jim. As chance would have it I came across the following
page last night which has a (13th century) sketch of a heavy plow and
shows the plow beam and the other parts you mention.
If plow beam is part of a plow, is it reasonable to assume plow hands
is short for handles? Would the handles have been bigger than the
beam? The ash load table shows 60 plow beams to a load but just 18
plow hands to a load.
Was ash commonly used for these sorts of items?
With regard to the utility of ash I can answer my own question. To
quote one source -
' As a timber tree, the Ash is exceedingly valuable, ... for the
toughness and elasticity of its wood, in which quality it surpasses
every European tree. The wood is heavy strong, stiff and hard and
takes a high polish; it shrinks only moderately in seasoning and bends
well when seasoned. It is the toughest and most elastic of our timbers
(for which purpose it was used in olden days for spears and bows).
It is known that Ash timber is so elastic that a joist of it will bear
more before it breaks than one of any other tree. Ash timber is in
endless demand in railway and other waggon works for carriage
building. From axe-handles and spade-trees to hop-poles, ladders and
carts, Ash wood is probably in constant handling on every countryside
- for agricultural plenishings it cannot be excelled. It makes the
best of oars and the toughest of shafts for carriages. In its younger
stages, when it is called Ground Ash, it ... matures its wood at so
early an age that an Ash-pole 3 inches in diameter is as valuable and
durable for any purpose to which it can be applied as the timber of
the largest tree.'
alteration of Middle English scantilon, mason's or carpenter's measure, from
Anglo-French escauntiloun, eschantillon
In shipbuilding, the scantling refers to the collective dimensions of the
various parts, particularly the framing and structural supports. The word is
most often used in the plural to describe how much structural strength in
the form of girders, I-beams, etc. is in a given section. The Scantling
length refers to the structural length of a ship.
In shipping, a "full scantling vessel" is understood to be a geared ship,
that can reach all parts of its own cargo spaces with its own gear.
Timber and stone
In regard to timber the scantling is the thickness and breadth, the
sectional dimensions; in the case of stone the dimensions of thickness,
breadth and length.
The word is a variation of scantillon, a carpenter's or stonemason's
measuring tool, also used of the measurements taken by it, and of a piece of
timber of small size cut as a sample. The Old French escantillon, mod.
chantillon, is usually taken to be related to Italian scandaglio,
sounding-line (Latin scandere, to climb; cf. scansio, the metrical
scansion). It was probably influenced by cantel, cantle, a small piece, a
Thank you for this info about scantings. It does not seem to tie in
with the usage on the rule though, where the cross section of the
"scantlins" in the table varies from 3.5x3.5 to 12x12 inches.
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