01/03/2014 12:29 AM -0500












The Gavel


The gavel, actually the iron axe, or pick, having a steel edge, or point, with which the quarryman roughly trims the stone, represents the force of conscience. The form of gavel adopted for the speculative's convenience is a wooden mallet, itself a small form of the maul (maul-ette).A chairman's mallet, as well as the Master's gavel, is a wooden hammer whose outline suggests that of the operative's axe, but also resembles the end-wall of a gabled house, for which latter reason it is said-but whether truthfully or not we do not know-it derives its name of gavel, a name apparently of American origin, and not known in England before the nineteenth century. The uses of gavel and maul are frequently confused. The gavel, the implement of both the Master and his Wardens, is an emblem of power, by means of which they preserve order in the lodge; but the maul is the heavy wooden hammer with which the mason drives his chisel. Being the weapon with which the Master was traditionally slain, it is an emblem of violent death and assassination. In Proverbs xxv, 18, we find this curious figure of speech: "A man that beareth false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow." In many lodges the gavel is used by the Master at a significant point in the third ceremony where the correct implement is the heavy maul, which was used in the early English lodges and is still used in some lodges to-day. In the Fabric Rolls of York Minster of 1360 a type of maul, or mell, is called a keevil. The word must have long continued in use, because we find it in a published description, dated 1791, of how stones for the Eddystone lighthouse were worked. Both gavel and maul have been commonly known as a 'Hiram.' The Old Dundee Lodge bought in 1739 a set of three 'Hiram's,' and we believe that in the old Bristol lodges the maul is presented under the name of the 'Hiram' to the incoming Master. The name is explained by associating Hiram's direction of the work of building the Temple with the Master's direction of the work of the lodge; but it seems more likely that the name derives from the use of the maul for its peculiar purpose in the Third Degree. The present writer has seen a particularly heavy-looking maul put to realistic work in an American lodge, and it can well be imagined that some of the old English lodges knew how to use such a tool with tremendous effect, particularly if judged from a schedule of the property of the Orthes Lodge (a military lodge moribund from about 1869) which included "a heavy maul, padded; handle, 3 feet; top, 1 foot." This was more beetle than maul. An unusual setting maul of T shape in ceremonious use in an old Bristol lodge (it is shown in A.Q.C., xlix, a plate following p. 168) has a short handle, but its double head is much longer than the total length of the handle, and each of the two striking parts is of padded leather secured by brass-headed nails to the turned-wood foundation-altogether a remarkably 'arresting' tool.