George Claghorn’s Bevel
A bevel is a tool comprised of two arms hinged together that can be opened to any angle. Once an angle is measured, the bevel serves as a template for marking that angle onto a piece of wood, such as a hull plank. While many bevels are used to copy lines at set angles, one this size was likely used to check planks that were already cut. Bevels are critical tools for shipwrights to ensure that the frames and planks of a wooden vessel fit snugly together.
This bevel belonged to George Claghorn, who was appointed the naval constructor in Boston and charged with overseeing USS Constitution‘s construction from 1794 to 1797. Claghorn was born in 1748 in Chillmark, Massachusetts. He served during the American Revolution, fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and was later promoted to the rank of colonel in the Massachusetts militia. He was also a successful shipwright and had built a number of vessels in New Bedford. He brought this considerable shipbuilding experience with him to Boston in the fall of 1794. At Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End, workers lofted, or scaled up from the builders plans, the ship’s towering frames and massive beams. Claghorn was there with his bevel, checking the angles of this ship piece or that, making sure everything was fair and level and ready for assembly.