Historical information

Boat builders and shipwrights use a spar gauge to transfer measurements and shapes onto their workpiece, particularly if they are working on a curved surface, like an oar or the hull of a boat.

This spar gauge is an expanding gauge. It measures multiple equal distances at the same time, allowing for decreased work time on the job at hand. The tool is similar to a ‘toy’ designed in Australia in the 1960s called a Sketch-A-Graph, derived from the mathematics and mechanics of a ‘pantograph’.

The shipwright’s tools on display in the Great Circle Gallery are connected to the maritime history of Victoria through their past owner, user and donor, Laurie Dilks. Laurie began his career as a shipwright in the mid-1900s, following in the wake of the skilled carpenters who have over many centuries used their craft to build and maintain marine vessels and their fittings. You can see Laurie’s inscription on the tool called a ‘bevel’.

Laurie worked for Ports and Harbours, Melbourne, for over 50 years, beginning in the early 1960s. He and a fellow shipwright inscribed their names on a wheelhouse they built in 1965; the inscription was discovered many decades later during a repair of the plumbing. Many decades later Laurie worked on the Yarra moving barges up and down the river and was fondly given the title ‘Riverboat Man’ His interest in maritime history led him to volunteer with the Maritime Trust of Australia’s project to restore and preserve the historic WWII 1942 Corvette, the minesweeper HMAS Castlemaine, which is a sister ship to the HMAS Warrnambool J202.

Laurie Dilks donated two handmade displays of some of his tools in the late 1970s to early-1980s. The varnished timber boards displayed the tools below together with brass plaques. During the upgrade of the Great Circle Gallery Laurie’s tools were transferred to the new display you see there today. He also donated tools to Queenscliffe Maritime Museum and Clunes Museum.

Significance

The shipwright’s tools on display in the Great Circle Gallery are connected to the maritime history of Victoria through their past owner, user and donor, Laurie Dilks. Laurie began his career as a shipwright at Ports and Harbours in Melbourne in the mid-1900s, following in the wake of the skilled carpenters who have over many centuries used their craft to build and maintain marine vessels and their fittings.

Physical description

Spar gauge; a drawing tool with four flat brass bars, pointed at one end, are joined in such a way that they can expand and contract. The rounded ends of the two long bars are joined. The centres of the two shorter bars are crossed and joined. Each rounded end of a shorter bar is joined to one of the long bars towards the top of the bar. All of the joints swivel, allowing the gauge to expand and contract. It once belonged to shipwright Laurie Dinks.

References