Oak coke or coax, a type of location peg

Contributed by George Stephenson

This was given to me to me when I worked on HMS Victory as a shipwright. This object is normally completely hidden from view when in service. Its function is that of a location peg between the mating surfaces of the pieces of a ship's deck beam. It was made to solve the problem of ships timbers moving when under stress. Made from an off-cut of oak that what would otherwise be waste material, it shows the ingenuity of man to make something vital and safety-critical from whatever is at hand. This small object started as an oak tree in central Europe. That tree has been felled, fashioned into logs, floated down river to the Baltic, transported to England and sawn up into ever smaller pieces until finally it was turned on a lathe to produce this otherwise invisible location peg. How many human hands has this object passed through on its journey? It demonstrates man's ability to organise himself and others to achieve a successful outcome. It is a symbol of the new bureaucracy of the eighteenth century by which humans could organise their affairs. The word "bureaucracy" was coined by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, whose brother Samuel was an accomplished naval administrator.

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Chatham Royal Dockyard, Kent


Between 1759 and 1765


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