Turpin's caulking tools

Contributed by Cornwall Museums

Turpin's caulking tools

THIS OBJECT IS PART OF THE PROJECT 'A HISTORY OF CORNWALL IN 100 OBJECTS'.

FOWEY MUSEUM. Most early Cornish ships and boats were built of timber or wood in the creeks and rivers of south Cornwall and beaches on the north. Mr Turpin, the owner of these caulking tools, was a local traditional boat builder. Demand for trading vessels like schooners increased in the 19th century when much of Cornwall's mineral wealth went out by sea.
Carvel-built vessels were regularly waterproofed with oakum and pitch. Oakum was useless rope picked apart in Bodmin Jail by convicts and put into seams with a caulking iron and a long mallet. Swedish pitch was used to preserve the oakum. According to Richard Trewavas, the Mousehole poet, when his ship 'Minerva' was completed at St Michael's Mount in 1785: 'the oakum boys her gaping seams did staunch, Pitched o'er sides and then prepared to launch.'

Fowey museum also has a good collection of ship models and part of the stern board of the 'Adelaide'.

Photo: Bernie Pettersen

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