Tools for a Jack of all trades
Greasing, painting, splicing wire and rope, mending and making sails, coiling, building, forging and repairing… A deep-sea sailor is a true Jack of all trades and needs a score of specialised tools. Some could be purchased, but young sailors made many of the tools themselves, pouring their hearts and souls into it. On each voyage, when meeting a new master and ship’s company, the tools and ditty bag served as a reference. With your handicraft you show what you are good for.
Hard work according to the ship’s rhythm
Holger Stolzman’s tassled canvas bag contains the tools he made himself and used during two round-the-world voyages on board Pommern in the 1930s. His work sailmaker’s glove. An awl. A couple of marline spikes… Once upon a time, he tossed his bag across his shoulder, went aloft and got the jobs done.
For many young men, life at sea were equal parts dream, escape and a chance to get a profession. The ambition was to train to become a mate or master. But on the first voyage most of them were only teenagers. For them it was important to quickly prove you could handle everything from the biggest sledgehammer to the smallest needle.
Tools had to fit perfectly in the hand, but a lot of time was also spent on making them beautiful to look at. Just like the ditty bags, that were decorated with macramé and tassels. One’s handiwork was a way of proving oneself as able and thorough.
Work on board was hard, was executed aloft and in constant battle against the forces of nature. To show fear or doubt was not a good idea. The watches were marked by the tolling of the ship’s bell. One bell tolled at 0:30am, two bells at 1am and onwards till eight bells at 4am. And on it went, in a constant rhythm of four-hour intervals.
Material: bag of sailcloth with tassle. Handle of hemp rope
Previous owner: Holger Stolzmann.
Made and used: on board Pommern 1936 – 1938.
Content: marline spikes or awls, serving mallets, sailmaker’s gloves, caulking irons and more