A passive survey of the incoming Worshipful Master Elect consisted of the simple question, “What are your favorite symbols in Masonry?” To which he replied, several days later…”The Trowel and Holy Bible.” So I began creating the artwork which would eventually be laser etched into the outward face of the gavel head. Careful consideration to the proportion and layout of the Masonic symbols, threes, fives, and sevens of chief importance, was a major part of the initial layout of the drawing. During the design process I realized that the shape of the artwork which connects the handle of the trowel to the business end of the trowel could be slightly changed to a Beehive, one of my favorite Masonic symbols. Certain aspects of this design also should have a more personal meaning. The Holy Bible is, purposely, without inscription.
Careful attention to hardness and selection of the correct stock material of various hardwoods were considered for this common gavel. Durability being one of the major considerations I selected Walnut as my wood of choice. I was able to secure a perfectly overpriced piece of lovely Walnut from Woodcraft in Austin which was large enough to produce two gavel heads with little waste or excess material.
The artwork was burned, etched, or engraved (call it what you want) into the head of walnut block by Smart & Corser, an Austin based engraving company. The block of wood was given a rough trimming to remove some of the bulk waste material.
The gavel head was then worked for quite awhile on the belt sander. If you end up deciding to make your own common gavel, you will find that you should not rush this part. It is very easy to apply too much pressure resulting in a lopsided gavel head or geometry that just isn’t quite right. Even a 16th of an inch in variation is visible to the least discerning eye.
Fortunately Woodcraft sells Walnut dowels which would eventually become the gavel handle. A word on proportion. While I have no written verification on what I am about to say, it seems to hold true. The general consensus is that the length of the entire gavel should be three times the length of the gavel head. So, if your gavel head is 4 inches long from one striking surface to the other, then the entire completed length of the gavel should be 12 inches long from the tip of the handle to the top of the gavel head. The dowel was turned on a lathe using a modest design and the dowel was cut using a parting tool for later insertion into the gavel head.
Each piece was then finish sanded and the edges of the gavel head were softened a bit. A hole was added to the gavel head to receive the handle. I received some sage advice about where to place the hole for a common gavel. A hole on a Judges or Auctioneer’s gavel should be right in the middle of the head. But a common gavel has a different use and proportion. It was recommended that I put the hole just offset from dead center. The bulk of the striking surface versus the wedge shape of the chipping edge would be visibly lopsided if you put the handle dead center. After a quick shot with the air hose, to blow off the saw dust, it was time for assembly.
The handle and head were doweled and glued in place with System Three epoxy. The wood was treated several times with Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil, a beautiful gun stock finishing product.
Final thoughts. Why a Common Gavel? My answer is simple. The typical gavel used in Lodges is styled after a Judges or Auctioneers gavel. That style of gavel is used to pass judgments or to signal a sale. While they are also used to call a body to order or used to punctuate rulings, I feel they are an incorrect tool for lodges. Masonic Lodges describe both the practical and philosophical use of a common gavel in enough detail that it makes more sense to use a common gavel versus a judge’s gavel. The only other obvious choice is a Maul which is used more for striking or driving another tool into material, but is also perfectly adequate for performing all the necessary functions. I think it comes down to availability. You just won’t find the same variety common gavels as you will the other kind. Ease of access to judges gavels and bottom dollar prices are more important to some than others.