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BROACHED THURNEL

In the lectures of the early part of the eighteenth century the Immovable Jewels of the Lodge are said to be "the Tarsel Board, Rough Ashlar, and Broached Thurnel"; and in describing their uses it is taught that "the Rough Ashlar is for the Fellow Crafts to try their jewels on, and the Broached Thurnel for the Entered Apprentices to learn to work upon."

Much difficulty has been met with in discovering what the Broached Thurnel really was. Doctor Oliver, most probably deceived by the use to which it was assigned, says in his Dictionary of Symbolic Masonry that it was subsequently called the ' Rough Ashlar. This is evidently incorrect, because a distinction is made in the original lecture between it and the Rough Asmar, the former being for the Apprentices and the latter for the Fellow Crafts. Krause (Kunsturkenden,1, 73), has translated it by Drehbank, which means a turning-lathe, an implement not used by Operative Freemasons. Now what is the real meaning of the word? If we inspect an old tracing board of the Apprentice's Degree of the date when the Broached Thurnel was in use, we shall find depicted on it three symbols, two of which will at once be recognized as the Tarsel, or Trestle Board, and the Rough Ashlar, just as we have them at the present day; while the third symbol will be that depicted in the margin, namely, a cubical stone with a pyramidal apex.

This is the Broached Thurnel. It is the symbol which is still to be found, with precisely the same form, in all French tracing boards, under the name of the pierre cubique, or cubical stone, and which has been replaced in English and American tracing boards and rituals by the Perfect Ashlar.

For the derivation of the words, we must go to old and now almost obsolete terms of architecture. On inspection, it will at once be seen that the Broached Thurnel has the form of a little square turret with a spire springing from it. Now, broach, or broche, says Parker in the Glossary of Terms in Architecture (page 97), is "an old English term for a spire, still in use in some parts of the country, as in Leicestershire, where it is said to denote a spire springing from the tower without any intervening parapet. Thurnel is from the old French tournelle, a turret or little tower.

The Broached Thurnel, then, was the Spired Turret. lt was a model on which apprentices might learn the principles of their art, because it presented to them, in its various outlines, the forms of the square and the triangle, the cube and the pyramid."

Brother Hawkins had somewhat different conclusions about the matter and added the following comments:

"In Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (xii, 205), Brother G. W. Speth quotes from the Imperial Dictionary: "Broach, in Scotland, a term among masons, signifying to rough hew. Broached Work, in Scotland, a term among masons, signifying work or stones that are rough-hewn, and thus distinguished from Ashlar or polished work. Broaching-Thurmal, Thurmer, Turner, names given to the chisels by which broached work is executed."

And therefore Brother Speth suggests that the Broached Thurnel was really a chisel for the Entered Apprentices to learn to work with. We find that the new English Dictionary explains Broached as a term used "of stone; chiselled with a broach," or narrow-pointed chisel used by Freemasons; but Brother Hawkins points out that this still leaves it uncertain what a "Thurnel" is.

Brother Clegg has had the advantage of actually working with broaching tools and therefore ought to know something about broached work. The word broach in the industries is usually applied to the operation of shaping or forming some part by special tools made to produce some particular shape or design. A triangular hole in a piece of metal or any other material can for example be furnished to a considerable degree of accuracy by simply forcing the cutting tool through it as a final operation. This is called broaching and the tools for the purpose are known as broaches. A tool that is used to smooth out, a small opening by being rotated within it is often called a broach and, as will be seen, the idea is that the broach is used to form a special shape. These special shapes therefore are known as work which is broached and this agrees very closely with the understanding that underlies each of the comments made above.

The exact meaning of Thurnel or Thurmal is not any too clear but has evidently been applied to the instrument as well as the product of its work. Brother Charles E. Funk of the Editorial Department of the Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the English Language has very kindly read the above article and favors us with the following comments:

I have gone through fifteen or more dictionaries from 1643 up to Murray's New English Dictionary, including several dialectical dictionaries and one on archaisms. None of them record any such spelling as thurnel, thurmal, nor thurmer.

Broach or broche, broch, broache, broych, brooch, brotch - are not so obscure. Five centuries and more of usage still find the early senses preserved. But even so, ambiguity is not avoided in attempting to determine the expression broached thurnel, for broach may refer either:

  1. to the mason's tool, a narrow pointed chisel by which he furrowed the surface of stone, as in the quotation of 1703, "to broych or broach, as Masons an Atchler or ashlar when with the small point of their ax (?) they make it full of little pits or small holes;" also that of 1544, " In hewinge, brochinge, and scaplyn of stone for the chapell ;''

    Or

  2. to the name of the spire itself, a current form in England today which dates from 1501, " For trassying & makyn moldes to the brooch."

With this second and still current usage of broach, then, and assuming that thumel is a variant spelling of tournelle, as it might well have been, we can derive a thoroughly satisfactory explanation of the expression and one which also agrees with the old illustrations, a spired turret. This view may be further supported while we recall the old German form Thurm or tower.

Murray lends further support to this view in his record of the variants of tournelle, which appeared variously from 1400 to the middle of the seventeenth century as tornel, turnelle, tornelle, toumel, tornil, and tournell.

All of this may lend weight to the theory as given by Mackey. But if this theory is accepted, the mystery is still unsolved, for by which logic would the symbol of Fellow Craft be the Rough Ashlar and that of the Apprentice be such a highly finished work as the Spired Turrett One would expect a reversal of such symbolism at the least.

It seems, therefore, that the explanation as a spired turret is inappropriate---one would not expect an apprentice " to learn to work upon" such a structure. We are forced, then, to consider the first definition of broach and to do some more or less etymological guesswork with thurnel, which I am offering as a possible clue-I can not locate the missing link to make it conclusive, for we have no reference books covering the subject of stone-dressing tools on our shelves. Dialectically th was occasionally substituted for f.

We have such instances as thane for fane, thetch for fetch, and thurrow for furraw, and others. I would expect, therefore, to find some dressing tool, no longer employed, perhaps, or now under another name, which was called a furnel, fournel, fornel, or even firnel, perhaps with an m in place of the n. It may be that the firming-chisel is the present type. This tool would be a tapered handtool, set in a flat head to receive blows from a hammer, and would be used for rough dressing. Possibly it might be the former which was thus described in 1688:

" The second is termed a Former, it is a Chissel used before the Paring Chissel in all works. The Clenser, or Former, is a broad ended Iron Plate, or Old-Cold? Chessel with a broad bottom, set in an Handle; with which Tool they smooth and make even the Stone after it is cut into that form and Order, as the Work-man will have it."

Again it may have been a development from the formal referred to by Bossewell in 1572:

" A Sledge or a Hammer, of some called a formal,'' ( fore-mall, later called a forehammer). A broached formal would then have been a tool, perhaps a hammer head, shaped something like the blacksmith's set hammer, with one broad flat face, the other tapering to a point. The pointed end would be used for broaching, and the flat end for hammer finishing. Note that both these descriptions might well refer to the ax in the quotation of 1703."

And further, although the members of the family give Fourneaux or Fournivalle as the original form of the name. I offer the conjecture that the name Furnald, Fernald may have had its original from the occupational term furnel (thurnel).

In the latter part of Brother Funk's consideration of this matter he had in mind the name of James C. Femald, who was editorially connected with his company and a distinguished author.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry


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