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An implement of Operative Masonry, which has been adopted by Speculative Freemasons as the peculiar working-tool of the Master's Degree. By this implement, and its use in Operative Masonry to spread the cement which binds all the parts of the building into one common mass, we are taught to spread the cement of affection and kindness, which unites all the members of the Masonic family, wheresoever dispersed over the globe, into one companionship of Brotherly Love and an old custom in an Oxford Lodge, England, gave it prominence as a jewel, and as a symbol it goes back to the practice of the Ancient.

Today this implement is considered the appropriate working-tool of a Master Mason, because, in Operative Masonry, while the Apprentice is engaged in preparing the rude materials, which require only the Gage and Gavel to give them their proper shape. the Fellow Craft places them in their proper position by means of the Plumb, Level, and Square; but the Master Mason alone, having examined their correctness and proved them true and trusty, secures them permanently in their place by spreading, with the trowel, the cement that irrevocably binds them together. The Trowel has also been adopted as the jewel of the Select Master. But its uses in this Degree are not symbolical. They are simply connected with the historical legend of the Degree.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Articles On The Trowel On This Page


By Bro. Rabbi Eugene Mannheimer, Iowa

My Brothers: Mine it is to speak of the Trowel--that instrument which, occupying an important position in the work-chest of the operative mason is, as our ritual suggests, the especial tool of the Master Mason; made use of by operative masons to spread the cement which unites a building into a common mass, but utilized by the Free and Accepted Mason for the more noble purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of friends, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who can best work and best agree. What instrument could be of nobler significance ? What implement of more glorious inspiration ?

Through the use of the trowel, spreading the cement, the single bricks and stones, once a chaotic mass, now stand united and solid, to form this noble edifice which we dedicate this day to the cause of God and Masonry. Through the symbolic service of the Masonic trowel, spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection, we, the individual members, once as separated and chaotic as these stones which house us, are as firmly bound together in a union which dedicates us one for all and all for one. . . What were this structure, which we solemnly consecrate, had not the trowel been honestly wielded, or if the cement and mortar should fail it? What were our brotherhood without the bond of love and affection to bind us close? And only as long as this bond continues to unite us, only so long will this Temple stand a true shrine of Masonry and of God. Only so long will our Brotherhood be a real brotherhood, worthy of its consecration and its vows.

Do we need this lesson? Does this thought require the especial emphasis we would wish to give it? Truly, none more. None to which mankind has beer. more impervious in all times and all ages.

Three thousand years ago, on Judea's plain, the prophet of the Lord proclaimed: "Behold, it shall come to pass in the latter day that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established at the top of the mountains and exalted above all hills. And all nations shall flow unto it. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall there be war any more." For two thousand years, not the one seer alone, but all prophets and ministers of Judaism and Christianity together have united to emphasize the same ideal. They have urged and re-urged the truth on the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all his children. Out of such conviction they have hoped to bring to dawning the day of universal peace.

But look about us today and see the result. Where is the brotherhood, the affection, the peace, the understanding ? Do not bigotry, hatred, superstition, ignorance and jealousy flourish as ever before? Are not differences in creed, color and birth, on the slightest provocation, still found meaningless excuse for savagely warring nations, as for many of-their supposed superiors in culture? Does not the whole modern world panorama but demonstrate that whatever our lip service to the ideal of God's fatherhood and Man's brotherhood, whatever the hymns and prayers that have arisen from our temples, the songs and prayers were not from the heart but from the lips of man only?

As Master Masons, who have taken the obligations of the three degrees, brotherhood is our ideal. We have vowed to eradicate darkness, hatred, superstition and misunderstanding from out our own lives and from out the world as far as lay within our power. Recognizing no particular creed within our Lodge room, hailing as brothers the followers of all creeds who are worthy of such recognition, we have taught ourselves, and we hold before the world the constant example, that men of different creeds can stand and work together for a common purpose. Living in a world of discord, in which brotherhood, love, sympathy and justice are, all-too-often, nothing more than words, it is urgent beyond expression that we continually reimpress our vows upon our hearts and minds, that we may never lose them from our lives. Most urgent of all is it for us to spread their influence as far and wide in the world as our united power will permit, that thus we may do our share to end the reign of bigotry, hatred and superstition. Thus will we do our part to help hasten the dawning of the day when the glorious brotherhood and peace dream of the prophet shall be realized.

As men and Masons we understand that this task is not easy of accomplishment. But as men and Masons we have faith in God, in our fellowmen, in ourselves. We know that the attainment of the goal is the sure promise of the morrow. In this faith we live and labor on.

But note this one thing more, my Brothers. Those who wrote our ritual did not harbor the foolish notion that initiation into Masonry would in some mysterious way, in a single moment, through a single act, change the entire nature of the initiate, to make him in a moment the perfect servant of God and man that his obligations require of him. We are not told that as the result of entering the Masonic fraternity a man must be at once, so filled with the spirit of brotherhood that the spirit of false contention CAN never again find lodgement within his breast. We are told that it SHOULD never again be found within him. The demand is made of each of us who comes to this Altar to take the obligation, that he shall continuously thereafter strive to eradicate from his heart the prejudice, error and misunderstanding that may have filled him in the past, that at last the moment may come when he is a Mason in reality as well as in name. But the burden of making ourselves such true Masons is placed upon our own shoulders, and nowhere else. To us ourselves and to no others the task is assigned.

It is these high and noble purposes, my Brothers, of which the Trowels are here emblematic. These the ideals, of which they stand to remind us upon our Altar. As we consecrate these trowels anew, this night, unto their holy offlce, unto these same holy purposes may we, at the same time, re-consecrate ourselves. To these ideals may we vow renewed fidelity.

-Source: The Builder - November 1916


By Bro. Alfred S. Eichberg, 33rd Hon., Georgia

The working tools of a Master Mason comprise all the tools of the Craft, but more especially the Trowel. The trowel is used by operative masons to spread the cement which unites the stones of a building into a substantial structure; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love, which unites us into one close bond of brotherhood, in which no contention can ever exist, except that noble emulation of who can best serve and best agree.

But the trowel has in addition a deeper significance. Numerical values receive especial attention in Masonry, possibly because mathematics was the first of the sciences to help civilize the human race. Geometry is regarded as chief among the seven liberal arts and sciences,--its initial blazes before you. The 47th problem of Euclid is an important symbol in this degree.

The series, three, five and seven, occurs frequently among the symbols of Masonry, but the number three is most frequent; the three great lights, three lesser lights, three degrees in the Blue Lodge, three stations in the lodge, three stages of human life, three knocks and many other instances, which you will recall. The reason for this prominence is that three is the symbol of Stability.

Geometry teaches that three points are always in one plane and are always in equilibrium.

And this is the philosophic interpretation of the trowel. It presents three points. It is the principal working tool of the Master Mason, not only because it spreads the cement of brotherly love, but also because the close bond of brotherhood so constructed must always be in equilibrium and is firmly founded on Stability.

But there is yet another reason; the trowel in the hands of the operative mason is frequently required to remove from the bearing surfaces of the stone, such foreign substances as may have become attached to it while it lay among unclean surroundings and which would interfere with its perfect bonding.

The irregular block of stone came out of the quarry,--that is, the outer world; it entered the Apprentice degree, where by aid of the common gavel and the twenty-four inch gauge, it was shaped into a rough ashlar. It was then passed to the Fellowcrafts, who, by use of their working tools made it plumb, square and level and fashioned it into a perfect ashlar.

However perfect an ashlar it may have been, when it received the commendation of the Grand Master, through contact with the world, it superficially acquired vices and faults, which unfit it for a perfect union.

The trowel in this relation may be regarded as referring to the three jewels of the Master degree, Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love, which when worthily worn, so cleanse and purify, that the stone is in every respect fitted to be raised to its permanent place in the walls of the Temple of Masonry.

- Source: The Builder - February 1918

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