Meet the Carpenter | The Mary Rose
Meet The Carpenter

“I am the Master Carpenter, I am a very important man on the Mary Rose.

 My job is to maintain the ship, making sure the decks are waterproof, repairing broken rigging blocks, and perhaps plugging holes made by cannon balls during battle.”

The Carpenter's Cabin
The carpenter had his own cabin, complete with a sliding door! A small dog was found near the cabin door. The dog’s job on-board was to catch rats.

Inside, as well as the carpenter’s chest and tools, there were two beds. While one is complete, with possible traces of his bedding, the other is missing some planks. The carpenter had also made a few home improvements, extending his cabin and cutting a window through the side of the ship, which could be closed in rough weather!

Carpenter’s Chests
We found three chests in the cabin, two full of the carpenter’s personal items and the other containing his tools. Only the wooden handles of the tools survived underwater, all the iron had rusted away.

The first chest is just an open box. This was full of his tools. It was used in the same way as a modern toolbox in a workshop. Inside it were bits of wood, lead, rulers, planes, a tinder box, a mallet, and lots of tool handles.

The second chest was far better built than the first one, with a lid and wooden handles. There is a hole at the front for a lock and the lid was held on with hinges. This was probably his clothes chest; we found traces of cloth and bits of braid and thread in it. There was also a small knife handle and two whetstones, for sharpening tools.

The last chest from the cabin was very fancy. The sides are fixed together with “dovetail” joints, it had a lock and ring-shaped hinges, and a little shelf inside. This chest was made of walnut wood. As well as a couple of small tools, it contained four pewter plates, silver coins and rings and a leather book cover.

A lot of carpentry tools were found on the Mary Rose. While on land usually metal survives longer, under the sea metal rusts away, leaving the wooden handles. With the Mary Rose’s tools, you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the missing blades!

By studying the marks on the wood, archaeologists can tell what sort of tools were used to build the ship.

The Adze

The Adze was a tool used for smoothing timbers. The blade would be long and flat; fixed to the thickest end of the handle, allowing the carpenter to chip away at timbers to shape them for ship repairs.

We've recreated the blade here, based on other ones that still exist.

Adze With Blade


Axes were used for both chopping wood and for carefully trimming timbers. The blade would be similar to axe heads today.

Axe Handle With Blade


Planes were used for smoothing and shaping wood, and came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The large plane would be used for smoothing planks and beams, while small planes would be used for jobs like smoothing arrows. Planes haven’t really changed much in 450 years – apart from being made from metal!

This one was called a dolphin plane, for obvious reasons!

Pc170266 Plane

Brace and Bit

The brace and bit was a Tudor hand-powered drill, used for drilling small holes. A ‘bit’ is the missing metal part which was like a flat, sharp-edged metal spoon. To use it, you held the knob in one hand and twisted the brace round and round to make the bit act like a drill.

Brace And Bit


A Tudor ruler may look similar to the ones we use today but they didn’t use centimetres, they used inches (2.54cm).

Carpenters Rule


A mallet is a type of hammer. This would be used to hammer wooden rods, called Trennals, which would expand when wet and not rust like metal nails, which would hold the ship’s timbers together.


Ship Building


In Tudor times, wood was a very important material. It was used for everything from building houses and ships to making barrels and boxes. It was also the most important source of fuel for heating and cooking.

Ships were generally built of oak. Lots of oak trees were needed to make the different timbers used in a ship. Choosing the right trees could be difficult; they were selected for the shape of timbers that could be cut from them. About 600 trees were needed to build the Mary Rose!


Even the best shipwrights left gaps between the planks, which had to be filled to prevent leaks. Filling the gaps is called “caulking”. On the Mary Rose, horse hair and bits of rope were hammered into the gaps, and coated with pitch to plug the gaps.

We found a cauldron full of pitch ready to be heated up in the hold of the Mary Rose, so the carpenter could make repairs at sea. There were also barrels full of pitch in the hold.