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The Carpenter

Below the Carpenters’ cabin, a man was found surrounded by tools including a sawhorse, stool, hammer, chisel, chopping block and his own tool-holder.

Was he one of the six carpenters of the Mary Rose?

Who was he?

He was likely in his mid-to-late 30s at the time of the sinking and around 1.72m (5ft 7in) tall.

Analysis of isotopes from his teeth reveal that he grew up in a much warmer climate than England and from an area of mainland Europe.

As some of the carpentry tools on board the Mary Rose were Spanish, did this carpenter come from Spain?

The Carpenter’s cabin and chests

The Carpenter had his own cabin, complete with a sliding door.

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

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.

The Carpenter’s tools

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

Adze with reconstructed blade outline

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.


Axe handle with reconstructed blade outline

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


Dolphin plane

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!

Brace and bit

Brace and bit with reconstructed auger outline

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.


Carpenters rule

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


carpenter's mallet

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

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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!

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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, horsehair 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.

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Experience inspiring educational visits to the Mary Rose

Our award-winning Learning Department provide expert-led sessions designed to enrich teaching and learning in both history and STEM subjects.