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A ships wheel is the modern method of adjusting the angle of a boat or ship's rudder in order to cause the vessel to change its course. Together with the remainder of the steering mechanism it forms part of the helm. It is usually connected to a mechanical, electric servo, or hydraulic method. In some modern ships it is replaced with a simple toggle that remotely controls an electromechanical or electro-hydraulic drive for the rudder, with a rudder position indicator presenting feedback to the helmsman.
Helmsmen on older ships used a tiller (a horizontal bar fitted directly to the top of the rudder post) or a whipstaff (a vertical stick acting on a tiller).
The early wheels in the (1700) were operated to correspond to the motion of the tiller with a clockwise motion (corresponding to a right tiller motion) turning the rudder and thus the ship to the left. Finally the control direction of the wheel was reversed to make it more consistent with the action of a motor vehicle's steering wheel.
A traditional design consists of eight cylindrical wooden spokes (though sometimes as few as six or as plenty of 10) formed like balusters and all joined at a central wooden hub or nave (sometimes covered with a brass nave plate) which housed the axle.
The square hole at the middle of the hub through which the axle ran is called a drive square and was often lined with a brass plate (and therefore called a brass boss, though this term was used more often to refer to a brass hub and nave plate) which was often etched with the name of the manufacturer.
The outer rim consists of sections each made up of stacks of felloes, the facing felloe, the middle felloe, and the after felloe. Because each group of felloes at time made up a quarter of the distance around the rim, the whole outer wooden wheel was sometimes called the quadrant.
Each spoke ran through the middle felloe making a series of handles on the outside of the wheel's rim of these handles/spokes was often given additional grooves at its tip which could be felt by a helmsman steering in the dark and used by him to select the exact position of the rudder, this was the king spoke and when it pointed straight upward the rudder was dead straight.
The wood used in construction of this type of wheel was most often either teak or mahogany. Wikipedia .
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