The Common Gavel is one of the working tools of the Entered Apprentice Mason. It is made use of by the Operative Mason to break off the corners of the rough ashlar, and thus fit it the better for the builder's use, and is therefore adopted as a symbol in Speculative Masonry, to admonish us of the duty of divesting our hearts and consciences of the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building, that house made not with hands, eternal in the heavens. It borrows its name from its shape, being that of the gable or gavel end of a house; and this word again comes from the German Gipfel, a summit, top, or peak - the idea of a pointed extremity being common to all…

The true form of the gavel is that of the stonemason's hammer. It is to be made with a cutting edge, that it may be used to break off the corners of rough stones, an operation which could never be effected by the common hammer or mallet. The gavel thus shaped will give, when looked at in front, the exact representation of the gavel or gable end of a house, whence, as has been already said, the name is derived. The gavel of the Master is also called a Hiram, because, like the architect, it governs the Craft and keeps order in the Lodge, as he did in the Temple.

This page is adapted from the Glossary at Phoenixmasonry — Used with permission.

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