Page 769
Previous/Next Page
William Falconer's Dictionary of the MarineReference Works
Table of Contents



KNEE of the head


Contact us

KNEE of the head

KNEE of the head, (poulaine, Fr.) a large flat piece of timber, fixed edgways upon the fore-part of a ship's stem, and supporting the ornamental figure or image, placed under the bowsprit. See the article HEAD.

The knee of the head, which may properly be defined a continuation of the stem, as being prolonged from the stem forwards, is extremely broad at the upper-part, and accordingly composed of several pieces united into one, YY, plate I. PIECES of the HULL. It is set into the head, and secured to the ship's bows by strong knees fixed horizontally upon both, and called the cheeks of the head, Z Z, plate IV. fig. 10. The heel of it is scarsed to the upper end of the fore-foot, and it is fastened to the stem above by a knee, called a standard, expressed by &, in plate I. PIECES of the HULL.

Plate 1Plate 4

Plates I and IV

Besides supporting the figure of the head, this piece is otherwise useful, as serving to secure the boom, or bumkin, by which the fore-tack is extended to windward; and, by it's great breadth, preventing the ship from falling to leeward, when close-hauled, so much as she would otherwise do. It also affords a greater security to the bowsprit, by increasing the angle of the bobstay, so as to make it act more perpendicularly on the bow sprit.

The knee of the head is a phrase peculiar to shipwrights; as this piece is always called the cut-water by seamen, if we except a few, who affecting to be wiser than their brethren, have adopted this expression probably on the presumption that the other is a cant phrase, or vulgarism. It appears a material part of the province of this work to call the several articles contained therein by their proper names, and to reject those which are spurious, however fancified by the authority of official dulness, or seconded by the adoption of dignified ignorance. Accordingly we cannot help observing, that when a term of art has been established from time immemorial, and, besides being highly expressive, produces the testimony of foreign nations (The cut-water is called taille-mer by the French) to it's propriety, nothing more certainly betrays a superficial understanding, than the attempt to change it, without being able to assign the shadow of a reason for this alteration. For although knee of the head, being invariably used by the artificers, is of course explained in this work as a term of naval architecture, wherein practice has indeed rendered it natural and intelligible; it is nevertheless very rarely used by seamen, especially in common discourse, unless when it is intended to impress the hearer with an idea of the speaker's superior judgment.

Previous Page Reference Works Next Page

© Derived from Thomas Cadell's new corrected edition, London: 1780, page 167, 2004
Published by South Seas, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher
To cite this page use: