FROM THE ARTHUR A. REBMAN MARITIME COLLECTION: A large eight spoke mahogany ship's wheel with southern provenance, American, circa 1820-40. This rope driven wheel is all original and retains an old (probably original) green and red painted surfaces and dark brown patina on the spokes and handles. The king pin shows wear from years of seagoing use as well as the barrel with gouged rope marks in the surface. Minor losses. Measures 55 inches from tip to tip. A very rare surviving American wheel. Weighs just shy of 70 pounds.
This wheel according to previous ownership was used aboard an old paddle wheeler used in the southern states, but the name of the vessel is unknown.
Looking for a great nautical coffee table or dining table? This could be it! A pedestal base could be produced to support the rope barrel with a custom glass top making it into a functional table.
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Early ship's wheels used a tiller rope or chain that ran around the barrel in five or six loops and then down through two tiller ropes slots at the top of the platform before connecting to two sheaves just below deck (one on either side of the ship's wheel) and thence out to a pair of pulleys before coming back together at the tiller and therefore the ships rudder. Movement of the wheels (which were connected and moved simultaneously) caused the tiller rope to wind in one of two directions and shifted the tiller left or right. In a typical and intuitive arrangement, a helmsman turning the wheel counterclockwise would cause the tiller to move to starboard and therefore the rudder to swing to port causing the vessel to also turn to port.
Eventually the use of steam power on oceangoing steamships around 1850 allowed sturdier metal gears to replace the cables and ropes.