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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fort Norfolk from the Elizabeth River- Marine Painting by J Robert Burnell

A recent article written by Robert McCabe published in the Virginian Pilot reminded me of an original watercolor painting that we currently have on display at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery. The article titled "Fort Norfolk got the first look at "rockets' red glare" traces the history of views from Fort Norfolk on June 22, 1813, during the Battle of Craney Island, when a force of about 700 American troops held off a two-pronged British assault by 3,000 to 4,000 men. Here's the link to the rockets red glare article from the Virginian Pilot.

The painting depicted here is by Portsmouth Virginia's renowned artist J. Robert Burnell titled "Fort Norfolk from the Elizabeth River" was painted in 1994, a tranquil scene with a boy sailing a dingy in the foreground and a three masted ship docked at the water's edge. The view features the fort on the left and a brick structed house in the center. The watercolor measures 18 X 30 inches (view) and 24 X 36 inches framed. Here are a few images (sorry, there's some glare in the image from the glass).  Here is the link to the painting of Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery website.

Fort Norfolk from the Elizabeth River, an original watercolor by J. Robert Burnell.
Fort Norfolk is an historic fort and national historic district located at Norfolk, Virginia. With the original buildings having been built between 1795 and 1809, the fort encompasses 11 contributing buildings which include: main gate, guardhouse, officers' quarters, powder magazine, and carpenter's shop. Fort Norfolk is the last remaining fortification of President George Washington’s 18th Century harbor defenses. It has served as the district office for the U. S. Army Engineer District, Norfolk since 1923.

Close-up view of Fort Norfolk from the Elizabeth River.

Close-up view of the brick building and the moored frigate.
You can view our large collection of marine art on our web gallery at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery. You can visit Skipjack's gallery located in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery hours

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Skipjack- The Premier Marine Art Gallery of Hampton Roads, Virginia

There are a number of exceptional art galleries to visit around coastal Virginia with a wide spectrum of art to peruse. Coastal Virginia is known as the Tidewater Region and Hampton Roads that includes Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton and Williamsburg cities. Here's the link on Goggle to the listing of art galleries in the Hampton Roads area. 

"U.S. Gunboat 'Scorpion' in the Battle of Cedar Point, 1814" By Peter Rindlisbacher
But only one gallery is solely focused on artwork created by marine artists. Since 2003, our unique art gallery located in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia has featured an extensive inventory of original  marine, nautical, maritime paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, wood carvings, sailor and folk art, ship models, and scrimshaw by some of the region and the world’s leading marine artists working today including Peter Rindlisbacher, Larry Bage, Jim Bolland, Kevin Collins, Bob Holland, Jac & Patricia Johnson, Sam Lafever, Joe Marinelli, Sandy Nelson, William Barth Osmundsen and David Weiss.

"Swimming Mermaid" folk art carving by Jac & Patricia Johnson
"LOOKDOWN SCHOOL" Marine Art Bronze Sculpture by Larry Bage
The S.S. United States by Bob Holland
"Summerwind," oil on canvas by Sandy Nelson

Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery is proud to offer to discriminating collectors an opportunity to select from these fine marine artworks currently available for sale. We also create changing art exhibitions and opportunities to meet the artists are also offered throughout the year.      

If you’re looking for something with special personal significance, Skipjack can assist you in creating unique commissioned work of art through a selection of our artists.

"Don't Give Up the Ship" commissioned folk art carving by Jac & Patricia Johnson

A consignment and appraisal service is also available through Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery to help collectors sell work from their personal collections. Just give us a call at 757-399-5012 or email us at

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Nautical Lamps Co., Mfrs. of Nautic Brand Products, Plainville, Conn.

Every once in a while we run across a vintage or antique nautical item that has little known history or provenance. Recently, we acquired a 1930's vintage small boat anchor lantern with the label from a little-known marine manufacturer, The Nautical Lamps Co., Plainville, Connecticut. The company produced a wide range of marine and navigational lamps, lanterns, searchlights and other similar products.

Our research found a few articles that were posted in early to mid 1930's copies of Motor Boating Magazine. The articles listed the company The Nautical Lamp Company was organized  in Plainville, Connecticut in early 1932. A second article was a notification that the company was purchased by Wilcox, Crittenden & Company, Inc. of Middleton, Conn. in the later part of 1936, so the company was only in production for four years.

Here are images of the anchor lantern with it's NAUTIC BRAND manufacturer's label. We have seen a few other examples listed for sale (or sold) on the web, so other examples can be found. For other images and information, visit the webpage on Skipjack Nautical Wares website.

1930's galvanized metal small boat anchor lantern
manufactured by the Nautical Lamp Company of Plainville, Conn.


Anchor lantern shown with removable burner.
Skipjack Nautical Wares specializes in vintage and antique ship's lanterns and lights. We offer a wide variety of marine lighting, manufactured throughout the 19th and 20th century for small craft to big ships by the best known American and foreign makers. These manufacturers include Perkins, Perko, National Marine Lamp Co., Kilborn-Sauer, Wilcox Crittenden, George Carpenter, Robert Findlay, Triplex, A. Ward Hendrickson, Peter Gray, Metorite, Robert Findlay Mfg., Russell Stoll Makers, Lovell, Den Haan, Tung Woo and Sento of Japan, Sea Horse, J.H. Peters & Bey and other historic makers. You will also find a selection of new marine lamps from makers like Den Haan and Weems & Plath. Here's a link to Skipjack's selection of marine lanterns at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top 10 Nautical Gifts For All Occasions 2017

One question that we are frequently asked here at Skipjack is...I'm shopping for a gift... something for an upcoming birthday, Mother's or Father's Day, maybe a house warming gift, military retirement, and a special Christmas gift for the nautical enthusiast. And of course when they're visiting our gallery we know that they're searching for something nautical. So here's our "customer's choice" top ten favorite nautical gifts for all occasions.

Our engravable crystal magnifier with compass coordinates
is a nautical gift for all occasions.

Number One-  Our crystal compass coordinate magnifier (pictured above) is a nautical gift for all occasions. This handsome optical-grade crystal glass magnifier features marked compass coordinates with "N" for north making it perfect for use with nautical charts. With crystal clarity and magnification of 4x, this magnifier enlarges small print on any task and is a welcome addition to desks or chart tables. The scratch resistant Crystal Magnifier is more durable than acrylic models and is packaged in an attractive felt-lined gift box, suitable for ceremonial occasions and as a gift for retirement. 
Engraving is available. Please allow an extra 2 weeks for engraving. Engraved items are not returnable or refundable.  Here's a link: Crystal magnifier with compass coordinates

Scrimshawed bone handled knives by Tony Perry make the perfect
gift for any nautical enthusiast!

Number two- Scrimshawed pocket knives by Tony Perry. Available in different style pocket knives, these bone-handled knives are expertly scrimshawed artwork are available in a variety of nautical designs. From breaching whales to racing schooners, there's plenty to pick from.
For a current selection of scrimshawed knives by Tony Perry, here's the link to Skipjack's sailors tools: Scrimshawed knives by Tony Perry.

Nautical table lamps is a good choice for a home warming gift and is also a
good choice for birthdays and Christmas gift giving.
Number three- Nautical table lamps is a good choice for a home warming gift and is also a good choice for birthdays and Christmas gift giving. Skipjack's lamp & Lighting workshop produces unique, one of a kind quality nautical table lamps created from antique and vintage retired seafaring ships lights and lanterns. We also produce marine inspired table lamps converted from other authentic maritime items such as wood blocks and other shipboard items. Our collection also includes handcrafted driftwood sculpture and fancy knotwork lamps and as well as colorful coastal creations including painted vintage lobster buoys and hand-blown glass jugs with netting and other beach home favorites. Skipjack also offers a wide selection of lampshades and lamp finials too! Here's the link to our current selection of nautical table lamps

Compass rose bar glasses will enhance for any nautical home or office.

Number four- Nautical themed wine, beer and cocktail glasses is, well, for everyone! Choose from stemmed wine glass, beer glasses and old fashion bar glasses and bar accessories. Available in nautical compass rose and fouled anchor designs. Here's the link to Skipjack's Tabletop, Bar & Entertaining
Leather and ribbon belts for men and women in nautical
and coastal designs. A perfect gift for everyone.

Number five- Nautical leather and ribbon belts for men and women is a gift that everyone loves. Choose between a variety of great nautical and coastal designs to choose from for everyday wear. In stock from sizes 32 to 48 in even sizes. Other sizes can be ordered. Expect up to two weeks for special orders. Here's the link to our selection of nautical belts for men and women (boys and girls too) in Skipjack's belts and caps.

Dress up his nautical image with silk neckties, bow ties
and cuff links from Skipjack.

Number six- While your at it, consider dressing up his nautical image with silk neckties, bow ties and cuff links from Skipjack! Another great gift idea for the nautical enthusiast. Here's the link to our selection of Skipjack's nautical silk neckties, bow ties and cufflinks.

Sterling silver sailboat necklaces and earrings from the
Barbara Vincent collection. A great gift for the sailor in your life. 

Number seven- Sterling silver sailboat jewelry from the Barbara Vincent collection. Choose from Barbara's original necklace and earring designs created for the people in your life that love to sail! Here's the link to the collection of sterling silver jewelry from Barbara Vincent.

Fine nautical designed door knockers makes a fine
house warming gift and one for yourself too!

Number eight- Door knockers have been a favorite as a home warming gift. We also think it makes a great gift to yourself! Skipjack offers a great selection of nautical (and military) designed door knockers to choose from. All are available in brass and a few nickel-plated. The one pictured above was created from an authentic 19th century rope sea chest becket (handle). Here's the link to Skipjack's collection of nautical door knockers.

Brass porthole clock or barometer is a favored retirement gift!

Number nine- Brass porthole clock and barometer is a favorite for many. Choose from this classic nautical designed clock with quartz movement or barometer housed in brass portholes or mount them as a matching pair! Great retirement gift! Here's the link to our brass porthole quartz porthole clock and barometer

Brass yacht bells make perfect gifts for military retirement,
house warming and for your coastal home.

Number ten- Our best selling gift for military retirement, house warming and for yacht owners is our high quality Italian made brass yacht bells. We also offer a wide variety of vintage and antique ships bells, bell accessories and hand-tied bell ringers, so here's the link to Skipjack's ship's bells and accessories.

Shopping at Skipjack is an easy way to find the perfect nautical gift for all occasions. Visit us online at Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Art Gallery or in person at our downtown location at 620 High Street in historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ancient skeleton discovered on Antikythera Shipwreck

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Evaluating Antique Binoculars

 It is a daily occurrence that we are asked to tell them what their item is worth, and for the appraiser, one that is simply impossible to correctly evaluate for each and every situation.

 There are a lot of variables that go into appraising and evaluating an item. As a
general overview, these considerations are the product maker, age, condition including any restoration to fix or enhance an item, rarity, proven provenance (not here say) and general interest in a product at any given time, and of course that will most likely change with time.  

Appraisals are written for a number of purposes. Insurance, to correctly appraise for replacement considerations, fair market value for resale, tax donations, inheritance and equitable distribution of an estate to heirs to name a few. These values range in number, for instance an insurance appraisal is its highest price evaluation for replacing an item similar in quality, age, manufacturer or maker, provenance, condition, rarity etc. from a source that offers these items for sale. 

But, these are not the same value as one would expect to typically receive since most people selling items, even on web sites like ebay, are not specialized retail dealers. Also, if one is offering an item to a dealer, do not expect them to buy it at retail value nor anywhere close to it, since they are in the business of buying for resale and need to make a reasonable return on their time, overhead and financial investment. 

Also, appraisers have to physically see an item to appraise it and cannot give you that information over the phone! Appraisal services are NOT free and are typically charged by the item or on an hourly basis.

I’ll have to add here, the dollar value of an old item should be to a collector its least interesting aspect. However, the value does play an important part of the appraisal evaluation, as shown above, but I do recommend that you consider first and foremost the desire to own an item and what that item is worth to you.


There are a number of styles of binoculars, and the description used to refer to them can vary.  Typically, 'field glasses' or ‘binocular telescopes’ are a pair of identical or mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes (binocular vision) when viewing distant objects. Most are sized to be held using both hands, although sizes vary widely from opera glasses to large pedestal mounted military models.

Early 20th century field glasses made by chevalier, Paris.

Unlike a (monocular) telescope, binoculars give users a three-dimensional image: for nearer objects the two views, presented to each of the viewer's eyes from slightly different viewpoints, produce a merged view with an impression of depth.

These are low power, have a very small field of view, and do not work nearly as well as prism binoculars.    In a smaller size, they are opera glasses, and their value increases if they are covered with mother of pearl, abalone shell, ivory or other exotic materials.  Field glasses are typically the most affordable unless they are a very unusual form or manufactured by the top makers, such as the German companies such as Zeiss or Leitz.

German made WWII era Carl Zeiss binoculars are one of the top makers of binoculars.

Prism binoculars. Optical prisms added to the design are another way to turn the image right way up, usually in a Porro prism or roof-prisms design.

Porro Prism Binoculars

Porro prism binoculars are named after Italian optician Ignazio Porro who patented this image erecting system in 1854, which was later refined by makers like the Carl Zeiss Company in the 1890s. Binoculars of this type use a Porro prism in a double prism Z-shaped configuration to erect the image. This feature results in binoculars that are wide, with objective lenses that are well separated but offset from the eyepieces. Porro prism designs have the added benefit of folding the optical path so that the physical length of the binoculars is less than the focal length of the objective and wider spacing of the objectives gives a better sensation of depth. Thus, the size of binoculars is reduced.

Roof-Prisms Binoculars

Binoculars using roof prisms may have appeared as early as the 1870s in a design by Achille Victor Emile Daubresse. Most roof prism binoculars use either the Abbe-Koenig prism (named after Ernst Karl Abbe and Albert Koenig and patented by Carl Zeiss in 1905) or the Schmidt-Pechan prism (invented in 1899) designs to erect the image and fold the optical path. They have objective lenses that are approximately in line with the eyepieces.

Roof-prisms designs create an instrument that is narrower and more compact than Porro prisms. There is also a difference in image brightness. Porro-prism binoculars will inherently produce a brighter image than roof-prism binoculars of the same magnification, objective size, and optical quality, because the roof-prism design employs silvered surfaces that reduce light transmission by 12% to 15%. Roof-prisms designs also require tighter tolerances for alignment of their optical elements (collimation). This adds to their expense since the design requires them to use fixed elements that need to be set at a high degree of collimation at the factory. Porro prisms binoculars occasionally need their prism sets to be re-aligned to bring them into collimation. The fixed alignment in roof-prism designs means the binoculars normally will not need re-collimation.

As a general rule of thumb, German binoculars are considered the most sought after, followed by American, English; and French, which are typically good quality but are more common unless of unusual design. Some of the best names in Japanese optics of WWII or before are often of very high quality.

Some binoculars are center focus, with one central wheel that focuses both sides at once.  Individual focus binoculars are adjusted by rotating each eyepiece.  Each style is desired by different collectors. Very large binoculars are always sought after.  Most binoculars are numbered according to their magnifying power and the diameter of the objective in mm.  12 x 30 optics magnify twelve times and have 30 mm objectives. Some of the older Paris made binoculars lack this information. Personally, I love the old Parisian binoculars, these classic heirlooms are usually quite affordable, fun to use and are a great product for tabletop and bookshelf d├ęcor.

A grouping of American made binoculars by Bausch and Lomb.

Another consideration is the ease of use and repairs if needed. Prism binoculars are easily knocked out of alignment, requiring an expensive and difficult repair.  Pristine binoculars are worth far more than when dirty or misaligned, and broken or cracked optics lower the value far more.  Cases help keep binoculars safe and clean but do not add much to the value.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

10 Tips for Designing the Perfect Nautical Room for Your Coastal Home

Here are 10 proven winners for creating your very best nautical inspired room in your coastal home. Any or all of these design ideas will go a long way toward the realization of your space. Give these nautical design ideas a try:
1.  Proper lighting plays a key role in any successful space.  For a nautical inspired space choose table and
Vintage aluminum ships window re-purposed into a
nautical mirror. Aluminum 90 degree passageway
lights light-up the space.

floor lamps that are functional, not just decorative. Place them near the task at hand. One of the best ways to create that old seafaring look is to select ship navigational and space light fixtures re-purposed into functional lighting. Rewired nautical wall sconces positioned on either side of a bathroom mirror can be very effective. Old re-purposed ship lanterns make great table lamps, and ship pennant lights, cage lights and passageway lights are top choices to light both your interior and exterior spaces.
2. Repetition of your theme will enforce your ideas.  If you are working with the idea of ‘sailing’ perhaps, select a piece of wall art featuring classic sailboats, a model of a sailboat on your mantel or table and navigational chart lampshades on your table lamps. Go a step further and include striped sailcloth on a piece of upholstered furniture. Of course not every element should be strictly about sailing but a good rule is to repeat an idea three times in any space.
3. Nautical colors, textures and finishes are typically borrowed from ships and yachts. Colors that associate well are described as sailcloth white,  pitch black, port red and starboard green and navy blue.  Wood selections include teak and mahogany, oak and maple. Brass, bronze, copper, aluminum, tin and galvanized metal, chrome and nickel finishes, both polished to a high shine or left verdigris for a weathered patina.  Use hemp and nylon line for edging surfaces- including black and navy blue nylon for a distinct yachting presence. Try navigational charts for a wall covering, especially in small areas like a bathroom or dressing room.
4. Dress up your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and furniture by selecting brass or nickel-plated cleats as
Nautical brass cleats can be used as cabinet
pulls,  door handles  and for tieing off lines.
handles and pulls. It’s the perfect look for both hardwood and painted cabinet finishes. Hand-tied monkey’s fist or turk’s head knobs are perfect choices too!
5. Antique sea chests and select antique furniture fit well into the traditional New England style nautical environment. You may also want to consider custom made furniture using retired teak ship’s grates or hatch covers as tops for tables. These are both beautiful, functional and add a lot of character to the room. We’ve also used old ship’s doors, brass portholes and windows as tops for occasional and coffee tables too.
6. Nautical/marine art for your walls can be more than just a print or a painting, though the perfect marine painting can be the focal point in your room. Framed black and white photographs of classic yachts and giclee prints after original paintings are usually more affordable ways to add in quality marine art.

An antique ships wheel is hung above a mantel with a 19th century cased
model of a schooner in the foreground.
7. For other wall art forms, consider a beautiful ships wheel, ship’s name, quarter and stern boards, old oars, a collection of half hulls of old sailing ships, folk and sailor marine carvings of whales and mermaids and even harpoons, representing  the days of whaling and seafaring days gone by. Victorian age sailor’s valentines were brought back from the island of Barbados as gifts for loved ones. Contemporary examples with great detail can be a great choice as well. Also, consider adding in the sound of the ringing of a ship’s bell clock.

A carved and painted wood mermaid is in stark contrast to the
navy blue wall, a perfect art form for a nautical designed space.

A collection of ship in bottles
are displayed"en masse"

8. Be selective when accessorizing your nautical room. We recommend using sextants or octants, spyglasses, on a bookshelf, boxed compasses, small scale models, wood blocks and smaller sailor-made carvings on table, desk and chest tops. Small collections work best grouped together in a tight assemblage.  You will make a stronger statement when they appear "en masse" as each one accents the other.  Think of a collection of ship-in-bottles, antique scrimshaw, or a grouping of items like vintage blocks from sailboats, compasses and other small maritime items placed together on a bookshelf or tabletop. Larger ship’s instruments like binnacles, telegraphs and ship wheels on stands are well suited to stand alone placed in a corner or as a centerpiece.  
9. Always select quality over quantity. A few authentic vintage or antique nautical items are better than a room-full of reproductions and nautical nick-knacks. A little can go a long way.
10. Don’t be afraid to take a photo of your space and ask for advice.  A qualified dealer can assist you with finding the right items to create the perfect nautical environment for your home or office.

Written by Joe Elder of Skipjack Nautical Wares & Rebecca T Larys Interior Design, IIDA located in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia. You can visit Skipjack Nautical Wares website at  

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Steampunk Nautical

A customer recently visited our gallery searching for items to use in a house that he was in the process of remodeling. The theme of the interior he said was "steampunk" and he was searching for items that related to the Victorian era, the days of steam power and industrial technology.
Authentic 19th century  ship's binnacle in steampunk interior.
"You're in the right place, I said. That would certainly include the age of steam powered ships and that is the type of items that we carry." It didn't take long for him to grasp what I was talking about. 

I left him to browse around and I could tell that he was quite excited about his discovery and started taking pictures of items of interest. He left an hour later with numerous ideas and images of items well suited for his new interior. 

Not knowing much about the design concept steampunk, I decided to do a little research to become familiar with what it is. I looked up the word on Wikipedia and the short definition is: "Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery." The longer version stated "Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk may, therefore, be described as neo-Victorian. Steampunk ... is rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne."
Steampunk interior using a porthole and door wheel
creating an old steamship feel to the space.

Movies such as Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and the Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline demonstrate steampunk design and technology in that fantastic world as described above. I researched further and Googled steampunk interiors that led to completed steampunk designed rooms using all types of gears, tubes, and gizmos of various types, all from old steam engines and salvaged from closed factories. Then I found photos of maritime ship parts and instruments salvaged from ships of the past. Perfect! Now I know why our customer left our showroom with such excitement. He had discovered a gold mine of nautical steampunk!

Nautical brass porthole re-purposed
into an end table.
There are numerous nautical items that can be incorporated into a steampunk room. Ship's binnacles and telegraphs, early ship's lamps and lighting, compasses, portholes and windows made of brass, old brass steam whistles, brass or bronze steering stations, old blocks and bells, steam gauges, sextants and octants, marine clocks and barometers are all good choices to use in the steampunk environment. Furniture can be produced using old hatch covers with metal banded ends, teak grates, portholes and windows re-purposed into coffee and end tables. Spot lights, cage lights, passageway lights and fox lights suspended on metal poles or chains for overhead lighting. These are all perfect items for creating a beautiful steampunk nautical interior! 

Images below are just a few of the many authentic old maritime items that would be great choices for creating a magnificent steampunk interior. You may want to bookmark the NEW! Just In! section of our web store to be the first to see our latest arrivals as they come available. Cheers!
Copper and brass ship's spotlight.

Brass ship's porthole with battle cover would be a super item for a steampunk room.
Old ships steering station with brass wheel

Late 19th century ships binnacle.

Hatch cover coffee table with metal banded ends.
90 degree nautical passageway or engine room light.
Ships window re-purposed in to a mirror.

Teak ships grate table.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
Visit our website for current gallery showroom hours.
Shop our web gallery 24/7!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Maritime Carvers- The Art of the Tiller

Carved oak tiller, England or NW Europe, late 17th-early 18th century. A fine oak tiller arm carved with the head of a sea serpent and ball terminus. 45 1/2 inches in length.

As a maritime dealer and collector, I am always seeking to acquire exceptional examples of wood carvings that were produced during the "Age of Sail."  Wood carvings which decorated ships during the 17th, 18th and 19th century are sometimes all that remain from the vessels built during that time.  We know that ship carvers specialized in producing quality decorative work for maritime environments on ships, boats and yachts were a trade in to itself and different from those that built ships.Typical examples of their work would include figureheads, nameboards, trailboards for boats and unique yacht interiors out of wood.

In this article we will take a look at the art of the carved tiller arm that sometimes embellished great yachts and naval gigs that carried wealthy merchants and ship captains from  sea to shore. These were at times garnished with carvings of figures such as animal heads, folded hands and monkeys fist in terminus. Sometimes the length of the tiller was carved with elaborate rope turnings, snake bodies and end with rectangular panels with stylized acanthus leaves and other foliation, stars and other favored decorations of the period carved inside.  Among the works produced by marine carvers throughout the centuries, authentic carvings off of actual ships continue to be highly prized and sought after and becoming increasingly more difficult to find.

Here's a selection of exceptionally carved tiller arms made during the 19th century by those that specialized in maritime carvings.

 A carved mahogany and brass small yacht or launch tiller, probably English, circa 1880.  The tiller has a monkey fist end followed by a multi strand rope carved shaft which transcends into a four sided rectangular shape with carved flags on the top and sides.  The rear section of the tiller is rectangular in shape with a curved end.  There is a slot at the center where the tiller slipped over the rudder.  The rear section is wrapped with brass around its outside surface.  Dimension:  Length 26 1/2 inches. Hyland Granby, Hyannisport, MA.

A carved mahogany and brass small yacht or launch tiller, probably English, circa 1880.

A 19th century carved tiller handle with rope-turned center, pointed finger terminus and carved foliate panels at other end. Measures slightly over 22 inches in length. Kahn Fine Antiques, Chatham, Massachusetts.

A 19th century carved tiller handle with rope-turned center, pointed finger terminus and carved foliate panels at other end.
Tiller handle hand with finger terminus.

A 19th century carved yacht tiller. This exceptional tiller was made in mahogany and elaborately carved in a rope-work pattern with a monkey fist at the head, a brass collar forming the grip, a Turk's Head closing off the rope work which continues down the entire length to the squared off post end, with panels carved in relief decorated with carved ribbons. The end in the form of a wedge to fit in the rudder post. 85 in. (215.9 cm.) length. Sold for $17,500.00 at Christie's Auction 15 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

This exceptional tiller was made in mahogany and elaborately carved in a rope-work pattern with a monkey fist at the head.

A finely carved oak and brass yacht  tiller arm, British Isles, mid to late 19th century. Elaborately carved and has the typical reverse curved shape.The end of the tiller features a carved dolphin with a brass collar just below forming the grip. The turned post transcends into an octagonal length which continues and curves down to a blocked section to the squared off post end. The end in the form of a wedge to fit in the rudder post. Survives in good condition with a wonderful old patina and original surface. Measures 58 inches in overall length. A rare tiller and an exceptional example of maritime artistry. Skipjack Nautical Wares & Marine Gallery, Portsmouth, Virginia.

The end of the tiller features a carved dolphin with a brass collar just below forming the grip. 
The turned post transcends into an octagonal length which continues and curves down to a blocked section to the squared off post end. 

 A carved wood tiller in tapered form with a turned top half ending in a carved animal head with wide gaping mouth holding a ball with five pointed star. Bronze hardware is present. All in a very nice old dark patina. SIZE: 59."  James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, Maine.

A carved wood tiller in tapered form with a turned top half ending in a carved animal head with wide gaping mouth.

A rare carved snake form boat tiller.  This example was described to be a late 19th century American tiller,  carved out of maple or birch. This carving is finely executed while evoking a whimsical and folky feeling in the snake's face. This is a wonderful example of how a utilitarian object can transcend into a work of art. Condition: Retaining original varnish finish and brass mounts. Dimensions:  32 1/2."  Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, Litchfield, Connecticut.

A rare carved American snake form boat tiller, late 19th century.
Side view of a carved American snake form boat tiller, late 19th century.

Celtic Cat Ship's Tiller Arm. The last example is a rudder arm with such fine detailed carving would have stood out from the more mundane examples, and offers lasting appreciation as both a valuable maritime antique and as a fine example of the carver’s art. Due to wood’s inability to hold up against years of exposure to salt water and weather, only a very small percentage of the decorative ships’ carvings survive into the 21st Century.

 An extremely well preserved and presented hardwood tiller arm features a Celtic Cat laying ‘couchant’, its heraldic pose completed with the imaginary continuation the cat’s body as the full length of the wood artifact. The cat is aggressively showing its teeth in fierce armament. Deeply grained and expertly shaped with consideration for the grain pattern, the wood resembles English Oak, but is quite light in weight and of extreme age. The well-preserved tiller has a leather covered neck grip showing visible signs of the wear caused by tied lines to keep the rudder on a straight course. The grip is bounded with knot-work ring collars. The curvature of the rudder-steering device would allow for a captain to navigate from the stern cockpit of what was undoubtedly a decent sized sailing ship. The length is carved in a quite nice stylized rope braid, and the "klick board" has a floral design motif carved just forward of where the arm would mount into the rudder head. Vallejo Gallery, Newport Beach, California.

Celtic Cat Ship's Tiller Arm.

The "klick board" has a floral design motif carved just forward of where the arm would mount into the rudder.

Skipjack Nautical Wares 
& Marine Art Gallery
620 High Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704
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