A Masonic trestle board is a design board for the
Master Workman (Architect) to draw his plans and designs
upon to give the workmen an outline of the work to be
performed. In today's terms, we might call it a
It is one of the 3 Movable jewels.
A trestle board is a framework consisting of (usually 3)
vertical, slanted supports (or legs) with one or more
horizontal crosspieces on which to hang or display an
item. Today, it is better known as an "easel".
Some jurisdictions around the world call it a tracing
board. It would be somewhat of a "circular logic" task
to argue the difference, as, while neither can be fully
proven (in historical writings), the "Tracing board" may
very well have predicated (come before) the use of the
word "Trestleboard" because lodges in Europe (which
pre-date American lodges), use the word "Tracing Board".
Hiram's Tracing Board:
Hiram Abif's tracing board is believed to have been made
of wood, covered with a coating of wax. Each day he
would draw his Master architect's measurements and
symbols into the wax in order to instruct his Master
Masons of the work that was to be accomplished.
At the end of the day, he would simply scrape off the
wax and pour a new layer of hot wax onto the board to
ready it for the next day's work.
Masonic Tracing Board:
Much later, in the days where lodge was held in secret
areas and on hills and vales, (valleys) once lodge was
in session, the Tiler (or Tyler) would draw an oblong
(rectangular) or oblong square depiction (image) into
the dirt that represented the form of the lodge.
Again, onto that tracing board was drawn the architect's
plan...the working tools in the degree that was to be
Masonic Trestle Board: Through the years, the Masonic
Tracing Board progressed to charcoal or chalk on the
floor of taverns where lodges were held back in the
1700s. After the lecture, the Stewards or the Entered
Apprentice, as a lesson in secrecy, would get a mop and
bucket and remove all trace of these drawings.
This, obviously, was a somewhat tedious and messy
procedure, so cloths or rugs were created which could be
laid onto the floor and simply folded up when the
lecture was complete.
Later, these cloths (or rugs) were placed onto a table.
As time passed, they were finally hung onto an
easel...(a trestle board) much like a drawing board at a
construction site where each workman could receive clear
instruction as to what his specific participation
When the team's work was completed, it was obvious that
each Master Mason not only understood their specific
part in the undertaking, but how their part (no matter
how small), contributed to the construction of the
entire edifice (building).
The meaning of the words "Nothing further remains
to be done, according to ancient custom, except to
disarrange our emblems" is a reference to the now
antiquated use of these trestleboards (or tracing
boards) during which the dirt on the ground was erased
or the chalk marks on the floor of these lodges was
mopped or scrubbed, to leave no trace of the form of the
Lodge or the contents drawn thereon.
The reason why our lines of travel are at right angles
within the lodge and thus the reason that we "square"
the lodge is a "throwback" to the antiquity of the
If the brethren were to walk atop the markings made in
the dirt on hill and vale; atop the chalk on the floor
of the taverns; or tread upon and thus soil the cloths
or rugs used to provide the workings of that degree, the
message of that lecture which was being worked could be
partially or fully destroyed.
Therefore, "Squaring the Lodge" in a semi-military-like
precision, goes back many centuries as the means of
preserving the ritual and the degrees being worked so as
not to destroy the symbolism of their markings before
their usefulness on that day has been completed.
...and now you know "The
Rest of the Story!"
Many modern-day lodges now simply use a bulletin or
electronic newsletter to notify the brethren of a degree
which will be worked. Others use PowerPoint or slide