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Round and square tucks, transoms and stern pieces

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Posted (edited)

Please excuse my ignorance, but I have seen several discussions of "round tuck" and "square tuck" and they are all as clear as mud. What is the part that is curved in a round tuck?


There are "stern pieces" and "transoms" and these terms seem to be used interchangeably.


There is the aft most, more or less vertical planking below the rail that is sometimes decorated and carries the vessel's name. It is usually called the transom in modern vessels. It can be flat or curved from side to side.


Then there is the transverse (side to side) planking below the stern piece/transom that extends down and forward to the stern post that the rudder post usually passes through. The planking below the stern is sometimes shown flat or curved (along the centerline). I initially interpreted this to be  the "flat  or "round" tuck. But it can also be flat or curved transversely, with the part at the centerline more aft than at the sides. So is this the curve of the round tuck?


But then I learned that some people say the "round" or "square" tuck had nothing to do with the curvature of the transom or stern piece but was the way the fore and aft planking terminated at the bottom of the planking below the stern (whether curved or flat either vertically and/or transversely).


So there are four possible curvatures that could be interpreted by a novice as "round," and very few (if any) writers seem to understand the potential for confusion and just assume everyone knows what they are thinking. Some might call this "functional illiteracy" or the inability to communicate effectively.


So can someone tell me what is the common or "official" names for:


1. The more or less vertical piece that extends up to the top rail? It is typically made of horizontal planking that may be flat or curved transversely (side to side).


2. The angled planking below this piece (that the rudder post usually passes through) that can be flat or curved vertically along the centerline, and flat or curved horizontally transversely?


3. An accurate description of round tuck and square tuck and how it relates to 1 and 2?

Edited by Dr PR
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Posted (edited)

A little clarification. as the terms are not synonymous: The STERN is the aft most part of a ship or boat. The 

Transom is the aft most bulkhead that makes up the stern of the ship or boat. 

  1. square tuck

    The after-part of a ship's bottom, when terminated in the same direction up and down as the wing-transom.

Edited by Oldsalt1950
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The tuck is the upper part of the lower hull at the stern. It can be flat, with a kind of wineglass shape (a square tuck) or rounded with the bottom planking curving diagonally up to meet the wing transom (a round tuck). This part of the lower hull is also referred to as the buttock


A transom is the flat aft end of an open boat, also wine glass shaped.


Above the wing transom in both cases is a usually concave section in profile. projecting aft through which the rudder passes. This is the counter or, in large ships, the lower counter. In the latter case there is also a more vertical and usually slightly concave upper counter. The uppermost portion of the stern, often decorative, is the tafferel or taffrail.

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Good Evening Phil;


The answer to your question is probably best explained by photographs; basically, a square tuck stern has a large flat area, approximately vertical, with planking, which is separate from the hull planking, laid diagonally. A round tuck stern has the hull planking continued through a rising, curving line until it reaches the lower counter, or 'tuck' line. Note that in both designs, the tuck line is in the same place, roughly in line with the bottom of the main wale.


The first picture below is of a round tuck stern, the second of a square tuck.


A round tuck gives more effect to the rudder by allowing the water a smoother run to it; at least, that was the reasoning for it, I seem to recall. A square tuck was introduced to give stronger support for guns placed in the stern when such things first came into vogue. In English ships this was changed back to a round tuck in the 16th century, whereas Dutch (for example) retained the square tuck for much longer.


All the best,


Mark P




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Posted (edited)



Thanks. Those are very good illustrations of the round and square tuck.


When I tried to decipher some of the descriptions I found I ran into a lot of new terminology that I was unfamiliar with that made the descriptions incomprehensible. So I did a bit of research and compiled a lot of information from nine sources on wooden ship building. I thought this information might be useful to others so I have put it together in this drawing.




The key term that came up over and over was wing transom. It is the rear most horizontal beam. It is set into the stern post and extends out to the fashion pieces. Below this are several other transoms called first, second, third, etc. that support the planking and strengthen the stern. These transoms may support planking of internal decks, and are then called deck transoms.


The part of the aft end of the ship below the wing transom is the tuck or buttocks. The part above is the stern. However some authors say the part immediately above the wing transom is the counter, and it extends up to the lower window frames (if any). In this case the stern extends from the counter to the top rail.


The counter is divided into a lower counter, which is a concave part of the planking that extends the stern back past the rudder post. The rudder post passes through an opening in the lower counter. The upper counter extends above the knuckle between lower and upper counters to the lowest window frame (if there is one). The stern is framed by the vertical counter timbers that rest on the wing transom.


The taffrail (tafferel) is the upper part of the stern above the windows or counter. However some authors also use taffrail to mean the rail across the top of the stern, and this is common usage on modern vessels.


The fashion pieces are the aft most complete frames that determine the shape of the hull at the stern. They attach to the stern post at the keel and the ends of the transoms, and extend up to the top rail. I have noticed that it is common to use the term fashion pieces interchangeably with quarter badge, but none of the authors I read agree with this usage. Quarter badges are curved pieces that attach outboard of the ends of the side planking and extend the width of the stern, giving the stern a rounded appearance from astern. On vessels with quarter galleries the structure of the gallery serves the purpose of the quarter badge.


This all applies to ships before the  mid 1800s. After this the shape of the sterns of ships changed radically, with round and elliptical sterns and eventually the elliptical transom. But even with these changes the same names and functions of the framing were still used.




Davis, Charles G., Ship Models How to Build Them, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1953.

Desmond, Charles, Wooden Ship-Building, The Rudder Publishing Co., New York, 1919.

Dressel, Donald, Planking Techniques for Model Ship Builders, Tab Books, New York, 1988.

Falconer, William, Universal Dictionary of the Marine, T. Caldwell, London, 1769.

Landstrom, Bjorn, Sailing Ships, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, NY, 1969.

Marquardt, Karl Heinz, The Global Schooner, Naval Institute Press, Annappolis, 2003.

McCann, Armitage, Ship Model Making, Norman Henley Publishing Co., New York, 1926.

Mondfeld, Wolfram, Historic Ship Models, Sterling Publishing Co., New York, 1989.

Steffy, Richard, Illustrated Glossary of Ship and Boat Terms, Oxford University Press, 2013.

Edited by Dr PR
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