As Masons, we are familiar with a wide variety of "Working Tools." Yet there is one, in particular, which is seldom heard of in America, but is nonetheless a useful and unique companion to the better-known symbolic instruments. It is the skirret.
Illþ Albert G. Mackey, 33ø, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, defines the term as:
In the English system the skirret is one of the working tools of a Master Mason. It is an implement which acts upon a center-pin, whence a line is drawn, chalked, and struck to mark out the ground for the foundation of the intended structure. Symbolically, it points to us that straight and undeviating line of conduct laid down for our pursuits in the volume of the Sacred Law.
What makes the skirret so special is that it is used before the foundation of a building is laid; and, therefore, the skirret is generally used before the other working tools.
A skirret allows a person to see the precise location for the foundation. Consequently, the surrounding ground can easily be designated for other purposes. Initial use of the skirret enables changes to be made to the mark rather than, later, to change a finished foundation of stone or concrete.
As Freemasons, our foundation is our own individual character. On that foundation we build the superstructure of honesty, integrity, loyalty, compassion, and brotherhood.
As American Freemasons, let us, like our British Brethren, remember to pick up this unique working tool, the skirret, and regularly use it to mark out the foundation of our character.
James A. Marples is a member of Sunflower Lodge No. 86, the Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Midian Shrine Temple, all located in Wichita, Kansas.