Stonemasons’ hand tools have great symbolic importance in Freemasonry – for they are used in the metaphorical sense to represent the progress of Masons in learning the skills of self-improvement.
Traditionally, the working tools that stonemasons were permitted to use was related directly to the level of their skills. Thus junior semi-skilled masons learned how to gauge and hew rough stone with hammer and chisel, ready for perfect finishing by the more skilled craftsman.
The skilled craftsman took his instructions from the foreman, responsible for assembling the structure using builder’s squares, levels and plumb lines. He in turn, took his instructions from the Master responsible for design and layout, and who used draftsman’s equipment.
And so it is, in the three first steps of progress in Freemasonry, known as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd “Degrees”, each has a set of stonemasons’ tools associated with it.
A Mason in the 1st Degree is known as an “Entered Apprentice”; in the 2nd Degree, a “Fellowcraft Freemason”; in the 3rd Degree, a “Master Mason”.