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A ship's wheel is the change its course. Together with the rest of the steering mechanism it forms part of the helm. Helmsmen on older ships used a tiller (a horizontal bar fitted directly to the top of the rudder post) or a whipstaff (a vertical stick acting on a tiller).
Early ships' wheels (c. 1700) were operated to correspond to the motion of the tiller, with a clockwise motion (corresponding to a right tiller motion) turning the rudder and thus the ship to the left.
A traditional ship's wheel is composed of eight cylindrical wooden spokes (though sometimes as few as six or as many as ten) shaped like balusters and all joined at a central wooden hub or nave (sometimes covered with a brass nave plate) which housed the axle.
The square hole at the centre of the hub through which the axle ran is called a drive square and was often lined with a brass plate (and therefore called a brass boss, though this term was used more often to refer to a brass hub and nave plate) which was frequently etched with the name of the wheel's manufacturer.
The outer rim is composed of four sections each made up of stacks of three felloes, the facing felloe, the middle felloe, and the after felloe. Because each group of three felloes at one time made up a quarter of the distance around the rim, the entire outer wooden wheel was sometimes called the quadrant.
Each spoke ran through the middle felloe creating a series of handles on the outside of the wheel's rim. One of these handles/ spokes was frequently given extra grooves at its tip which could be felt by a helmsman steering in the dark and used by him to determine the exact position of the rudder— this was the king spoke and when it pointed straight upward the rudder was dead straight. The wood used in construction of this type of wheel was most often either teak or mahogany.