In the shipyard, these tools are improvisations. They’re “binders,” as in “load binders.” They come with hooks on the ends and are used to tighten down chains when securing cargo or equipment for shipping. Or, maybe you’ve seen them on logging trucks. Then one day perhaps someone needed more hands than he had, and realized that if he took off the hooks, and bolted steel tabs in their places, the tabs could be welded to either side of a joint to hold it in place, and the joint could be adjusted with the binder. That guy was a genius.

In the shipyard, people call these binders or ratchets or turnbuckles. If you call it a turnbuckle, there’s always one guy who says, “That’s not a turnbuckle,” and he’s right. And some people don’t catch on if you call it a binder because the term, while accurate, is not relevant to the task at hand. The task is ratcheting huge sheets of steel together until a thin, precise gap separates them, then holding them in place while a welder tacks them together.

So, most everyone knows what a guy means when he calls for a ratchet. To see them in action is to witness mechanical advantage and brute endurance.

If you’re the guy calling, sometimes pointing and calling it “that” is the fastest way to make progress. There are usually no questions. If you’re working with someone who is good, he’s already handing it to you, and it doesn’t matter what it’s called.

A glance, a few clinks, scrapes and rattles as it’s set into place. You say “Eyes!” and the torch flashes blinding blue light. Another few clicks, a measurement, a couple hammer taps. “Eyes!” again, more light.
“Hell yeah” when it’s done, and on to the next.