List of words “used” in the Cornish tin mines


 S words

Sala’™ Block A fall arrest device, generally placed on grizzlies. A wire line allowed the wearer to move around but would jam fast on sudden movement, such as the wearer slipping or falling. 

Safety Fuse

A core of gunpowder sheathed inside a textile and water resistant covering. A detonator is crimped to one end and the length determined by situation. It burns at 30 seconds per foot. 

Safety Lamp

A flame lamp burning oil but as the air and any gasses entering it are enclosed in   gauze and glass shielding there is no danger of the exterior atmosphere being exposed to the flame. The colour and burning of the flame indicates gasses present in the atmosphere, therefore it is mandatory to carry one in old workings and poorly ventilated places.

The taking of a small amount of rock proportionaly across a lode or from a wagon to be assayed to give an indication of the value of the whole.           Sample Bag – A small Hessian sack into which a sample is placed, together with a tag indicating its source.
Grab Sample – a handful of dirt taken from a wagon at periodic intervals during a   shift’s tramming by a crew, giving a rough indication as to the grade of the ore trammed.
Sample Hammer – A geologist’s hand hammer, with one head pointed for prising out pices of rock, the other being a small flat head for breaking pieces of rock into the desired size.
Sample Tag – Generally a small metal tag with a number or letter code, put in the sample bag to indentify it. The sampler or shift boss keeping a record of tags used or issued.

‘Satisfactory’ Book

The common term used by shift bosses and other officials of a mine for the M&Q Shift Inspection book as, if everything is in order, the usual comment was ‘Satisfactory’ in the appropriate spaces. 


A term for barring down, more generally used in North America. (see Bar; Down)
Scaling Bar – As above, a bar for scaling ( Barring Down)

Scoop Tram

Term used for a Load; Haul; Dump machine, a diesel (or electric) powered, self steered vehicle with a large bucket of various capacities. Those used at Wheal Jane had a capacity of xx tonnes and were used to muck out headings and stopes, dumping the dirt into passes. SC used two on sinking Tuckingmill Decline.


A mechanical device with drums on which wire rope is wound. The rope is attached to a hoe which is dragged back and forth, pulling broken rock to where required.
Scraper Block – A heavy duty snatch block through which the tail rope of a scraper hoe is taken to pull it back away from the scraper winch.            Scraper Hoe – A curved or angled steel plate with a yoke and attachments to connect it to the wire ropes. 
Scraper Ramp – A construction to go over a wagon with a duckbill ramp at the front, a scraper winch fastened to the back, and a hole through which the broken rock, dragged up the ramp, falls through into the wagon below.
Scraper Rope – The wire ropes used to move the scraper hoe back and forth.
2 Drum Scraper – A winch with one winding drum pulling the hoe forwards and one pulling it back (the tail rope)
3 Drum Scraper – A winch with one drum pulling the hoe forwards and two, running through snatch blocks at separate points, pulling the hoe to any desired spot between the tail blocks. 

Secondary Basting

The breaking of oversize rock by means of explosives either placed on the surface (Bombs) or with short shot holes (Pops), and the bringing down of hang-ups by bombs or staff blasting. 


A metal can worn on the belt that, when a fire occurs, is broken open and the breathing device inside is placed over the mouth. The device does not provide oxygen but converts highly poisonous carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide which, though suffocating, gives the wearer time to find a source of good breathable air. 


The area in which a mine can legally and exclusively extract ore, paying a royalty to the mineral owner.

sett  the tunnels of a mine.


A vertical or steeply inclined hole through which access, ventilation and services can be provided for a mine.  
Adit Shaft – A shaft sunk between surface and an adit to provide access when driving the adit for removal of broken rock, ventilation, etc.
Air Shaft – A shaft put down for the provision of ventilation, more usually associated with long railway tunnels.
Decline Shaft – a shallow dipping roadway that can be provided with pedestrian access, conveyor transportation, and vehicular use.
Shaft Man – a person whose duties include maintenance and repair to shafts, also to oversee certain operations in transportation through a shaft.
Underlay Shaft – A non vertical-shaft, often following the lode down and as a consequence some underlay shafts have a number of changes in dip. Shaft Work – The on-going maintenance and repair of working shafts to keep them in good order.

Shammel The use of a second stage in a pumping, ore raising or other operation.


The fault line caused by geological activity in moving one mass of rock against another.

Sheave Wheel

A wheel with a groove in its perimeter in which a rope rune. Generally applied to the wheels in a mine headgear around which the cage and skip ropes run.

Sheer Legs

Two or three lengths of stout timber, fastened securely at the top and from which hoisting tackle is suspended to be used to lift a heavy load.


The regular period of a day in which a person works.
Shift Boss – The mine official in direct charge of a section of a mine during a particular period.

shifter   adjustable spanner.


(Common term for an adjustable spanner, a ubiquitous tool carried by most miners, often swinging from the lamp belt.)
shoe peg

double metal peg, with bracket between to hold piece of wood.

sheaf wheels

the two big wheels at the top of the mines headgear.

shoe(s) a open metal clamp(s) to hold the slider in the web of the rail.
shot    ‘to fire’ a hole filled with explosive


An explosive charge, generally in a hole drilled for the purpose.             Shot Fire – The firing, or initiation, of an explosive charge. 
Shot Firer – A person having authorisation to fire shots.


Generally a blade with handle for digging into and moving loose material.
Air Shovel – A compressed air powered, mechanical loading shovel that is driven forward into a pile of broken rock, picking up a bucketful, then discharges the load into a wagon, or whatever, behind it by the bucket, attached to curved arms,rolling backwards over the deck of the machine. Banjo Shovel – The common term for a short T-handled shovel with a curved V-shaped blade, the best shape for manually digging into and shovelling away broken rock.
Cornish Shovel – A long straight handled shovel with a flat V-shaped blade, used where space allows  to prevent unnecessary bending of the back.
Long Handled Shovel–Any shovel, V or straight edged with a long straight handle
Mucker Shovel – Another name for an Air Shovel (see above) 

shunt  a ‘siding’ to park & shunt empty wagons in a drive.

The walls on either side of a drive, stope, etc.
Side Holes – The shot holes drilled down either side of a development heading that form the side walls


The tokens given via a knocker line or electric bell system indicating to the hoist driver what  the signaller requires him to do.
Signal Board – A board at most points where tokens can be transmitted giving the official code of signals to be used.
Signal Code – The various combinations of tokens and pauses that make up a simple knocker line or electric bell system.
Shaft Signal – A series of tokens given to inform the hoist driver what to do.


a) a person involved in the physical work of sinking a shaft or winze.
b) a heavy rock drill with a T-handle used for drilling holes downwards


The mining of a hole downwards for a shaft or winze.
Sinking Bucket – A bucket attached to a frame work and rope that is used for removing the broken rock (or water) from a shaft or winze being developed.
Shaft Sinking – The highlt skilled (and potentially dangerous) task of sinking a shaft, sometimes for thousands of feet.


A form of rock crusher comprising two moving rollers fitted with teeth, through which broken rock is fed to break any oversize down to that required, generally for loading into a conveyor or skip hoisting system.


Colloquial (Cornish?) term applied to excessive amounts of water in general circumstances, i.e. when a hose connection is spraying water everywhere. Also applies to heavy rain (skeeting down).  


A bin fitted with guide wheels or sliders, and tipping facilities used for transporting broken rock through a mine shaft.
Bottom Dump Skip – A skip fitted with appropriate catches and wheels that, when going through the shaft headgear profile, the lower part of the skip body is directed outwards until it both clears the bottom door and is over the the surface bin, thus allowing the load inside to be discharged. Skip Road – A compartment fitted with guides or track through which a skip operates
Skip Shaft – A shaft used exclusively for skip hoisting.
Side Dump Skip – A skip that, when going through the shaft headgear profile, is turned over to an angle sufficient to discharge its contents into a collecting bin.
Skip Winder – A winding engine used exclusively for operating a skip hoisting system, usually fitted with two drums and two skips or, less commonly, one skip & a counterweight.

Skull cap Small, generally white, cotton cap worn under safety helmet before use of modern plastic helmets with soft cradle.
slap dab A small amount of dynamite similar in size to a 20 cigs packet, used to break large rocks.
slashing (also called stripping or slyping) when the ‘sides’ are extended.

A simple steel plate with a bottom plate and guides used to transport equipment and materials up and down a length of standard ladder. The guides fit within the ladder sides and a small hoist, attached to the sled by means of a wire rope, raises and lowers it.


a piece of wood, 6” x 4” x 36” to lay and fix rails on.


A stout piece of timber upon which rail is laid to form railway track. Light track has sleepers of 6”x4” cross section, heavy track has ones of 8”x6”. Most underground track has a spacing of 2ft to 3ft between sleepers.   Sleeper Pit – The hole dug in the vamping in which the sleeper is laid. The depth of the pit depends on the existing track position, gradient, etc

Slickenside A geological term for a cleavage plane which has a clay layer, causing it to slip, shear, or fall away with little warning.
Slider A section of rail laid on its side with the head within the inner web of an upright rail. Two such sliders are laid within the last set of track in a development heading and pushed forwards periodically as the muck is removed, thus enabling the rail mounted air shovel to reach the muck pile. The flanges on the air shovel rail wheels run in the web of the slider rails keeping them supported and ‘on track’ so to speak. (see also Eimco clamp)

a rail turned on its side.


The very finely ground rock that gravitates down through the waterways of a mine to gather in sumps and gutters. Often a source of glutinous mud used for mud capping, etc..
Slime Bay – A settling pond for collecting slimes, the water coming to the pumps being diverted through a number of such bays (with baffles), the flow speed being reduced to allow the solids time to drop out.
Slimes Dam – Another term for a slime bay, as above.
Slimes Pump – A pump designed for the pumping of semi-solid materials, often with few moving parts to reduce wear. (See also Sludge Pump)       Slime Skip – A purpose made skip with an opening at the top for loading via a large diameter pipe and a valve beneath for discharging the contents.


The operation, also called desliming, carried it periodically to remove the slime build up in sumps used for collecting mine water for pumping to surface. The pumps would wear rapidly if allowed to pump the fin but abrasive material. Generally slime bays or settling ponds have valves and systems allowing the slimes to be drained off once the water flowing through the bay is stopped.


The mining of a section of ground by lines of shot holes to remove a corner, to get back on lode, to provide more space, to recover lode material left behind in a stope, etc. (see also Slash; Side)


The fine to very fine ground rock produced by drilling and blasting operations in a mine, and generally mixed with grit, grease and oil to form a heavy, glutinous sticky material. (See also Slimes)
Sludge Pump – A device using a vacuum effect to suck sludge, mud, fine grit and even gravel into a chamber, then compressed air is used to force the contents through a suitable pipe to a discharge point.
Sludge Sample – A sample of lode or other rock collected by diverting  the mixture of water and drilling fines issuing from a hole being drilled into a receptacle. The fines once settled are then taken for analysis.
Sludging X-Cut - The tunnels under slime bays into which the slimes in the bays are run when desliming operations are underway.  (See Slime and Sliming)


Another term for a scraper (see under Scraper). This term is usually associated with N America, and probably the more usual term worldwide


To heat concentrated metal ore to remove the unwanted fraction and recover the metal content.
smoke the gas product of detonating dynamite.

Snatch Block

A robust pulley wheel mounted in a housing fitted with a hook or ring to hang it where required. One side of the housing has a moveable section to facilitate the insertion of the rope to use the block. Often used for scraper and small hoisting systems.


The remains of a shothole after blasting. They can generally be found in the perimeter holes of a round and must be checked thoroughly for the remains of any explosive..
socket a ‘blasted’ hole that has not broken fully.

Sound (ing)

The action of tapping supposedly solid rock to see if it rings ‘true’ showing it is secure. If it sounds ‘hollow’ steps need to be taken to bar it down or otherwise make it safe. 


A short length of wood, generally 8” long put between sticks of explosive in a burn cut to avoid overcharging. Spacers can only be used with nitroglycerins based explosives, more modern ones needing to be touching for initiation to take place.


A small metal tag with a hole from which a cord with plumb-bob can be      suspended, a sharp point at one end and a number stamped into it, used for survey work
Spar Term commonly used for quartz type rock.


A long thin steel rod with a flattened head and wedge point used in place of nails to secure timber together. The general lengths were 9” and 12”.
Dog Spike – Another term for a Dog


The dirt that spills from around the skips when they are being loaded. It generally falls to the bottom of the shaft, confined by timber bratticing to the skip compartments.
Spillage Bucket – A bucket attached via a wire rope to a hoist and used to lift the spillage to a suitable dumping point.
Spillage Chute – A chute with closable door near the bottom of the spillage compartments from where the spillage bucket is filled when required.
Spillage Pile – The heap of spillage at the bottom of a shaft where a drive intersects it from another shaft or working.


A number of applications, amongst them are :-
a) A length of timber or metal bar jammed between two points to prevent one of them from moving, for instance between the side wall and a rail to keep it in temporarily in place until repairs can be carried out.
b) As  above but used to force something, say a derailed air shovel back on track by lifting and pushing it sideways.
c) A piece of timber or metal put under or through a wheel to prevent a wagon or other vehicle from moving.

spragg Item use to lift mucker, wagon or loco back on track or to hold a rail in a semi-permanent position


A system of water jets over a permanent source of dust, a crusher or sizer for instance, to kill any dust produced.
spike rod of metal 6” x ½” with head, for fixing sward to vee.
Spud Usual term for either a screw thread or snap coupling used to join hose ends to a valve at the supply end of pipework


A short length of drive development for a number of reasons amongst them being a start for a possible future drive, or as a refuge or siding to keep a piece of  equipment out of the way when not in actual use.

Square Set

Timber constructions in series built so as to provide support in weak ground, and a framework for compartments in shafts.


A length of small section timber for various purposes
Blasting Staff – Lengths of timber of around 2”x2” crosssection used in staff blasting. The lengths can be joined together with small bolts, and rough wooden wheels with crossbar are sometimes attached to the head end to ease pushing them up a long distance.
Staff Blasting – A method of Secondary blasting whereby a bomb is attached to a blasting staff and pushed up to a hang-up or large rock to dislodge it.
Measuring Staff – Two lengths of planed wood held together and able to slide along each other by means of two square hoops, one attached to each piece, and one having a thumbscrew to tighten them together at the required distance. A vital tool for a timberman when constructing timber chutes. 


what one stands on & works off when face is elevated.


Lengths of plank placed on staging pegs or other bearers to provide a secure platform for working on, particularly in boxholes and raises, and for working in shafts and rearings.  A staging tends to be temporary, a Plat is a more permanent structure.
Staging Board – Generally lengths of 3”x8” planks used for drilling over rounds of shotholes in development work.


A short drill steel, usually 2ft long used sometimes as the first steel to use in drilling holes. Often used for drilling peg holes for pipes and staging as the short length makes life easier when drilling in confined spaces.


An opened out area of a drive adjacent to a shaft or other feature where the transfer of personnel, equipment and materials from one to the other takes place. Generally fitted with multiple track, automatic stops, signalling devices, service control valves, telephones, tannoy systems, First Aid facilities, etc.
Stem The placing of inert material into the mouth of a shot hole after charging up and tamping it firmly into place to minimise ejection of explosive when holes are fired.


Inert material used to stem holes, wet cardboard from explosives boxes and clay in plastic capsules are often used. Loose dirt, and even water, is used in down holes.

the last piece of material to go in a shot hole.

Stock Work

A geological term for a massive deposit comprising an igneous rock in which small lodes and stringers carrying ore bearing minerals are running in every direction.

stoll piece large tree trunk, used in construction of a chute or cousin jack

The area in a lode where extraction of ore is taking place. (When a stope is finished it then becomes a gunnis or gunnies)
Stope Back – The roof of a stope being mined
Back Stope – A stope worked by the back being drilled and blasted, thus working upwards towards the level above.
Stope Bench – The ‘steps’ in a stope depending on the length of drill steel used and height or length of bench required for optimum working.
Rill Stope – A long shrink stope worked from a rearing at one end and advanced along an extended rill to the original floor at the other, until the block is considered long enough, then another rearing is installed and stoped as a conventional shrink stope. 
Shrink Stope - A type of back stope where the broken rock is left after blasting to   provide a floor for the miner to stand on whilst drilling, etc. the next slice above. Some of the broken rock has to be ‘pulled’ to provide sufficient space for working   as broken rock takes up half as much volume again as when in the solid.
Underhand Stope – A stope worked by benches drilled downwards to form steps of the required depth. In order to keep mucking the steps clean to a minimum the steps are deeper than their floor is long so producing a steep angle downwards overall. The advantage of an underhand stope is that the broken ore is available immediately for pulling and does not hang up through concretion. Sinker type rock drills were often used for this task. Because of the inherent danger of having a roof well out of reach to make safe this method fell out of use in the 70’s.


A rock drill permanently attached to a pneumatic leg beneath, the whole forming one fixed length with an L-shaped  handle on one side. With the leg limited to a lift of approximately 2ft 6ins, four changes of steel are required to drill an 8ft  shothole. The machine exhaust points downwards, thus keeping it out of the operators face, and it is ideal for use in drilling vertical or near vertical holes.

stoper drill  a rock drill made for drilling upwards (near to vertical)
stoping mining carried out on the ‘lode’ between levels.

Geological term for the layers of rock, particularly the bedded planes of sedimentary rock

Stringer A narrow lode carrying ore bearing minerals. Stringers are generally associated with more substantial  lodes and are sometimes mined due to the value of the ore they contain.
Strip (Stripping) Another term for Slashing and Sliping. See under Slipe
Strong Back A robust  steel girder on which considerable weight and/or force can be
stubb drive or "stubb" raise. A short blind drive or raise


An upright timber in square set timbering, keeping the sets apart.


A stout  timber, usually a  whole length of tree trunk, used in the basic construction of a timber chute, being the two timbers placed at an angle over the drive to which the legs, back carrier and side boards are fastened, and upon which the brow and other covering rest. Stulls are also used under open holes, stopes, etc. to carry protective covering, support for side walls, as the supports for bridges and other uses where strength is required.
Sub-Level A substantial development drive between main levels of a mine where stope production, particularly long hole drilling, takes place. 


A basin or pit in which water is gathered from gurtters and drains. This water is then fed into a pump system directly or allowed to run via pipes to lower levels where pumps are situated. The sump is regularly cleared of settled solids such as mud, slimes and grit.
Sump Pump – A submersible pump capable of pumping water with accumulated solids.
Sump Shaft – An old term denoting a shaft in a mine to where the mine water is channelled and gathered for pumping.


The area of the mine at ground level, also referred to as ‘at grass’.

Survey (ing)

The technology used to determine the position of places in relation to other places. Mine surveying involves taking sights back to a shaft and transferring them back either down another shafts or to another level, using set points when ever the line of sight is obscured, which is at almost every twist in the drives.
Survey Peg – A spad hammered into a small wood plug that has been inserted into a small hole drilled for the purpose at a salient point. A cord with plumb-bob is then suspended from the peg to create a point for survey work
Survey Crew – Two or three persons who do a survey task. One person is required to operate the theodolite or other surveying device, the others to hold survey staffs, lights, etc.

sward & vee a simple ‘point’ or ‘switch’ in the track.
switch a set of rail points.


A construction of trackwork which guides railway vehicles onto the desired track where there is a divergence of ways. Switches are also known as Points and Turnouts.
Three-Way Switch – A switch with three sets of track running from it, for instance where a crosscut intersects a drive, with a track going in each direction of the drive and the centre track continuing along the crosscut. Formerly common on lighter gauge rail systems. Two-Way Switch – A switch with one track proceeding in a straight line and the      other having a bend to either left or right.
Y-Switch – A switch in which the two tracks emerging from it have one bending to the left, the other to the right, also known simply as a Y(Wye).

Peter Hughes has supplied words of this colour
D.C.Williams at Exeter University, better known as Gus. has supplied words of this colour
The remainder are supplied by Michael Davis