History of Woodworking
Timber has been used for centuries by civilizations to create useful, beautiful and decorative items. Throughout history woodworking has featured prominently in architecture, religion, agriculture, recreational activities and survival.
By developing woodworking skills humans were able to hunt more effectively, create shelters, build boats and make life easier. Furniture, bowls and spoons were created by wood and were also produced as art. Woodworking led to the advancement of society.
Over 2000 years ago woodworkers were a very important part of society for the ancient Egyptians, Jewish, Roman, Greek and all other early civilizations. Many drawings depict wooden furniture such as beds, chairs, stools, tables and chests.
Below are some interesting facts regarding these ancient Woodworkers.
- The early Egyptians also crafted coffins from wood.
- Early Egyptians invented the art of veneering with the earliest examples being displayed in the tomb of Semekhet who died over 5000years ago. Many of the pharaohs were buried with objects that had African ebony veneer and ivory inlays.
- According to some scholars, Egyptians were the first to varnish, or “finish” their woodwork, though no one knows the composition of these “finishes”.
- Ancient Egyptians used mortise and tenon joints to join timber. Pegs, dowels and leather strengthened these joints.
- Egyptians started to use animal glue between 1570-1069 B.C.
- Axes, Adzes, chisel, pull saws and bow saws were the common tools of the early Egyptian woodworker.
- Early Chinese civilizations also promoted the art of woodworking. It’s believed that woodworking mushroomed in that country starting around 720 B.C. When that happened, the Chinese developed many sophisticated applications of woodworking, including precise measurements used for making pots, tables, and other pieces of furniture.
- Woodworkers today who practice the ancient oriental woodworking techniques take pride in their mastery of the fitted joint and their skill of not using electric equipment, nails or glue to hold their pieces together. Japan is where this style of woodworking primarily originated.
- One reason for Japan’s success in such excellent woodworking was that they developed high-carbon steel tools early in their history.
- Japanese woodworkers also made exquisitely-sculpted scenery. Their popularity and the techniques used in the process spread across Southeast Asia.
- When a carpenter needed wood, he sawed trees into boards using a large bronze saw with the aid of other workers. He cut thin boards from tree trunks. Trees in that region, however, were not large or straight.
- Among the carpenter’s tools mentioned in ancient sources were the saw, mallet, adze, plummet and line, chisel, rule stick, plane and squares. They also used the bow drill, held in one hand by the handle, which they rapidly set in motion by drawing the attached bow back and forth.
- The bow-lathe was a crude primitive tool, yet a skilled woodworker could produce decorative spindles and bowls with it much like today’s wood turners. He turned the wood by pulling a leather strap back and forth like a bow. This motion moved the lathe and enabled the cut to be made in the turning wood.
- The ancient woodworkers of the Near East built great wooden boats out of timber that grew in the Anatolian plateau (the Asian part of Turkey) along the Levantine coast (the Mediterranean coastal lands of modern-day Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon). This wood was so coveted that invading armies often demanded it as tribute.
- Archaeologists found furniture crafted from wood inlaid with bone, ivory or metal that dated as far back as 800 B.C. at Gordion, the alleged home of the mythical King Midas. Near East woodworkers used lathes as well as wedges, mallets, chisels, hammers, drills, plumb bobs, compasses, and other basic tools.
- The wooden windows of the early mosques and private houses still seen today in the Arabic culture were crafted at the height of ancient Near East woodcarving. The Muslim woodcarvers of Persia, Syria, Egypt and Spain designed and created exquisite paneling and other decorations for wall linings, ceilings, pulpits, and all kinds of fittings and furniture. Their woodwork was elaborate and minutely delicate.
Woodworkers were prized in the ancient world for their craft with their skills and inventiveness laying the foundations for woodworking today. All of the tools we use today have been evolved from ancient tools such as the chisels, lathes, saws.
Woodworking process have also come from these ancient crafts people, it is amazing what they achieved with ‘primitive’ tools.
Informative Post19 June 2020That’s really an informative post. I appreciate your skills. Thanks for sharing this post.
Very informative and an interesting article..25 June 2019Thank you for sharing such an interesting and informative article. Yes, the ancient Egyptians were the masters of woodworking not to mention the Japanese who uses age-old techniques to join joints without even using a nail.