A character in the short story I'm working on is a woodworker. Since he's working with Bronze Age technology and about to flee his homeland because the priests are exploiting his girlfriend, I figured he would want to take his tools with him. So then I had to figure out what kinds of tools he would probably have...
- Ancient woodworkers cut down trees using axes and adzes (which have a 90 degree orientation for the blade) to "dress" the timber.
- 1500 years after his death, the teachings of carpenter Lu Ban, were compiled into a book. He's believed to be the guy who brought critical woodworking tools like the plane and chalk line to China.
- The ancient Egyptians invented 'veneering,' a process of gluing thin slices of wood together so that more expensive wood is visible. The earliest extant examples come from the tomb of Semerkhet.
- The Romans invented augers (which have spoon-shaped metal tips) to replace the bow drills used by the Egyptians, along with claw hammers and wood planes.
- Deforestation of Egyptian forests in the Second Dynasty led them to import cedar, pine, boxwood and oak instead of using acacia, sycamore, and tamarisk wood.
"Phoenician joints" are a variation on mortise-and-tenon (basically built-in wooden pegs) that were used by shipbuilders in the eastern Levant, but early ships in Egypt were "sewn" together with woven straps and fiber stuffing.
Woodworkers in ancient Germany, Egypt and China used mortise-and-tenon joints before nails became common. A man in China has revived the technique to create furniture that lasts much longer than glue-and-nail construction. The patterns are beautiful and effective, but one of the problems with using it in modern day China is apparently the timber shortage and the difficulty with mass producing the intricate cuts required.
Māori used adze blades made from pounamu, a hard and durable green stone, even after the arrival of metal tools. They were manufactured by hand using sandstone and water. When they were no longer useful for carving wood, they were reworked into ornamental pendants; they're quite beautiful, and the notch to make it easier to haft on a wooden handle probably makes it easier to put on a necklace, too.
Woodworkers in the Neolithic Levant also imported green stone tools, which were polished and only rarely used for actual carpentry. They appear to have been social and spiritual symbols associated with vegetation, rain, fertility, virility, and strength. It's worth noting, though, that deforestation is not a new phenomenon and the swings between "enough" trees and "not enough trees" for woodworking habits are visible in the archaeological record; adzes replaced axes as heavy woodworking tools for awhile in the early history of the Neolithic Levant, then the trend reversed as carpentry tools became more popular than tree-felling tools.
📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy the tamarisk tree edition.
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