Monath’s ‘The Carpenter’s Craft’


I never get tired of looking at old drawings from woodworking shops. They confirm some of things I know about woodworking, challenge some of my ideas and make me want – really, really want – a cool joiner’s cap.

This weekend, Jeff Burks shared a bunch of images with me from the book “Angenehme Bilder-Lust, Der Lieben Jugend zur Ergötzung also eingerichtet” by Peter Conrad Monath (1683-1747) of Nürnberg.

Jeff’s stab at the translation for the book is: “Pleasant Diversions with Pictures: Thus Fondly Arranged for the Amusement of the Young.”

Monath was a Nürnberg printer who was famed for his children’s books and adolescents’ literature. Among the plates in this book is “Das Schreiner Handwerck,” or the “Carpenter’s Craft.”

Things that are interesting to note about this Germanic plate (aside from the fact that there must have been a sale on those hats):

1. A shoulder knife in use. The user is working on one of these “slab workbenches” I discussed last week. He has a cool hat, but it is not as awesome as the hat on the guy ripping at the same bench, which leads us to:

2. Clamps in use on the bench. The more old images you see, the more you’ll find this simple wooden clamp, which is described in A.J. Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier.”

3. Sometimes mortising looks like you are singing an aria.

4. A nice Germanic bench with a shoulder vise and no stretchers in the undercarriage. Could be the fault of the illustrator. But who knows?

5. More sawbenches with curved legs. Gotta make some.

6. Vanilla Ice is a member of the undead. Check out the cap on the guy sawing on the sawbenches. He is either with the crips or the bloods. I forget which is which.

7. The casework on its back. It’s good to see this – this is how I work on casework.

One last detail: I really like how the two shoulder knives are crossed in the little illustration below in amongst the text.

As always, Jeff turns up the best stuff.

— Christopher Schwarz

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34 Responses to Monath’s ‘The Carpenter’s Craft’

  1. Kevin Wilkinson says:

    Were the style of hats related to what particular guild you belonged to or your station in your carreer path?

  2. Jeff Burks says:

    I can’t take credit for translating the book title into English. I just copied the text from another source. The text below the illustration is describing the activities of the workmen and the master. Monath printed the book with one of those blackletter style typefaces like Schwabacher or Fraktur, which makes it difficult for modern readers to process. I didn’t have a chance to work on converting the text to a modern typeface, and then English before this blog post went live…

  3. Rob MacCartney says:

    The stick lying across the plank being sawn; Is that part of a clamp, a visual guide or D) None of the above?

  4. I’ll ask Sylvia to translate the text for the drawing. She learned to read the old German from her Grandma’s recipe books.

  5. Michael Anderson says:

    Here’s a quick transcription and rough and literal translation, totally lacking in the charm and wit of the original.

    Die Schreiners Gesellen
    Die Arbeit so wir unternommen,
    kann nicht aus bloßer Übung kommen:
    Es thuts die Künst und Wissenschaft.
    Das Sägen, Hobeln, und dergleichen,
    Die Pyramiden zu verschweigen:–
    holt aus der Bau-Kunst seine Kraft.

    Der Meister
    Sie sehen schöne Braut, wie nette,
    hier der Behälter, samt dem Bette;
    mit Nuß-Baum eingelegt seÿ.
    Der Schreib-Tisch wird Sie auch bewege.
    Wär Dero Liebster nur zugegen.
    er stünde mir im Preiß selbt beÿ.

    The Cabinetmaker’s Apprentices
    The work that we undertake
    cannot come from mere practice
    Art and science are needed
    Sawing, planing and the like,
    not to speak of pyramids–
    draw their power from the art of building (construction/design)

    The Master
    You see, pretty bride, how nicely
    here the basin, with the bed,
    with walnut are inlaid.
    The writing desk will also move you.
    If only your dearest were present
    he would agree with be about the price.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      Oh, the title: “Pleasant Picture-Delights, Arranged for the Regalement of the Dear Youth.” More images are available at “Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur”: .

  6. “The Woodworkers Apprentices- The work that we have undertaken can not come from practice only. It’s based on art and science.” The rest is harder to figure exactly. The verbatim translation is: “The sawing, the planing and the like, the pyramids to conceal, gets from the construction its strength.

    The Master – See beautiful bride, how nice here is the box, including the bed, inlaid with hazelnut. The desk will move you also, if your love present, he would stand by the price.

  7. After talking with Sylvia about the translation, here’s the best I can make of the captions.

    The Woodworker’s Apprentices – The work that we do cannot come from practice alone. It is based on the art and science. The sawing, planing and the like are concealed as are the foundations of the great Pyramids.

    The Master – See beautiful bride, how nice here is this armoir and bed, inlaid with hazelnut? The desk will move you, also. If your fiance were here, He would gladly pay the price.

  8. Martin Shaw says:

    Either singing an aria or playing handbells (bell?)

  9. Dave says:

    Thank you fine folks so much for doing this. I love the ole plates as well.

  10. Brent says:

    Are those clamps dovetailed at the corners? I seems like that would be the only way they would take the force applied by the screw. Tightening them would attempt to tear them apart. Or did they have seriously wicked elm trees?

  11. Jimmie Brown says:

    Real Quick. Vanilla Ice is now a designer in Florida. I know a woodworker who has worked with him on an entertainment center built-in in Sapale. On asked how Vanilla Ice’s designs were he stated “well he’s a stright designer so… you know”

  12. Tim Henriksen says:

    Point 8) from the photo: Evidence that Crocs were considered fashionable shop wear as early as the1700s.

  13. Art says:

    Bloods wear red, Crips blue. I think the joiners hats may be a bit too much..

  14. N-S says:

    I’ve not heard of shoulder knives before, what was their main use?

  15. Kees says:

    You can buy these types of clamps all day long overhere in Europe. I have one, don’t use it very often because it itsn’t a very usefull shape. It is made with a duble bridle joint, but also with an extra long bold holding the parts together. Here is a picture:

    You can learn a lot from how these guys hold a chisel. They are not hunched over with their nose on their work, holding the chisel like a pencil. No they stand up straight and relaxed and hold the chisel at the ferule side of the handle. Looks like a much better stance.

  16. Brian Morgan says:

    You mean there are folks out there who don’t sing while they’re working wood? Huh.

  17. JH says:

    so.. the title of the plate, ‘Das Schreiner Handwerck’… I’m not sure about the historic meaning of ‘carpenter’, but looking at the options available today, (carpenter, joiner, cabinetmaker) I would say that cabinetmaker fits the best. carpenter always makes me think of bigger, rougher work.

    concerning the caption: ‘Angenehme Bilder-Lust, Der Lieben Jugend zur Ergötzung also eingerichtet’. I don’t see the diversions in there, rather the first bit seems to be kind of a double emphasis on the pleasure aspect. The best I can come up with is ‘pleasant fun with pictures’.
    For the second part: Thus arranged for the entertainment of our dear youngsters.
    okay, I admit that the other translation that was given (“Pleasant Diversions with Pictures: Thus Fondly Arranged for the Amusement of the Young.”) sounds better, but I think mine is closer to the original meaning.

    also, Schreiners-Gesellen aren’t apprentices. apprentice would be ‘Lehrling’. ‘Geselle’ would rather be journeyman, I think. Unfortunately we can’t see if some of the journeymen are actually on the ‘Walz’.

    next: Nuß-baum is walnut, not hazelnut.

    and now let me share with you another Old Thing that I find quite interesting – I hope I didn’t see it for the first time on this blog here ^^ – it’s a thicknesser!

  18. Joe Austin says:

    Can someone answer why the German plates seem to always show the use of a Bow saw, for both ripping, and crosscutting. While the French, and the English show more of the solid blade types? Was the bow saw more universal during the period of this print, or do the German craftsman of the time prefer them to other saws?

    • B Jackson says:

      Two craftsmen I recall use the bowsaw: Anthony Guidice and Michael Dunbar. It would be worth asking them why they prefer this type over the others. Another one is Frank Klaus (not sure of spelling), but it seems he was trained in the continental European ways well before he migrated to this side of the pond. Just a thought ….

    • Michael Anderson says:

      The bow saw (Gestellsäge) was and still is common in Central Europe. You’ll find German students learning the basics of sawing on YouTube, and they’re still using bow saws. I was in Budapest last year and watched a team of carpenters on a job. There at hand was a bow saw (although they also had power hand planes).

      I find them easier to use because the tension of the blade helps keep the cut straight, especially when starting a cut, there is less metal to keep rust free, you can do away with sharpening–if you like–by just getting replacement blades. Oh, and with one saw, you have rip, xcut, and turning just by changing the blade. It’s also much easier to switch from ripping on a saw bench to ripping on the bench as in the print. Ripping at the bench is an amazing workout!

  19. mike says:

    yes I’ve heard of you speaking about shoulder knives before but when I google them or look them up I find nothing so whats the scoop?

  20. Chris R. says:

    Yeah what’s a shoulder knife for, I mean, besides fighting?

  21. Larry says:

    Reblogged this on larrymade.

  22. michalofsky says:

    i love these pix
    i send them to staples and reproduce them to 11×14 and
    then make moldings and frame them
    they decorate my shop
    now my wife wants them

    pls keep sending


  23. rechtschaffen fremd Tischler Kremp Philip says:

    hey guys,
    first of all i am German, second i am cabinet maker, third i am traveling (Wandergeselle). The hat thing: The hat is the sign of a free man and just journeyman (finnished apprenticeship) had the right t wear them, the other guys with the caps are i think the apprentices. almost every craftsman in that time was a (former) traveling tradesman.
    that guy with the span saw saws in the wrong direction, my master told me to use the workbench as guide. and yes we still learn how to use and sharpen those saws.
    the shoulder knife is for handcut veneer (1-3mm) because u need more strength at the edge, nowadays we use veneer knives.
    with kindly regards
    r.frd.Ti. Kremp Philip

  24. Larry says:

    Reblogged this on larrymade.

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