One of the most essential pieces of woodwork provided by joiners was the coffin – it’s a topic I’ve been doing research on for the “Furniture of Necessity” book. Coffin-making is a fascinating trade with special jigs and construction techniques that have to match the local mores.
As part of the research into coffins, I’m planning on having a coffin party with a bunch of woodworkers where we will all make our own personal vessel – and each will have bookshelves in them until we buy the farm.
It’s interesting to me how even children’s books on woodworking from the 19th century made note of the sometimes-morbid part of the job.
Below is the text from “Was soll ich werden? : ein lehrreiches Bilderbuch von Lothar Meggendorfer.” Text by von Franz Bonn München : Braun & Schneider, 1888. Translation by the ever-sturdy Jeff Burks.
All ‘s let our furniture, table and bench,
the chair, the box and the cabinet,
We thank the cabinetmaker’s diligence,
He knows how to make everything well.
He built us the cradle,
In which we beheld the light of the world –
He once carpentered us the chest,
That we will wear for eternal rest!
Download the entire book scan here.
— Christopher Schwarz