Early Dividers from Pompeii


Here are the earliest dividers I’ve seen in person. These bronze dividers (or “compass” if your name is Peter or Jennie) were found in the ruins of Pompeii, which was destroyed in A.D. 79.

The originals reside in the Munich Residenz. Museum officials made a copy that is displayed in the Deutches Museum in Munich. A quick search of the web site of the Residenz revealed nothing about the dividers – mostly just pictures of the jewelry of princes and the like. Yawn.

These bronze dividers are interesting because they are a lot like the slightly more modern tools used for navigating on the sea. (Lee Valley offered a set in brass I believe.)

The Deutches Museum was a treasure trove of cool tools relating to making things, everything from an entire section on sectors to water-powered machinery, shipbuilding, early machine tools, the history of casting, you name it.

The best part: Every room smelled like a different lubricant.

I was able to see only a portion of the collection this morning before we had to catch a train. Next time I have to plan an entire day at the museum.

On the topic of classes for next year, Dictum officials have asked me to submit some topics of classes to teach in Germany next year. While I am trying to reduce my teaching schedule next year, it would be foolish to turn down a trip to Bavaria now that I can count to 10 in German.

So here were some of the students’ ideas for courses:

• Roubo workbench (I can already hear my back whining)
• Campaign chest
• Campaign writing desk or shaving kit
• Officers’ portable desk.

I also need to come up with ideas for one- or two-day courses. But I’ll work on that another day – right now I need to finish a chapter in my book on campaign furniture.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to Early Dividers from Pompeii

  1. frpaulas says:

    I would vote for writing desk or shaving kit – are you including such in upcoming book?

  2. Writing desk or campaign chest would be great ! And the Milkman’s workbench as a two day project ?

  3. marnspiger says:

    The Deutsches Museum is well worth the day to wander through. I did so last year and I’ll do so again this year when I go back. Pretty much every branch of technology is represented in some form or another; slide rules to computers, mining at every level of technology, flight, transport. I could go on and on and on.

  4. wb8nbs says:

    Ein bier bitte!
    Zwei bier bitte!
    Drei bier bitte!
    Vier bier bitte!
    Fünf bier bitte!
    Sechs bier bitte!
    Sieben bier bitte!
    Acht bier bitte!
    Neun bier bitte!
    Zehn bier bitte!
    That’s all you need to know.

  5. walkerg says:

    Thanks for posting the picture. If you take a close look you can just make out a bit of decoration cast into the legs.

  6. Jennie and Follansbee have a quibble about compass and divider. Though not always consistent the 17th Century records seem for the most part to distinguish betwee the two. Compass legs are not fixed, divider legs are. I can’t tell from your piture but it seems there is some device for fixing the legs. Dividera are of course much more accurate and chosen for repeating dimensions as well as drawing circles. Two clear 20th Century referenes are Audels Carpenters and Builders Guide # 1 (1923) and Charles Hummel’s With Hammer in Hand.

  7. miniaturepanjandrum says:

    Particularly with the green patina, they remind me of the icon for Quake II.

  8. bloksav says:

    Deutsches Museum is absolutely fantastic.

    The campaign ideas are good for next years classes.

    For a one or two day class you could make the three legged campaign stool. Either with the pie shaped legs or the turned legs.

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